Father John Whiteford

On June 28 Father John Whiteford published his latest fit of hysteria, entitled The Living Church 2.0. In it he takes shots at Public Orthodoxy, The Wheel, Orthodoxy in Dialogue, the unnamed general editor of The Wheel (whose name everyone knows), Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Sister Vassa (Larin), and Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou. 


My response begins by exposing an outright lie by Father Whiteford when he writes, “The most recent issue of ‘The Wheel,’ a journal whose general editor is a lesbian….”*

Let me tell a story from my own admittedly short-lived priesthood (see my A Priest Forever? Reflections on a Bittersweet Anniversary):

On July 4, 1989, about three weeks before my 34th birthday, I landed with my wife and three small children in the speck-on-the-map town of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan. There I spent the second year of my priesthood in a parish of the Romanian Episcopate (OCA), which had two churches: one in town, beside which we lived; and the other—the original pioneer church—in the unfound-on-any-map Flintoft. The parish’s oral history disagrees on whether the iconostas in the “farm church” came from Mount Athos or Jerusalem. (I was amazed to hear my rough-and-tumble farmer-parishioners even speak of Mount Athos!) Suffice it to say that this iconostas stands out in astonishing contrast from the comic strip style of iconography found in most Canadian prairie churches of that era. From the small window beside the proskomedia table I could gaze from my spot before the altar table upon the graves of the parish’s forefathers and foremothers, a few cows grazing beyond the cemetery, and beyond them the endless prairies of southern Saskatchewan stretching into infinity like an undulating green sea.

I had not been in Assiniboia a month when a woman old enough to be my mother came to me:

Father Peter! Have you heard about Father John MacIntosh in ABC? (Out of respect for him I am not divulging his name or the major Canadian city in which he lived. May his memory be eternal.)

I replied that I knew nothing more about him than his name. The conversation continued:

Well! He’s cheating on his wife!

How do you know this?

Everybody knows it!

I didn’t ask about “everybody.” I asked about you. How do you know this? Have you seen him having sex with a woman who isn’t his wife?


Have you seen him sneaking into a motel room with a woman who isn’t his wife?


Have you seen him sneaking out of a motel room, tucking his shirt in, with a woman who isn’t his wife?


Then you don’t know, do you?

No, I don’t.

And even if you had seen him having sex with another woman, what are you doing talking about someone else’s sins? This is the last I want to hear of this.

That day she became one of my most devoted parishioners. My kids called her Grandma. May her memory be eternal.

Shame on you, Father Whiteford, for lying about our sister. Besides the fact that lies are unseemly coming from any Christian, let alone from a priest, an “argument” that needs to be buttressed by falsehoods and ad hominem attacks has little merit. 


Speaking of lies, Father Whiteford, are you aware that Rod Dreher’s unrepented lies about an African-American professor have endangered the man’s life to the point where he needs police protection? Have a look at the addendum at the top of this article. In fact, as the husband in an interracial marriage, you might want to read the whole article. I mention this because your blog post seems to suggest that you admire or at least make common cause with Mr. Dreher. We should choose our bedfellows a little more carefully.


In response to Metropolitan Kallistos’ Foreword in The Wheel you suggest that “his comments are due to the weakness of old age.” Shame on you, Father Whiteford.


Other than that, Father Whiteford, your blog post offers very little beyond scaremongering. To characterize intelligent questions about sexuality and gender—in light of Holy Tradition and our evolving scientific knowledge of these matters (questions with which the widely revered Father Pavel Florensky struggled with a fearless, open mind over a hundred years ago)—to characterize these questions as worse than every previous heresy that comes to mind, assures your readers that you have little of actual substance to offer to the conversation. Indeed it suggests to psychologists that you may be dealing with unresolved, perhaps unacknowledged inner conflicts of your own.

Please attend to yourself before you harm anyone else. You have my unworthy prayers in your struggles.

*Father Whiteford changed his description of The Wheel‘s general editor from “a lesbian” to “openly pro-homosexual” after he read this article and someone wrote to let him know the meaning of the word “libel.” The fact remains that he seems to have no hesitation to broadcast others’ sins such as he imagines them and potentially to ruin reputations in the process. 
See Father Whiteford’s response here.

Giacomo Sanfilippo is a PhD student in Theological Studies at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, an editor at Orthodoxy in Dialogue, and a former priest in the Orthodox Church in America.

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