Thomas Hopko on Same-Sex Attraction: Speaking the Truth in Love?

In the English-speaking Orthodox Christian world, there is hardly a man of his generation more deserving of the Western title “Doctor of the Church” than Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. In his many lectures, catechetical works, scholarly commentaries on controversial issues relating to sex and gender, and frequent podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio under the title “Speaking the Truth in Love,” Fr. Hopko has demonstrated such broad knowledge of the Orthodox tradition, such keen insight into the subtleties and mysteries of the Orthodox faith, and such carefulness and clarity in expressing what he knows and thinks as to earn universal acceptance as the proto-pedagogue of the English-speaking Orthodox Church.

Yet despite strong traditional stands on key issues related to homosexuality, Hopko now represents the leftward limit of permissible opinion in the Orthodox Church on homosexuality, such that those who openly challenge the Church’s teaching now describe themselves as slightly “left of Hopko.” David Dunn, who openly declares himself a “pro-gay” Orthodox lay theologian, characterizes his own stand on gay marriage as “a quarter-step to the left” of Hopko. Dunn also writes in The Huffington Post that he began his “holy disobedience” against the Church on homosexuality after reading Hopko’s 2006 book Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction. Applauding Dunn in an online comment, Rebecca Matovic, another well-known advocate of change in the Orthodox Church, claimed “there are many, many priests who think about these issues in a loving, pastoral way and increasingly find themselves moving to the ‘left’ of Hopko.”

If Matovic is right, it would seem that Hopko has inadvertently positioned himself less as the gatekeeper of Orthodoxy than as the head usher for heresy. Indeed, both Hopko’s recent public comments on homosexuality and his 2006 book have opened holes in the Church’s defenses through which the Enemy is now shoving battalions of wrong ideas to confuse and confound the Church’s defenders.

This is a shame, as there is much else that Hopko says that the Church’s defenders could use. In Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction, Hopko summarily dismisses attempts to reinterpret Scripture and Tradition to make homosexuality acceptable. He writes that God does not make people homosexual; that people are not therefore naturally homosexual as they are naturally male or female, black or white, etc.; and that same-sex attraction is a result of man’s rebellion against God. He calls homosexual sex a “betrayal” of the love God intends for His people, saying it can never express divine love because it is “incapable” of edifying souls the way heterosexual sex can. He likens acceptance of homosexuality today to the general madness famously prophesied by St. Anthony of the Great. (Saying 25: “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”) He declares that “those who publicly affirm and promote homosexual behavior (like those who publicly advocate abortion) cannot be sacramental communicants in the Orthodox Church.” He goes even further to state that those “openly propagating teachings and practices contrary to Orthodoxy” may be excluded not just from communion but “from church gatherings” to prevent harm done to others, especially the young.

Most controversially, Hopko suggests an understanding of homosexuality consistent with sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), citing the work of British research psychologist and theologian Elizabeth Moberly, who theorizes that homosexuality is an attempt to “repair” a lack of childhood affection from persons of the same sex, especially parents. Hopko does not explicitly endorse “reparative therapy,” the SOCE based on Moberly’s theory, but he does explicitly endorse therapy “to deal with same-sex developmental issues that must be resolved for … emotional and spiritual healing.” He also leaves open the possibility of sexual orientation change through therapy, saying in an endnote that Moberly “thinks that I can be more optimistic” about the possibility of change. It is for these reasons that Hopko’s book bears a blurb from American psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, a leading advocate of SOCE, who in 2006 was president of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the organization gay activists most love to hate.

Yet these brave stands on key issues are undermined by other things Hopko says that have the effect of (1) narrowing the category of unacceptable homosexual behavior, (2) discouraging preaching and teaching offensive to homosexuals, and (3) condemning Christian resistance to the gay political agenda. Let’s see how each of these faults appears in Hopko’s book.

1. Narrowing the category of unacceptable homosexual behavior

Hopko helps narrow the category of unacceptable homosexual behavior by the obscurity of his brief “reflections” on the nature of homosexuality. He never quite nails down what he’s talking about, shifting from “same-sex attraction” to “same-sex feelings and desires,” then to “same-sex love” and even same-sex “eros,” referencing C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Hopko briefly defines the four loves—charity (agape), friendship (philia), affection (storge), and romantic love (eros)—but he never clearly distinguishes them and instead defines eros as a “dynamic and passionate” combination of the other three. Orthodox mystical theologians do sometimes use the language of eros to describe both the love of God for man and the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other. Perhaps this accounts for Hopko’s confusion of eros with the other loves. In any event, the more Hopko says about eros, the harder it is to tell whether same-sex eros is good or bad, sinless or sinful:

  • On one hand, Hopko says that naturally good passions and desires “become evil only when they are misdirected and misused,” that “in Orthodox tradition, both conditions and actions can be ‘sinful’ without necessarily being ‘culpable,’” and that “involuntary and inculpable sinful desires … including passionate feelings for sexual union with persons of one’s own sex” are a result of sin.
  • On the other hand, he says that “attraction between persons of the same sex” can be “godly,” that “same-sex love” can be “pure and godly,” that “having loving desires for people of one’s own sex is not at all sinful,” that even “passionate love between people of the same sex” can be “praiseworthy,” that only “same-sex attraction in its fallen form … includes desires for genital sexual actions,” [emphasis added] and that “same-sex love, when properly experienced and purely expressed, is always God’s sacred gift.” [emphasis added]

It might be said in Hopko’s defense that inasmuch as there is in a particular person’s “same-sex attraction” an element of genuine, unselfish love for someone of the same sex, that love is godly. But such love is not what psychologists mean when they speak of “same-sex attraction,” neither is it what Hopko himself always means when he speaks of “same-sex love,” nor is it what C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote of “eros.” For Lewis, eros was a strictly male-female love, defined by “delighted pre-occupation” and intense desire for personal union, such that a husband would look upon his wife as his “other half,” and a wife might say to her husband, “I could just eat you up!” When would such a love be appropriate between two men? Even the iron bond of combat brotherhood does not fit the description of eros or match the infatuation of a young man with a young woman—or of a gay man with another man. A man might “properly experience and purely express” deep and intense charity, friendship, and affection for another man, but not eros, for eros is strictly sexual love and desire, which “become evil” when misdirected toward someone of the same sex.

