SAME-SEX LOVE = CHILD RAPE? YES, FATHER LAWRENCE FARLEY WENT THERE by Giacomo Sanfilippo

This article can be read in conjunction with No Other Foundation but Farley?
Image result for father lawrence farley

Archpriest Lawrence Farley

The utter incoherence of Father Lawrence Farley’s rhetoric, driven by a combination of his homosexual fantasies and rabid homophobia, crosses an unconscionable line in his “Two Men in Bed Together”: A Failure of Exegesis of July 12, in which he responds to my From the Fathers: The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…Two Men in Bed Together? of July 10. In it he draws a connection between same-sex love and child rape—not once, but twice:

I will not deal with Sanfilippo’s first point at length [i.e., my “Despite endless iterations by churchmen who possess no intellectual curiosity—indeed, no sense of pastoral responsibility—to become familiar with scientific advances and the helpful insights of queer theory in our understanding of sexual diversity in human nature…], other than to note that the same dubious argumentation is now being advanced in some places to justify pedophilia (now being sanitized under the term “minor attraction”).

Sanfilippo’s conclusion—which if taken at face value justifies not only homosexuality but also pedophilia (“also each man and boy”)—simply doesn’t follow.

In  case Father Farley tidies up his text after he reads this article (as he did with his response to my Conjugal Friendship of May 2017 after he had called traditional icons of the Mystical Supper disturbing visual trash), I have appended his full article below as copied and pasted around 11:30 p.m. ET on July 13. 

Father Lawrence and I go back some twenty-five years together, when we were brother priests in the OCA’s Archdiocese of Canada. We met at a clergy retreat some time between 1992, when I transferred to the Archdiocese from the Romanian Episcopate, and 1995, when I was suspended because my wife separated from me. About the same age (mid to late 30s), with our unkempt beards, our ponytails, and our practice of wearing our cassock and pectoral cross in public, we seemed drawn to each other as kindred spirits. In friendly conversation with each other I remember his remark that priests should be “countercultural” in their manner of dress and grooming in public. I agreed with him then—and agree with him now—except that so many of our younger priests seem to fetishize their long hair and beards.

I next saw Father Lawrence in July 2001, when he was appointed to sit on the jury of priests at my spiritual trial. A gentler soul I could not have asked for. By the unhappy look on his face I could tell that he wished himself anywhere on earth but there.

I saw him for the third and last time in April 2015, when he happened to concelebrate the Sunday Liturgy at the OCA parish in Toronto that I attended for a time. At the coffee hour he recognized me instantly—fourteen years older, heavier, but still bearded, ponytailed, and dressed in black street clothes. (There appeared to be some chance at the time that I might be reinstated to the priesthood and tonsured a monk.) He threw his arms around me with the joy of a long lost brother. The instantaneous spiritual bond felt real on both sides. Tearfully he told me about his adult daughter, who suffered from a debilitating medical condition of uncertain diagnosis, and begged me to pray for her. I promised to commend her to my best friend in heaven after Christ and the Theotokos, the Holy Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.

At the time that Father Lawrence showered me with such an outpouring of brotherly love and pleaded for my prayers, I was working on my MA thesis at Regis College entitled A Bed Undefiled: Foundations for an Orthodox Theology and Spirituality of Same-Sex Love (which can be downloaded as a PDF free of charge).

Over the ensuing weeks Father Lawrence and I exchanged several emails. On April 26, 2015 he wrote:

Thank you so much for writing. You are correct: I was only sitting in on that spiritual court because I was asked; I knew nothing about you or your situation, and certainly held nothing against you. I do not regard you as a disgraced priest; simply as a brother in Christ who like me is trying to work out his salvation. Thank you for your prayers [for his daughter]. I will indeed keep in touch when we learn something. [Personal information about his daughter.] Meanwhile, let us pray for each other.

On June 12, 2015 I wrote to tell him that I had appealed for reinstatement to the priesthood, and asked if he might be willing to advocate for me. He replied that same day:

Vladika Irenee will be coming to visit at the end of this month. For whatever it may be worth, I will bring up your case and do my best.

He also asked me to pray for the return of their missing cat, Professor. The next day he wrote for the sole purpose of letting me know that Professor had been found. He concluded with, “Anyway, THANK YOU for your prayers, dear brother.” I mention this simply to underscore the warmth of our relationship and his loving attitude toward me.

On June 17, 2015 Father Lawrence reiterated:

Dear brother: I am keenly aware of how little “pull” I have, but I will speak with Vladika [about my appeal for reinstatement to the priesthood] when he arrives later this month.

On June 18, 2015 I wrote a long email to Father Lawrence, from which the following excerpts:

I consider you a good man, and would not want you to feel betrayed or deceived if you advocated on my behalf, only to learn second- or third-hand that you would not have if you had known me better.

