Duck! Elderly patriarchs discussing doctrine!

This elderly patriarch’s image is certainly striking, with his stern face and a gray beard that flows over his chest, contrasting with the colorful clothing typical of his flock and his unique line of work.

Just before Christmas, he raised eyebrows with a blunt statement on one of today’s most controversial issues.

No, this wasn’t the Duck Commander in Louisiana. This patriarch resides in the city his followers formally refer to as Constantinople-New Rome.

“The Lord appointed the marriage of male and female in the blessed family,” proclaimed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, while discussing Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus. He is the first among equals of the patriarchs who lead the world’s 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians (the church in which I am a member).

Patriarch Bartholomew claimed the “manifold support of the institution of the family comprises the obligation of the Church and responsibility of leadership in every country.” Thus, he argued that “in order for a child to be raised in a healthy and natural way, there needs to be a family where man and woman live in harmony as one body, one flesh, and one soul, submitting to one another. …

“We must all encourage the creation and function of natural families, which can produce citizens that are spiritually healthy and joyful.”

Soon after that, a Catholic bishop delivered a Christmas sermon in which he addressed a related topic — the adoption of children by same-sex couples. Then, to make matters even more newsworthy, he claimed that he spoke with the encouragement of his own patriarch, the pope of Rome.

Auxiliary Bishop Charles J. Scicluna told journalists in Malta, a Mediterranean island, that Pope Francis was shocked to learn, in a Dec. 12 meeting, that a civil unions bill would allow gay couples to adopt children in that predominately Catholic country.

The pope, he claimed, urged him to speak out boldly. The bishop also said that Pope Francis — declared 2013 Person of the Year by The Advocate, a major gay magazine — had repeated the views he expressed in 2010 as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, when he called same-sex marriage an “anti-value and an anthropological regression” for humanity. In 2009, Bergoglio had written to Catholic leaders in Buenos Aires stressing: “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

However, Pope Francis also — in November remarks to the Catholic Union of Superiors General — suggested that church leaders must find new ways to show mercy and understanding to the children of same-sex couples and divorced parents, so as not to be guilty of “administering a vaccine against faith” among the young.

Clearly, it is becoming more difficult for traditional religious believers to publicly voice, let alone to boldly defend, the doctrines of their faith. That is certainly what “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson learned when he spoke his mind in an infamous GQ magazine interview, which briefly got him exiled from his family’s popular series on the A&E Television Network.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine,” he said. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”

Anyone familiar with scripture knew that this was a near verbatim quotation from St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, noted Janet E. Smith, who teaches Catholic moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. It also helped that, while he used some swamp-level language that offended millions of Americans, Robertson stressed that he was just a repentant sinner who, when it came to sex, booze and the nasty ways of the flesh, had been there and done that — many times.

This is what church leaders must carefully communicate, said Smith, in an online commentary. They must demonstrate that they realize many ordinary people spend their lives engaged in a “very wrenching struggle with powerful appetites, deep wounds and habits that at least to some extent balm those wounds. We must realize what we are asking of people and help them with our prayers, sacrifices, understanding and friendship.”

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “administering a vaccine against faith” The problem seems to be encapsulated in this quote. The churches really don’t understand the difference between religion and faith.

    • radiofreerome

      The refusal to defend gays when they are wronged certainly is a vaccination against faith both for them and for the next generation in their families.

      • Y. A. Warren

        It may be a vaccination against religion, but not against real faith.

        • radiofreerome

          What is a faith that is only known and held by one person? I say this because after a lifetime of persecution and spiritual violation by my own church (the Roman Catholic Church) , I am unwilling to share my beliefs about God with others and strongly disinclined to listen to the beliefs of others.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I, too, was robbed of my faith in the RCC religion, but never gave up my faith in the belief that humanity is better when following the same Sacred Spirit as did Jesus. This does not mean that I consider myself a member of the religion calling itself “Christianity.”

            I don’t know what the people who participated in Pentecost called themselves, but I doubt that they even remotely resembled, in their actions, what has come to be called “Christianity.”

            The internet has made it possible for me to feel like a member of a community of faithful followers of The Scared Spirit, all of whom feel that it is our imperative to live as closely as possible on earth as “it” is in “heaven.”

            Jesus died denying that he was a king, and yet the “Christians” continue to impose a monarchy model on “faith” communities. I believe we are each called to be “messiahs” in our own measures, based on our individual abilities.

            I write my own blog about my spiritual journey I know I’m putting myself “out there.” You may feel free to simply read or read and reply.

            Many have accused me of heresy, and some have reminded me that I may be burned as I slept in my bed. I no longer care what happens to my body, as my children are grown. I will no longer stay silent on the subject of using the many names of The Sacred Spirit in vain.

  • radiofreerome

    “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”

    “Anyone familiar with scripture knew that this was a near verbatim quotation from St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians.”

    St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is certainly anti-homosexual, but it does not discuss homosexuality as a cause of sin but rather as an effect of sin. It says that one group of godless people were made homosexual by God as a punishment for their godlessness.

    • Brian Bowman

      Unless Paul the apostle used a glass tube to prevent STD infection during his genital mutilation ritual [] performed on a “traveling companion” in Acts 16:3, what does that make him? Godless also?

      P.S. I’m glad the great imposter is not my apostle. I’m a red-blooded straight American male and would never approve of such behavior. “Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Corypheus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” ~Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson’s Works, Vol. ii., p. 217)

      • hcat

        Jefferson was not a Christian, and neither is anyone else who repudiates the Bible in Jesus’ name.

        • Censored


          “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803

          “…I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel, and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what it’s Author never said nor saw. they have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man…” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Thomson, January 9, 1816

          But let’s identify the real atheist (or deamonist): you.

          “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

  • axelbeingcivil

    I think when you tell people that something they do not consider sinful or harmful to be a moral abomination, that they are a cause of society’s downfall, and then mention how you, a person who ostensibly claims to be morally upstanding, has engaged in objectively harmful behaviours, it is hard for them to take you seriously.

    Homosexuality’s organic origins are pretty clear and, as more gay and bisexual people come out of the closet and show people that gays are not vice-ridden malefactors but in fact perfectly normal and charming people, the religious hard-line that they are sinners for their sexual orientation will be viewed more and more like the old theological claims of inferiority due to melanin count.

  • steve

    “Clearly, it is becoming more difficult for traditional religious believers to publicly voice, let alone to boldly defend, the doctrines of their faith.”

    The irony here is that Phil comes from the Restoration Movement which, while assiduously desiring to restore ancient truth, actually introduced innovative, non-traditional interpretations of Christianity in the 19th century. Also, this movement was of course a descendant of the Reformation, itself a result of a break with roughly fifteen hundred years of Christian Tradition. What is clear and plain to Phil as he reads the Bible is no longer seen that way by an increasing number of people, many of them quite religious too.