The Unbearable Essentializing of Being: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s Sorrowful Joy of Sex

Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware

Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware

Please Note: This article by Reader Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers is a reprint that was first published on “Another City” website. Since “Another City” does not allow comments on their articles, discussion, comments, and requests for clarifications can be made here. All comments will be moderated. No comments that engage in left-leaning moral shaming or that rise no higher than the precepts of identity politics will be allowed. Respect for all contributors is required.

Sexual identities, in contrast to sexual practices or passions, are a relatively new concept. Only recently were passions taken to define people, i.e. seen as constituting an identity or essence, such as homosexual or heterosexual—an understanding that even many secular circles now scorn as untenable. It is, then, discouraging to see a highly respected Orthodox hierarch dare to breach the unwavering moral tradition of the Church based upon such an “essentialist” notion of “sexual orientation.” Siewers argues that this step undermines Orthodox anthropology by turning the body into a thing (reification) and alienating humanity from the incarnation of the God-man Christ.

By Reader Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers

St. John of Kronstadt wrote: “Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.”

In his recent online essay embracing a secular model of essentialist sexuality, the retired Metropolitan Kallistos Ware unfortunately engages in rhetoric that does exactly what St. John and holy elders and saints and Church Fathers and Scripture and canons of the Church warn against: Confusing and identifying sexual passions of all types with the man made according to the Person of Jesus Christ.

Outmoded Sexual Models

Sadly, in light of his many talents and achievements, Metropolitan Kallistos’ latest writing echoes the secular culture and class of his own Anglo-convert culture more than global Orthodox tradition.

As a result, his intellectual exploration also seems quaintly old-fashioned now by secular academic standards. The educated elites of the affluent developed world in queer studies have moved on to transgenderism and pansexualism and polyamory, far beyond the example of bourgeois, monogamous homosexuality he objectifies in suggesting changes in Orthodox ideas of marriage.

Within the Orthodox tradition of marriage and ascetic struggle, however, there is no room for a secular progressive wing to divide theology from her anthropology, and no accommodation is possible in her soteriology for a reactionary consumerist view indulging the passions.

Yet both extremes of elite modern Western culture seem present in his view of identity, which seems headed in a direction both neoliberal and nihilist at the same time. Such musings will only help inspire schism and heterodoxy, the bitter fruits of those who would cynically use this previously respected writer and thinker as cover for political strategies to undermine Church tradition.

Nor does such questioning of tradition from a privileged, Anglocentric position take into account the struggle of Orthodox Christian parents and families and parishes globally, amid a nihilistic sexual revolution that undoubtedly has only intensified since his experience of being a lay person decades ago. While Orthodox young people today may need to prepare for a catacomb Church and cultural gulags, he raises academic questions that others likely will carry forward to a schismatic “Living Church” of Western Sergianism, replacing transfigurative holy tradition with a neocolonial formalist traditionalism.

Ironically, some in the West who try to change the Church’s moral teachings on sex have accused those defending them of being ascetically-minded, overly-zealous converts who objectify sex in ethnocentric ways. Yet Metropolitan Kallistos is an English convert and celibate priest who now regretfully seems to be doing just that.

Secular “Natural Law”

This is because his old-style Anglican scholasticism proceeds from a sense of natural law embedded in secularized Western rather than Orthodox tradition. In his writing, passions of sexual orientation become natural and not the result of the Fall. Thus, passions must be God’s creation and therefore accommodated as an essential identity, rather than realizing natural law to be the transfigurative logoi or energies of God, as St. Maximos the Confessor described. These operate not as natures or essences, but through ascetic struggle in synergy with grace: The spark of divine love in the heart, as bioethicist Reader Herman Engelhardt calls it.

Most striking is the absence in Metropolitan Kallistos’ article of any sense of both the transfigurative beauty of the embodied iconography of male and female in an Orthodox sense, and the life-changing, noetic life of the Church in theosis with the uncreated energies through ascetic struggle and grace. Instead, through leading rhetorical questions, he merely points to a heterodox anthropology of watered-down contemporary culture in the guise of Orthodoxy with a Ruskinesque tinge, unhelpful to the struggling families of faithful today.

It is as if he adapts Aristotelian-based Scholasticism to the sexual revolution, in lining up the four imagined causes of same-sex identity—material, efficient, formal, and final—to argue for essentialized sexual identity as “natural,” although such an approach would be questioned even by many queer theorists today.

