Bourgeois “Conjugal Friendship” and American Ethnophyletism

St. Sergius and St. Bacchus

St. Sergius and St. Bacchus (Click here to learn more)

Source: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Reprinted with permission of the author.

Public Orthodoxy’s recent post by Giacomo Sanfilippo on “Conjugal Friendship” claimed to take a postmodern approach to sacramental conjugality in Orthodox Christianity, but ended up falling into ethnophyletic and gnostic heresies from an Orthodox standpoint.

The article raises outdated questions of modernist sexual identity in the name of postmodernity. It then answers them wrongly from the standpoint of Holy Tradition:

“To the question, ‘Can two persons of the same gender ‘have sex’ with each other?’ we hear from Holy Tradition a resounding no,’” it states. “Yet if we ask, “Can two persons of the same gender form a bond in which ‘the two become one?’” the scales begin to fall from our eyes.”

The scaly eyes seem part of a straw man view of the Body of Christ, however. For the Orthodox Church does not call it impossible for two persons of the same gender to engage in sex with each other. Recognizing that possibility in her teachings on love and anthropology, she does not equate secular Western definitions of gender and sex in her response to any forms of sexual activity in fallen human nature. Nor does Orthodoxy privilege Western individualism by identifying a certain definition of gender with personhood. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos notes that Holy Tradition sees Personhood (Hypostasis) in the mystery of the All Holy Trinity, not in individual will of a fallen human nature open to transfiguration by God’s grace. In the Personhood of Christ we are made, according to Genesis 1, not as persons making ourselves.

The piece casts itself as a postmodern query but leaves unasked the postmodern question that would deconstruct through queer theory its own bourgeois sexual identity politics. The better question to have started with from that standpoint would have been as follows:

Question: What does sexual orientation (of any kind as understood in 21st-century identity politics) have to do with marriage in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: Nothing.

Any view of essentialist identity is not part of Orthodox Christian teaching on the purpose of man as theosis. Theosis is achieved through unity with the uncreated energies of God, not in any essentialist view of human beings or Creation. That’s not through heterosexual, homosexual, intersexual, transgender, or other categories.

To the contrary, secular essentialist views of human beings have led to the categorizations of identity in modern totalitarianisms, in the “death wish” inherent in modernist materialisms, and their destruction of human beings and the environment on an unprecedented scale.

So any effort to find a sacramental Orthodox basis for conjugal same-sex relations, or any essentialized view of marriage based on an objectified view of identity, whether heterosexual or homosexual or any other category, runs counter to Orthodoxy as a living tradition.

Instead, the “Conjugal Friendship” piece reflects what the late Jaroslav Pelikan called traditionalism—an effort to find the self within a construct of Church based in ritual without theosis, in institutional organization without noetic transfiguration. It would try to force the noetic life of the Church’s living tradition into an individualistic model of the self in accord with American ethnophyletism, an emphasis on individual or tribal identities rather than ecclesial communion.

The mystery and beauty of Orthodox Christian marriage is a living and transfigurative symbolism–not an empty rite to be filled by individualistic desires in the style of neoliberal consumerism, an ethnophyletic heresy of the West.

Orthodox Tradition of marriage involves a profound encounter with the other iconographically in biological sex, a Christian fulfillment of the Daoist yin-yang. Its living symbolism links the story of Creation in Genesis to the marriage of the Lamb and the Bride in Revelation. The marriage of the Lamb and the Bride involves the community of the Church as the Body of Christ, her holy living Tradition, and not just an atomized will individuated from His Body.

In this sense, Holy Orthodox Tradition involves neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality, and approves neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality as an identity to be expressed in marriage. Rather, it is the two who are gathered in His name with whom He is in the midst, the complementarity of male and female from Genesis through Revelation in Scripture as realized by the Incarnation and the Church.

Kathryn Ringrose in her study of “the social construction of gender in Byzantium” found in Byzantine Orthodox society simultaneously a “single-sex” structure of complementarity (the “one flesh” of marriage) based on performativity of the two biological sexes, thus with a “two-sex” model as well, and in addition a “three-sex” model in which the third sex included both ascetics and eunuchs and the intersexed and asexual. St. Maximus the Confessor in his Ambigua put this in the context of spiritual anthropology as the “extreme” of Genesis 1:25 (made in one image, Christ) and St. Paul’s writings, and the “mean” of Genesis 1:26 (male and female).

The simultaneity in Orthodox anthropology of a one-, two-, and three-sex model is based both in the performative ascetic chastity of marriage and monasticism, and in a performative manliness and womanliness that in Christ are one but not erased even in the afterlife (signified by the Ascension of Christ and the Dormition of the Theotokos). This is an iconographic and not a gnostic anthropology, a performative iconography based in Orthodox terms on embodied physical forms and not in gnostic disembodied individual will and desire, except inasmuch as they participate ascetically, hesychastically, and liturgically in the divine energies through theosis.

