Monday, April 27, 2009

Separating Christ from Caesar: An Open Letter to Floyd Flake, Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Malcolm Smith

Monday, April 27, 2009

Reverend Pastor Floyd H. Flake, D. Min.
The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York
110-31 Merrick Boulevard
Jamaica, New York 11433

Hon. "Reverend" State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.
307 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247

Hon. State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith
250 Broadway, Suite 1930
New York, NY 10007

Re: Separating Christ from Caesar

Recently I published an open letter in my blog addressed to New York’s new Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in which I was critical of some misstatements he made in an interview made just prior to his installation.

On this eve of tomorrow’s Equality and Justice Day in New York, I think it’s appropriate to respond to the report in the April 26, 2009 Sunday New York Times about Reverend Floyd Flake’s negative preaching from the pulpit about the marriage issue (“Marriage Bill Poses A Test Of Loyalties: Church vs. State” by Jeremy W. Peters), and “Reverend” State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.’s macho negative fixation on this issue that spills over from his church to his politics. I am also writing to commend State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith for his understanding of the line between his commitment to equal rights for all, and his personal religious beliefs.

I would only wish that Reverend Floyd Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz would be able to learn to separate their religious beliefs from their understanding of equal rights.

Unlike the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that only the Church hierarchy has the right to interpret sacred scripture for the benefit of Roman Catholics, it has always been a cardinal rule of Protestants that each person can understand and interpret scripture on their own, with the grace of God. And various Protestant traditions do exactly that, disagreeing on many different doctrinal issues. So, unlike the situation with Archbishop Dolan, I don’t need to go so far as to consider Reverend Flake or “Reverend” State Senator Diaz to be apostates or heretics for having biblical interpretations on the issue of marriage rights that diverge from mine. All I need do is disagree with their interpretation of Scripture.

Among the founding principles of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights are the two provisions in the First Amendment that deal, first with the relationship between the government and religion, and then with the rights of individual people. The first, called the “establishment clause,” prohibits the government from imposing particular religious beliefs on the people. The second, called the “free exercise clause” guarantees every American the right to freely exercise their own religious beliefs.

That free exercise clause is not totally untrammeled, however. Just because there are verses in sacred scripture that authorize believers to stone adulterers or gays to death, does not mean that the “free exercise clause” provides for the right to have such public stonings.

I am familiar with this particular aspect of the free exercise clause, because in my law practice some years ago, I was with a firm that represented a local hospital, and we had several “Jehovah Witness Baby Transfusion” cases. Jehovah Witnesses believe that a biblical verse that prohibits the eating of blood also forbids blood transfusions. Adults are free to refuse life-saving medical treatment for themselves on a religious basis, but there is a conflict when it comes to the rights of their infant children, in whom the state has a legitimate interest. Thus, in cases where an infant is born with a serious bilirubin issue that requires a blood transfusion for the child to live, and the parents cannot consent because of their religion, the physician and the hospital must obtain an immediate court order authorizing the transfusion.

The fact that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, Reverend Flake, “Reverend” State Senator Diaz and other religious leaders interpret the Bible in such a way so as to see a prohibition of same sex marriage, does not mean that the government should impose their particular religious interpretation on everyone who does not share that belief.

First, from a purely religious point of view, there is the same sex marriage of David and Jonathan that is found in 1 Samuel 18, confirmed in the latter part of the chapter as an actual marriage when King Saul declares that when David also married Saul’s daughter Michal, David became Saul’s son-in-law a second time. (Look to Darby or ASV for this translation of original Aramaic and Greek sources – St. Jerome fudged this in the Latin Vulgate, leading Douay-Rheims, King James and other Vulgate-based translations to have an error in this.)

Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz can choose to interpret scripture differently – but they cannot claim that their interpretation is any better than Darby’s, or mine, or that of some ministers of the United Church of Christ, Quakers or Unitarians and others who wish to sacramentally recognize same sex marriages in the same way they recognize opposite-sex unions. This willingness to endorse marriage equality by some Christians and members of other religions is a free exercise issue that is not like stonings, baby blood transfusions or even handling poisonous snakes.

Reverend Flake, especially, should be mindful of the preachings of many earnest white Protestant ministers in the 19th century who railed from the pulpit that the involuntary servitude of African Americans was biblically justified, referring to the slaves as “Children of Ham” and referring to the Genesis 9:20-27 story in which Ham’s descendants (Canaan and his children) are punished by God – to be the servants of the children of Shem and Japeth.

Yes, those white ministers of religion believed that Christianity endorses slavery - and it was not limited to the teaching of St. Paul abjuring slaves to be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5, Titus 2:9).

