The metropolitan bishop of Dodoni, Chrysostomos, became the most talked-about person on social media and the news on Friday, and not just for the obvious reasons. His indefensible claims in comments to Skai TV, in which he argued that it is ludicrous to say that women cannot be raped without wanting it and cannot get pregnant during rape without playing some part, prompted an explosion of reactions across the political spectrum, but also from the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.
Chrysostomos’ comments were condemned as an “affront to humankind” as a whole and to women and victims of rape especially. The Holy Synod said the bishop’s claims “tarnished and are grossly unfair to the essential initiatives and silent work of the Church.”
The metropolitan bishop made his comments – which, he clarified, “expressed his personal opinion” – as part of a discussion on the sermon that is due to be delivered at all Greek Orthodox churches in the country on September 8, conveying the Church’s position against abortion. And that brings us to the frightening thought that perhaps this high-ranking cleric was expressing a point of view that may be more prevalent in society than we think. Because apart from the outrageous things he said about rape, he also made some very alarming arguments. Such as that the Holy Synod has an obligation to “heed society” and adopt measures that will work to the benefit of Christians. Or that “when we are expected in this day and age to respect an animal that has been harmed by someone, when we have such a low birthrate, how can we tolerate the destruction of an infant, of a child, whose life has started from the moment it was conceived?”
The reasoning applied in the defense of the inalienable right to abortion may be steadfast, but it is by no means invulnerable. It is constantly having to come up against a solid wall of dogma and prejudice, in which not only is the Church deeply involved, but also a part of the scientific community.
If the Holy Synod really was sincere in its desire to “unequivocally condemn” any “affront to humankind,” it should never have sent the circular demanding its clerics read out the sermon against abortion in their churches. It should never have stirred fresh controversy over an issue that has long been settled by the state. And this is not just so that the “silent work of the Church” is not being done a gross injustice. But mainly so that the noisy work of those who seek to quash civil liberties is not being given a boost. Rape comes in many different forms – and they are all abhorrent.