“Confirmed at Birth”

Title:  Transgender Conformity

Author: Katherine Kersten

Link to full article on site:  First Things

Nova Classical Academy, a K–12 charter school in St. Paul, Minnesota, is the sort of school that most parents seeking a first-rate education for their children can only dream about. Founded in 2003, the school teaches the classical curriculum of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Students read the Aeneid, the Iliad, and Dante’s Inferno.

Nova’s website proclaims, “Parents are the primary educators of their children.” The school’s mission statement calls students to “a virtuous life of duty and ideals.” In 2016, U.S. News and World Reportnamed Nova’s high school No. 1 in Minnesota, and the No. 4 charter high school in the nation.

But on October 14, 2015, parents of K5 students at Nova received an email from lower school principal Brooke Tousignant that was destined to change the school forever.

Tousignant informed parents that, in the coming year, Nova would be “support[ing] a student who is gender non-conforming.” This term, she explained,

describes children whose identities, appearances, behaviors, or interests do not fit traditional societal expectations associated with their sex assigned at birth. It is important to note that this expression of gender is ever-changing as students are constantly exploring many different aspects of their identity.

To support the gender-nonconforming child, Nova would be teaching K–5 students “about the beauty of being themselves.” All K–5 students would read a book called My Princess Boy, “which tells the story of a boy who expresses his true self by dressing up and enjoying traditional girl things.” Thus was Nova Classical Academy plunged into the Twilight Zone of transgender politics.

Tousignant’s email came in response to pressure from a family new to Nova. Dave and Hannah Edwards had asked school officials for “accommodations” for their five-year-old kindergarten son, who described himself, they said, as “a boy who likes girl things.” Dave Edwards is a PhD candidate in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, where his research focuses on “the creation and implementation of gender inclusive policies and practices in K12 public schools,” according to his website, genderinclusiveschools.org.

Hannah Edwards told local media that she first suspected her son was gender nonconforming when, at age two, he saw the pop star Beyoncé perform on television at the Super Bowl. He began to dance like the singer and to convey by his behavior that “I am being Beyoncé; I am being a girl,” she said. Shortly thereafter, he began to show a preference for princess costumes and other “girl things,” according to his mother. “I kind of think of it as life before and after Beyoncé,” she said.

Nova parents—who include many doctors, lawyers and other professionals—have always been a close community, although they span the political spectrum. But factions quickly formed in response to the Edwards’ demands. While all parents agreed the kindergarten boy should be treated kindly, many believed that “gender identity” was an inappropriate classroom topic and objected to school leaders’ end-run around the school’s strict rules for curricular change. Other parents enthusiastically supported the changes. Teachers and students were drawn into the conflict. When the dispute became public, local media treated the Edwards as celebrities.

Nova officials maintained that the school was legally obligated to meet the Edwards’ demands. They cited two statutes: Minnesota’s 2014 anti-bullying law, called the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act,” and Title IX, a federal law that governs what actions by educational institutions constitute unlawful sex discrimination. Title IX, adopted in 1972, does not mention gender identity. But school leaders relied on the U.S. Department of Education’s recent re-interpretation of that statute, which asserts that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is barred by that law’s prohibition of sex discrimination.

School board meetings at Nova, once sleepy affairs, quickly became scenes of conflict. LGBT activist groups such as Transforming Families (a support group for transgender families) and Gender Justice (a nonprofit law firm) “mobbed the meetings, brought their lawyers, protested, and compelled their sobbing transgender kids to talk about bullying and suicide attempts,” according to Emily Zinos, a longtime Nova parent.

Parents who questioned the proposed policy changes were branded as bigots. “We were ridiculed, mocked, and accused of hatefulness and ignorance, despite our doctoral degrees,” said Tom Lynn, parent of four Nova students. Parents’ free speech rights were also frequently challenged. At one school board meeting, Nova’s attorney asked the school board chair to end public comment, warning that a parent’s reference to the First Amendment could be interpreted as creating an impermissible “hostile environment.”