Hopko, however, writes as if same-sex eros can be sinless and godly. In fact, the only aspect of homosexuality he explicitly condemns in the book is same-sex “genital sexual actions.” This leaves open the possibility that “same-sex love” could be “properly experienced and purely expressed” by kissing, hugging, holding hands, and otherwise living and relating as a married couple. Hopko says nothing about such experiences or expressions. Perhaps this is just an oversight—something he didn’t think to cover—but perhaps the oversight was occasioned by his inadequate definition and application of key concepts. Either way, the oversight lends itself to abuse by gay activists, who, by stressing the condemnation of only genital sex, can effectively normalize all other gay behavior. Think about it: If the only thing condemned were genital sex, gays would be free to live as gay as they please so long as they do not copulate in public or advocate sodomy.

2. Discouraging preaching and teaching offensive to homosexuals

Even Hopko’s condemnation of sodomy is greatly weakened by the limitations he places on what the Church should do about it. His stated principle that those who promote homosexual behavior “cannot be sacramental communicants” appears to mean in practice that such people should be “asked to refrain from the sacraments” but not turned away if they decide not to refrain. He writes:

It may be necessary, however, as we [sic] indicated above, for the person to abstain from participation in the Eucharist when his or her convictions and actions are in conscious and willful contradiction to the Church’s doctrine and discipline. If there is any question about this, the benefit of the doubt belongs to the person being counseled.

Here the emphasis is clearly on the person’s responsibility to decide whether to commune or abstain. The Christian pastor is relegated to an advisory role and authorized to deny communion only as a last resort, when there is no question that a person’s words or deeds are “in conscious and willful contradiction to the Church’s doctrine and discipline.”

Through three chapters on same-sex attraction and “church community,” “pastoral care,” and the “counseling process,” Hopko’s sympathies remain with those struggling with same-sex attraction. He says nothing about how Christian pastors are to care for and counsel others on the issue of homosexuality—nothing about preaching against sodomy, teaching others about homosexuality, advising parents of the importance of bonding with their same-sex children, warning of the danger of being too tolerant of sin, or urging the maintenance of traditional sex roles supporting normal sexual identities. His chief interest is keeping those with same-sex attraction in the Church. He is obviously concerned that they will be turned off by negative statements about homosexuality. He never uses the morally pejorative word sodomy, preferring the morally neutral but no less distasteful phrase “genital sexual actions.” He could have pointed out that no Christian should be offended by the word sodomy, that repentant sinners can’t complain about hearing their sins condemned, and that sinners do need to be reminded from time to time that their sins are actually bad, lest they take them too lightly. Instead, the whole point of his chapter “Same-Sex Attraction and Religion” is the necessity of not judging or offending homosexuals with hard words about homosexuality.

To make this last point, Hopko invokes the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s doctrine that Christianity is not a religion but rather “the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning.” Of course, Christianity is a religion by every definition of the word in the dictionary, which Hopko admits when he writes, absurdly, that it is “not a ‘religion’ (except in the conventional everyday use of the word)”—as if the word has an everyday use for laymen and a special theological definition for professors and priests. In fact, Christianity is not a religion only in Schmemann’s peculiar apologetic use of the word, which was intended to distance Orthodoxy from the caricature of “religion” in the minds of Schmemann’s New York neighbors and upper East Coast academic colleagues. According to that caricature, religions are backward, rule-bound, obsessive, and intolerant, focused entirely too much on getting things right in this world instead of on Orthodoxy’s glorious eschatological goal. Hopko encourages this caricature in his book, writing:

Those who consider their Christianity as a religion … inevitably see themselves as somehow superior to others who do not see things as they do. … They do not allow themselves even to consider that they may, in fact, be mistaken about one or another, or even all, of their convictions. As such, they are never in dialogue. They never listen. They never converse. They are never at peace in themselves or with others. They are always in a crusade and a war that they must win at all costs.

In contrast, Hopko writes, Orthodox Christians “if they be truly Christian and Orthodox” are “terrified of being guilty of ‘casting the stone,’” “live in the constant awareness that they may be mistaken in their most heartfelt convictions,” and “resist every temptation to identify themselves as anything other than an assembly of sinners without competence or calling to judge anyone for anything.”

One practical effect of these caricatures of prideful, hateful, judgmental “religion” versus humble, loving, nonjudgmental Orthodoxy is that Orthodox Christians cannot say anything against homosexuality or take any action against homosexuals without assuming the appearance of the first caricature. Another practical effect is that Christians taught to think by such caricatures will of course incline toward tacit acceptance of homosexuality—perversely paired with vocal intolerance of Christian preaching and teaching against homosexuality.

3. Condemning Christian resistance to the gay political agenda

If Hopko teaches acceptance of homosexuality implicitly in his chapters on church community, pastoral care, counseling, and religion, he does so explicitly in his chapter on civil rights, which begins with the following assertions:

“Whether or not men and women with same-sex attractions are struggling to resist engaging in erotic sexual activity, their civil rights, and the rights of the children in their care, must be guaranteed and safeguarded. Homosexual people must have the same access to housing, employment, police protection, legal justice, tax benefits, and visitation privileges at institutions that all members of society possess and enjoy. Those desiring to be joined in ‘civil unions’ or ‘domestic partnerships’ for such purposes should be allowed to do so, with the social and legal benefits that are guaranteed by such arrangements. This is especially important today, when the safety of homosexual people and their children largely depends on legal and social recognition and protection. It is also important because those in same-sex relationships, whether or not they are sexually active, almost always understand a denial of such public recognition and protection as an expression of hatred and contempt toward themselves and their families.”

So the civil rights of all homosexuals must be “guaranteed and safeguarded,” which means the same rights to “housing, employment, police protection, legal justice, tax benefits, and visitation privileges” that everyone else enjoys. It also means “civil unions” with all the “social and legal benefits” of marriage. Hopko, further on, grants that Christians can’t quite consider same-sex unions “marriages,” but he advises against resisting the same-sex use of the word marriage, calling such resistance “unreasonable and counterproductive.”