The Noetic Life of the Church

By contrast, St. Maximos considered such essentialisms (including heterosexuality) as expressive of divisions needing to be overcome in theosis. In Orthodoxy, any identity of sexuality, however “customized,” must be understood as an effect of the Fall: A departure both from the formal cause of man in the transfigurative logoi or divine energies, and from the final cause in theosis.

In Christ there is neither male nor female, as the Apostle Paul wrote. But there is still preservation too, in a mysterious sense, of the spiritual beauty of the embodied iconography of male and female from Genesis, ultimately exemplified in our Lord Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos, and the Lamb and His Bride, the Church.

In contrast, Metropolitan Kallistos is following a road that some academics claiming to be Orthodox have already traveled farther, mimicking liberal Episcopalian and Catholic intellectuals before them, lured by will o’ the wisps of sexual revolution, that ultimately serve demonic forces in objectifying human beings to their destruction.

Such gnostic Scholastic “theologians” ignore without compassion the Orthodox faithful, including parents and young people, struggling to maintain the standard of Orthodoxy, by offering a theology separated from anthropology, sundering their integration in the Christology of the Fathers.

It is the promotion and celebration of any essentialized sexual identities based on the passions—heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, or pansexual—that deny man’s embodied nature in relation to Christ as the source of our personhood. This is the great challenge to Orthodoxy in our day, as were Gnosticism, Arianism, Sabellianism, Monothyletism etc. in earlier ages; yet it recapitulates aspects of those earlier heresies as well.

False Personalism

Sexual identitiisms wander away from Orthodoxy by subscribing to a false personalism based in human self-will, which Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos warned against in his commentary on the documents of the gathering of bishops on Crete in 2016. The latter reflected a confused personalistic philosophy ardently taken up with zeal by academics affiliated with the Phanar today, including now sadly Metropolitan Kallistos.

Glorification of self-will brings denial of man’s embodied nature and identity in relationship with the Person of Christ the God-man. It partakes of the spirit of the Antichrist, which, as Scripture warns, argues that Christ did not come in the flesh. It would try to make Him a disembodied concept of identity as the basis for a “new anthropology” of ultrahumanism and posthumanism, disregarding the Incarnation and Christ’s two natures, human and divine, unconfused and undivided.

In today’s sexual culture, everyone supposedly becomes an idea of themselves, in whatever objectified identity, rather than an incarnate logos of the incarnate Logos. The metaphysical materialism of the age self-contradictory removes man further from an embodied state of grace, into a conceptual matrix, whose attempt at autonomous individualism finally ends in nihilistic self-destruction.

The heterodoxy at work in Metropolitan Kallistos’ new teaching is a now too-familiar neo-Gnosticism, seeking to turn the body into an object along with other people, and salvation into an intellectual exercise of the enlightened. That modern adaptation of ancient heresy has brought a heavy price for mankind in its effort to ravage Orthodox anthropology, emerging in tandem with systems of oppression that would try to set up the wills of an enlightened elite over the faithful and subdue the noetic life of the Church.

Conciliar Medicine

This anthropological heresy comes as a movement, but not through inspired Church Councils, rather via academics. Efforts to objectify sexual identity within the Church meanwhile belittle the faithful laity and would force them into a catacomb Church. Such efforts nurture a consumerist metaphysical materialism in which the body becomes only a manipulable object at the bidding of self-will and the passions. It serves the end of a technocratic class politically: Secular power and sensual excitement become their ultimate ideal, with pacification of the hoi polloi through false comfort serving as their modus operandi.

The Fifth and Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils long ago offered antidotes for such confusion over the integration of Christology and anthropology in Orthodoxy. It is sad to see Metropolitan Kallistos, with such a gifted mind and talented pen, to which I owe much myself, waver into such heresy. We may pray that what he has lost as a philosopher he can regain as a beloved shepherd of the faithful, namely Orthodox dogma and faith.

Reader Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers is William E. Simon Visiting Research Fellow in Religion and Public Life at the James Madison Program at Princeton University.


  1. Thank you for this article. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I fear where the church at large may be headed. Although maybe premature on my part as there are still the faithful who are struggling to keep the faith alive throughout the whole church. The catacomb church is real and will grow in the face of this downhill spiral that the world is in. I am a Bishop in a group that claims no tax exempt status, we take no donations, we ask for nothing from anyone, we attempt to teach and preach the Orthodox understanding to whoever will listen. Of course we are not well accepted among mainstream Orthodoxy or pretty much any group that calls itself a church. We are newly associated with one another within our group and are just beginning to reach out to the world. Blessings to you and all who are with you. +William, Autocephalous Orthodox Catholic Church of the Americas.