In December 2015, Nova administrators paid a school psychologist—an LGBT activist—to conduct teacher training and to lecture on transgender issues at a “parent education” night. After school officials refused to present an alternative view, dissenting parents arranged for a local attorney to speak on the scientific and legal aspects of transgenderism. Parents had to rent space at the school and secure police protection after a protest was announced. Remarkably, Nova’s lawyer instructed the school board not to attend, on grounds that members’ mere presence could be construed as bullying, according to a former school board member.

In January 2016, Nova’s board of directors approved a comprehensive, interim “gender inclusion” policy. The policy later became permanent. Under the new policy, a student can choose his or her own gender without medical approval. The school must work with transgender students to “create a tailored gender transition plan.” Students are entitled to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and overnight-trip sleeping facilities of the opposite sex. They also have a right to demand that others address them using their “preferred name” and pronouns. After the policy’s adoption, a committee recommended converting some school bathrooms to “gender neutral” status, while retaining others as “gender binary . . . (traditionally known as Boys/Girls bathroom).”

Despite these sweeping changes, the Edwards withdrew their son from Nova in February 2016. On March 24, 2016, they filed a complaint with St. Paul’s Department of Human Rights, claiming the school had denied their “daughter” the ability to “undergo a gender transition” in a “safe and timely way.” Their primary objection was that Nova officials had insisted on informing other parents of their right (guaranteed by state law) to opt their children out of instruction on transgender topics. This “indicated that the school was at best ambivalent about the rights of gender-nonconforming and transgender students,” they asserted in the complaint.

Before October 14, 2015, the school was a thriving educational institution where families of widely differing beliefs coexisted happily in a common enterprise. Now bitterness and distrust are rampant. Friendships have been destroyed, and a significant number of families have left the school, which lost ninety-four students from last year to this year.

What’s behind the transgender movement, a cultural tsunami so powerful it can tear apart even so traditional an institution as Nova Classical Academy? Transgender ideology advances under the banner of progress and enlightened thinking. Yet its fundamental claim—that a human being can change his or her sex—“is starkly, nakedly false,” according to Dr. Paul McHugh, who served for twenty-six years as psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins pioneered sex-change surgery, but abandoned it in the 1970s after research revealed that it did not improve the mental health of patients.

Every cell in the human body marks individuals as either male or female, with males bearing an XY and females an XX chromosome. Sex is not “assigned” at birth. It is identified anatomically when an infant is in the womb and then confirmed at birth. “In mammals such as humans, the female gestates offspring and the male impregnates the female,” McHugh explains in “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” a comprehensive literature review co-authored with Dr. Lawrence Mayer of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in the New Atlantis in fall 2016. “There is no other widely accepted biological classification for the sexes.”

Individuals who suffer from a psychological condition known as “gender dysphoria” experience a marked incongruence between their biological sex and their “gender identity”—defined as the subjective, internal sense of being a man or woman. Gender dysphoria is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-5). It is part of the family of psychological disorders that includes anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and body integrity identity disorder (BIID). Anorexic individuals wrongly believe they are obese, while those with body dysmorphic disorder are consumed by the notion that they are ugly. Individuals who suffer from BIID identify as disabled and sometimes seek amputation of healthy limbs or the surgical severing of their spinal cord.

In adult males, gender dysphoria is generally rooted in erotic attractions, according to McHugh. Children are different. They “come to their ideas about their sex” through “a variety of youthful psychosocial conflicts and concerns,” he says. These include “conflicts over the prospects, expectations, and roles that they sense are attached to their given sex—and presume that sex-reassignment will ease or resolve them.”

Gender dysphoria is often associated with pre-existing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders, and a history of sexual abuse or physical or mental trauma. Other “predisposing and perpetuating factors” include troubled peer dynamics, parental psychopathology, and parental reinforcement of cross-gender behavior during the sensitive period of gender-identity formation, according to Dr. Kenneth Zucker, longtime director of the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. A child’s ability to resolve gender dysphoria tends to correlate with parental attitudes, with success much more likely if parents minimize the problem, which is exactly the opposite of what transgender ideologues such as the Edwards are doing.