Hopko names three reasons for extending legal and social recognition and protection to homosexuality—justice, safety, and fear. He writes that (a) “Orthodox Scriptures and saints unanimously witness that justice and charity are to be extended to all human beings, without condition or discrimination”; (b) “the safety of homosexual people and their children largely depends on legal and social recognition and protection”; and (c) the denial of recognition and protection is “almost always” understood “as an expression of hatred and contempt.” Each of these reasons is highly suspect, to say the least.

The first reason is nonsense, as justice and charity for all does not always mean the same treatment for all, and certainly nothing in the Orthodox tradition specifies the same treatment for homosexuals and heterosexuals; quite the contrary, one need look no further than First Corinthians to find the Apostle Paul telling the faithful “not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator … with such an one no not to eat.” (1 Cor. 5:11)

The second reason begs for explanation: Just how is the safety of homosexuals or their children threatened by society’s denial of special recognition and protection for homosexuality? It is not as if this denial makes homosexuals outlaws with no rights at all, whom any man might rob and kill with impunity. If Hopko has some particular threat to safety in mind, he does not mention it. If he is thinking of the “hate crimes” and suicides played up in the pro-gay press from time to time, the case still needs to be made that special “legal and social recognition and protection” for homosexuality, which would inevitably include affirmative action, will diminish such events. We have good reason to expect that they won’t. Most people quite naturally consider homosexuality revolting and resent being forced to pretend otherwise. And even if gay rights laws could achieve their purpose of coercing complete approval of homosexuality, that is hardly a purpose Christians should wish to accomplish.

But the third of Hopko’s reasons for endorsing gay rights—fear—is most surprising. Hopko sounds the alarm about the danger of Christians having to endure hatred and contempt three times in this brief chapter, returning to it again and again to advise against opposing gay rights. He writes that a “Christian’s noblest work is to intercede with the Lord” on behalf of “everyone and everything,” and that we cannot do this “with impunity if we are at the same time denying basic human and civil rights to anyone, especially to those who may hold us and our convictions in greatest contempt and derision.”

This is a very odd argument for a Christian pastor to make. Christians have endured hatred, contempt, and derision for bearing witness against the sins of the world from the beginning, in imitation of our Lord Himself. Countless martyrs were murdered for offending unbelievers by disrespecting their gods, disobeying their laws, and disapproving their way of life. Should those martyrs rather have gone along with immorality so that their worst enemies would have thought better of them? Would they have shown greater love for the world by hiding the truths it hated? Would that have won the Roman Empire over to the cause of Christ even sooner?

Some might scoff and say that civil rights are only about fairness and freedom, but civil rights aren’t always enforced fairly, and special civil rights creating “protected groups” like women, ethnic minorities, and now homosexuals are as much about non-freedom as they are about freedom. Such rights deprive some people of freedom to do some things so as to give other people freedom to do other things. For example, our so-called “equal employment opportunity” laws deprive employers of the opportunity to hire people they want so as to force them to hire people they don’t want. Granted, it is an open question whether an employer’s reasons for not wanting to hire someone are fair or good, but there is no question that laws forcing him to ignore differences between people take away his freedom to run his business the way he wants and thinks best. Even worse, such laws take away his freedom of association, forcing him to work daily with people he would rather not be around. And by taking away his freedom of association, they take away his freedom of speech and expression, because people must of course watch what they say and do in mixed company. And with his freedom of speech and expression goes his freedom of conscience and religion. He can no longer be himself, freely living and sharing his life and faith with his employees, without fear that one of them will bring in the law to make him stop. What’s more, his employees are in the same boat, forced to spend five days a week with people unlike and maybe even hostile to themselves, who might invoke their “civil rights” to silence and punish coworkers for offending them.

Hopko overlooks all such practical realities of civil rights for homosexuals. It never occurs to him that a Christian photographer might be fined for refusing to photograph a gay wedding, or that an online dating service run by Christians might be forced to spend $2 million to make amends for not helping gays find mates. He never mentions any negative consequences of extending legal protection to homosexuality, only negative consequences of not extending it. He fails to acknowledge, and perhaps fails to understand, that one way or another, directly or indirectly, legal protection of homosexuals means forcing people to pay money to support homosexuality, do things to support homosexuality, or keep quiet about homosexuality. He considers the issue only abstractly and sentimentally. He accepts the simple abstraction of “civil rights” for homosexuals as axiomatically good, a matter of manifest fairness needing no analysis, deliberation, testing, or historical review. He doesn’t dare consult two thousand years of Orthodox political experience to ask how “pious kings and right-believing queens” treated homosexuality; instead, he recommends a hate-filled rant in a Vermont newspaper, telling his readers that they “must listen carefully to what this mother of a gay son” has to say.

Hopko fails in this chapter not only as a political philosopher, which he isn’t, but also as a moral theologian, which he is. What about the moral responsibility of Christians to bear witness to the true nature of manhood, womanhood, and marriage when the minds of so many believers and unbelievers alike are turned to these topics by political events? What about the moral responsibility of Christians as citizens of a democracy to participate in its governance by democratically supporting civil laws consistent with divine laws? What about the moral responsibility of Christians to balance the public debate so the voices heard defending Christian teaching are not only the most ignorant and intemperate? Finally, what about the moral responsibility of Christians to offer all people a clear choice of truth to accept or reject, so as to call the faithless to repentance and encourage the faithful not to waver? In the United States today, Christians need answers to all these questions, yet Hopko avoids every one of them as if Christians have no such moral responsibilities.

In sum, there is nearly nothing in Hopko’s chapter on civil rights to show that he has studied the issue carefully or thought deeply about it. His comments on civil rights never rise above the high school level. Indeed, the chapter could have been written by a bright seventeen-year-old with nothing more to say than — “Denying homosexuals civil rights is mean, and Christians shouldn’t be mean because it hurts people and they will hate us for it.”