In the 1830’s and 1840’s and beyond, many ministers of religion opposed basic human rights for women, particularly married women, because altering the laws relating to marriage by giving women control over their own inheritances, or wages, or allowing women to vote, would destroy the sacred institution of marriage. After all, just as slaves were told by St. Paul to be obedient to their masters (see Ephesians and Titus citations above), wives were told to be obedient to their husbands (Titus 2:5).

The Times article closes with the following paragraph:
Ultimately, Mr. Flake said, the decision to support same-sex marriage and the consequences that decision may produce belong to Mr. Smith. “I told him he has to live with his conscience,” Mr. Flake said.

I really think that Reverend Flake should consider his own advice, and learn from his protégé State Senate Majority Leader Smith – while Reverend Flake has every right to interpret sacred scripture in the way that he does, and to decide to not perform a same-sex wedding in his church, he must live with his own conscience over his preaching from the pulpit that his belief must be imposed legally on everyone who doesn’t agree with his interpretation of the Bible, or, for that matter, whose religion or non-religion doesn’t recognize the Bible as the source of their beliefs.

Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz really should be American enough to be able to separate their own personal religious beliefs from their political views.

After all, if they are not willing to speak up in favor of oppressed minorities like LGBT people, who will speak up for them when right wing Christianists and neo-cons seek to roll back the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the 1870’s when the Supreme Court held it applied only to the federal government and not to the states. If equal rights for all are not cherished on the secular level in support of the bedrock principles under which the nation was founded and as they have evolved to improve over the years, how long will it be before African-American men are once again counted for census purposes as 3/5ths of a man, and women of any race are not counted at all. How long will it be before women are denied control over their own reproductive rights, and how soon will secular marriage be restored to the sort of thing it was in America before 1848 – a union in which the two become one, and that one is the husband – relegating the wife to the equivalent of the civil death imposed on convicted felons with life terms.

It is one thing to teach the members of one’s own congregation your interpretation of scripture for their religious education, and quite another when you use the pulpit to preach politically that your interpretation of a religious writing must serve as the source for the law that applies to everyone.

I am joining with over 2,000 New Yorkers tomorrow in Albany – our voices will be heard in favor of passage of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and the Marriage Equality bill. I would like nothing better than for Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz to have a revelation to see the light and support civil rights under the secular law, even if they continue to interpret scripture the way they do. I invite both of you to join with us tomorrow.

In peace and with a deep regard to both human rights, I remain,


Joann Marie Prinzivalli
Serva Servarum Deae

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bathrooms - An Ironic Experience at the State Capitol

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 21, 2009) I took a trip to the New York State Capitol in Albany to witness the Assembly debate and passage (for the second time in two years) of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA, A5710/S2406) in that chamber.

The floor session was scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM, so I made sure I got myself a good seat in the Assembly gallery, which is accessed from a fourth-floor hallway in the State Capitol building. I took a look at the agenda, and realized that it might be some time before the bill came up for debate and a vote, so at about 3:45 PM, with a quorum not yet present, I decided to make a brief stop at the nearest restroom, which happened to be just on the other side of the metal detector and security staff at the entrance to the gallery.

I nodded to the security staffer in the dark suit and red buttoneer, went past the metal detector, and on my way to the stall passed by two older women who were on their way out. In passing, I noted that they might be Capitol cleaning ladies, wearing colorful crocheted patchwork smocks.

As I got into the stall, I started hearing knocking. With the bad acoustics, it seemed to me as if the knocking was coming through the wall to my left. Then I heard a man’s voice saying “hello, hello.”

After getting the necessary body functions taken care of and leaving the stall to wash my hands, I heard the continued knocking, and the man’s voice say, “you’re in the wrong bathroom.” At that point I realized the knocking and hallooing might be aimed at me. I looked around – I didn’t see any urinals in there, and I thought, and weren’t there a couple of older women just in here? And then I saw the security gentleman standing politely at the open bathroom door.

Anyway, at this point I stepped through to the anteroom and then out of the bathroom, and it turned out the knocking and “hallooing” had indeed been coming from the nice, respectful, Capitol security gentleman with the red buttoneer, who repeated the assertion that I had been in the wrong bathroom. I looked around at the glass sign above the door which clearly said “women” and then looked at the security man and told him, “No, that was the correct bathroom.”

His response was to say that “a couple of ladies” had complained. It must have been those cleaning staffers who were on their way out as I was entering.

Then he asked me, “Do you have I.D.?”

Now, I know that may have crossed the line – we don’t ask people for their I.D. when they use the bathroom. However, he was a Capitol security staffer in charge of the metal detector, and asking for I.D. is a permissible thing in connection with that process, though I hadn’t been asked for it when I passed through the metal detector. Regardless of whether he was entitled to see identity papers, I decided to take the easiest course, and opened my handbag, pulled out my driver’s license and handed it to him, with my as-yet-unwashed hands, to take a look for himself.