Fortunately, the great majority of young people who struggle with gender dysphoria “identify” with their own sex by late adolescence or adulthood, according to the DSM-5. Estimates range from 70 to 95 percent. For those afflicted, McHugh says, the best treatment is counseling and family therapy.

Until recently, gender dysphoria in young people was treated by “watchful waiting” or by counseling. In 2007, however, Dr. Norman Spack of Boston Children’s Hospital introduced a new treatment protocol—originating in the Netherlands—which is fast becoming the norm. Today, young people who pursue “gender reassignment” begin a process that will consign them to lifelong dependence on the medical system. Generally, they receive puberty blockers at around age thirteen and begin opposite-sex hormones—estrogen for boys and testosterone for girls—at around age sixteen. Some eventually opt for “sex-reassignment” surgery. This can involve double mastectomies, in girls as young as sixteen, and removing or “creating” penises and vaginas.

Cross-sex hormones stimulate the development of secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair in females and the swelling of breast tissue in males. Most such changes cease when a patient stops using these hormones. The artificial “penises” and “vaginas” constructed through surgery do not function like their authentic biological counterparts. No treatment can cause a biological man to menstruate or give birth to an infant, or make it possible for a woman to produce sperm and father a child.

Gender transition treatments involve significant risks. Puberty blockers stunt growth and decrease bone density during use. Girls who take testosterone may develop serious acne or feel irritable, aggressive, or unbalanced. Individuals taking these hormones require lifelong monitoring for a number of dangerous side effects, including cancer and deep vein thrombosis.

Lifelong infertility may be the greatest risk of cross-sex hormone use by young people. Sterility is inevitable when puberty blockers are followed by cross-sex hormones at an early stage of adolescent sexual development, or if prepubertal children are placed directly on these hormones, according to Dr. Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians. Postpubertal adolescents are advised to consider freezing their eggs or sperm before beginning hormone use. “If your teen may want to have a biological child, it’s important to look into sperm banking before treatment is started,” Seattle Children’s Hospital advises parents. Hormone-induced changes “may be irreversible” for girls who receive testosterone, the hospital adds. “It’s very important that a patient starting [female-to-male] therapy be sure this is the course they [sic] want to follow,” its web site warns. Despite these concerns, Seattle Children’s Hospital enthusiastically supports pediatric gender-transition treatment and opened a clinic to provide it in October 2016.

In short, the use of sex-reassignment treatments in children amounts to a massive uncontrolled experiment. Such an unscientific approach to irreversible, life-altering treatments is indefensible in the age of “evidence-based” medicine, when lengthy clinical trials are generally required for federal approval of a new medication.

There is little evidence that cross-sex treatments actually benefit gender-dysphoric youngsters. In 2014, Hayes, Inc.—a widely respected research firm that evaluates the safety and value of medical technologies—performed a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on treatment of gender dysphoria. Hayes gave its lowest rating to the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children, finding that the literature is “too sparse and the studies [that exist are] too limited to suggest conclusions.”

McHugh compares treating the psychological confusion of gender dysphoria with hormones or sex-change surgery to treating anorexia with liposuction. He notes that the most thorough follow-up of individuals who have had sex-reassignment surgery, a 2011 Swedish study, found that sex-reassigned individuals were almost five times more likely to attempt suicide and nineteen times more likely to die by suicide compared to controls. Such treatment is irresponsible. It leaves a patient’s underlying psychological problems undiagnosed and unaddressed. In McHugh’s words,

Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All . . . become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future.

Gender dysphoria in children and adolescents was virtually unheard of fifty years ago. Today, however, “referrals for sex-reassignment hormones and surgical procedures appear to be on the rise, and there is a push among many advocates to proceed with sex reassignment at younger ages,” according to McHugh and Mayer’s report. In Great Britain, referrals of children to gender dysphoria clinics rose 50 percent between 2011 and 2012, The Times of London reported in 2013. In St. Paul, Minnesota, where Nova Classical Academy is located, the advocacy group Transforming Families claims its youngest support group—for ages four through eight—now includes about twenty-five children.