Ideas have consequences

Since publication of Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction in 2006, Hopko has continued to speak publicly about homosexuality in lectures, interviews, and articles. Little in his message has changed. Though most of what he says is sound, and some of what he says is even profound, the same troubling themes recur often enough to undermine the soundness of the whole. His pastoral focus never shifts from the few souls with same-sex attraction who are supposedly open to the truth but deeply resentful of having it spoken too plainly. His stress is always on not offending them. He pleads for dialogue, for listening, for not saying anything publicly for fear of being misunderstood, and for relying solely on person-to-person contact so that our love can pave the way for our truth. He advises against proof-texting the issue with citations from the Scriptures or the Fathers and often counterbalances the little he says bad about homosexuality with something bad said about some other sin like greed, gluttony, or heterosexual lust. He frequently invokes the worst examples of witnessing against homosexuality—people who preach that gays will all “burn in hell”—to discourage us from participating in “this culture war business.”

Most disappointing is his continued trimming of Church discipline and sacramental sanctity. He still allows that Orthodox priests may deny the sacraments to militant gays who become “really offensive” and vocal in declaring their rejection of Church teaching. But he says that we should be “incredibly merciful” and “do whatever we can to keep people in the orbit of the grace of the Church,” to the point of communing people who live gay less openly. And he insists the faithful “must trust their priests” in this matter and that what gays do privately is none of their business. This is a dangerously naïve expectation, given the doubtful faithfulness of several notorious priests, Hopko’s own estimate that as many as 20 percent of students at Orthodox seminaries suffer same-sex attraction (!), and the overt and covert efforts by some Orthodox communicants to undermine the sound parts of his teaching.

In Hopko’s own jurisdiction, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), we have already seen where the unsound aspects of his teaching lead:

  • An archdeacon who ran off to California to marry another man, after abandoning that man, takes up residence with a retired bishop and resumes diaconal duties at a cathedral in Florida.
  • Until last year, a man commonly believed to be gay, who shares a home with another man identified as the “son-in-law” of the first man’s mother in her obituary, was an influential member of the OCA’s governing Metropolitan Council.
  • With the full knowledge and consent of its rector, an OCA parish in Los Angeles pays members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles to sing for divine services as members of its choir.
  • At the OCA’s primatial cathedral in Washington, D.C., priests regularly commune a woman who announced to parishioners that she had married another woman, who often brought that woman to church with her, and who still has a webpage celebrating her marriage, with a photograph of the pair in each other’s arms. When parishioners ask why this woman still communes, they are told to mind their own business.

It is hard to imagine Orthodox Christians creating such scandals, much less tolerating them, in any century before the last, but nothing in Hopko’s teaching permits us to be outraged by them or to take action to correct them, for any expression of outrage or attempt at correction will appear judgmental and unloving to those taught to see the world according to his caricatures, and indeed those who have in fact expressed outrage at these scandals and tried to correct them have been very unlovingly judged and condemned by others in their own church.

It is also hard to imagine how the Church’s teaching on the nature of man and on the sinfulness of homosexuality can possibly survive when every effort is made to make gays feel at home in the Church. Hopko assumes it will, but this hardly seems likely in view of what has happened in other churches. Certainly Christ’s Holy Church will survive, and so will her teaching, but not necessarily in every jurisdiction calling itself the Orthodox Church.

Finally, judging the tree by its fruits, it seems the greater danger in this age and place is not that Orthodox Americans will succumb to self-righteous pride and add their voices to the angry oddballs telling gays to burn in hell, against all social and legal pressure on Christians to conform to this world, but that they will succumb to cowardice, complacency, and self-righteous pride in their tolerance of homosexuality, thinking themselves saintly for “speaking the truth in love” when they are instead speaking only half-truths in fear out of self-love (philautia). In all his writing and speaking on homosexuality, Fr. Thomas Hopko gives little indication that he is aware of this danger.

This entry was posted in Church. Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Thomas Hopko on Same-Sex Attraction: Speaking the Truth in Love?

  1. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    WWSJCS? (What would St.John Chrysostom say?)

  2. Pingback: Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell -- Thomas Hopko on Same-Sex Attraction: Speaking the Truth with Love? - AOI Observer

  3. cynthia curran says:

    Hopko is only partially right here on the treatment of gays but modern society doesn’t not jailed the homosexaul or castrate him like in Byzantine times. Procopius did mention that punishing homosexuality in his day could be misused to punish political enemies that are rich or belong to the Green faction but that doesn’t happen in the US today so Hopko is barking up a wrong tree. One doesn’t have to jail homosexuals but states should be able to determine if civil unions willl exist or not, I’m against them myself. One can preach homosexuality as a moral wrong but shouting fag at homosexuals is not civil.

  4. cynthia curran says:

    Well, we live in modern times and Orthodox like to copy liberal protestants in these matters. Clergy doing this is the worst of all though. Granted, homosexaul sin was known also on Byzantine times, boys were castrated to make them appealing to older men. There a law in the Justinian Code that forbids castration.of boys for this reason and others.

  5. I’ll take a Hopko’s opinions over a Mitchell’s when it comes to orthodox stuff. A matter of surnames.

    • David says:

      Just saw your post Corneliu….so only Slavs, Greek, Arabs, and Romanians can be good Orthodox. You ethnocentric snob. You’re not a Christian at all.

    • e6ahck says:

      Mitchell is an English surname. The British Isles were entirely Orthodox Christian by the Synod of Whitby in 654 AD. That’s a full 300 years before Johnny-come-lately nations like Russia — or Romania.

  6. Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

    What’s the reason for your prejudice, Corneliu? You love Slavs and hate Americans? Or you just don’t like hearing the truth about homosexuality? Either way, it’s not Orthodox.

  7. Ίμερος says:

    Food for thought. I feel that the author is true.

  8. Fr. Deacon Brian (or is that Patrick? or Brian Patrick?), VERY excellent article critiquing Fr Hopko’s book and views on same-sex attraction. I think you’ve pointed out the principle problems in thinking that has led to some very sad, heretical, and ridiculous things in certain places like the OCA, like what you’ve pointed out. (“Big things have small beginnings,” as the great android David of Prometheus postulated; and we seem to see that here.) Having come out of one of those settings, it’s refreshing to see someone else recognize this basic problem of thinking, and to see the necessity for making clear the FULL teaching of the Orthodox Church on what constitutes the natural place of eros and marital love.

