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A small delegation of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

Late this afternoon, Orthodoxy in Dialogue received a form letter from one Michael Sisco via, asking us to sign his petition entitled We demand the right to attend Divine Liturgy & Vigil without restriction. The text begins, “We Orthodox Christian lay people desire the right to attend all Orthodox services regardless of the local & State restrictions imposed upon the Church” (italics ours).

For a preview of where this comes from, note that a recent episode of Mr. Sisco’s eponymous YouTube show has a title referring to the deadliest global pandemic in a century as “the hysteria-inducing virus.” Conspiracy theories much?

With a risible goal of one hundred plucky signatories [addendum: the goal seems to go up in tandem with the number of signatures], Mr. Sisco threatens to organize a financial boycott of parishes in compliance with the directives of their bishops, synods, and civil authorities on Covid-preventive protocols. He suggests that he might compile a list of parishes that comply with his “demands” (his word)—in other words, parishes that disobey their bishops—to benefit from a targeted fundraising initiative.

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Through the prayers of countless friends around the world and after many personal setbacks, my doctoral committee approved my thesis proposal this morning. This advances me, at the age of 65 with a number of new health challenges to deal with, to the status of PhD candidate or ABD (All But Dissertation)—a moment of joy, gratitude, and deep emotion. I thank the many of you for your unflagging encouragement and prayers, and for your faith in my ability to forge ahead.

I especially wish to extend public thanks to my supervisor, Dr. David Neelands of Trinity College; committee members, Dr. James Ginther of St. Michael’s College and Dr. Gilles Mongeau, SJ, of Regis College; former committee member, Dr. Peter Galadza, recently retired from the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, who stayed with me through my comprehensive exams in August; and the additional examiner for my comprehensives, Dr. Jaroslav Skira of Regis College. I would not have reached this point without the support and guidance of each of them.

I also owe a sincere thank you to Dr. George Demacopoulos, Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou, and Dr. Nathaniel Wood of Fordham University for my first opportunity to share my work on Father Florensky with a wide global audience (Conjugal Friendship, Public Orthodoxy), and to Dr. Inga Leonova of the Boston Architectural College for the opportunity to publish an introduction to my PhD thesis (Father Pavel Florensky and the Sacrament of Love, The Wheel).

Finally, the generous words of support from His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) (Foreword, The Wheel) and Father Andrew Louth (A Conversation on Theology, Church, and Life, Orthodoxy in Dialogue) remain forever as precious as gold to me.

The following is a partial text, stripped of footnotes. The PDF of the full text, including footnotes and my working bibliography, can be downloaded on my profile.

“Happy Battle”
First page of “Friendship” in the original 1914 edition of The Pillar and Ground of the Truth
Thesis Proposal

Conjugal Friendship and the Sacrament of Love: Father Pavel Florensky’s Orthodox Theology of Same-Sex Love


Giacomo Sanfilippo


Thesis Statement

Father Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) wrote “Friendship,” the culminating chapter of his magnum opus, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth: An Essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters (hereinafter PGT [1914]), in response to the 19th century’s invention of homosexuality. The coinage of this awkwardly Greco-Latin neologism signals the beginning of a gradual social, cultural, political, and even religious shift—ongoing now, some hundred and sixty-five years later—from same-sex desire and its enactment understood in terms of psychopathology, crime, or sin to those of a morally and psychologically neutral category of personal identity. In articulating an explicitly conjugal form of male friendship inspired by his relationship with his roommate, Sergei Troitsky, during their studies at the Moscow Theological Academy and for nearly two years following, Florensky crowns his masterpiece with his proposal for an Orthodox Christian theology of what we now call same-sex love.

Status Quæstionis

A polymath who excelled from early childhood in every field of inquiry that piqued his insatiable curiosity—mathematics, natural and applied sciences, engineering, ancient and modern languages, comparative linguistics, art history, sexuality and gender, philosophy, theology, et al.—Father Pavel Florensky is widely regarded as “Russia’s da Vinci,” the 20th century’s most intellectually gifted Orthodox theologian worldwide, and one of the principal religious voices of Russia’s Silver Age for his seminal contributions to the Russian Religious Renaissance, Russian religious philosophy, and Russian sophiology.

With the exception of Father Robert Slesinski’s Pavel Florensky: A Metaphysics of Love (1984) and the translation of Florensky’s Iconostasis by Donald Sheehan and Olga Andrejev (1996), “Florensky studies” begin to appear in English with Boris Jakim’s translation of PGT in 1997. The literature either tiptoes through “Friendship” or circumvents it altogether in favour of other aspects of Florensky’s thought. This reticence on the part of Florensky scholars seems all the more noteworthy in that this is the chapter universally acknowledged as the very dénouement of PGT.

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