Why are young people drawn to the transgender fantasy, despite its perils? A 2003 report entitled “Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities” provides useful context. The report was sponsored by the Institute for American Values, the YMCA of the USA, and the Geisel Medical School at Dartmouth College, and signed by thirty-three prominent scientists, physicians, and mental health professionals.

“Hardwired to Connect” warns that American children are facing a “crisis” of “mental and behavioral health.” Young people are struggling with anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, behavioral challenges, and thoughts of suicide, all at unprecedented levels, the report’s authors say. According to one study, by the 1980s, U.S. children as a group reported more anxiety than did children who were psychiatric patients in the 1950s. The report attributes this, mostly, to the breakdown of the family and other fundamental social institutions, which has weakened moral and behavioral norms and deprived young people of the “authoritative communities” that have traditionally provided security, meaning, and purpose.

Social breakdown is more advanced today than it was when “Hardwired to Connect” was published. Many youngsters live in a world of sex-saturated entertainment and social media. It’s no surprise that an increasing number attribute their confusion and unhappiness to being “trapped” in the body of the opposite sex. Transgenderism has attained cult status, as McHugh points out. Adolescents can visit internet chat rooms, converse in transgender lingo, and go online to buy chest-binders, female-to-male “packing” straps, and underwear to enhance their fantasy of being of the opposite sex.

In many places, LGBT activist groups have ready access to this vulnerable population, thanks to state anti-bullying laws and the federal push for transgender rights in schools. At Nova Classical Academy, “gender activists made transitioning seem attractive,” says parent Emily Zinos. “LGBT groups have created a celebrity culture for these kids,” she notes, adding,

OutFront Minnesota gives awards for being the Rosa Parks of your school, trying to change its policies and culture. How tempting it can be to step into this world—overnight, you can become an amazing, famous civil rights hero!

How can our nation, so proud of its allegiance to science, have fallen prey to an ideology founded on the false claim that a human being is free to choose whether to be a man or a woman? The transgender crusade is closely linked to the recent crusade for same-sex marriage. Both spring from the same philosophical source—a decisive shift in our society’s idea of the nature of the human person.

The Judeo-Christian vision, which shaped Western civilization for 1,600 years, holds that God created man—body and soul—with purpose and meaning in an ordered universe. But the post-Christian worldview fast replacing it has no place for God, and perceives no purpose in nature. Christian man has become “psychological man” and the soul has become the self, in the words of Philip Rieff. The free-floating self—unconstrained by reality—is now believed to forge its own “identity” through a creative assertion of will.

Post-Christian man views his body as a tabula rasa—a canvas on which to express his identity and exert his will. In fact, the more contrary to nature one’s new self is, the more “authentic” it can claim to be. The recent mania for tattoos and piercings is a case in point. The desire to be free of the human condition and its limitations has ancient roots. It has taken Gnostic form in both the ancient and modern worlds. The Gnostic impulse rejects physical reality as evil. It seeks a higher, hidden knowledge—available only to an elite—in its quest for personal salvation. Animated by this knowledge, the Gnostic approach creates a kind of magical reality that refuses to admit conditions that resist the human will.

Today’s transgender crusade can be seen as the latest manifestation of this denial. It is inherently authoritarian, as other latter-day Gnostic projects have been, because it has to be. Nature and common sense oppose it. In the “Gnostic dream world,” as Eric Voegelin once put it, “non-recognition of reality is the first principle.” Critics who persist in drawing attention to reality must be discredited or silenced. Otherwise, the Gnostic fantasy world crumbles.