This was apparently satisfactory. So I asked, “Do you think I can go back in and wash my hands now?”

He had no problem with that.

I have never been confronted with this situation before, though I have heard of situations like it. There was that time a few years ago when I was on line at the Steak Escape fast food counter at the food court at the Palisade Center Mall, when I noticed a group of teens furtively whispering and alternately peering at me. One of them approached me to ask the time – and after I looked at my watch and gave it to him, he returned to the group to announce, “she’s a woman.” Apparently my voice passed muster.

I can just imagine what it might have been with the security staffer at the Capitol if I had not had my driver’s license corrected in accordance with New York DMV regulations – a situation that confronts many trans women who are early in transition, and have not yet gotten legal name changes and documentation in order.

I also thought of what the situation might have been like had the security staffer entered the ladies’ room to pound on the stall door and demand my immediate egress. That would have been frightening and upsetting, and I would have made a rather indignant and immediate protest and complaint. As it was, the situation was only mildly annoying.

I thought of just how ironic this was, being “clocked” by a couple of Capitol cleaning ladies who hadn’t even spoken to me, on the very day the Assembly was about to consider passing GENDA again.

And, of course, this entire experience turned out to be an ironic preface to the floor discussion between Assemblymember Gottfried and a Republican member whose name sounded to me like “Condon” (but there is apparently not a “Condon” in the Assembly)[ADDED NOTE: According to Caprice Bellefleur, who was watching the proceedings on television, the Republican member with the questions was Assemblymember Conte, who ended up voting for the bill - so it seems as if this Assemblymember was satisfied with Assemblymember Gottfried's explanations on the floor.], which predictably turned to the usual but politely-stated outrage over the so-called “bathroom issue.”

The “bathroom issue” seems to be based on the bogeyman that the law would encourage crossdressed male sexual predators to be lurking in bathrooms waiting to pounce on women. GENDA would not protect sexual predators, even if they disguise themselves.

However, GENDA would protect that poor early-transitioner who doesn’t have her I.D. in order from being barred from the correct bathroom.

The idea that innocent transgendered and transsexual women should be barred from the appropriate public rest rooms because cisgendered women might feel “uncomfortable” is reminiscent of the policy of racial segregation once practiced in the American South.

The comfort level of white women was “protected.” They were "safe" from having to share the use of toilet seats that were also used by women of color. In many places, there were three facilities – Women, Men, Colored. One might presume that “colored” men and women were supposed to have no problem sharing the same toilets – I guess African-American women were expected to deal with men the seat left up in public facilities, while white women only had to worry about other white women peeing on the seat.) Their segregated white childen were “protected” from exposure to African-American kids in the classroom. In hotels and restaurants, their only contact with African-Americans was with menial cleaning and kitchen staff, and perhaps entertainers, but they were assured that they would be sleeping on sheets that were not shared with African Americans (perhaps not thinking of the fact that the laundress and the maid had at least touched these items). Of course, there was always the shared bus, but even that was separated based on who could sit where.

My own discomfiture is with these ostensibly cissexual cleaning ladies (that’s what they looked like, anyway, with their crochet-patchwork smocks – they certainly weren’t dressed like Capitol professional or office staff – they looked more like the shabbily-dressed denizens of seedy bingo parlors) thinking their feeling of “uncomfortability” with transsexual women (or women they “clock” as transsexual or transgender women, who might just be butch-looking cissexual women, or cissexual women exhibiting symptoms of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)) entitles them to bar people like me from using the correct public restroom.

If they feel that uncomfortable, I welcome them to “hold it” until they get to the privacy of their own homes. Their comfort level issue should not force me out of an appropriate public restroom. Of course, if they were educated on the issues, they might have a lessened sense of discomfort. They’re not being asked to share the ladies’ room with men, after all.

I actually felt bad for the security staffer – once he had the complaint, he felt it appropriate to use his position of apparent authority to make me prove my entitlement to use the bathroom facility near his security station. I doubt that he was aware of any guidelines as to how to approach this situation, or whether he had the necessary jurisdiction to make the inquiry. And I am sure that he felt terribly uncomfortable about the entire situation, especially after he reviewed my driver’s license to see the big capital “F” on it.

Perhaps he was unaware that the City of Albany already has an appropriate local law protecting transgender people from discrimination like this. I wonder whether there is some policy that the Capitol, being state property, is exempt from the application of local anti-discrimination law, or whether the issue has been raised.

I am not sure who supervises the cleaning personnel (or Capitol staff, if that’s what those two women were). My best guess with regard to the security gentleman, since he was not a uniformed state trooper, is that he is probably a civilian State Police security screening technician associated with the State Police Security Services Unit.

In any event, it might not be a bad idea for some basic sensitivity education to be provided so that gaffes like this don’t happen in the future. I am going to bring this quietly to the attention of State Senator Tom Duane, whose office is just a little way down the hall from the bathroom in question, and trust the good senator to know exactly what to do and who to contact.