The “conjugal friendship” article draws on notions of adelphopoiesis developed by the Blessed Martyr Pavel Florensky in his book The Pillar and the Ground of Truth. Yet the article’s interpretation of adelphopoiesis involves an appropriative Western neocolonial view of it based in the late twentieth-century scholarship of John Boswell. Boswell’s scholarship on that tradition has been shown to be seriously flawed by both secular scholars and the Church (see the article on “Adelphopoiesis” on the Orthodox Wiki, which offers a brief survey).

Fr. Florensky’s 20th-century view of this early form of spiritual brotherhood stressed the spiritual brotherhood aspect and not any non-canonical sense of sexual incest in opposition to Church Tradition of the chaste nature of spiritual kinship lines. For him this was chaste brotherhood, and his life story shows his performativity of sex within Orthodox Tradition, contrary to implications in the article. Fr. Florensky’s whole explication of identity in his book is relational and not essentialist, in keeping with Orthodox Tradition. He rejects the Fichtean Western philosophical basis of identity, I=I, for a sense of mystical identity, in which A=Not-A. This articulates a traditional understanding of Orthodox marriage as well.

Thus in some ways Orthodox anthropology is closer to today’s queer theory than to identity politics, though culturally and experientially it involves a very different experience from the ultimately atheistic grounds of both. Secular Western sexual theories today find their basis in anthropologies of atheistic socialist-communism, with their longstanding historical goal of subverting non-materialistic anthropologies of sex, evident in efforts of cultural genocide against Orthodox communities by both Nazism and Leninism, and in subtler but perhaps even more dangerous forms of neocolonial and neoliberal consumerism since.

Orthodoxy can draw a limited typology for marriage from Foucault’s idea that pre-modern sexual behavior did not involve essentialized sexual identity. In this Orthodox anthropology draws on a sense of natural law in Orthodox theology that the bioethicist Dr. Herman Engelhardt describes as a transformative sparkle rather than a static matrix of identity, an energeia entis rather than an analogia entis. The mix of apophatic and cataphatic approaches to God in Orthodox Tradition includes a dynamic sense of identity being transformed neptically in theosis, yet always also in an embodied way because of the Incarnation.

In the Orthodox Tradition of marriage’s own playful yet ascetic performativity, such “queer Christianity” (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis), identity is relational and not essential. Marriage is a holy living symbol of the relational synergy of theosis, involving both askesis and koinonia participating in the uncreated energies of God through the marriage of Christ and His Church. It is “queer” in the sense of sensual but ascetic monogamy, union of different biological sexes, reproductiveness in commitment to transgenerationality, living embodied iconography of Scriptural typology involving Christ and His Church, and in its shaping of a “little church” and “little kingdom” of the household in resistant to materialistic society. This is the Orthodox realization of queerness, which includes the Tradition’s expression of sustainability and social justice in the mystery of marriage and commitment to the transgenerationality of the Church and her incarnational otherworldliness in the world.

The “Bill Nye Saves the World” show recently sought to celebrate the “queerness” of human sexuality in its fallen state by a cartoon showing scoops of different-colored ice cream learning to blend together in a bowl. Bill Nye, trained in engineering and not biology, in celebrating secular sexual materialisms did not address biological aspects of male and female sex and reproduction. Even so, the silly melding of the ice creams could in a very limited sense be transformed in the Orthodox context of embodied chastity into a type of non-essential sexuality and transfiguration of identity in the Body of Christ. Yet how much more beautiful is the Church’s mystery of marriage as iconographic performance, an incarnational participation in the God Who is Love and the Church’s Bridegroom, than Western secular-bourgeois “conjugal friendship” of all kinds reduced to slurping up melting ice cream.

Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers is Associate Professor and Chair of English at Bucknell University and co-editor of Glory and Honor: Orthodox Christian Resources on Marriage (St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 2016), and author in it of “Mystagogical, Cosmological, and Counter-Cultural: Contemporary Orthodox Apologetics for Marriage” (university affiliation is given only for identification purposes; his views here are his own as an Orthodox Christian scholar).

Comments

  1. Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

    Certainly identity is relational, but how can it not also be essential? We are created as human beings, with material bodies coded as male and female; how is that not an essential aspect of our identity? “Male and female made He them”?

    It seems to me that this argument against secular (and in this case sexual) essentialism attempts an end run around claims that homosexuality is “who I am,” but the end run veers out of bounds in making identity entirely relational, as if our essence is relationally irrelevant.

