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)

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