Soviet authorities silenced dissenters with late night knocks on the door. In the U.S., the tool of choice is weaponized civil rights. Critics of transgender ideology are denounced as bigots—guilty of the only sin left in our post-Christian world. In this way, the transgender movement’s true believers end reasoned debate, seize the moral high ground, and clear the stage for heart-tugging anecdotes of suffering and suicide, which they use to win sympathy and public support. At the same time, by claiming the mantle of civil rights, they enlist the power of the state to impose a political and cultural agenda.

Today, transgender advocates are creating a Potemkin Village—built on hormones, surgery, and chest-binders—to solidify the illusion on which their magical reality is based. By demanding that others employ “preferred pronouns,” they pervert language, using it not to communicate truth, but to advance their program—the hallmark of propaganda.

The federal government is now in the vanguard of the transgender crusade. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice are threatening K–12 schools with legal action or loss of federal funds if they do not embrace the movement’s goals. The Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to compel doctors to treat gender-dysphoric children with cross-sex hormones even if they believe such treatment would be harmful. In addition, the federal government now pushes states to prohibit therapies that challenge the assumptions of transgender ideology.

The number of pediatric gender identity clinics is growing rapidly. It has now reached at least forty, according to Dr. Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians. More medical centers are offering adult sex-reassignment procedures that, until recently, were available only from a handful of private practice plastic surgeons or in countries such as Thailand. Even Johns Hopkins is opening a surgery program, and expects to begin accepting patients in early 2017.

Today, “there is a vigorous, albeit suppressed, debate” among physicians, therapists, and academics about the safety and advisability of aggressive new treatments for gender dysphoria in young people, according to Cretella. Yet most remain silent, “because, in their words, ‘to speak out is career-ending,’” she says. (Some of these professionals write under pseudonyms atyouthtranscriticalprofessionals.org.) Cretella cites the example of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, one of the world’s foremost authorities on gender-identity issues in children and a strong supporter of LGBT rights. In 2015, gender activists succeeded in getting him removed as director of the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto, a post he had held for thirty years. Zucker’s offense was to maintain that prepubertal, gender-dysphoric children are best served by counseling that helps them align their gender identity with their biological sex.

In the near term, transgender ideology will further polarize society and diminish the shared civic space where liberals and conservatives can fruitfully coexist, as happened at Nova Classical Academy. Longer term, it will mount an escalating attack on the family and religious institutions, the perennial targets of totalitarian forces.

Will transgender ideology’s disconnect from reality render it unsustainable over time? There are reasons to hope the answer is yes.

First, the challenges of putting such a project into practice will be daunting. “Gender inclusion” policies that compel female students to use bathrooms and shower with biological males will likely face increasing resistance. The attempt to require the use of “preferred pronouns”—including “xe,” “hir,” “zir” and “they”—in speaking about gender-confused individuals involves such a perversion of language that it seems certain to founder. (In Minneapolis, for example, a new policy requires police officers to ask about and use the preferred pronouns of transgender individuals they encounter.) Facebook now offers more than fifty custom gender options for users who don’t identify as male or female. As people begin to explore the full implications of “gender fluidity”—choosing one gender today, another tomorrow—we can expect the movement’s tenets to be increasingly exposed as ideology, not science.

As time passes, the transgender campaign’s inability to fulfill its promise of happiness to gender-dysphoric individuals will become clear. Likewise, its costs will become undeniable. Men and women who received irreversible, life-changing “sex-reassignment” treatment at an age when they were intellectually and emotionally unequipped to give informed consent are likely to begin filing lawsuits over the damaging side effects they sustain, including lifelong infertility.

The transgender crusade may also provoke a counter-attack from feminists. For decades, feminism has held that girls tend to play with dolls and boys with trucks not because of in-born biological traits, but because of oppressive social norms. To cobble together a case for transgender rights, LGBT activists have been required to maintain the opposite: that a boy’s desire to play with dolls—or dance like Beyoncé—proves he is a “girl trapped in a boy’s body.” Feminists may increasingly object to this claim because it undermines their project. Are hard-charging professional women really “men” trapped in women’s bodies?