Next week is Equality and Justice Day – and there will be hundreds of trans people in Albany, in the throng of over 1,600 people expected to be there for GENDA, Dignity for All Students, and Marriage. I’d hate to see situations occurring where someone without the right documentation gets barred from the appropriate bathroom.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Open Letter: The "Unchanging" Church and Marriage

April 16, 2009

The Most Reverend Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York
1011 First Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Re: The “Unchanging” Church and Gender-Neutral Civil Marriage: An OPEN Letter

Your Excellency:

At the outset, I wish to welcome you to your new post as the apostate* spiritual leader of the millions of Roman Catholics in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (NOTE: *apostate? This is a technical apostasy only applicable to the members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, since the Mystical Body of Christ remained with me when Father David Clifford, the associate pastor of my former parish in Valhalla, New York, asked me to not come back in August 1999 because my transition was “causing a scandal in the church.” Prior to that I spent 15 years at that parish as the cantor for the 8:00 AM Sunday Mass, and I sang with the choir. I was involved with the parish Home School Association. I also spent three years studying for the priesthood at a Roman Catholic seminary. But all this is merely a footnote.)

Unfortunately you chose, at a press conference held just before your installation as Archbishop, to make at least two erroneous statements about Church history in a single phrase, namely, that the Faith “remains changeless and has for 2,000 years.”

Let’s take the second error first – the length of time the “Faith” has been around: Christianity was not founded until after Jesus Christ was crucified (and in accordance with the Faith, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven). One might consider that the “foundation” at the earliest could be considered to have taken place at the original Pentecost – which means you’re over twenty years shy of two millennia. One might date the founding of the Roman Catholic Church to as late as the Great Schism of 1054 C.E., which split a then-somewhat-unified Christianity into two great groups – the rites of the Orthodox Churches and their various Patriarchates, and the rites (now pretty much a single Latin rite) associated with the Patriarch of Rome, who at that point was asserting the doctrine of papal supremacy; that the Pope was no longer primum inter pares among the patriarchal successors to the Apostles. If we take this later date, the Roman Catholic Church, while one of the successors or “daughter Churches” to the Christianity established at Pentecost and first doctrinally formalized at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., may be conceived, based on the time of this schism, to be something on the order of 45 years shy of one millennium.

That leads us to the second error, that the faith is “changeless.” Of course, this idea of changelessness can be dated, again, to either the formalization of the Faith in 325 C.E. at the time of the adoption of the Nicene Creed, or to 1054 C.E. when the Roman Church used the casus belli of its addition of the filioque to the Creed, changing it from the original. But that idea of changelessness in the faith, regardless of the date to which we can trace it, can only go to the so-called “core beliefs” that are shared by all who accept the tenets contained within the Nicene Creed (for our purposes, while I believe the Eastern Patriarchs were more correct on the filioque controversy, we’ll also leave that controversy to the side).

In your press conference you transferred that concept of “changelessness” from those central tenets of the Faith that are truly (well, except for the Great Schism) unchangeable for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, to those various bits and pieces of Church tradition that have only got only a rather relative and sometimes dubious longevity in practice, and to some of those doctrines adopted at Church Councils (sadly, none since a time prior to 1054 C.E. have been truly “universal” and thus can’t be seen as binding on Christianity – so the universally accepted councils, for those not steeped in Church History are Nicaea I - 325 C.E., Constantinople I – 381 C.E., Ephesus – 431 C.E., Chalcedon – 451 C.E., Constantinople II – 553 C.E., Constantinople III – 680-81 C.E., Nicaea II – 787 C.E.).

For example, the doctrine of papal infallibility dates only to 1870 C.E. – The Immaculate Conception dates only to a papal dogmatic declaration of 1854 C.E..

So let’s take a look at the current “controversial” things to which you seem to want to append the idea of “changelessness.”

Abortion: The Church’s initial teachings on “ensoulment” and abortion are based on writings of Aristotle, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas – all of whom believed that “ensoulment” occurred several weeks after conception. Pope Innocent III, to whom one might ascribe “infallibility” (though there is the story of one Pope trying and condemning a deceased predecessor – try sorting *that* out), made it Church doctrine around the 13th century that abortion was permitted until fetal animation (called “quickening” Aquinas posited that girl souls were implanted at 90 days after conception, while boys got souls after only 40.

Of course, this medieval and Aristotelian-based philosophical stuff ignored the majestic message of Sacred Scripture, in which the infusion of the soul (and the soul’s taking leave of the body) is inextricably intertwined with breathing – the soul itself involves the “breath of God” or “the breath of life.”