    • Oh my. I just read the history of your “autocephalous archdiocese and metropolia”. No Apostolic Succession, no autocephaly, syncretistic theology, internal divisions, vagantes. My word!

  2. A powerful and much needed article. I especially appreciate the labeling of the entire spectrum of sexuality and gender assaults against the Orthodox Church as an ‘Anthropological Heresy.’ We must apply and develop such new terms in this theological battle.

    Regarding the pastoral implications of this assault against the Church, I note this among several expresssions:

    “In his writing, passions of sexual orientation become natural and not the result of the Fall. Thus, passions must be God’s creation and therefore accommodated as an essential identity…”

    This is precisely the danger in this destructive movement, as it corrodes and sweeps away any sense of the absolute wrongness (as revealed in the Scriptures and two thousand years of Living Tradition) of these sexual dysforias, and the need to struggle against them.

    I am speaking of the Cross, and specifically of the truth that those with same-sex attraction or gender dye photos have a particularly challenging cross to bear.

    It seems to me that a vibrant Orthodox pastoral approach to helping such persons bear their cross well would include recognizing it as a cross, and seeking to engage with the SSA (same-sex afflicted) person to lead them to desire to take up that cross, not to deny it by asserting that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with their desires. Once a person accepts reality and truth, and desires to take up their cross, they have graduated to the level of ‘struggler’ and are quite likely to be blessed by the Lord with moments of grace so as to ‘struggle well’, even to their last breath.

    I would even go so far as to say that by not articulating a pastoral theology centered on taking up one’s cross and bearing it, we are inadvertently allowing an enormous obstacle to remain before the SSA person. In our age, any pastoral counsel limited to merely practical demands and rules (“live in celibacy”) will likely fail to convert the SSA person into a cross-bearer and struggler.

    One more component of this horribly challenging cross which should be drawn out is the immeasurably glorious crown which awaits those SSA persons who do choose to take up their cross and follow Christ, who choose to struggle. Let us not forget that Jesus would have been eating and drinking with SSA persons, while still publicly preaching repentance, and not a few would have heard His call and brought myrrh in repentance, falling on their faces to daringly anoint His feet.

    It has been said by the Desert Fathers that “in the latter days, those who merely hold to the faith will be counted greater than the early fathers and ascetics who worked miracles and raised the dead.” It seems to me that this is the pastoral opportunity which we must seize and articulate – even thunder from the amvon, as it contains within it all the power of the Gospel, of the Risen and Glorified Lord Himself. Yes, perhaps many SSA persons will reject their cross, but think of the few who will catch a glimpse of the truth and will step out in faith and love for the Lord, and enter into the Arena of martyrdom (for that is what they are being called to!), rather than siding with the lions against the Christians.

    • Chris Banescu says


      re: “It has been said by the Desert Fathers that “in the latter days, those who merely hold to the faith will be counted greater than the early fathers and ascetics who worked miracles and raised the dead.”

      Indeed. Father Calistrat Chifan, an Orthodox priest from the Vlădiceni Monastery in Iaşi, Romania, teaches that Christians living pious, chaste, and moral lives and staying faithful to God can also be considered martyrs. We are surrounded by so much corruption, filth, and immorality, that preserving our purity of heart, being virtuous, maintaining our faith in the True God, participating in the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church, staying faithful to our spouses, protecting our families, defending the sanctity of life, and raising God-fearing children, are just as much acts of martyrdom today as being tortured and killed for your Christian faith were centuries ago.

  3. Christopher says

    Toward the end of his essay “Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the “Reintegration””, Fr. Matthew Baker of blessed memory writes:

    “In a secularized academic context riveted by the political ideologies of “race, class, and gender”…The questions of “experience” and reason in theology – its sources, first principles and procedure – and the acceptable cultural “correlation” require a more rigorous and dogmatic-philosophical treatment. Orthodox theologians must deal not only with Western theology, but also with the sources of Western secularism with greater depth and care than has yet been shown…”

    Dr. Siewers essay is certainly a step in the direction of the correcting the obviously erroneous “cultural correlation” of Met. Kallistos and the majority of the writers/supporters of The Wheel. However, it must be said that Dr. Siewers scatter-gun approach and the use of technical philosophical and theological language will make it difficult for most in the Church to understand his germane thesis.