I am attaching what I have written of my thesis so far [the one linked above], about 45 pages. Please bear in mind that a). it’s just a little more than half finished, and b). a master’s thesis cannot have the depth and thoroughness of a doctoral dissertation. It’s obviously an indicator of my thinking rather than an exhaustive treatment.

I am not asking you to agree, or disagree, or even comment on what I have written. I offer it to you in the interests of honesty, transparency, and sincere friendship in Christ, so that you can be fully informed on whether I am the sort of man whose reinstatement and tonsure you can support in good conscience.

If you cannot support me to Abp. Irenee, I will understand completely and have no hard feelings towards you. I would never ask you to go against your conscience. I only ask that you not withdraw your friendship and your prayers from me.

One June 28, 2015 Father Lawrence wrote:

Despite my disagreement with your thesis, I did speak to the bishop about your case to at least bring him up to date about our communication and to sound him out. […] Despite…our evident disagreement over the subject of your thesis, my love and support for you remains unchanged. You continue to have my friendship, if you want it, and of course my prayers. Do write, anytime you like. Your brother in Christ, Fr. Lawrence 

By November 4, 2015 Father Lawrence had my completed MA thesis [the one linked above] in his hands. On that date I wrote, “I only ask that you refrain from making a public response, even implicitly, until I make it public myself.” He responded:

…[O]f course I would not make any response at all in public. I regard it as two friends privately sharing their thoughts over a (cyber) coffee.

I next heard from Father Lawrence on May 3, 2017, the day after my Conjugal Friendship went to press at Public Orthodoxy:

Christ is risen!

I have just recently read your piece “Conjugal Friendship” in the “Public Orthodoxy” site. This is an important topic—perhaps THE important topic of our time—and the front line of the battle that is being waged. I am sorry that we must find ourselves on opposite sides of the front line. I have written a response to the piece in my own “No Other Foundation” blog, with my usual vigour and candour. I did want to assure you that, whatever the depth of our disagreement about this topic, my friendship with you remains, on my side anyway, unchanged. I would still be delighted to meet you for coffee whenever I have time in Toronto or whenever you may find yourself in the Vancouver area.

I went to No Other Foundation trusting that I would see Father Lawrence’s “unchanged friendship” for me and an intelligent debate—between friends—on the substance of my article.

Instead, I found nothing but sputtering incoherence, misrepresentations, lies, diversionary tactics, the first hints of his own dark homosexual fantasies, and the beginnings of his endless campaign to paint me, for the entertainment of his plucky band of fellow homophobes, as a disgusting human being with nothing but gay sex on my mind at all times and in all places. (I don’t use homophobes lightly. Have a look at the comments that my “friend”—a priest of Christ!—allows to pass unchecked about my person at No Other Foundation.)  

It takes a special kind of priest to find a tangle of genitalia and orifices hiding behind every word I write on the spiritual beauty of same-sex love purified in Christ. Did Father Lawrence actually read my thesis? Conjugal Friendship? The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…Two Men in Bed Together? All he gets from those is sex, sex, and more sex? I don’t recall ever really writing about sex per se. In a classical case of projection, he accuses me of “sexualizing” everything when—no matter how spiritual a vision of same-sex love I strive to articulate—he brings it back to penises and anuses. Seriously, he thinks about “gay sex” way more than gay people do.

Did Father Lawrence read the heartfelt and heartbreaking testimonials sent to our bishops in Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s recent Open Letter? Did he who suffered much over his daughter four years ago read of my love for my son through extraordinarily difficult times?

Forget about those. Has Father Lawrence read The Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos? Reformation 500: An Orthodox Reflection? On “Orthodox” Wife-Beating (our number one article of all time)? On Chastity: Two Letters to a Struggling Monk? A Priest Forever? Reflections on a Bittersweet Anniversary? Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: An Anabaptist-Orthodox Conversation on Tradition and Theosis? St. Paul on MarriageOn Judging Others? The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple: A Brief Festal Reflection? My very recent efforts (still ignored ten days later by the OCA bishop to whom I appealed for a priest) to accompany a struggling brother on the path to repentance from adultery?

Did he read here and here about the thousands of dollars raised by Orthodoxy in Dialogue (“where it’s always Pride Month”) to feed the homeless on the frozen streets of Toronto on Christmas?

In a future article I will respond to the actual substance of Father Farley’s two articles to show how he lies, misrepresents, diverts, dog-whistles, and engages in character assassination.

Or maybe I won’t. He has absolutely nothing to offer, and is probably not worth any more of my time.