It was not until the 19th century that the Church started to change its position on abortion – and, of course, we have Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that is largely responsible for the Church losing its moral compass on the ideas and concepts of ensoulment and what constitutes a human being. Human life is a continuum, but a human being does not exist until birth and breath. Humanae Vitae prohibited Catholics from the use of any sort of artificial birth control.

It’s clear what the current Church hierarchy teachings are on abortion and birth control – I submit that while these may be binding on those Roman Catholics who accept the apostasy of the Church hierarchy in its misguidance of the flock, it is in no way appropriate for the hierarchy, and that means you, your Excellency, to take action as the agent of a foreign power to interfere with the constitution and laws of the State of New York and the United States as they apply to those citizens and inhabitants of the United States and the State of New York who do not subscribe to your hierarchical apostasy.

Let’s move on to priestly celibacy and the ordination of women. While these are certainly matters reserved to the hierarchy, it is exasperating when you take advantage of innocent Roman Catholics who are supposed to be members of your flock, who have not had the opportunity to take a seminary course in Church History, to misinform them that these things are “changeless” doctrines of the Church. Shame on you, your Excellency!

As you well know, the doctrine of priestly celibacy in the Western Church has its roots in canon XXXIII of the Spanish Council of Elvira (295-302 C.E.) – and this Western doctrine was expressly not adopted at Nicaea I in 325 C.E. – at which the Church Fathers merely confirmed the prohibition of mulieres subintroductas (no women in a bishop’s priest’s or deacon’s household except a female relative. Church tradition discouraging or forbidding priests marrying after ordination does predate the Council of Nicaea I. At various times in the West, similar prohibitions were adopted at various synods. The final thrust in the Roman Chuch came at Lateran Council II, at which the Church pronounced any marriage contracted by subdeacons or any members of higher orders to be invalid – leaving any conjugal relationships by clergy in the Western Church to be seen as mere concubinage. The celibacy doctrine was further reinforced at Lateran IV and Trent.

Still, the Church in the Modern World may well be prepared for changes in the doctrine – the large numbers of priests who are unable to keep to vows of celibacy and chastity, and who in attempting to suppress their sexual natures turn to alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse, seduction of widows and divorcees, and other matters one might deem to be “scandals in the Church.” While the apostate* Church response to the child abuse scandal has been a witch hunt to remove priests who were naturally endowed with a same-sex sexual orientation, you must know that does not address the root of the scandal.

As to the ordination of women? The early church ordained women. There is evidence in the writings of St. Paul that women were deaconesses, and as late as the 8th century C.E. there were bishopesses, priestesses and deaconesses (in these latter cases, these women were wives, respectively, of bishops, priests and deacons, with whom there were no longer supposed to be conjugal relations, but both husband and wide were to devote themselves to ministering to the flock).

Neither priestly celibacy nor the ban or ordination of women is “changeless” doctrine. However, the apostate hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has the power to change these things, at a Council, or upon a pronouncement by the Pope (neither of which seems to be likely). You, your Excellency, are certainly correct in asserting that you do not have the power to change these things. You do, however, have the power to privately (publicly would be scandalous, of course) express opinions to the Pope and your fellow bishops that a loosening of doctrine in these areas might be beneficial to the Church. (You also may truly believe that current doctrine rooted in long tradition should not be touched.)

Let’s move now to marriage, a matter which I take very seriously. I am most deeply disappointed in your opposition to the state recognizing civil marriage on a gender-neutral basis. I am aware of your history of anti-marriage activism in secular civil matters from when you were stationed in Wisconsin, where you strongly supported that state’s 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting gender-neutral marriage and abused your episcopal power and authority to silence the vocal moral opposition of nearly 150 of your priests to this immoral, vile and heterosexual supremacist measure.

Based on this, I must come to the conclusion that your Excellency is really not such an Excellent personage, after all. I am well aware that you are constrained to obedience to the immoral and unethical pronouncements of Joseph Ratzinger (the apostate* anti-Pope Benedict XVI, and the chief architect of the retreat from Vatican II’s encounter between the Church and the Modern World) and the apostate* Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the subjects of heterosexist supremacy and the institution of marriage.