    I would like to encourage Dr. Siewers to write a second essay that focuses and expands one or two of his more important points. For example the fact that the modern “essentialist” understanding of “sexual identity” is fickle and always in flux, within both academia and the wider culture, resting as it does on the Cartesian “self” is very important. How does one however make this intelligible to the “average” Orthodox/traditional Christian who on some level understands that the message they are getting from Met. Kallistos, academia, and the culture in general is not Christian but who at the same time is not given a robust, counter-cultural paradigm even in their local parish church? Instead they are often given books such as Met. Kallistos own “The Orthodox Church” which has since its earliest revisions in the 1970’s presented a compromised and week defense of the Church’s anthropology!

    As a father with two young daughters I am all too aware of the sexual revolution and its false anthropology. What I need, what my parish needs is catechetical content that can undergird a Faithful understanding of the differences between this false/modern anthropology and a Christian answer to “what is man (anthropos)”. In this way we can build up men and women, parishes and clergy – perhaps even bishops 😉 – who are not seduced by the errors of this false anthropology despite the enormous pressure that our society is placing on us.

    Christopher Encapera

  4. I’m amused at the attempts to respond to Met. Kallistos’ comments in an academic manner. The correct, Orthodox way to respond to them is through trial and deposition/excommunication, not theorizing:

    I fear that the Church has become too weak to defend itself against the wolves within. That calls into question its identity as “the Church” for the gates of hell shall not prevail against the true Church of Christ. Perhaps it is time for us to rethink our attitude toward the Greek Old Calendarists. They appear to be among the very few who still believe in eucharistic discipline vis a vis heresy.

    Is that not a necessary condition of Church-ness?

  5. M. Stankovich says

    For the record, let me say that I have nothing but the utmost respect for Prof. Siewers, and most importantly, this is an earned respect; he and I, so to speak, have been “around the block” many times historically, and he is as wise a man as he is a man of personal integrity. If he “peeks” in, I sincerely miss you, brother!

    Simply because of my background and training, I tend to approach these “situations” with more questions than indictments. The leap to “trial and deposition/excommunication” is astonishing to me, and I believe that the examination of Arius – even as disturbing as the anecdotal report of the “affront” to the sensibilities of St. Nicholas may have led him – it appears from the record that the Fathers were particularly strident in affording Arius his “day in court.” Thankfully, they did not have the instantaneous “call & response” of the internet to influence – positively or negatively – their opinion of Arius without questioning him directly. Again, for the record, I am considerably more shocked that no one has even mentioned that The Wheel has chosen, in this special issue, to “provide a voice” to Peter San Filipo – even playing along with the silliness of referring to him as “Giacomo” – who is a known enemy of the Church. By doing this, it seems to me that, unlike Met. Kallistos, who simply by the history of his contribution to the building up of the Church of Christ, deserves the opportunity to further explain his comments; whereas this editorial decision to include San Filipo seems purposely provocative – “speak your mind to these “fossils” – and in effect diminishes a sacred concept. “Providing a voice,” is to lend credibility – not necessarily as regarding voracity – but declaring it “worthy” at an equal level of significance. As to what San Filipo, or the rest (including the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, who apparently has noting better to do?) has to contribute, I will consume $58 (plus postage) in a rich soup before I ever send it to The Wheel for the privilege of finding out.

    Returning to the point, I read and re-read Met. Kallistos, and my immediate reaction was, like many, confusion. When I was young, beginning high school, from an Orthodox family, but nominally Orthodox, Met. Kallistos’ book impacted me as powerfully as it did so many others outside the Church. At the same time, as happens nearly every time there is an “episode” such as this, several things occur rapidly because of the internet that disturb me tremendously: 1) more often than not, the effort to read “between the lines” is equal, and can literally exceed the authors contribution, and suddenly, and authoritatively, becomes a part of the “canon” of the author’s work; and 2) any worthwhile contribution – at least from my vantage – is lost in the often angry, always “outraged” denouncement. Allow me two concrete “clinical/pastoral” examples.