    • Christopher :

      I believe your question is important Pdn Brian. In a more traditional/normal theological context, much of this “essential” vs “relational” is found in the current debate between Met. Hierotheos and Met. John Zizioulas (rumor has it flared up at Crete). Met. Hierotheos emphasizes the “Christological” foundations of our anthropology and Met. John the “relational” foundations. From what I have read (which is not everything of course) Met John is the more creative in his thinking – and thus he is more out on a limb with his extra-revelatory speculations about intra-trinitarian relatedness. Met. Hiertheos is more grounded in his Christological anthropology. That said, at the end of the day I wonder if Met. John is not on to something important.

      This article finds me wanting for a bit more emphasis on our in-the-body Personhood. That said, the transformation of Neoplatonic categories that is so much of our early Christological history (particularly in St. Maximus) has left us with a dicy history around the use of “essentialism”. Still, I appreciate its use of modern academic “post-modern” theory with which I am not familiar with (nor plan to ever be 😉 )

    • As Fr. Dn. Patrick put it in a similar comment thread on the Heterodoxy and Orthodoxy thread, “One’s identity is ultimately a relationship with God,” which is the basis for my comments here. In the book on Marriage that I co-edited, which is linked above, my article (the basis for this piece) treats these issues at greater length (for those who can wade through it–my apologies that the prose is dense as it was aimed to be an encouragement to those Orthodox Christians in the middle of such academic discourse as students or academics). It includes a section on natural law, based on the work of Dr. Herman Engelhardt, which is helpful to this discussion (pp. 362-66). There is a distinction between the Orthodox sense of natural law, based in our theology of the Holy Trinity and of the uncreated energies, and the sense of natural law that has developed in the West. The latter tends to emphasize essential identity, ultimately encouraging individualism and individual sexual identities, in the context of Western notions of social justice. The Orthodox view is different, and informs a distinct sense of human nature.

      Fr. Dn. Patrick and I have begun discussing our mutual approaches, which overlap but differ in emphasis and terminology, and on which we both see dangers in getting “out of bounds.” At the same time we want to avoid “friendly fire,” as fellow Orthodox Christians with similar concerns :).

      My criticism of his approach has been that in my view he seems to be under-emphasizing the whole of St. Maximos the Confessor’s approach to these issues in seeking to correct or clarify the Confessor through Fr. Dn.’s “new concept” of “archy,” also being developed in his doctoral projects.

      Regardless of emphasis and developing terminology, in all these discussions it may be productive to think in effect of both a cataphatic and and an apophatic approach to human nature in a sense: Apophatically human nature is a mystery, made in the image of God, in Christ, and thus relational; and also in the likeness of God, which emerges in the synergy of His grace (uncreated energies) and ascetic struggle in the Church. Cataphatically we can know man made male and female in the Incarnation and in Creation (even though fallen).

      I think that Metropolitan Hierotheos’ writings on problems of “personalism” indicate issues with an overly cataphatic approach: An emphasis on the essence of human nature can lead to a kind of essentializing of human will, rather than the experience of the human being as made in God’s image, in Christ, who is Person. Likewise an over-emphasis on the essence of being male and female can lead to getting off track (as some Orthodox writers have) on emphasizing the “eternal male” and “eternal female,” sometimes leading into Jungian psychology and tantric sex and Sophianism etc.

      So while I think Fr. Dn. Patrick’s emphasis can go “out of bounds” as he does mine, I also acknowledge that an over-emphasis on the apophatic aspects of anthropology can lead to co-option by various secular materialisms as well without discernment. And so hopefully we can work out a dialogue that will be helpful to both of us and perhaps share that in future.

      There are as we know so many riches in Church Tradition to help us. Just as an example from one source, St. Maximus as noted writes in his Ambigua about the extreme and the mean of man in the image of God, and of man as male and female (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27, and St. Paul’s writing about neither male nor female in Christ, with the middle citation in the Confessor’s view as the mean and the others as extremes). St. Maximus’ writings about logos and tropos can also be a help here, as well about the relation of logoi to the divine energies.

      Discernment and balance within the whole of Holy Tradition and the noetic life of the Church and her saints is really needed to prevent these conversations from getting merely esoteric or even harmful. But the need for prayerful apologetics and catechesis on these issues for both the faithful and our neighbors in society (and especially with our younger people in mind) is very apparent.

      • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

        What I wrote on the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy website was:

        “One’s identity is ultimately a relationship with God, and God does not relate to us as blank slates. He creates each of us to be the particular person specified by the various logoi of our being, which determine both what we began as and what we are to become. Our part is to assume the tropoi designated by our logoi—the way of being consistent with God’s intent for us.”