Over time, public policy making will become impossible if new interest groups attempt to piggyback on the transgender movement’s success, as seems likely. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch now insists that schools accept a kindergarten boy’s self-understanding and treat him as if he is a girl. What happens when an individual suffering from body integrity identity disorder identifies as disabled and applies for federal disability benefits? What if a white male business owner identifies as black and seeks to participate in a federal contract set-aside reserved for minorities? What if a forty-year-old woman regards herself as a senior citizen and demands Social Security benefits? How can policy makers logically deny their claims? As we enter the world of fantasy—when reality ceases to matter—it is impossible to predict where our society will crash against nature, as it inevitably will.

Katherine Kersten is a senior policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis

Oh Ouch.

CNN Don Lemon interview with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.  It drives me nuts when the news commentator/interviewer says “Don’t talk over me.” and then turns around and talks over the interviewee.

Watch it right here.

 

 

CHURCH CONDUCT

Written by and posted by FR. THEODORE PARASKEVOPOULOS·FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016 on his FB page.
When attending Divine Services we all have the responsibility of maintaining proper decorum and atmosphere in the church. The very first thing to keep in mind is that we are to be at Divine Services on time. Remember! The church is the House of God. Reverence and good manners are required at all times. No irreverent or irrelevant conversations should go on in the Narthex or in the church proper. There are certain times during the Divine Services when no one should be moving about or entering the church or being seated at a pew. Wherever a person happens to be at these moments, he or she should stop and stand reverently until the proper moment to be seated. These times are:
1. During the Doxology, while the priest is censing.
2. During the Small Entrance – The procession of the priest and altar boys with the Holy Gospel.
3. When the priest censes the Altar, icons, and congregation throughout the Divine Liturgy.
4. During the reading of the Epistle and Gospel.
5. During the sermon.
6. During the Great Entrance – the procession of the priest and altar boys with the Holy Gifts.
7. During the recitation of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer.
8. During the Consecration of the Holy Gifts. (Se Imnoumen)
9. During Holy Communion. To receive Holy Communion the faithful should come forth from the side
aisles and exit via the center aisle to return to their pew.
10. When receiving any sacrament of the church, use your baptismal/chrismation name.
11. During any special services such as Memorials or Artoclasia, special doxologies, etc.
The general rule is that whenever the priest is outside the Holy Altar either with the censer or for giving a blessing, there should be no movement in the church. Also, we remind everyone that we should attend the Divine Liturgy and all services of divine worship from the beginning. Please remember that Parish Council members are obligated to maintain order and decorum in the church during worship. Please try to understand us. Cooperate with us. If you know of someone who falls under the aforementioned categories, please let us know. We will do everything in our power to be useful and reinstate them in the Church. We, the priests, are here to serve you. Your cooperation in following these regulations will help us greatly in offering you assistance in all your spiritual needs.

