Miserable Ecumenism

Beware Ecclesial Scandals Left & Right

If misery loves company, then ecumenical sympathies among traditionalist Christians both East and West have a bright future, or at least a present opportunity.

Roman Catholics buffeted by the prevarications and rhetorical sleights-of-hand of Pope Francis and his team may be able to sympathize with their Eastern Orthodox brethren who have been treated to high-level scandalous deeds and rhetoric.

Admittedly, it is somewhat easier for distressed Orthodox laity to dismiss the pronouncements and shenanigans of a national patriarch or even an ecumenical patriarch. He is being a “bad bishop,” so pay no attention to him. For Roman Catholics, the pope is the center of the Church on earth, and when he is muddying up the Church’s teachings, the body Catholic quickly feels like it is falling into cardiac arrest or a stroke. This is not to suggest that either Roman or Eastern ecclesiology is wrong but simply that they are different.

The Roman situation has strongly gripped the attention and prayers of pious believers, including non-Catholics, many of whom are Touchstone readers. What many may not know is that their fellow Orthodox believers have been served a new course of scandals of their own, some of which present dangers not only for the Orthodox but also, oddly, for non-Orthodox Christians in the West.

Orthodox scandals are coming from two disparate sources, one liberal and the other reactionary. The liberal stumbling blocks come from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s circle, particularly from Archbishop Elpidophoros, supported and selected by Bartholomew in 2019 to be primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Many expect Elpidophoros to succeed Bartholomew (who is 84) as ecumenical patriarch, a role that has long been called primus inter pares, first among equals. Elpidophoros has written that its true role is primus sine paribus, first without equals. He has ambitions.

The Scandals

What has Elpidophoros done? His statements on abortion are two-faced. While he “unambiguously” maintains the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life in the womb, he says at the same time, “we also believe in the fundamental freedom of every human person. As a general rule, women bear the full burden in giving birth and raising their children. . . . Therefore, we must support women’s rights to make reproductive decisions of their own free will. . . .” He spoke at the 2022 March for Life, affirming life’s sanctity but also “our respect for the autonomy of women,” citing the free choice of the Virgin Mary without noting that the point at which she “freely chose” to bring a Child into the world was before conception, not after. So perhaps he is “personally opposed,” but he is clearly “pro-choice.”

While visiting Greece in 2022, he baptized two infants (conceived by surrogacy) of a wealthy Greek-American “gay couple.” Bishops in Greece protested what the partners themselves called the “first openly gay baptism” in the Greek Church and an act of “love with no judgment.” Later, while on a plane flight, Elpidophoros told Espresso, “Anyone who asks me to baptize their child I will do it, regardless of who it is. I baptize children and I don’t care about the personal life of their parents. I don’t judge people’s lives.” Sound familiar? He beat the Vatican’s notorious Fiducia Supplicans by more than a year in not only blessing but also baptizing any-and-all comers.

While Elpidophoros represents the sentiments of only a minority of Orthodox Christians and clerics, his co-sympathizers can be found in high places in churches and schools, for instance, the Orthodox revisionists at Fordham University.

The Russian Reaction

The spirit of the age is fully on board with the so-called LGBT agenda, which is proving to be politically and religiously more divisive than anything else in recent memory. The United States government, along with the leaders of the European Union, has been propelling the desires of the sexual activists into policy, funding, and public prominence in their own countries and abroad. The sway of this sexual tsunami is global, and it may remind a careful reader of the 17th chapter of John’s Apocalypse of

the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality (porneia), and with the wine of whose sexual immorality (porneia) the dwellers on earth have become drunk.  . .  . I saw a woman  . . . holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality (porneia).

James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.

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