        My complaint about the article above is that it appears to dismiss the body—and with it the distinction of male and female—as an essential component of human being. Queer theorists like that idea because it frees them from the onerous binary of male and female. Some Christians also like the idea because it relieves them of having to say that there is something wrong with people who don’t behave as male or female: They can limit themselves to saying that some forms of sexual intercourse are allowed and others are not.

        This idea that mankind is essentially sexless has already been fleshed out more fully by Roman Catholic writers in First Things. In fact, I cite such an article in this article of mine: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=28-01-031-f

        For anyone interested, here is a link to another article of mine, setting forth the shamelessly novel concept of “archy,” which isn’t really that novel and which fits very well with the Church’s traditional respect for male and female: http://www.brianpatrickmitchell.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Problem-with-Hierarchy.pdf

        • I don’t at all dismiss the body as integral with the soul to human being in Orthodoxy. Part of what we’re working toward here is wording and definition for current catechesis and apologetics in English in accord with Holy Tradition I think, and I appreciate very much Fr. Dn. Patrick’s care and work in this. But I think the use of modern terminology of categories such as heterosexual in identification with our anthropology is not so helpful. St. Maximus in Ambigua 67 writes of human beings as both male or female and as neither male nor female, drawing on Scripture and in line I think with Orthodox Holy Tradition, citing Gen. :26 and Gal. 3:28 on the one hand, and Gen. 1:27 on the other. Igumen Damascene Christensen has noted (p. 203 of Genesis, Creation, and Early Man) that at the time of the bodily resurrection “human beings will bear some kind of ‘imprint’ of maleness or femaleness,” noting Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos beyond death “still in some sense man and woman.” But he cautions that given the lack of elaboration on this in our Tradition, “one should be careful not to try to define this point too precisely.” Both those ultimate examples are of course also of incarnational virgin chastity, which does not fit any modern secular categories. The Soviet state upheld materialistic heterosexuality but against Christian anthropology, and likewise in the West we saw popular “icons” (or anti-icons) of materialistic heterosexuality emerge (such as Hugh Hefner etc.) as the sexual revolution developed and then morphed into other sexualities. Modern categories of sexual identity do have a relation I think to Roman Catholic natural law as it emerged, in a kind of sexlessness, and Fr. Andrew Louth has written about changing ideas in the Western Christian idea of the body that I think express that (in his article “The Body in Western Catholic Christianity”). Without emphasis on theosis and uncreated energies, and with the filioque and scholasticism, there emerged more a sense of the body as the individual possession as it were of an interiorized individuality or personhood, rather than of the body as being more part of a cosmic interconnectedness, or so I poorly try to paraphrase Fr. Louth. At any rate, I would agree wth Fr. Dn. Patrick that the modern secular sense of sexual categories tends toward gnosticism because they tend to center on a certain sense of individual personhood rather than on an incarnational connectedness with Christ in the Church. Where I think we differ in emphasis and articulation is in whether or not today heterosexuality as a category or term fits with that modern secularism and is or is not helpful in Orthodox catechesis and apologetics as a result. These points are discussed further and with citations unworthily in my article in the Glory and Honor book linked above, but it is a very imperfect and ongoing work for sure. Lord have mercy.

          • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

            We seem to be arguing at cross-purposes. I’m aiming for clarity; you prefer vagueness and ambiguity, which I think unhelpful and pretentious. Instead of defending what you have written, you talk around the issue dropping names along the way, as if they all support what you say.

            I wonder why you keep citing Ambigua 67 without mentioning Ambigua 41. The former tells us nothing without the latter, and the latter, as you know, is highly problematic, so problematic that scholars cannot agree on what it means, so problematic that the Church has ignored it until very recently. Can Maximus really mean that the first step toward the reconciliation of all things is the eradication of male and female such that all difference of sex and gender disappears? How can that possibly be reconciled with Orthodox tradition, which obliges us to practice the distinction of male and female in so many ways (e.g., no priestesses)? Surely, some say, Maximus must mean something less, but others take him at his word, saying male and female must go and so must heterosexuality, which they dismiss as “nothing but a particular brand of temptation to sin.” (Michael Hannon in First Things, mentioned in my Touchstone article)

            These are dangerous ideas you are popularizing, made all the more dangerous by your vagueness and ambiguity, which confuse the faithful and embolden and empower the errant, who are free to use your words as they will.

            • Well Fr. Dn., I think this discussion is going downhill fast and we’d be better off in prayer and studying the Fathers, at least I know that’s true for me. You’ve coined in academic writing a new Orthodox term, archy, both theological and anthropological apparently, in order to clarify or correct a Church Father and describe the All Holy Trinity. I think that’s problematic.

