The Holy Synod of the Moorish Orthodox Church in America
Rt. Rev. Sotemohk A. Beeyayelel, Acting Chair
Very Rev. Alison Bazarghan-Zannis, Convening Presbyter
The Cathedral Church of Saints Sergius & Bakkhus
Ong’s Hat Road
Pemberton Township, New Jersey USA 08068
On 24th May, 2002 the Holy Synod of the Moorish Orthodox Church in America comprising representatives of the clergy and faithful of that jurisdiction and sitting in plenary session at the Cathedral Church of Saints Sergius & Bakkhus, the diocesan see of New Jersey, issued the following statement in connection with certain recent activities of the Roman “Catholic” hierarchy in the United States and elsewhere.
The recent disclosure of improper and unlawful sexual contacts between Roman “Catholic” youths and Roman “Catholic” priests, bishops and professed religious in the Archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere is what journalists call a “developing story” – one that is still unfolding, in which new information can be expected on a daily if not hourly basis, and whose implications have not yet fully been grasped.
Yet even at this early stage it seems worthwhile to try to separate out some of the basic issues involved, if only to avoid succumbing to the enormous amounts of “spin” promoted by the Archdiocese, the Vatican and various interest groups.
Sexual contacts between clerics and young people seem improper for at least three reasons:
1. Clerics of the Roman tradition, as clerics, promise to live a life of celibacy, commonly understood by laymen to mean abstinence from sexual relations or sexually arousing contacts.
Sexual contacts with young people seem to violate the very letter of that promise. In addition, they seem to do so in a clandestine, even secretive fashion, targeting those who are not only the most pliant and suggestible, but also the easiest to intimidate, shame or bribe into silence. More than one accuser has told of a priest blessing him after their sexual contacts.
To be sure, we all know of Roman “Catholic clerics” who interpret the promise of celibacy more narrowly to mean abstinence from sexual intercourse proper, or abstinence from intercourse with women or simply remaining unmarried. And, to be sure, clerical celibacy in the Roman Church was originally imposed primarily to prevent priests from having legitimate children they might wish to pass on property to, thus diluting the patrimony of that institution.
But to the extent that the church promotes or allows a sharp divergence between lay and clerical understanding – on this as on so many other matters – instances where priestly behavior publicly contradicts popular understanding are an understandable cause for that gravest of all clerical sins, “scandalizing the faithful.”
2. Priests are in a position of responsibility, delegated by parents, when dealing with young people.
Roman “Catholic” parents often teach their children to trust and obey the priest, confident that priests have their children’s interests at heart as much as the parents do, will treat the youths with respect and dignity, and will do their best to guide and protect them.
When parents find that priests’ behavior with youths are for their own benefit – viz. erotic gratification of whatever sort – rather than for the children’s benefit, parents justifiably feel that priests have betrayed their trust, the more offensively so because the parents taught it to the youths, never thinking that they needed to warn or caution their children about priests.
3. Roman priests are in a position of authority when dealing with all parishioners, but especially young people in their charge.
Many Roman “Catholic” youths are taught that the priest is the person who can teach them what is right and moral, perhaps even more reliably than their parents, and who is obligated in his own conduct to exemplify those virtues, even more reliably than their parents. We might say that that is pretty much the basic job description for a priest; the rest is ritual and ceremony.
If young people feel a priest’s conduct toward them violates that assumption, then their whole idea of who and what is a valid source of moral and ethical information seems falsified, in fact, completely reversed. Either the authority of the teachers or the teaching is called into question, perhaps both in a mutually destructive contradiction.
Specifically, just as parents resent their children being imposed upon, so too young people must find it deeply disturbing to realize – either gradually or in a sudden realization – that the priest is not treating them as a person for whom he has concern but as a means for his own gratification. This can hardly fit with the view of a priest as caring and benevolent.
In addition, people such as priests can, merely by virtue of their authority but also because of their greater age, be felt as applying great pressure to do as they say even against a younger, more vulnerable person’s better judgment and personal inclination. That perceived pressure to violate one’s own judgment and inclination is what can harm young people psychologically.