  9. Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

    Thanks, Jon. It’s Patrick in church. I have heard the line about “big things,” but I’ve not seen Prometheus. Sounds like an interesting flick. It seems David is consciously quoting from the movie Lawrence of Arabia, which I have seen (showing my age).

  10. Peter says:

    Perhaps Fr. Thomas’s points might best be taken situationally. We live in a society which, for good or bad, considers certain types of statements to be automatically wrong. There’s not a whole lot we can do about this. In a similar manner, someone preaching in China would be best off not starting with “your ancestors were wrong” or in Iran, “the Koran is full of lies”. Not that these statements are wrong, but that they do not lend themselves to a sympathetic hearing.
    Adding to this that homosexuality is not an immediate issue to at least 95% of the population — even less in churches — there doesn’t seem to me to be any particular reason to talk about it publically all that much. I don’t mean to accuse anyone in particular here, but condemnations of homosexuals are far too often used to score easy points with conservatives at the expense of real people.

    Mostly tangential to this, the use of the word “sodomy” confuses me somewhat, as it implies that the fundamental problem is with male homosexuality, not female, whereas in a Christian context, I don’t see a systematic inherent difference between the two, in general.

  11. Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

    Peter: (1) An analogy to China would make sense if virtually all Americans today assumed homosexuality to be natural and good, but that is not the case. (2) It’s not as if only a tiny percentage of Americans are at all interested in the issue. Gays rights and gay marriage are major political issues, on which many Americans hold very strong views. (3) Telling the truth about homosexuality is good for all “real people,” even if the truth frustrates and infuriates the minority intent on immorality. (4) The Christian Church have always understood sodomy to include all unnatural sex acts, especially homosexual sex acts but not limited to the certain male-on-male abomination you must be thinking of.

  12. george gresko says:

    an old carpathian-russ expression YAZIK ZA ZUBAMI [keep your tongue behind your teeth. in other words shut up your mouth. that is what hopko should do. the side effects of his YAZIK ARE WELL LISTED ABOVE [in the last chapter you wrote before the 11 responses. george gresko

  13. Jason Rossiter says:

    An excellent post. Thank you very much for posting. I usually treasure Fr Tom’s words, but on this issue, I am in your corner, for I can see the truth of what you write in my own life.

    I am in the Orthodox Church today, after nearly 13 years lost in the homosexual lifestyle, not because my delicate sensibilities were coddled and shielded from offense, but because I heard the truth of Orthodoxy preached to me, and glory to God, He opened my ears.

  14. Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

    Glory to Jesus Christ! Thanks for commenting, Jason.

  15. Very good, Jason. I am glad to hear your story, and as Father Deacon Patrick says, Glory to Jesus Christ!

  16. Ross Andrew Berry says:

    I left St. Nicholas a few years ago after attending there for a year with my children; primarily over the fact that not only was the lesbian couple overtly and openly practicing, but one of them was TEACHING THE CHILDREN, she was, in fact, the primary co-ordinator for the children’s groups. . . .
    People should not be naive about this lifestyle, it rots and corrupts the soul. The OCA will go the way of the Episcopal Church if it cannot take a stand against our culture’s rapid trajectory on this matter.
    Ross Andrew

  17. Jason says:

    It saddens me Brian that you can’t seem to grasp why Fr Hopko might be trying to approach this subject in the most loving of ways. What I wanted to comment on first, however, is what I hear coursing through your critical analysis of his work on this subject, and that is fear. You seem very VERY afraid of the tender and loving approach Father Hopko recommends, as if his/this treatment of things will open up, or has opened up, a way for all manner of evil things to find their way into the Church. Worry pervades your writings and I see now why Fr Hopko was trying to warn people against this. I felt sad reading this piece because it showed a great lack of understanding of the homosexual experience and religion. I believe that Fr Hopko urged a more loving and tender approach with gay people NOT to coddle them, but because so SO many of them have heard the bad, condemnation-al religious “stuff” all of their lives. They’ve been told they will burn in hell, they’ve been quoted the verses, they’ve been told their feelings are unnatural, they’ve been ostracized from families and friends and congregations, etc, etc, etc… I don’t know any gay person who hasn’t heard or experienced these things in one form or another and these are the very reasons most of them who grew up in religious homes fled the faith. I was lucky, this did not happen to be but I can’t say I blame them.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Jason, my post provides substantial evidence that Fr. Thomas Hopko has in fact advocated what one can reasonably call coddling (your word) of open homosexuals by granting legal protection to their sickness and their sin, keeping quiet about both, and continuing to commune them. If you would like to take issue with those conclusions based on the evidence, please do. But drop the ad hominems. They don’t earn you any points.

      • Jason says:

        What is wrong with legal protections. Is there no room in your world for people who disagree with you or don’t believe as you do. What you believe is a sickness due to your religious beliefs is not seen so by others. Why should your religious beliefs trump the rights (or protections) of others?

        • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

          Even Hopko says it’s a sickness. If you don’t agree that it is, then you aren’t approaching the issue from a Christian standpoint. This seems to me to be the fundamental problem: Some people with SSA don’t want to admit that there’s anything wrong with them. But there’s something wrong with all of us, and the only way to be healed is to admit it and live rightly as much as possible.

          What you see as legal protection is actually coerced acceptance and respect for sickness, sin, and apostasy (meaning outright rejection of Christian truth). No Christian can support such coercion.

          As for communion, in his public comments, Hopko has been very vague about the conditions that warrant excluding people from communion. He allows that priests may do so under extreme circumstances, but he provides little support for doing so and instead belabors the need for toleration and acceptance. What is plain in his talk on Ancient Faith Radio is that he does support keeping gays in communion while they live gay lives, and he wants to insulate the decision to commune gays from all criticism.