    I shared on another site a discussion I had with my brother, whom I described as “holiday-only Orthodox,” who looks at these matters in a detached but curious, relatively cold (though he would say, “objective”) manner. His summary: “So you have, say, a 20-year old college guy who tells a bishop or priest he is gay, and he will be told that this is his “Cross to bear.” He can never have “legitimate” sex for the rest of his life; he can never marry the person he loves (because it’s not “really” love); he can never have his own family; he shouldn’t live with with the person he loves because it’s to tempting – in fact any same-sex relationship is too tempting; and a lot of people in the church think he is a threat to their young children.” wow. That’s not quite right, that’s not quite wrong, but according to many people, we have “dealt” with this issue. Case closed (until next time). On the other side, before there was The Wheel, I was presented this identical scenario by several “players” or, shall we say, The Wheel “prodroms,” I asked, “What do you propose?” and suggested what in medicine is referred to as a “drug holiday”; the symptoms and side-effects of multiple medications have become so convoluted and confusing, that the only reasonable solution is to hospitalize a patient to be sure they are safe, and stop everything – thus the holiday. I was asking, in effect, should we have a “sofrosini” [σωφροσύνη] – meaning “self-control, purity, single-mindedness – furlough?” A vacances de passion at scheduled intervals? It seems to me this was the dilemma Met. Kallistos was discussing by comparing the person who was promiscuous versus the one monogamous, but unwilling to give up there same-sex relationship. Obviously there is only one acceptable answer, but in a world that shuns us and our “restraints” at every turn, how best to model the words of the Lord, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” (Matt. 15:24)

    I am troubled every time I see an Orthodox Christians banter about the term “delusion” as an insult or as a pejorative in general; anyone who has witnessed this phenomenon expressed in a human being understands the hopelessness of which I speak. In fact, any real thought of actually providing treatment for delusion disappeared from the psychiatric literature for an extended period of time until fairly recently. It is the technique that I incorporated many years ago in situations that seemingly reek of desperation and hopeless, fundamentally comes by way of Irvin Yalom, MD, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, who believed that any clinical interaction be driven by the motivation to instill hope. And for the woman who told me that the same person driving the bus on her way to work, was the same person who waited on her at the grocery at noon, was the same person who delivered copier paper to her office at 2:00 pm, and you get the idea. She is terrified. Medication is nominally helpful. It is impossible to talk such a person out of their delusion with the truth. The only way to help her, according to the literature, is to enlist her in possibilities. “If I am to help you, I need you to be open enough to consider some possibilities; not necessarily agree with me, but be open to considering possibilities…” What are they? Our minds can and do “play tricks” on us, our perception can be off, etc. Does it seem reasonable to tell a 19-year old, “You can never drink again for the rest of your life?” Does it seem reasonable to say, “You can never have sex for the rest of your life?” What do you say when told, “Thing I fear the most is being shunned, and worse, shunned because I’m thought of as a pedophile.” We have not has these discussions; we are not prepared for these dilemmas; we are not prepared to deal with frank realities (and as a priest told me the other night, “The Fathers say to never give a penance you are unwilling or incapable of doing yourself”). And as men, we have not admitted how threatening this issue really is.

    We compromise absolutely nothing of the Orthodox Faith, disobey any instruction of our Savior in the Holy Scripture, defy any Patristic principle, violate the word or spirit of the Sacred Canons, or challenge our Holy Tradition by returning the lost sheep of the House Israel. And I am emphatic that we do not need a team of self-appointed “experts” to guide us, and shame on them for underestimating our confidence in evaluating the conflict for what it is, and for providing compassionate solutions. I have been asking for their specific “clarification’ for years, and now, speaking only for myself, I am finished.

    • Christopher says

      “As to what San Filipo, or the rest (including the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, who apparently has noting better to do?) has to contribute, I will consume $58 (plus postage) in a rich soup before I ever send it to The Wheel for the privilege of finding out.”

      Your point is an important Mr. Stankovich. With the OCA’s Chancellor, San Filipo, the priest Robert Arida, and Met. Kallistos, we already know that each in their own way do not believe in the normative moral tradition or the anthropology Scripture/Fathers/Tradition. What is the wisdom of say, Fr. John Behr or Mr. Nassif publishing their essays or otherwise associating with these reformists?