              There is a mystery to these issues that invites humility in any kind of academic discussion and also eludes linear scholasticism. Such discussion cannot substitute for the experiential noetic life of the Church. Unworthily I can’t claim to have any definitive word on these issues at all, except to offer attempts for apologetics in our current cultural moment, trying to be true to Holy Tradition and also open to correction and dialogue in our Tradition. From my sense of St. Maximus, he views male and female as essential to human being but also not essential to human being, and that is a mystery in Christ. I’m not sure that you agree or whether you view heterosexual attraction as essential to human being in Orthodoxy, but such terminology seems to me to confuse an aspect of modernity with our Tradition. I genuinely do wish you well in doctoral work. I think we are in agreement overall with the teachings of the Church on marriage, ascetic struggle, embodied sex, and morals and in many basic concerns. Christ is Risen!

              • Christopher :

                Thanks for the interesting dialog Dr. Kentigern & Pdn Brian.

                Dr. Kentigern, could you expand on your use of the term “essential” in this sentence:

                “From my sense of St. Maximus, he views male and female as essential to human being but also not essential to human being, and that is a mystery in Christ.”

                As Christians we of course live a paradoxical faith, but generally when a claim to a paradox or mystery is made, I view it with a “is this Revealed” hermeneutic. My reading of St. Maximus is more limited than either of you but my sense is that because of his time and place, the opportunities and limitations of the neoplatonic milieu in which he lived and wrote, that we moderns are apt to get lost in the intricacies (not saying anything that either of you don’t know). I suppose if St. Maximus really proposed the above paradox (in a way that this crude one sentence form can hold), then I will just say I am terribly disappointed in him 😉

            • Michael Bauman :

              Pdn. Mitchell, I am sorry to see you enter the academic arena. It is likely to reduce both the value and truth of what you write.

  2. Nicholas Reeves :

    This article should be revised for a broader appraisal. The Orthodox need to contribute substantially, as this post does, to a larger audience helping explicate matters of the utmost importance.

  3. The author of the original Conjugal Friendship article on the Public “orthodoxy” website is Giacomo Sanfilippo who also goes by the name Peter J. SanFilippo.

    Giacomo Sanfilippo is Peter J. SanFilippo = a defrocked Orthodox priest, an actively gay man, and homosexual advocate working to attack the Orthodox Church and change the clear and unchanging teaching on the sin and dangers of homosexuality and sodomy.

    Peter J. SanFilippo (Giacomo Sanfilippo) wrote an article back in 2008 that clearly outlined his radical pro-homosexual views:

    A Voice of Dissent in the Orthodox Church
    https://www.christianforums.com/threads/a-voice-of-dissent-in-the-orthodox-church.7321493/

    In the midst of the current maelstrom over same-sex marriage raging at every level of American political and religious life, the Orthodox Church has hunkered down with an improbable cast of bedfellows, including the Vatican, James Dobson and his Focus on the Family, and Bible Belt fundamentalists. A growing catalogue of naysaying articles at http://www.orthodoxytoday.org lists contributions from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, Fathers Thomas Hopko and John Breck, former professors at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary outside New York City, and a number of other familiar and less familiar names. The informal coalition of most Orthodox bishops in the U.S. and Canada known as SCOBA (Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) issued a joint denunciation of same-sex unions in their August 27 “Statement on Moral Crisis in Our Nation,” also available at Orthodoxy Today’s website. The award for insensitivity, however, must surely go to Father Ted Stylianopoulos, who expects that his gay communicants remain not only perpetually abstinent but alsocloseted in lifelong shame.

    What is most remarkable about the combined testimony of these and other Orthodox spokesmen is its failure to add a single new or creative thought concerning the problem of diversity in human sexuality to what has already been parroted ad nauseum by their Western cousins in the faith.

    The traditional Orthodox conception of the inner content of conjugal life and love –including its erotic expression– differs in no respect whatever from what the Church’s gay sons and daughters have come to know experientially in their own committed, monogamous, durable unions. The hierarchy’s intransigent, doctrinaire insistence on the indispensable requisite of “gender complementarity” for conjugal love to be genuine is nothing short of arrogant, and an insult to the integrity of those of us who know otherwise, and who have endured together through trials that would have rent most couples apart.

    Metropolitan Maximos is widely reputed for his holiness; Fathers Hopko and Breck are good men. No one expects the Orthodox Church to start blessing same-sex unions overnight. However, is open dialogue too much to ask? Likewise, is the long overdue admission that the attempted gang rape in Sodom, the Levitical prescriptions for ritual purity and the death penalty for non-compliance, the Jewish focus on procreation as a supreme end, the Pauline censure of ritualized promiscuity in the pagan world, and finally the irrational sputterings of certain church fathers -identical in tone to their anti-Semitic rants, incidentally- have no relevance for a loving couple wishing to establish a life and a home together, too much to ask?