You and your apostate* Church hierarchy are certainly entitled to limit sacramental Holy Matrimony to those who are approved and qualified to receive the sacrament by the apostate* Church rules. That is, at least one of the parties must be a Roman Catholic, and the other party, if not Roman Catholic, must solemnly agree that any children of the marriage are to be raised within the Roman Catholic Church in order to receive a dispensation and participate in the Sacrament. Longstanding but not “changeless” Church doctrine also requires the participants in a sacramental marriage to be members of the opposite sex relative to each other. (The early Church blessed same-sex unions, such as that between Saints Sergius and Bacchus, based on Sacred Scripture, which in 1 Samuel 18, we see a sacred marriage covenant entered into between God’s anointed, David, and King Saul’s son Jonathan, while later in the same chapter, when Saul gives to David Saul’s daughter Michal in marriage, accurate translations (such as Darby and ASV) make it clear that Saul proclaims that this marriage to Michal makes David Saul’s “son-in-law a second time” (the first time being in the marriage with Jonathan). This bit of Scripture is not taken out of context – and while it is clear that there are many references in Sacred Scripture to heterosexual marriage, this one reference makes it clear that same-sex marriage covenants, as well as polygamy, are sanctioned by Scripture, though not by current understandings of Church tradition. I grant that Jerome fudged the translation of the Vulgate in this chapter, leading King James, Douay-Rheims and other Vulgate-based translations into confusion, so you might dispute the reference to “son-in-law a second time – after all, it is Church doctrine that the Vulgate is the “official” Bible of the Catholic Church.

So we have long-standing but not “changeless” Church doctrine that deals with the Sacrament of Holy matrimony.

Where you and the apostate* Church hierarchy fall into deep immorality and error, is in the insistence that Church doctrine in the area of marriage must be applied in the secular law, despite the strong American secular traditions of the free exercise of religious belief, and the guarantees of individual rights and equal treatment under the law.

Your proclamation that you “don’t shy away from these things” and will work to oppose the gender-neutral marriage bill that Governor David Patterson is about to introduce, makes you an enemy of the American people and the social contract that is the basis and foundation of the United States of America and the State of New York.

There is an uneasy balance between the “majority rule” of democratic institutions, and the “tyranny of the majority” when democratic rule is misused and abused to create special rights for the majority in oppression of the minority. In this case, your erroneous position on civil marriage puts you on the wrong side of the principles of justice, fairness and equal protection under the law.

Your position pits you against the children being raised by same-sex partners in stable relationships. Your position pits you against same-sex partners with long-standing relationships who are forcibly separated under the immigration laws of the United States. Your position pits you against transsexual people – as you well know, the Church held in a sub secretum document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 C.E. (leaked to Catholic News Service in 2002 C.E.) – it’s the Vatican’s position that transsexual people cannot be allowed to marry anyone (male, female, or other), must live lives of celibacy, and may not be admitted to holy orders or even be members of a religious order, congregation or convent (even third-order Franciscans!).

In this area of interference in the civil law, you, your “Excellency,” represent the worst in the abuse of Church doctrine to suborn the processes of secular affairs that have nothing to do with the Church.

While you may have to accept the pernicious and immoral pronouncements of the apostate* Church hierarchy, in particular the vile Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons of July 31, 2003, you are not obliged to blindly follow this. You have a right, as a person who may well have an ounce of moral fortitude in your soul, to take this particular declaration of Church policy in such a way as to permit you to take the high road on this issue and not actually interfere in the process of recognition of the civil rights of the minority. It is not a sin of omission to refrain from taking action to oppose civil laws that would permit government to cease oppressing the minority that your superiors in the apostate* Church have immorally and in an ultra vires manner ordered you to oppress. You may have the moral compass to refuse immoral orders of your superiors – indeed, you have the duty to refuse these orders.

I warn you, however, your “Excellency,” that your interference in secular and civil law in this area will be met with vigorous opposition. If you succeed in your quest to stifle this legislation, you will find me as a strong advocate in opposition to your apostate* Church.

Among the things I might consider:

- laws that would require all of the clergy and members of the hierarchy of your apostate* Church in the United States register as agents of a foreign power. (This thinking is not original on my part – Cardinal Law had to be dissuaded from claiming diplomatic immunity on this sort of basis when his diocesan priestly sex scandal caused him much grief.)

The fact is, the only religion in the world with which the United States maintains a diplomatic ambassadorial relationship is the apostate* Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of its temporal administration of the Vatican City-State. It makes perfect sense to see Catholic prelates who seek to apply principles of the 2003 abomination of a doctrinal message in interfering with American legislative and judicial processes as “agents of a hostile foreign power.” This would not be an unwarranted breach by the State of the separation of government and religion, but an appropriate and necessary reaction to a religious cancer that has already interfered enough in secular affairs.

- laws denying the hostile foreign power apostate* Roman Catholic Church the right to own tax-exempt real estate in the United States, with the exception of embassies and consulates (cathedrals, Episcopal residences and diocesan administrative offices would qualify, assuming we are continuing to maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See, but not the ownership of parish churches and schools – these would also have no break from local taxation, since they are used by the hostile foreign power to interfere with the internal affairs of the civil law of the United States and the several States; they may even be subject to seizure).