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“Two Men in Bed Together”: A Failure of Exegesis

by

Father Lawrence Farley

In a world of change it is (almost) comforting to see how some things can always be counted on to stay the same—such as Sanfilippo’s Orthodoxy in Dialogue blog, which consistently treats its faithful readers with repeated attempts to legitimize the sin that the Church has always condemned. Answering every one of his blog posts point by point would require something like a full-time job, and most of us are already fully employed. The points that Sanfilippo makes in his recent post “From the Fathers: the Kingdom of Heaven is Like…Two Men in Bed Together?” can be boiled down to two: 1. scientific advances have now shown that past approaches to homosexual behaviour are out-dated and should be scrapped; and 2. the images and parables of the Scripture and the Fathers use nuptial imagery, and this legitimizes homosexual behaviour.

I will not deal with Sanfilippo’s first point at length, other than to note that the same dubious argumentation is now being advanced in some places to justify pedophilia (now being sanitized under the term “minor attraction”). I deny that science has much to say about the moral legitimacy of either form of sexuality or indeed of morality in general at all. Scientific research can document what people desire to do; it is beyond its competence to pronounce on the morality of these desires.

Of more interest is Sanfilippo’s argument about male-to-male sexuality (with his provocative image and title “two men in bed together”). Some of this article simply repeats material in his previous piece “Conjugal Friendship” at the Public Orthodoxy site, and the reader is referred to my response to that in a previous blog piece. Sanfilippo’s basic point in this article is that “the presence of male-male conjugal intimacy in our patristic tradition as a symbol of the mystical and eucharistic union of Christ with the individual male believer nullifies the irrational idée fixe of those Orthodox churchmen who insist that the Holy Fathers abhorred the mere thought of same-sex eroticism.”

In support of this idea he cites St. Maximus the Confessor’s words about the believer being “made worthy to lie with the Bridegroom Word in the chamber of the mysteries”. Since the Greek word for the one believing was in the masculine (“ο πιστευων; in the masculine”), Sanfilippo concludes that Maximus was offering a homosexual image of males climbing into a conjugal bed with Christ.

Sanfilippo also cites the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian. St. Symeon offered a parable of Christ welcoming the repentant sinner, conflating images drawn from the parable of the prodigal son with images drawn from the Song of Solomon, universally interpreted by the Church as an allegory of Christ and the soul of the believer. In Symeon’s parable, the King (i.e. Christ) welcomed the penitent, falling on his neck and kissing him (an image from the parable of the prodigal son; Luke 15:20) and then embracing him on his royal bed (an image drawn from Song of Solomon 1:2, 2:6).

Sanfilippo concludes from this that St. Symeon was open to the possibility of moral homosexual behaviour since he used these images in his parable to describe the restoration of the penitent. In short, according to Sanfilippo, “It seems all the more significant to ask why, in neither St. Maximus’ more subtle nor St. Symeon’s more explicit use of male-male love-making as a worthy simile for the Kingdom of God, those scriptural passages on which modern churchmen fixate every single time the subject of same-sex love is raised—Gen 19, Lev 18:22 and 20:13, Rom 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9-10—presented no deterrent whatever to these two Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.” According to Sanfilippo, the Holy Fathers were not so opposed to “male-to-male conjugal intimacy” as we had supposed.

What are we to make of this? It is difficult to put the irony of it all to one side long enough to deconstruct Sanfilippo’s tangle of errors. Sts. Maximus and Symeon offered these images and parables to illustrate the glory of those repenting of sin, and Sanfilippo tries to appropriate them to justify the unrepentant behaviour which Maximus and Symeon would surely have condemned in the strongest terms possible. The idea of Maximus in the seventh century and Symeon in the eleventh century being possibly open to the morality of homosexual acts is a stunning bit of anachronism. Can any sober historian imagine these saints flying the rainbow flag in their day in the teeth of Scripture, Tradition, liturgy, and canonical legislation? This is, like John Boswell’s absurd tour de force, an example of scholarship prostrate before ideology.

It is also too small a broom to sweep away the clear meaning of the Scriptures cited in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Sanfilippo’s argument revolves around the possible implications of patristic images and parables; these Scriptures reveal the clear import of homosexual acts. The churchmen Sanfilippo objects to do not “fixate” on these Scriptures; they simply citethem as authoritative, for the excellent reason that these texts are the only ones which clearly and unambiguously deal with the subject at hand. Why ruminate upon the possible significance of Maximus’ image when we have the unambiguous teaching of homosexuality’s actual significance? Sanfilippo has yet to deal with these texts in a convincing way. He can only suggest that scientific advances have now proven them wrong and out-dated.