          • Jason says:

            The problem us that you don’t make room for those who disagree with you and you seem to be saying that the only people worthy of legal protection and equal rights are those who agree with and believe as you do. What you see as “coerced acceptance and respect for sickness, sin, and apostasy ” others view as fundamental civil and equal rights. How does the Christian who holds to a worldview such as yours make sure that all are treated with respect and fairness under the law or is this even possible? Do you not believe in equal rights and protections for those that don’t believe as you do?

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            All I have done is express a reasoned opinion of what the law ought to be based on the facts as they are. Why is that a problem? It’s only a problem for you because you assume, regardless of facts and logic, that the state ought to coerce acceptance and respect for sodomy.

      • Jason says:

        I also saw no conclusive proof that Fr Hopko has been advocating for the continuing communing of practicing gay people. I must have missed something.

  18. Jason says:


    Your “reasoned opinion” of what the law ought to be is based on your personal belief system, not on logic or facts. You’ve given no facts that suggest that gay people don’t deserve the same rights and privileges and access to marriage as you do. You’ve only presented us with opinions that reflect your belief system.

    • Ίμερος says:

      So do you, Jason. Your “reasoned opinion” is not based on logic or facts, but on your own personal belief system. We do not say that gay people don’t deserve the same access to marriage. It’s only your definition of marriage that is unreasonable and unprecedented in human history. You’ve only presented us with opinions that reflect your belief system.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Actually, Jason, my post does provide plain facts showing that gay rights and gay-marriage laws are about forcing gay morality on people, Christians particularly. I could add to that the obvious fact that gay marriages do not produce children, and I could then reason from that fact that gay marriages do not deserve coercive protection because the state’s only interest in marriage is the welfare of children. I didn’t go that far because it’s obvious that Christians cannot support coerced acceptance of gross immorality.

  19. Jason says:

    Marriages between older couples and the infertile also do not produce children. That is a fact. If the states only interest is the welfare of children why are these marriages allowed to continue? Any facts you might show now (I still see no “plain” facts in your post regarding why gay people don’t deserve these rights. You call equal rights coercive and say they are about forcing a certain morality on people but surely you see the fallacy behind this line of thinking? Atheists may marry, pagans, Straight couples with open marriage intentions may marry and all may or may not produce children, but a rational person would not suggest that their morales are being forced on anyone else, would they?

    Iuepos – (sorry I cannot reproduce those greek characters) – yes, most of my arguments until now have been based on my own my own belief system except for the larger point I’ve been trying to make which is that those we disagree with should have the same protections and ability to marry the people they love as you do. You should not force your own religious beliefs on others through legislation.

    • Jason says:

      I would add “where the secular state is concerned” to my post above. Churches of any kind should always and will always have the freedom to marry whomever they deem fit for that sacrament, but secular marriage should be open for both straight and gay couples.

  20. Jason says:

    Iuepos – One other thing I’d like to mention is the fact that there are those gay men and women who, until gay marriage became more acceptable, got married to each other for tax purposes but led separate romantic lives. I don’t know how common this is/was, but is this the kind of thing you’d prefer to see when you say things like “we do not say that gay people don’t deserve the same access to marriage”?

    • Ίμερος says:

      Well, Jason, it’s better transcribed as Imeros. 🙂

      Listen, I don’t really care who marries to whom. Moreover, I do not consider the civil marriage as a real marriage, but rather as a legal contract. So, I have no reason to respect the signatories of this contract, either heterosexual or homosexual, as a couple, because a legal contract is active “inter pares” not “erga omnes”. But what we see happening is the homosexual activists trying to enforce their own view of marriage and respect of their lifestyle upon others; but these efforts seems to be a task of the ubiquitous thought police.

      But, what I really care about is the protection of the children, whom the gay couples have targeted as the next step for their social acceptance. A child deserves a father and a mother and gay people -and lesbians more so- seem incapable of understanding this simple truth. So, it feels like these people do not hesitate to destruct others’ lives, just for their fun.

      In conclusion, this article is written for Orthodox Christians. It’s not about the general social phenomenon of homosexuality. It’s about preserving our faith against every anti-ascetic perception, as we have done throughout centuries. So, the views that practicing homosexuals are in a spiritual fall and that gay activists need to repent to be saved is perfectly Orthodox and I do not see why you disagree? Are you not an Orthodox Christian?

  21. Jason says:

    Imeros – Thank you for the proper english letters 🙂

    I think you misunderstand what gay people want. Gay people and couples have had children for a very long time, this is not a new development meant to tip social acceptance in their favor. Whether those couples have thosee children due to previous marriages with people of the opposite sex or not should not be a concern. Perhaps children do best with a mother and father, but there are plenty of studies recently that have show that the children of gay couples do no worse than those of straight couples, add to this the fact that there are more children waiting for adoption than there are straight couples wanting to adopt and I think a case can and should be made for stable gay couples to have children if they wish and if they are willing to accept he responsibility. Unlike you I believe a child does best with TWO parents regardless of their gender. I believe, and can speak with at least some experience since I know a few gay couples with children, that gay couples can be wonderful and loving parents and raise healthy children.

    • Ίμερος says:

      There are also a lot of quantitative studies, Jason, showing the maladaptation and significant phychopathology of gay people’s children. But let me guess: it’s the society’s cruelty, not the parent’s neuroses that are to be blamed, right? Let the children be the new guinea pigs in this in vivo experiment for gays’ sake. If this isn’t a total epistemologic distortion, then what is it?

      Here in Greece, there are more people willing to adopt than children to be adopted. I don’t know what’s the case there, but maybe it’s the new reproduction technologies that have thrown that children in orphanages rather than in a caring family able to provide healthy developmental models.

      But you have not answered my question.

  22. Jason says:

    Imeros – The four most recent studies I know of that deal with the children of gay parents have only shown that these children fair no worse than those of straight parents. I think there should be more studies that deal with this issue, but we have no real viable proof that the children of gay parents are at a disadvantage. I do not know why so many children go unadopted in this country, but I do know that has been a problem for a very long time. Personally, I feel that a child is much better off with a loving and stable gay couple with languishing somewhere in the adoption system. As for my lesbian friends, the children they are raising are theirs.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Jason, the recent studies you’re thinking of all suffer from the same faults: tiny samples, volunteer bias, and disregard of negative effects more common among children with gay parents such as higher rates of sexual exprimentation, promiscuity, and homosexuality.