In addition to legislation along one or more of these lines, and the denial of tax exemptions, there are other things I might consider advocating. Since you, and other bishops, on behalf of the apostate* Roman Catholic Church hierarchy officially act in a hostile manner toward the rights and freedoms of the People, as the agent of a hostile foreign power, with the purpose of subverting the American system of government and establishing a sort of Christianist theocracy, I would urge the federal government to break off diplomatic relations and expel all of the hierarchy (or at least those acting in such a hostile manner) from the territory of the United States until such time that the Vatican agrees to not interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States or the several States and at least as to the United States, rescinds the July 2003 document which is the basis for malicious interference in secular affairs.

I admit that these may seem to be somewhat “fringe” positions to take – but they would represent an appropriate response to your proposed active interference on behalf of the apostate* Church in secular matters, if it should be successful (I would not bother to advocate that the apostate* Church be treated as a “hostile foreign power” if you fail, hostile though the hierarchy may be by its actions to people like me). You cannot expect to be able to abuse your position of power as Archbishop of New York without risking the potential adverse consequences of violating the boundaries between Church and State, particularly when the Church you represent is also a Sovereign State in its own right.

Now that I have gotten the unpleasant matters out of the way, I do welcome you to New York. I understand that in areas other than these controversial areas of apostate* Church immorality and hostility to the interests of the people of the State of New York and the United States, you are reputed to be a fine preacher and a prelate who gets along well with your priests, at least with those who are quiet about matters which they might otherwise express disagreement.

While I have shaken the dust of your apostate* Church that has rejected me, from the sandals on my feet, I do retain a certain interest in Catholic matters. While my faith has unraveled to the extent that I am more theologically comfortable with Unitarian Universalism than I am with the sort of things I had to suspend my disbelief to accept that are among the minutiae of Roman Catholic teachings, including some things that are articles of faith under both versions of the Nicene Creed (oh, I *could* believe in some of these things, but the Church’s failures in moral theological maters has made me suspect of its authority in other areas in which it claims to be the possessor of the sole and complete Truth – so it makes me question things like the Church’s understanding of the “Virgin Birth,” the “Immaculate Conception,” the “Assumption” and even a truly central tenet such as the Resurrection. These days I think Thomas Jefferson had a better grasp of the Nature of Jesus than any Catholic theologian – but then again, that’s my personal faith development after having been rejected by the apostate* Church).

In any event, I do hope that despite our doctrinal, political, and other differences, that you serve the Catholic population of the Archdiocese of New York in an appropriate way as a good and faithful Shepherd of this large and diverse flock. I may be among the Other Sheep, exiled and outcast from that flock for being different, but that does not prevent me from wishing you well in those aspects of your work that involve ministering to the legitimate spiritual needs of the Catholics under your jurisdiction.

With warmest regards,

Joann Marie Prinzivalli, Serva Servarum Deae
State Director, New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On Maggie Gallagher, Marriage and Religious Liberty

Nearly a week late, on her Tuesday, April 7, 2009 column entitled Gay Marriage and the future of religious liberty, nationally syndicated right-wing columnist, President of the so-called National Organization for Marriage (which, curiously, is an anti-marriage group), and Ossining, New York resident Maggie Gallagher makes the claim that laws that make marriage gender-neutral threaten the religious liberty of the citizens of those states that enact such laws.

She claims that same-sex marriage “asks religious Americans to surrender a core belief” vaguely citing both Leviticus and Genesis, but like most Bible-thumpers, completely ignores the message of 1 Samuel 18, in which David, the anointed of God, enters into a same-sex marriage covenant with King Saul’s son Jonathan, and later in the same Chapter, when Saul also gives David his daughter Michal in marriage, Saul says that this makes David his son-in-law a second time. Maggie claims that opposite-sex-only-marriage is a core belief of Christians, but she ignores the Biblical evidence for gender-neutral marriage.

Her argument is specious – the adoption of gender-neutral marriage laws does not force religious Americans to give up any belief at all with regard to their religious beliefs with regard to marriage. In fact, the adoption of gender-neutral marriage laws involves an affirmation of religious freedom.

The Catholic Sacrament of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman is not adversely affected by making civil marriage laws gender-neutral – a man may still sacramentally marry a woman in a Catholic Church. But now, Quakers, Unitarians and others whose deeply held religious beliefs sanction the religious marriage of two men, or two women, may now exercise the freedom of their deeply-held beliefs.

Maggie also envisions a dystopian future where courts will ban private discrimination within the churches. To an extent, this is utter nonsense. However, when it comes to dealing on the secular plane with people of different religious beliefs, the law should brook no discrimination. Religious freedom, like the freedom of speech, is not an absolute and untrammeled right of one religious tradition to impose its beliefs on all. That would be like Maggie Gallagher, whose organization seeks to do just that.

But when religious groups venture into the world of commerce, respect for other beliefs must be paramount. Mormons can ban anyone without a Temple Recommend (even other Mormons) from their temple precincts – but if they operate a business, they should be obliged to obey non-discrimination laws in the conduct of that business – particularly if they receive government funding or tax relief.