    So long as these kinds of things continue to be sidelined in the mainstream Orthodox Church, its gay sons and daughters will remain vulnerable to the allure of such uncanonical entities as the “Rainbow Orthodox Church”… or even worse, to the oblivion of suicide. If the hierarchy thinks this is an exaggeration for dramatic effect, they have homework to do.

    Peter J. SanFilippo is a former priest and current communicant of the Orthodox Church, an alumnus cum laude of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the divorced father of five children. He attends school in San Diego, where he resides with his partner of one and a half years.

    Peter J. SanFilippo (Giacomo Sanfilippo) also wrote his thesis in 2015 and further laid out his heretical pro-homosexual agenda:

    A Bed Undefiled: Foundations for an Orthodox Theology and Spirituality of Same-Sex Love
    https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/75512

    Abstract (summary):
    The present thesis explores possibilities for a more affirmative Orthodox theological and pastoral response to sexual diversity in human nature. Despite numerous modern articulations of an Orthodox theology of erotic love, and a more general emphasis on the radical otherness of the human person, no contemporary Orthodox author of note makes any allowance for same-sex love known to me.

    Yet the greatly revered priest, theologian, and martyr, Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), establishes a solid traditional foundation for men to form a lifelong, monogamous, sacramental union which bears essentially no difference from the spiritual content and unitive function of the marital bond between a man and a woman.

    His essay, “Friendship,” serves as an interpretive lens through which to discern a subtextual thread running through multiple layers of Holy Tradition, bearing eloquent testimony to the inherent receptivity of same-sex love to transfiguration through the collaborative action of human asceticism and divine grace.

    Re-posting this information in this thread also, so others can see the sort of authors that Public “orthodoxy” invites to its website.

  4. M. Stankovich :

    John P.,

    I knew Peter J. SanFilippo at SVS, and what you re-post here – apparently as a “community service” – is most certainly not simply the polemic of a defrocked Orthodox priest “working to attack the Orthodox Church and change the clear and unchanging teaching on the sin and dangers of homosexuality and sodomy.” It is, in fact, a testimony to the psychotic break he experienced and the arrogance of those responsible for his supervision and management as an Orthodox priest to intervene and provide him the care that he desperately needed before he destroyed his family and himself. I will leave the explanation at that. Instead, the civil authorities (e.g. the Family Court & Child Protective Services) were forced to intervene when those with the moral obligation did not. He disappeared, leaving his family unsupported, devastated, and on welfare.

    I am reminded of the caution of St. John Climacus that, “A good grape picker chooses to eat ripe grapes and does not .pluck what is unripe. A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of the virtues it observes in another, while the fool goes looking for faults and defects. It is of such a one that it was said.”They have searched out iniquity and died in the search (Ps.6l:7).” Peter was a good, faithful man, husband, and priest. He deserves our prayers, not our scorn.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      What is the point of providing Peter (Giacomo) Sanfilippo’s history and why are you, as a licensed counselor, making it public? That Sanfilippo is a defrocked Orthodox priest is germane to the discussion and that his piece is pro-homosexual is obvious. He publicly self-identifies as homosexual, as a former Orthodox priest, and as an advocate working to reconstitute the Orthodox teachings about homosexuality. Nothing more needs to be said than that, which also are the only things that John P. mentioned.

    • Christopher :

      I am interested in what you would have us do M. Stankovich. On the one hand, your absolutely right that it is our Christian duty to love the man. On the other hand, his is a public and philosophical effort to convince the Faithful (really, anyone who would listen) of soul destroying doctrine. Are you saying that we should put this aside and look for “virtue” in…what, exactly? Are you suggesting we simply ignore it and his enablers at “Public Orthodoxy”?

      You accuse John P. of simplicity (i.e. … most certainly not simply the polemic) yet I perceive you also suggesting a simplicity. You seem to believe the communal relationship between Peter and the Church flows only one way. He and his sin is something we are to bear as his brothers in this life, yet we too are engaged in spiritual warfare. The Body of Christ can not simply ignore the disease – we can’t simply look the other way when Peter’s sin is a active, diabolical attempt to peel off members of the Body into a false belief and life about our sexuality and how it relates to our salvation.

      I have observed you make these sorts of arguments and defenses of men for a number of years now. You are unbalanced. Perhaps it is the overemphasis of the “disease” model that you are trained in. It has become the hammer with which all you see is nails. Yes, it is part of the Tradition and we certainly do conceive of the Church as a hospital, etc. Still, perhaps this also has its limitations and we need to sometimes (often, really) think of the many other analogy’s given to us in Scripture/Tradition (e.g. the warfare/soldier model).