      The children you’re thinking of whom noboby wants to adopt are not newborns but children of very bad parents: drug-addicts, alcoholics, and criminals. Such children can be extremely difficult to raise and might do better in more structured settings such as orphanages. If we let gay men adopt them, what’s to stop two pedophiles from adopting them to molest? The pedophiles wouldn’t even have to be gay; they could just pretend to be gay so adoption agencies would overlook their sexuality.

      Finally, Jason, the views you have expressed here and elsewhere have absolutely no foundation in the Christian faith. You are insisting upon your own morality against the truth God has revealed to us.

  23. Jason says:

    Brian – There are faults with those studies to be sure, but they are the best studies out there to date that show how well the children of gay parents do compared with those of straight parents. I know there are many more studies in the works whose preliminary results seem to be suggesting the same thing – that the children of gay parents fare no better and no worse than those of straight parents.

    The views I have expressed here are mine but I am by no means insisting on my own morality. You keep missing, or are purposefully dodging the main point I have been trying to make since the very beginning, which is that neither you NOR I should be enforcing our own personal morality on someone else. The vast majority of gay people are law-abiding, tax paying citizens of this country. They deserve access to the same rights, benefits and privileges open to those of straight people regardless of religious belief and opinion. You have every right to the belief that the practice of homosexuality is sinful and that is has no place in the Church, you just have to (or rather should) make room in the rest of the world, and the laws of the land, for those who disagree with you. If you can’t learn to live with and tolerate others, don’t expect them to do the same for you.

    You’re very very good at throwing out opinions and ideas and making them sound like facts, but they are not indeed facts. Any thinking person should be able to tell that what you write is only your opinion based and supported largely by your own personal religious beliefs.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Jason, I haven’t seen any evidence here that you are any kind of Christian or that you are in the least measure amenable to reason. You are obviously intent only on denying the truth and forcing the Church to accommodate your perversion. I therefore give you over to God.

  24. Jason says:

    Brian – watching you try and compare a law-abiding, tax paying gay couple to pedophiles tells me just about all I need to know about you and by extension your writings. Gay people are no more likely to be pedophiles than straight people. And please answer me this: What is there to prevent a possible pedophile in a straight marriage from adopting children?

  25. Andriy says:

    Numerous gay people would, by their lived experiences, tell Father Hopko that he is wrong. They were born gay, can’t change their orientation, are drawn to same-sex relationships which are expressed sexually in a strong desire to create “fulfilling, complementary, life-creating, and life enhancing relationships with people of the same sex”. If only Father Hopko had left the vitally important and contemporary topic of homosexuality to those competent and educated on the subject matter, such as Archbishop Lazar, instead of inflicting his own personal biased reflections upon others, especially gay Orthodox Christians. In this case the priest (Hopko) should listen to the archbishop (Lazar) and maybe pick up a book on biology, one written after 1970.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Why is Archbishop Lazar more qualified to speak on this topic than Fr. Thomas? It would seem that his only extra qualification is that you like what he says, which, I must say, does not recommend what he says to Orthodox Christians.

      And how do you know that gays were born gay? Born male, born female — that we can see. But born gay? How can you tell?

      • Brian,
        Thank you for your comments. I am not a child and therefore do not simply agree with Archbishop Lazar on this topic because I like what he says. Since the Archbishop is a member of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction (OCA) then he does have the authority to preach and teach Orthodox Christians. I have read “Neurobiology of Sin” by Archbishop Lazar and compared it to contemporary texts in biology. Whatever you may think of the bishop, he quotes modern scientific texts to support his writing. This is something that numerous Orthodox writers who offer their opinions in the areas of biology, genetics and general science, do not. Father Hopko shows little evidence of accepting biology and modern psychology and in fact he partially relies on the works of Protestant theologians (C.S. Lewis for one) and discredited academicians (Elizabeth Moberly).
        Numerous LGBT people will tell you that they are born this way. There is no vast homosexual conspiracy, carried on for thousands of years to trick heterosexuals into believing that we were born this way. Gay people know this just as you, I assume a straight man, know that you were born with a heterosexual orientation.
        Andriy Partykevich

        • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

          Quoting from scientific texts does not make one an expert; anybody can do that. Elizabeth Moberly has not been discredited; gays just don’t like her. C.S. Lewis was a Protestant; so what? Finally, babies are not sexually attracted to anyone; they develop sexual identities in their early years and sexual attractions much later, so nobody is born gay or straight.

          • Indeed quoting from scientific texts does not make one an expert, however consulting and understanding them, can. Moberly’s practices have been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association as well as the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK). I assume from your comment that since you were not born with a sexual identity, you made that choice as you developed? Under what influences did you make that choice? Do you believe that one’s surroundings or upbringing can determine sexual identity?

          • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            Neither the APA nor RCP has “discredited” Moberly; they merely take a different position on the value of sexual orientation change efforts based on the non/anti-Christian, pro-gay prejudices of the people who dominate such organizations.

            If I saw more evidence that you were willing to deal honestly and rationally with the issue, I would have more to say. But you seem so in the grip of passion that nothing anyone says will make any difference.

  26. Pingback: My Homepage

  27. rebelsprite says:

    Wow. This post, and the comments, have been eye-opening for me. I hadn’t realized the types of things that have been going on in some of the churches. I hadn’t considered some of the implications of what Father Tom expresses. Some of the comments here, as well, are a bit disturbing. Lord, watch over Your church. Amen.

  28. rebelsprite says:

    I must say, this post has piqued my curiosity more to read the book. These alternative views will be really helpful. The idea attributed to Father Tom’s book that we should perhaps stay more quiet about these things, possibly out of fear, does make me think of the following quote about subduing Christians who do not believe that practicing homosexuality is healthy or godly:

    [“O]thers, for complicated reasons, feel compelled to adhere rigidly to an authoritarian belief structure (e.g., an orthodox religion), that condemns homosexuality. Our primary objective regarding die-hard homohaters of this sort is to cow and silence them as far as possible, not to convert or even desensitize them.