THE CANONS OF RITUAL UNCLEANNESS AND WOMEN IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

This article was shared by FR. THEODORE PARASKEVOPOULOS·TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2016 on his FB page.  I am posting it here for easy reference.
By: Maria-Fotini Polidoulis Kapsalis*
Introduction
For the majority of girls born and raised in the Orthodox tradition, puberty marks the time when our mothers not only set us down to discuss with us the facts of life, the changes that God intended our bodies to experience, and the hope of someday becoming mothers, but also marks the time when our mothers expose us to the tradition of “Ritual Impurity” and the teachings of “Uncleanness”. Pious Orthodox mothers all explain to their young impressionable daughters that while they are experiencing the blood of life, they are in a period of uncleanness, and therefore, must never touch anything at all related to the worship of God. This, mothers inform their daughters, includes reading the Sacred Scriptures, venerating icons, lighting candles or lanterns, baking the bread of offering, kissing the hand of a priest, and especially not participating in any Sacrament, most importantly that of Holy Communion. For some girls, this is calmly accepted as a fact of womanhood. For most, it becomes an obstacle to spiritual growth, causing disdain for church practices which to the present day educated woman do not make sense. If God created women to experience the flow of blood at puberty in order to make their bodies capable of bringing forth life, and thus working with God in synergy in His creative energy, why would God then banish women from all forms of worship and piety while experiencing their “blood of life”?
The Old Testament Laws
The Ritual Impurity Laws were first written in the Book of Leviticus, the third book of Moses, found in the Old Testament Canon. The first law dealing with the purification of women of childbirth is found in Leviticus 12. One immediately notices three things about this particular law composing a whole chapter in the book of Leviticus. First, there is a preference to male offspring as a mother is unclean with a male child for the first seven days, and then for thirty-three days following his circumcision, rendering her unclean for a total of forty days. For a female child, she will be unclean for fourteen days plus an additional sixty-six days, for a total of eighty days. Thus, those women bearing a female offspring are to be unclean for twice as long as those bearing a male. Second, women during their period of uncleanness are not allowed to enter the holy tent, the place of worship. They must bring their offering to the door, and meet the priest there. Lastly, being unclean is considered to be equivalent to sin, as she needs to bring in addition to the sacrificial offering, a sin offering. Thus, according to this Old Testament Law of Moses, women who bring forth children are considered sinful, until after they have been cleansed from their blood flow.
The second Old Testament law dealing with Ceremonial Uncleanness is found in Leviticus 15: 16-33. This Law deals with uncleanness in both men and women. There are a few interesting points here, which must be mentioned. First, and most importantly, men are not exempt for the laws of ritual impurity. Any man who has a discharge of semen whether from intercourse or a nocturnal emission is unclean until the following sunset (evening). Also if any man is in contact with a woman who is experiencing her monthlies, or anything that she has touched, whether it be her seat or bed, he is to be unclean again until evening. If a man lies with a woman during her monthlies, and comes into contact with her blood, he is to be unclean for seven days, like a menstruating woman, and every thing that he then comes into contact with will be unclean until evening. However, if he not only lies but also has intercourse with a woman during her monthlies, he is to be cut off from his people (Leviticus 20:18). The next point to note is that a woman during her regular monthly period is unclean for seven days, and everything and everyone that comes into contact with her is unclean until evening (sunset). A woman, however, who is experiencing a flow of blood which exceeds the seven days allotted for her regular monthly period or who experiencesn a haemorrhage which is not a monthly period, or at a time when she does not expect her period (i.e. any anomaly to her cycle) is not considered clean until seven additional days have passed. On the eighth day after her affliction she is required to take two turtle doves or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest, (like a woman after delivery) to the door of the tent of meeting. The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, as a woman having an issue of blood greater than her regular cycle is considered to be ill and thus sinful, in need of atonement. Thus, we note, in the Old Testament, there is a strong connection between physical uncleanness, sickness and sin.
The Canons of the Early Church Fathers