      • M. Stankovich says


        I apologize for the tardiness of this response. I have only met Met. Kallistos once, so I am unqualified to comment, but I must disagree with your assessment of Priest Robert Arida, “we already know that each in their own way do not believe in the normative moral tradition or the anthropology Scripture/Fathers/Tradition.” This is absolutely incorrect. I have known Robert Arida for 45-years and have loved him as my own brother. He was my first roommate at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and laid a groundwork for me, all of 18-years old, for a love of the Classics, the Ancient Greek philosophers, the Patristic Fathers, and the idea of critical thinking. Of all things, he introduced me to the Strand Bookstore at E 12 and Broadway in lower Manhattan, a veritable Hogwarts of my day, each floor coughing up used “treasures,” books beyond your imagination, and at a cost a poor student could afford. What kind of man does this? He is frequently depicted as “malevolent,” calculating, and manipulative. In person, he is genuine, warm, gentle, introspective, thoughtful, and a man of piety. Now, if you are saying to yourself, “And so were Arius and Nestorius; and weren’t you the one above describing “delusion?” Point taken.

        Again, I can only limit my comments to Priest Robert Arida by saying that we began a dialogue at the time of infamous “Wonderblog” posting, and like everyone, the dialogue ended in silence; actually, he referred me to one his parishioners to continue the “discussion,” which was as good as silence, and a hurtful insult. Fr. Hans once asked me, on this site, as to what I thought was going on with him. At the time, I said that he – like many of us – struggle with the great moral issues of our generation “blindly,” not in the sense that the Church lacks a moral teaching for our ethical and anthropological theology, but rather an “articulation” that speaks to our generation (as has been done in all generations), and the moral voice to defend it. A number of years ago, for example, when I was sarcastically challenged as to my “plan” for educating the “public square” the Orthodox Church’s position on the sanctity of Christian Marriage: at each wedding conducted, distribute a short statement – emphatic, but not offensive – and perhaps the priest could read it after the Sacrament itself. Madonna Mia! You’d have thought I suggested making sacrifice to Mollock. “Whoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38) Returning to my point from the previous post, but we are not in need of a self-appointed team of “experts” to instruct the Church as to the meaning of “Living Tradition.” In my opinion, we are in need of Hierarchs competent and capable of re-articulating the Truth we hold, and faithfully defending it.

        I believe Priest Robert Arida began the dangerous path that always leads to division: secretiveness, isolation, and silence. We depend on the essential contribution of others to see what we cannot, or much more importantly, will not see or admit about ourselves. And the problem is always potentiated and exacerbated when we surround ourselves with people who agree with us. Professor SS Verhovskoy, of blessed memory, Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Ethics at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, once responded to the question, “Can Satan repent?” by saying: “My dears, the parents of our Father Basil the Great, were saints of the Church. His brother and sister were also saints of the Church. It is reasonable to conclude he had the inclination to be a saint of the Church. But never forget that the corollary: the devil surrounds himself with so many other devils to the point where he is so disinclined to repent, that the Fathers conclude he is incapable of repentance.” You are as blind as those around you share, or sadly allow.

        I conclude this rant by illustrating my point with the finest example of blindness I can offer, from 2 Samuel 12, which recounts the aftermath of King David having placed Uriah the Hittite in a position where he would be killed in battle, so that David could have his wife. The Lord sends the Prophet Nathan to the King, who tells him the story of a great injustice perpetrated against an innocent man. David becomes enraged and demands exactly how the injustice should be rectified (blah, blah, blah), until Nathan speaks four words that everyone us, at varying points in our lives, essentially needs to hear: “You are that man.” And Nathan concludes this shocking confrontation by noting the direct message of the Lord, “For you did it secretly: but I will do this thing [the application of justice] before all Israel, and before the sun.” It is not a matter of my dear brother believing in the “normative moral tradition or the anthropology Scripture/Fathers/Tradition.” He simply closed the door on Nathan. And rather than scorn him, I ask you to pray for truly one of the best men I have ever met.

        • Archpriest Alexander Webster says

          Dr. S, your comment here about Fr. Robert Arida is, at once, empathetic, insightful, compassionately honest, and prophetic–like the ancient prophet Nathan himself–without compromising on any moral points. I was moved when I read it.

        • Christopher says

          Mr. Stankovich,

          I appreciate your loyalty to the priest Robert Arida, I really do. Loyalty in this utilitarian age is far too rare and little understood. Still, when you say that you disagree with my assessment of the belief of this man I don’t see how. Everything you say points to the veracity of this assessment. A man who refuses to hear can not believe.