    Marshall Kirk, Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: how America will conquer its fear and hatred of gays in the 90s (Plume, 1990), p. 176

    However, I also believe that God trumps everything in the end, and we need to focus on prayerfully following God, not developing counter-strategies to anyone else’s ideas of where the battle lines are.

  29. Christina says:

    OK Deacon Patrick Mitchell, you write well and are obviously quite intelligent, yet in your zeal to define the Orthodox view of the Church regarding homosexuality -you seem to miss the whole point of Orthodoxy. It’s no wonder you then condemn the late, great Fr. Hopko! Your brilliant intellectual dissection of his words still does not hold a candle to the truth in his words In one of your responses to someone’s comment, you accuse them of not being Christian. I find this ironic because as well as you write technically, I am not feeling much Christianity coming out of your words! It’s like your stuck in some legalistic sphere that may be technically correct, but are seems to me choking from a lack of love. Loving the gay people in ones life does not mean you agree with the lifestyle. I keep reading you think a no-love approach masking as tough-love is the answer. That’s when I knew you’re out to lunch on this one! It is discouraging to read this stuff that supposedly represents the Orthodox view…and just because you have a following doesn’t mean you’re right.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Not much here of substance for me to comment on, except the focus on feeling. Children don’t often feel the love of their parents when they get a well-deserved spanking, and adults don’t often feel the love of God when He hands them a cross to bear. People don’t like to hear unflattering truths, but sometimes the truth is the most loving thing you can give a person. The Pharisees didn’t feel the love of Christ when He told them things they didn’t want to hear, but others felt convicted and repented.

    • Ross Berry says:

      Okay, I’ll say it. Hopko was a heretic! There is a split in Western theology. Those who continue to adhere to the Augustinian Doctrine of Original Sin — and largely Calvinist extensions on that — are labeled ‘Orthodox’ versus ‘Liberal’. Hopko was obviously rightly afraid of being put in that box, since it has nothing to do with the East; the East is not a proponent of anything Calvin the Attorney propagated, nor should she become entangled on either side of this division, which is based on a bad translation. However, we live in an age in which gender has become identified with the randomness of evolution. It is a kind of iconoclasm, in which the icon of the Word in every man, and the Spirit in every woman is confused. ‘Adam’ means ‘red dirt’, that is, the dead dirt of Egypt. ‘Eve’ is “Zoe’, ‘Life’. God took Life out of Dead Dirt, and gave Life to Dead Dirt. Gender is a reflection of the two arms of God, by which he molds and gives life to the universe! Homosexual relationships are a narcissistic addiction which embrace a religion of self-love, and reject God’s creative love. It is not loving to pretend that soul-devouring self-love is in any way salvific. It is God sacrificing himself for the love of the human race — those made in the image of the Word and the Spirit — which saves.

    • Andrew G Van Sant says:

      Christina, my good friend Brian Patrick is not right because he has a following. He has a following because he is right.

      Perhaps you might see the wisdom he reveals by consulting some other supporting information. I recommend to you Robert Reilly’s Making Gay OK to understand the deceit used to normalize the abnormal. Reilly provides evidence from the government’s own website (CDC) showing how unhealthy the homosexual lifestyle is. Anthony Esolen in his Defending Marriage describes how the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is destroying our Christian culture. It is clear that homosexuality is a form of mental disorder. People are not born with it; it develops gradually in such a way that those who suffer from this malady believe they were born that way. The homosexual lifestyle is physically, mentally, spiritually, and morally unhealthy. Anyone and everyone who enables or encourages others to continue in their homosexuality and to engage in homosexual activities is involved in an immoral, unethical, and anti-Christian enterprise. It is equivalent to encouraging alcoholics to continue drinking or drug abusers to continue taking drugs. If you truly have Christian love for someone who is homosexual you should do everything you can to help them change.

  30. I stumbled upon this blog after reading Brian’s Women in the Military: Flirting with Disaster. A side note: the book is out of print; the copy I received from an Amazon reseller bears a sinister WITHDRAWN stamp on the front endpaper. I was surprised to learn of Brian’s preoccupation with Orthodox Christianity, as the book did not offer a slightest hint in that direction.

    My first thought was that, perhaps I should give a second thought to the religion of my mother and grandmother and join the Orthodoxy. I wondered if there was an English speaking Orthodox congregation in Toronto ON, as Brian’s St John the Baptist is rather far from where I live. As I kept reading through the post and the comments, I realized, however, that all is not well even in the Orthodox house. (I ran away from the Lutherans when they joined the homo chorus.)

    For God’s sake, if even Church cannot offer a safe haven for people who are sickened by endless rationalizations and just want to be guided by the Truth, is there any place to go, except inward?

    • Ross Berry says:

      All is NOT well in all of the Orthodox house — the OCA is probably the worst about becoming tolerant of homosexuality; but the OCA is a patchwork quilt of Carpatho-Russians, Russians, and Native Alaskans stuck together, and is probably the most mismanaged Orthodox group in America. The Antiochian bishops are venal bullies, but they don’t seem tolerant of the gay thing unless there’s money in it. I have high hopes that the OCA will be demolished by the Great Council and folded into some other form. I think the RC’s are much more suffering and polluted by the gay thing. Orthodox priests are normally married, and there do tend to be some consequences about this behavior in the clergy. ROCOR and the Carpatho-Russian Archdiocese have both kicked out gay monasteries in recent years, and although there was some initial cover-up, the Greek pedophile in Dallas was defrocked. Rome would probably have let all these things go on for years. While Benedict was intent on rescuing traditional Latin and Anglican liturgies, John Paul and Francis have both seemed bent on moving things towards the East, and the Eastern Rites have NOT had the pedophile or gay problem even remotely like the Latin Rite. So I think you should consider moving East — towards the Eastern Rites, or the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox. I think that this is where Christianity will make its stand for traditional sexual morality. The Latin Rite, and Anglican, Lutheran, and Old Catholic rites based on it, appear to have all caved in to the spirit of the age. Some theologians might attribute this to the Filioque.

Leave a Reply