      Yes Peter “deserves” our prayers, but John P. did not heap “scorn” on him. He stated that Peter is public advocate for homosexualism and is actively working to undermine the Faith. This is absolutely true. Your citation of St. John is off the mark – St. John in no way would have us ignoring the damage caused by “faults and defects” when they actively harming us or the Body of Christ. Perhaps you will refrain from your false accusations of scorn long enough to see that this, though somehow I doubt it…

  5. M. Stankovich claims: “Peter was a good, faithful man, husband, and priest.

    A good man does not abandon his wife and children. A faithful man does not engage in homosexual activity, divorce his wife and engage in sodomy with other men. A good husband and priest does not disappear and leave “his family unsupported, devastated, and on welfare.” A good man does not preach darkness, perversion, and delusion as “truth and wisdom.” A faithful man does not attack the Orthodox Church, purposely confuse the young, and lead others astray and into perversion and sin, all the while working to destroy the Church.

  6. M. Stankovich :

    Obviously, I had forgotten with what great difficulty compassion comes to this place. The details of this sad situation were, unfortunately, very public and very well known, so I have revealed nothing of a “confidential” nature. Further, if I am not mistaken, we continue to live by the rule of law, governed by the principal of competency (mens rea) as the basis for responsibility for one’s actions. Nevertheless, allow me to provide some perspective, some “on the ground” observations: that Peter San Filippo was an “alumnus cum laude of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary” and a deposed Orthodox priest certainly is germane to the discussion because it was symptomatic of a dramatic change, characteristic of a psychotic disorder. Again, I will only say that what his wife described, and what others corroborated, suggesting the need for intervention, which never happened.

    I strongly suspect that since most commentators approach these situations from the purely “theoretical” vantage, and have never experienced major mental illness face-to-face, over an extended period of time, and been responsible for the literal care of another human being, it is probably pointless to pursue a “clinical” discussion. Given the reality of the situation, I am somewhat amused at the notion of the imposition of a profoundly mentally disordered man as a diabolical agent of darkness, missioned to reconstitute the Orthodox teachings about homosexuality – a modern day Chauncey Gardnier. The Emperor has no clothes.

    Finally, I was at the university medical center yesterday observing fMRI’s in an astonishing new scanner, as part of a research project. My “overemphasis” on disease is apparently juxtaposed with your medieval understanding of the nature of mental illness. And why is that statement significant? I honestly believe, and I honestly conceive that it is possible that a priest could exhibit the identical symptoms that I have described from 1998 and still not receive the appropriate help; and still someone could say, “a good man does not abandon his wife and children.”

    • M. Stankovich is so deft at deflecting and avoiding any moral evaluation of the facts, defaulting instead to his narrow secular clinical verbiage. Yet, despite his attempts, he let his bias slip through: “I am somewhat amused at the notion of the imposition of a profoundly mentally disordered man as a diabolical agent of darkness, missioned to reconstitute the Orthodox teachings about homosexuality – a modern day Chauncey Gardnier. The Emperor has no clothes.

      So you’re saying that as of 2015 when Peter J. SanFilippo (Giacomo Sanfilippo) wrote his heretical thesis advocating for the normalization of homosexuality and sodomy using “Orthodox Theology” and his recent Conjugal Friendship article on “Public orthodoxy” he was still “profoundly mentally disordered”? Because logically, if he’s not, then his intentional distortions, twists and attacks on the moral teaching of the Orthodox Church and intentional preaching of depravity and perversion as “normal” is not just sinful, but exemplify the work of a “diabolical agent of darkness,” as you said. Your words, not mine!

      Interesting that you’re amused Michael, but to the rest of us who see and understand these diabolical and dangerous assaults on the Church teaching from depraved and darkened minds, this is DEADLY serious.

      A Bed Undefiled: Foundations for an Orthodox Theology and Spirituality of Same-Sex Love (2015)
      https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/75512

      Abstract (summary):
      The present thesis explores possibilities for a more affirmative Orthodox theological and pastoral response to sexual diversity in human nature. Despite numerous modern articulations of an Orthodox theology of erotic love, and a more general emphasis on the radical otherness of the human person, no contemporary Orthodox author of note makes any allowance for same-sex love known to me.

      Yet the greatly revered priest, theologian, and martyr, Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), establishes a solid traditional foundation for men to form a lifelong, monogamous, sacramental union which bears essentially no difference from the spiritual content and unitive function of the marital bond between a man and a woman.

      His essay, “Friendship,” serves as an interpretive lens through which to discern a subtextual thread running through multiple layers of Holy Tradition, bearing eloquent testimony to the inherent receptivity of same-sex love to transfiguration through the collaborative action of human asceticism and divine grace.

    • Christopher :

      Once again, your swinging your hammer. Your “amused” yet you seem understand that this essay was published by “Public Orthodoxy” and is in fact what many many secularized Orthodox believe. Your myopic vision of the import of these facts is yours – not ours.