Sanfilippo’s error is a basic one: he confounds metaphor with reality, and refuses to see that not everything in a metaphor is directly applicable to the reality of the human condition. It is as if one attempted to justify dishonesty in business because of Christ’s use of the dishonest steward in His parable in Luke 16:1-9, or judicial corruption because Christ compares God to an unjust judge in His parable in Luke 18:1-8. Christ took it for granted that dishonesty in business was worthy of condemnation, and assumed that His hearers would not conclude that dishonesty was acceptable after all because people in His parable praised the dishonest steward for his shrewdness. That dishonesty was a part of the parable, and necessary to make the parable’s point—which was not that dishonesty was acceptable, but that money was to be used and not hoarded.

It is the same with the parable of the unjust judge: Christ assumed that His hearers knew that judicial corruption was wrong. The corruption of the judge was there as part of the parable’s furniture, the point of which was not that judicial corruption was fine, but that perseverance in prayer was required. Christ used images of dishonesty and corruption in His parables because He assumed no one would be so stupid as to conclude from His words that dishonesty and corruption were okay after all.

It is exactly the same with the words of Maximus and Symeon. The image of Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church—both men and women—as His bride was ingrained in the culture in which these Fathers wrote. The notion that homosexual acts were sinful was similarly ingrained, and these two Holy Fathers assumed that none of their hearers would assume otherwise simply because they used nuptial images from Christ’s parables of the wedding banquet and from the Song of Solomon to illustrate their points. Sanfilippo insists on putting these images to a use that the Fathers would have emphatically repudiated, since they, along with the rest of the Church, could “fixate on” and read such Scriptures as Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

There are other exegetical errors as well, such as investing Maximus’ ο πιστευων with an emphatically male significance. In fact, the masculine here simply indicates the universal, just as the Scriptural αδελφοι/ adelphoi/ “brothers” in Philippians 1:14 simply meant Christians, regardless of gender, and not just male Christians. Anyone of my vintage knows that. The old Anglican “prayer for all conditions of men” was offered for all people, not just for all males.

But such ineptitude pales beside Sanfilippo’s major error, which is to sexualize practically everything. To a hammer everything looks like a nail, and to Sanfilippo everything in Scripture and the Fathers looks sexual. How else to account for his extraordinary misreading of the Fathers and of the Scriptures? His analysis of the prophetic parable in Hosea 2:14f is a case in point. He writes, that in this text God “lures an eponymously male bride named Israel into the desert to seduce him/her”. Such a conclusion is breathtakingly perverse: in this passage, the people are spoken of as exclusively feminine throughout, and the name “Israel” is in fact not even mentioned.

It is the same with Sanfilippo’s conclusions derived from St. Paul’s use of nuptial imagery in Ephesians 5:23f. Sanfilippo concludes that Paul means that “Christ the Bridegroom ‘marries’—and takes into His marriage bed—not only the Church, but each of us individually; and not only each woman and girl, but also each man and boy” (italics original). Sanfilippo’s conclusion—which if taken at face value justifies not only homosexuality but also pedophilia (“also each man and boy”)—simply doesn’t follow. It is yet another example of his failure to distinguish metaphor from reality. Here the Church as a whole is typologically feminine, but this does not mean that the men within it are somehow female or feminine. Such a suggestion would overthrow the very point which Paul makes about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church.

In the end, Sanfilippo seems to view everything in the Scriptures and the Fathers through the lens of an obsession with sexuality. It is not surprising that he reads David’s love for Jonathan in that light, for he reads everything in that light. In a saner time people knew that strong emotional attachments (such as David’s love for Jonathan) need not be sexual, and even that all physical interactions need be sexual. C. S. Lewis, writing in that saner time, was clear about that, and in his book The Four Loves he poured scorn on the notion that “all those hairy old toughs of centurions in Tacitus, clinging to one another and begging for last kisses when the legion was broken up” were homosexual. “If you can believe that,” Lewis declared, “you can believe anything.” Yet in a world like Sanfilippo’s where everything is sexualized and where homosexuality is seen everywhere, it is perhaps not that hard to believe. How else to explain “From the Fathers: the Kingdom of Heaven is Like…Two Men in Bed Together?”

Note: Since first posting this, I have removed by request from my piece an accompanying image drawn from the original Sanfilippo piece to which I was responding.  In so doing I have also inadvertently deleted comments that were posted.  I apologize to those who commented, and invite you to repost your comments if you wish.

 

2 thoughts on “SAME-SEX LOVE = CHILD RAPE? YES, FATHER LAWRENCE FARLEY WENT THERE by Giacomo Sanfilippo

  1. Pingback: FROM THE FATHERS: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE…TWO MEN IN BED TOGETHER? by Giacomo Sanfilippo | ORTHODOXY IN DIALOGUE

  2. Pingback: NO OTHER FOUNDATION BUT FARLEY? | ORTHODOXY IN DIALOGUE

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