February 24, 2014

Announcement of Vatopaidi Monastery on Elder Joseph and His View on Abortion

February 22, 2014

The blessed Elder Joseph, a monk by his words and most especially by his example, taught us to endure with silence and humility every temptation, every libel and every slander against us. But when the criticism relates to our Orthodox Faith then we are to reply that we are neither heretics now nor by the grace of Christ will we be.

With these thoughts we are forced to reply in regards to what has circulated on the internet as well as, unfortunately, in a print magazine of a Christian organization for some supposed teaching of our blessed Elder the monk Joseph on the issue of abortion and the "unformed"* or not fetus.

In the beginning we did not pay attention to this and did not reply until now because we did not accept that this recording is authentic and that the person speaking is our blessed Elder, because we know that many things with today's technology can be made to be fake and counterfeit, and because we who lived with our Elder for 30 entire years never heard him teach the things said in the circulated recording. So we question the cassette and the one who speaks as being Elder Joseph.

Our blessed Elder, although he taught the spiritual fathers of our monastery to condescend to those confessing, though not in regards to the issue of the sin of abortion, explicitly giving us orders to be intransigent and to place on them a strict penance until the perpetrators of this terrible sin repent, and that they themselves and those who listened become more prudent and careful.

We are witnesses that once when he heard that a famous girl was to undergo an abortion to a fetus two months old, he immediately left the Holy Mountain, and despite his age and health problems he went to Athens to meet her and prevent her in any way from doing this terrible sin.

Moreover he himself was maintaining and strengthening out of our impoverished brotherhood, even when we were destitute at New Skete, families of many children and would teach about the blessing of harmony in marriage and childbearing.

It is clear that some people want to reduce his person "in the hand of God" who existed as our blessed father, and despite being humanly unfortunate of having almost no school education and had not read many books due to his ascetic life near his most-venerable Elder Joseph the Hesychast, however he unerringly taught us the word of God and the mysteries of the Christian life always according to the teaching of our Orthodox Church.

We are saddened also because with the slander they are developing a plan to make him appear to be a false teacher and deluded although we all know that a saint is not inerrant nor sinless, since only our Lord Jesus Christ has these attributes, but a saint is a genuine penitent and imitator in their life of our Lord, struggling to keep His holy commandments, in the Church and through His Church.

Even if a saint expresses false teaching he is not judged unless he is tried, and unless he admits his mistake and then corrects his teaching. That some want a reposed man of God to be shown through questionable and unreliable media to be a bad teacher and fallen from the true faith, we believe that the least we can say is we lament the damage they are causing their souls and the souls of our brethren who easily believed what they heard and are scandalized.

We are trying to follow in the boundaries of our poor strength the teachings of our venerable father, and strive to protect the genuineness of our faith and accept whatever our Orthodox Church has taught and dogmatized throughout the ages.

The blessed Elder Joseph is already present before the only just and true Judge.

May the Good God forgive all of us who judge and easily condemn our brethren, because this is fatal to our soul, and not only do we harm ourselves but we injure the body of our Christ, His holy Church.

With much love in Christ,

The Sacred Great Monastery of Vatopaidi

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

* The Septuagint version of Exodus 21:22 makes a distinction between the "formed" and "unformed" fetus (we might say, between the fetus and the embryo).