If we turn to various explanations of how these incidents come about and how to prevent them, we face a babel of opinions.
Pope John Paul II’s personal spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls has tried to place the blame on homosexual priests, claiming that gay men should not be priests at all. But if estimates of the large proportion of homosexuals in the American priesthood are anywhere near correct, even if “homosexual” priests were involved, it would be only a small disproportionately who behaved improperly.
But more to the point, and contrary to Dr. Navarro-Valls, it seems likely that priests who are attracted to other adult men, to say nothing of priests actually involved with other adult men, are not likely to seek involvement with immature males.
Some liberal critics suggest that an (ostensibly) celibate priesthood is somehow responsible. That may be true but not because self-aware, self-accepting robustly heterosexual youths are unlikely to volunteer for a celibate priesthood. After all, self-aware, self-accepting homosexual youths would seem no more likely to be drawn to a celibate priesthood.
The Roman “Catholic” church will have to search wider and deeper into its doctrines and its history for the sources of its current troubles.
Specifically, the notion that an exclusively male priesthood can alone properly image Christ diminishes the dignity of the Incarnation – the most central point of Christian faith. The fact that the Son of God became human is derogated by the fact that he chose to become male – thus rendered, the Doctrine of the Incarnation becomes little more than “phallolatry.”
Consonant with the foregoing view is the Roman doctrine of the Church as the “Bride of Christ.”
It is generally agreed that most heterosexual conduct of an intimate character is little more than ‘mock predation’ with a reproductive purpose. By way of extrapolation the notion that the Savior predates upon his Church and in imitation of that Savior – and consonant with the Roman conception of the priest as an ‘alter Christi’ – the priest is free to predate upon his flock – is to bizarre and too perverse to be taken seriously by any rational adult. But taken seriously is just what the hierarchy of that Church wish and expect to be in line with its self-assumed mantle of the ‘teaching magisterium.’
Faced with the foregoing set of circumstances, and faithful to its own received faith, tradition and authority, the Holy Synod of the Moorish Orthodox Church in America, sitting in plenary session, announce the following steps to be taken:
It announces, teaches and declares that all among it are agreed that that jurisdiction of Christendom calling itself “Roman Catholic” and owing allegiance to the Bishop of Rome and all of his subordinate bishops can no longer be considered to be within the Christian household of faith. By means of their actions, omissions and express teachings, they have effectively repudiated their baptismal vows and rendered inert the sacramental effects of their rites and observances. Thus, their priests and bishops are no priests and bishops, their eucharist is no eucharist, and their prayers do not reach the hearing of the Eternal and Almighty God in Three Persons.
All Bishops, Priests and others who continue in their allegiance to the Bishop of Rome and his subordinate bishops, priests and other delegates and appointees are declared to have repudiated their Baptismal vows and left the Christian Faith.
The Holy Synod has deputed the Bishop of New Jersey and Synod Chair, the Right Reverend Dr. Sotemohk Agehananda Beeyayelel, the Very Reverend Alison Bazarghan-Zannis, Convening Presbyter of the Synod and Rector Emerita of the Church of Saint Hypatia of Alexandria in Montclair, Diocese of New Jersey, and the Very Reverend Nousroukh Mialow, Acting Principal of the Hakim Bey Diocesan Theological Seminary, to draft an “Instrument of Execration” having as its subject the Bishop of Rome and his subordinates, to be submitted to the Synodal Court of His All-Holiness, Hakim, Patriach of Alamout, for its ratification.
The Holy Synod calls upon all members of the Roman “Catholic” Church and others having knowledge of such matters to urge the civil authorities of their respective states to broaden their inquiries into the conduct of that institution and its personnel so as to address issues relating to the physical abuse and violence of minors apart from sexual contact with a view toward obtaining legal redress for the same.
Given under our hands and the Seal of the Holy Synod at the Cathedral Church of Saints Sergius & Bakkhus in New Jersey, this 24th Day of May in the Year 2002 of the Vulgar Era, and in the 837th Year after the Holy Proclamation of the Q’iyamat of Alamout.