          We all know “good” men who are unbelievers. During my time in the Episcopal church I knew a great many of these unbelieving good men. As you point out a man is reflected in those who he surrounds himself.

          In any case I would never try to argue you out of your loyalty. I will pray for the priest Robert Arida and for the great mass of unbelieving good men that surround us in these latter days – the ruins of Christendom that is our heritage!

  6. Ephraim Bane says

    Aristotle spoke well when he observed that there are three modes of life, the life of fatted cattle, the life of contemplation, and the life of politics, that is the ordering of a people around the highest principles of life that promote the best for all, in the founding principles of goodness, truth and beauty. Increasingly, life in our country, and the life it is exporting to the world, is the life of fatted cattle. Unfortunately now, even Orthodox Christians and its leaders are receiving as the highest good the life of fatted cattle and the pursuit of appetites, not aroused by nature, but by advertisements, politicians, false religious figures, spectacles and their senseless drumbeats, rich foods and drugs, threats to non-conformists, for the purpose of thought control, the consumption of products, and the metamorphosis of humanity into something un-natural, and un-spiritual.

    The true Christian community is called instead to a life that is a harmony of the life of contemplation and the life of politics. But that is very far from us today. Instead of this life, which is a life of true knowledge, where the rational soul experiences light and freedom of action, we are returning to a pagan state of slavery, where ignorance causes darkness in the rational soul. Unrestrained desire leads to unrestrained hatred, as we see daily in the headlines. The spiritual principles of life were well-known to our Christian Fathers, for Christ Himself expressed them, and people experienced true enlightenment, healing, freedom and joy by liberation from the destructive passions of the soul and body. And today such insignificant people such as I enjoy this freedom. But now the majority follow the path of Demas, loving the fleeting pleasures of this world, and we have become skeptical that such a healing can exist.

    Only when we and our Bishops return to expressing ourselves in the spiritual language of the Church, immersing ourselves and delighting in it, not in an academic language, and laboring for the excellencies expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, will we be able to heal ourselves and our fellow man.

  7. The Other James says

    The main problem of making sexual orientation an identity, as I see it, is that it makes the act of sex itself something that is born of necessity rather than an act of will.

    There is an odd fatalism about modern secular ethics. Man is not a free agent who is capable of making reasoned decisions: rather, he is the culmination of passions and drives which must be fulfilled at all costs, and woe to those who interfere!

  8. It is very strange. Were we focused on other perversions like pederasty or bestiality, we would be having markedly different discussions than the ones that go on presently.

    Met. Phillip said it best, “We do not discuss abominations.”

    The real concern is that the shock value of homosexual relations, and the consequent ostracism, has been reduced to the “ick factor” or even less. That bodes ill for Western society.

  9. Katarina Harlan says

    I’ve read both articles and I think that Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is talking about the oeconomy and the author of this article is talking about the theology. Church is a place where people come to be healed and healing of such a deep wound as a distorted sexual orientation requires a wise and loving doctor. I believe Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is showing both wisdom and love and courage. It is, of course, safe to put the sick into a separate ward (locked by such locks as the reference to the Fathers and the Councils and what not) and feel good about being outside of it (with the families of the sick or maybe not even with them). But isn’t it more noble to come into that ward and see the real people (who as is always the case with real people require different approaches) and ask oneself: “What can I do not to kill them but to heal them?”

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      This is the same line of reasoning that got Sister Vassa into so much trouble.

      “Oeconomy” (economy) and theology don’t conflict. Economy refers to a loosening of normative disciplines for pastoral considerations. Economy never violates the teachings of the moral tradition.

      Yes, healing requires a doctor but first the malady must defined as just that — a malady. The definition is not, as you assert, a separation that prevents entry into the Church but rather a diagnosis, a description of the malady that must be seen as a malady in order for the proper therapies to be a applied. If one does not see the sin as a malady, then healing cannot happen. Moreover, if a person does not desire the healing, then he separates himself from the Church by his own decision. The Church, like Christ, always respects the freedom of the person.

      To understand this better, read the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Her life shows how this works.

      However, if the diagnostician concludes that the Church’s teachings are wrong and embarks on a course the violates the moral tradition like Sister Vassa did, then the problem lies not with the person struggling with same-sex desire but with the diagnostician. A kind of overwrought empathy replaces authentic compassion where the malady is seen as fixed, as native and natural to the human being, where passion of same-sex desire becomes essentialized.