      The man himself, his mental illness and the failure of the institutions, systems, and those around him are not the issue as you erroneously assert.

      No, I don’t have a “theoretical” vantage of mental disease – but again, that is not the issue.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Stankovich, you write:

      Peter San Filippo was an “alumnus cum laude of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary” and a deposed Orthodox priest certainly is germane to the discussion because it was symptomatic of a dramatic change, characteristic of a psychotic disorder. (Emphasis by Fr. Jacobse.)

      How could you possibly know this? By reading accounts on the internet? Whether true or not, it is highly unethical for you, as a licensed counselor, to make such an assertion about Peter J. Sanfilippo (Giacomo Sanfilippo). This is strike two. The first is when you repeated confidential information (you say it is well known — maybe it is, maybe it isn’t — but that still does not give you license to repeat it), and the second is proffering a psychological evaluation of a man with whom you had no professional interaction (if you did, you would be subject to professional censure).

      I disagree strongly with Sanfilippo’s assertions but I’ll defend him against the Google inspired evaluations you are proffering on my blog. There will be no strike three. Consider this your CEASE AND DESIST order.

  7. “Fr. Florensky’s 20th-century view of this early form of spiritual brotherhood stressed the spiritual brotherhood aspect and not any non-canonical sense of sexual incest in opposition to Church Tradition of the chaste nature of spiritual kinship lines. For him this was chaste brotherhood, and his life story shows his performativity of sex within Orthodox Tradition, contrary to implications in the article. Fr. Florensky’s whole explication of identity in his book is relational and not essentialist, in keeping with Orthodox Tradition. He rejects the Fichtean Western philosophical basis of identity, I=I, for a sense of mystical identity, in which A=Not-A. This articulates a traditional understanding of Orthodox marriage as well . . .

    . . .[I]t is ‘queer’ in the sense of sensual but ascetic monogamy, union of different biological sexes, reproductiveness in commitment to transgenerationality, living embodied iconography of Scriptural typology involving Christ and His Church, and in its shaping of a ‘little church’ and ‘little kingdom’ of the household in resistant to materialistic society.”

    Academics play with models.

    Orthodox theologians fast, pray and practice hesychasm, acquiring noetic sensibilities and nepsis. They recount the faith of the Church Fathers.

    Occasionally these two sets overlap but it is rare. I’m not sure there is any point to the academic conversation apart from Orthodox theology and one can recognize the taste of this theology when one reads, for example, Vladimir Lossky or St. John of Kronstadt, as well as the older Church Fathers.

    Let the dead bury their dead.

  8. Michael Bauman :

    I find it passing strange that such arguments as these even exist much less that they are prosecuted with such vehemence. As J B Strunk was heard to say on many occasions: simplfy, simplify, simplify.

    The mystery of male and female has many dimensions but it is really not that difficult to grasp. There is a divine/cosmic dimension which seems to have existed prior to our creation. It is an integral part of our divinely ordained stewardship of the visible creation.

    There is a created dimension that is not utterly binary since we were created male and female and then separated.

    It is physical and not physical. It operates as both energy and physical efforts to unite and reproduce. It is sacramental and easily turned to desecration.

    Our expulsion from the Garden seems to have have made both participating in and appreciating the natural synergy between male and female difficult and perilous in part because it played a significant role in that expulsion. That synergy is fulfilled and healed in the Incarnation and our union with Christ though.

    It is fundamentally a kenotic inter-relationship. In our state of sin, it easily gets twisted into lust and selfish desire. We are not sexual beings. We are Theophilic beings who have a sexual element to our nature.

    Part of the problem is we have too many acedemics and ideologs postulating too many theories.

    Mysteries are not penetrated through disembodied analysis or ideological ramblings which modern academics have become. Mysteries are penetrated or rather revealed through participation.

    I am just a simple guy in fly-over country who thought it important to find out what Jesus Christ expects of me as a Christian man. I began that quest in Ft. Worth, Tx in June of 1976. It is ongoing and an impetus to repentance often.

    I have no advanced degrees nor the Chrism of the priesthood. I have been ridiculed by some here for that lack. Yet, that has been good. I will say that I know as least as much about the subject as anyone here and I am less encumbered by expectations.

    I can say nothing new nor definitive. I can only say that the most disturbed men are still men even though they deny it. That is the crux of the problem. Men are not well ordered.

    Simply, we seek our own satisfaction at the expense of women and children, family and society rather than offering up to God our lives in daily effort and thanksgiving. I am the worst. I know but I do not do.

    Sorry ladies, but men who are well ordered set the standard and the benchmark for the male-female interelatedness and whether it is fruitful or destructive. We have failed, I have failed.

    God forgive me a sinner.

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