Still, I believe there is a legitimate church-state issue here that Maggie does not seem to comprehend or raise – government should have no authority over religious marriage or the regulation or sanctioning of religious marriage. New York’s domestic relations law has several sections pursuant to which clergy are authorized to perform marriages in the State of New York, and provides penalties for clergy who do not perform marriages in accordance with state law. This is an unwarranted intrusion into religious freedom. Clergy should have no right to preside over a secular marriage (unless they do not discriminate against anyone with a valid government-issued license), and the government should have no say about the termination of any religious marriage contract.

The distinction between secular and religious marriage is most apparent in the area of divorce laws – while under current unconstitutional law, a Catholic priest might preside over a combined secular/religious wedding, a catholic tribunal may only terminate or void the religious sacrament, while the divorce court may only terminate the civil marriage contract. It’s the same in Jewish tradition, where the Jewish religious marriage contract can only be terminated by a “get,” while the state only requires that the husband agree to obtain a get as a condition of the civil divorce decree being obtained. (This, too, is an intrusion into religious liberty.)

We should look to the more enlightened European countries, which strictly separate the secular civil marriage performed by a civil official, from a religious sacrament, contract or blessing. Such a true separation of church and state would help ease the confusion in the minds of ignorant people like my neighbor Maggie Gallagher and her ilk. She objects to being called a bigot, even though to those who are not ignorant, her position on imposing her personal bigoted narrow un-Christian Christianist beliefs on everyone is clearly seen as bigotry by anyone who has a modicum of decency or morality. To be charitable, perhaps she is truly ignorant or incapable of grasping truth, and not bigoted and mean-spirited on purpose.

If I can respect her civil rights under secular marriage laws, why can’t she accept that those rights should be equally available to persons other than the heterosexual majority?

While I could make a theological argument based on 1 Samuel 18 to the Roman Catholic hierarchy to implore it to change its stance so that it sacramentalizes marriage on a gender-neutral basis, I would expect the hierarchy to make its own rules with regard to sacramental issues. I do not expect the Catholic hierarchy to butt its way into civil marriage, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has done so, in a document that is offensive to anyone who respects the founding principles and the social contract upon which the American republic was created.

Maggie Gallagher and her errantly-named NOM group also want to impose Christianist religious bigotry on the civil institution of marriage.

The First Amendment to the American Constitution expressly guarantees freedom of religious expression, not just to conservative Christianists, but to all Americans. The same Amendment also prohibits the government from establishing religion. The only way to accomplish both the religious freedom and the non-Establishment is to separate religious and civil marriage, at the commencement, during the marriage, and also at and after the termination. A civil divorce should not be sufficient to end a religious contract, nor should a religious annulment be permitted to end a civil marriage – it should be the same way at the beginning.

While the government may not establish religion, it can, and perhaps should, respect the binding nature of religious sacramental contracts and blessings, requiring that any existing religious blessing or sacrament be dispensed with prior to permitting a party to enter into any new civil marriage or as a prerequisite to formally granting a divorce (though a civil separation would be available to those under a religious disability). But perhaps that should be the extent of the government/religion connection in the area of marriage.

Such an arrangement would strengthen the religious freedom of Mormons to enter into their more solemn form of marriage with sealing, or a fundamentalist Christian “covenant marriage,” or the Catholic Matrimonial sacrament. After all, a contract should be respected, even if it is a contract entered into under religious auspices.

However, a civil marriage should be required for any of the secular civil rights and responsibilities of marriage to inure.

Interestingly, this separation also creates a hope for some senior citizens in nursing homes who may choose to enter into a religious-only marriage so they can sleep together without sin, while keeping their estates separate and their social security checks intact.

In any event, the picture Maggie paints of gender-neutral marriage laws is bleak and uninviting – but it is all based on a tissue of lies, innuendo and falsification.

Maggie’s final question is “Is Vermont the beginning of a new willingness on the part of the powerful gay-marriage movement to let Christians be Christians?”

Ah, but the question should be asked of Maggie herself – is she and her curiously-named anti-marriage organization willing to let Christians be Christians rather than forcing the state to impose Christianist bigotry on everyone?

Jesus Himself recognized a separation of religion from the secular law when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (cit. all the synoptic Gospels: Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). Perhaps Maggie might consider respecting these wise words of Jesus, and keep her religious bigotry out of civil laws that respect all religion, even atheism.

Perhaps Maggie may some day become enlightened. Perhaps she may one day be given the efficacious grace of the Spirit so that she may grow in Wisdom and Understanding, and that she will see the inherent error of her current position. Like Pastor Rick Warren, whom she skewers in her column, perhaps she may one day start down the road to a change of heart - in which her organization might some day truly and really be *for* marriage and not really against it. Perhaps only time will tell.