      Authentic compassion requires a correct assessment of the malady, while overwrought empathy causes the diagnostician to internalize the pain of the struggler and make it his/her own. The diagnosis becomes subjectified and the blame shifts to the Church in order to alleviate the discomfort of the diagnostician in the presumptive conclusion that this relief will assuage the pain of the struggler as well.

      Sister Vassa could not see this and it appears you don’t either. It is better not to enter the arena until the reverse transference is recognized and the distinctions between economy and theology are better grasped.

  10. Katarina Harlan says

    Dear Fr. Johannes,

    I totally agree with you and with Reader Dr. Alfred Kentigern Siewers that the Church must not change its teachings on what a passion is to accomodate the time. I just don’t think that Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is saying that we must. I think he is raising the question of the proper treatment of the gay people who have come to church and are confessing their sins.

    From what I understood, a gay person who has chance encounters and then comes and confesses them and receives communion and then falls again and comes and confesses and receives communion seems to be in a better situation that a gay person that lives with another gay person and maybe even wants to end the relationship but doesn’t want to hurt this other person or needs time or needs to gain courage and ends up with the harsher decision than the person who has no commitment.

    Maybe the answer will stay the same and maybe it should stay the same. I personally believe it should but I know a thing or two about passions and the gay person might not know anything about them and how they don’t allow us to become our true selves. (It took me years to stop associating myself with them and start seeing them as the shakles I want to break to begin living and those were the years spent in church.) So maybe the gay person who entered church and started a conversation with a priest needs to be treated with patience. With patience, tact, and love so that he doesn’t end up broken by the harsh decision of the priest.

    It’s not a hypothetical question for me either ’cause I live in the world and have relatives and friends lured by the “will o’ the wisps” of the world. I love them. I want them saved.


    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      One can posit many scenarios and each one requires a different response because people are different. There is no argument here because this is simple common sense.

      Proper judgments have to be made however and the ground for making them has to be more than the overwrought sympathy of the diagnostician. Otherwise you end up in the place Sister Vassa did. Confusing sympathy with compassion also requires that the person struggling with passion (any passion, not just same-sex attraction) be seen as a victim which diminishes his personal volition and responsibility. The diagnostician feels morally vindicated but the struggler is weakened.

  11. Katarina Harlan says

    Economy (religion)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In the Orthodox Church, in Eastern and Latin Catholic churches, and in the teaching of the Church Fathers which undergirds the theology of those communions, economy or oeconomy (Greek: οἰκονομία, oikonomia) has several meanings. The basic meaning of the word is “handling” or “disposition” or “management” or more literally “housekeeping” of a thing, usually assuming or implying good or prudent handling (as opposed to poor handling) of the matter at hand. In short, economia is discretionary deviation from the letter of the law in order to adhere to the spirit of the law and charity. This is in contrast to legalism, or akribia (Greek: ακριβεια)—strict adherence to the letter of the law of the church.

  12. Your conservative misunderstanding of the principles of the New Testament will drive the next generation even further away from Christianity.

    “serve demonic forces”…”waver into heresy”; how can you speak with such aggressive language? Fanatics and fundamentalists from all faiths have no place reading the work of great men like Metropolitan Kallistos.

    If you prioritise love and empathy in your theology, you may find yourself closer to having a fraction of Kallistos’ wisdom.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      This rises no higher than a bland and unfocused scolding. Churches that have adopted the gay agenda are dying. Churches that have a clear teaching on sexuality are growing. This does not translate into any condemnation of the person struggling with the same-sex passion because everyone struggles with some kind of passion. However, neither does it allow for the amorphous, undefined, sentimentalized emotion you call love and empathy that sees those who struggle with the passion as victims; a condescension that denies personal volition and thus robs a man of hope.

  13. Fr. Ioannes Apiarius says

    Pointing out the same unchanging moral principles and universal truths the Church has taught for nearly two millennia is now labeled as a “conservative misunderstanding of the principles of the New Testament.” Apparently the many Apostles, Fathers, Saints, Theologians and other great Teachers of the Holy Orthodox Church across the centuries were wrong also, since their preaching was full of “conservative misunderstandings” of Scriptures. Their Christian “extremism” and “conservatism” places them at odds with the modern progressive dogmas regarding love, empathy and tolerance, especially with regards to sexual passions and the sin of homosexual behaviour, which the Fathers denounced as an “abomination.” Gasp!
    – Fr. Ioannes Apiarius

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