This Jewish practice later crept into the New Testament world, and can be found in the Canons of the early Church Fathers. It seems almost incredible that Old Testament Leviticus laws would infiltrate the Church of Christ, especially after the Lord’s strong teaching against viewing the letter of the Law as a means to salvation rather than the spirit of the Law,1 and after St. Paul’s strong exhortation against Judaizing Christians. 2 Yet, for reasons of practicality, the Church has in its wisdom comprised canons to help in its proclamation of the truth, and in its governing practices. The Canons of the Early Church Fathers can be found in various collections and text, however I have chosen to use the most recent collection of canons of the Orthodox Church known as The Rudder3, compiled and edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain in the late 17th Century, in order to examine these early Patristic writings. There are several canons dealing with the issue of ritual impurity in this collection, and we will examine them in order. The first canon dealing with our topic is the Second Canon of St. Dionysius, the thirteenth Archbishop of Alexandria, who lived, in the mid-third Century. He states: Concerning menstrous women, whether they ought to enter the temple of God while in such a state, I think it superfluous even to put the question. For I opine, not even they themselves, being faithful and pious, would dare when in this state either to approach the Holy Table or to touch the body and blood of Christ. For not even the woman with a twelve years’ issue would come into actual contact with Him, but only with the edge of His garment, to be cured. There is no objection to one’s praying no matter how he may be or to one’s remembering the Lord at any time and in any state whatever, and petitioning to receive help; but if one is not wholly clean both in soul and in body, he shall be prevented from coming up to the Holies of Holies. (Letter, Canon #2) St. Dionysius declares that not even women, themselves would dare to approach the Chalice while experiencing their “monthlies”. However, no explanation as to why is given. Two questions thus arise from this statement: first, did the women of this period hesitate to attend Services and approach the Chalice when experiencing their “monthlies” because of the poor hygiene of their times? Or were these women greatly influenced by the Judaizers of whom Paul had written, who desired to keep the Law? Though Paul argued strongly against this by addressing Circumcision of the male body, still, many women may have been told of these female impurity laws in private, (as my mother had told me,) and thus were passed in this manner into New Testament times. I propose that as poor hygiene practices made women uncomfortable in entering Church buildings and receiving the Sacraments, a canon was written not so much to ban women, but more so to excuse them from not receiving, as Christians in those days received at every Liturgy. Women living in that historical period were bound to their bed or seat until their periods were over. Their hygiene practices were to stay in one place for seven days to avoid physically defiling areas with which they would come into contact. Had it not been for modern hygiene practices, I am sure women of today would also hesitate to attend Church services or exit their homes like the women in the third century. Lack of sanitary hygiene would seem to be the most probable reason for women in any society hesitating to approach the Chalice.
Women today are most fortunate, being able to come and go as they please while their “monthlies” remain undetected. If Dionysius’ reasoning is due to hygiene practices, then his reasoning in today’s society would no longer be valid, and the Church would need to re-examine its position dealing with ritual impurity. If, however, his reasoning is due to the Leviticus Law, then the Church has to seriously examine the theological implications this canon puts on the Orthodox teaching of Salvation by Grace. The Church must seriously examine to see if Dionysius’ interpretations with regards to ritual impurity is in harmony with the Church’s teaching on Creation, and Redemption, not to mention its Sacramental theology, especially dealing with Holy Communion.
Dionysius’ argument based on the haemorrhaging woman touching the garment of Christ, and not His actual person is unfounded, as women at the time of Christ were not even allowed to speak to men in public, let alone touch their flesh. It must be remembered that this woman was bound to the Old Law, and everything she touched became unclean. Even though she touched only Christ’s garment, that in itself was more than enough to render the Rabbi, “ritually impure” until evening (Lev. 15:19-30). St. Chrysostom’s homily about the haemorrhaging woman mentions that in Luke 8:46, Jesus states that He knew He was touched as power went out from Him. His body was definitely affected, and according to the Law, he must have known that as a man he was “impure”. Yet, Christ didn’t hide this event. He brought it forward, and then proceeded to go to raise the ruler’s daughter from the dead (Matt. 9:18-25). Could a ritually impure person do such a deed? No. But then Dionysius would probably say, that Christ was not simply a man, but also fully God, and nothing can defile God. True. Why then should women not approach the Chalice, if they cannot defile God? The Chalice holding within it the great mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ can only heal and purify.
Chrysostom’s words are so beautiful here, and so loving. He says in his 31st Homily on the Gospel of St. Matthew, about the haemorrhaging woman: For though she was bound by her affliction, yet her faith had given her wings. And mark how He comforts her, saying, Thy faith hath saved thee. Now surely, had He drawn her forward for display, He would not have added this; but He said this, partly teaching the ruler of the synagogue to believe, partly proclaiming the woman’s praise, and affording her by these words delight and advantage equal to her bodily health…. For this cause He brought her forward, and proclaimed her praise, and cast out her fear, (for she came, it is said, even trembling); and He caused her to be of good courage, and together with health of body, He gave her also other provisions for her journey, in that He said, Go in peace. Christ was not defiled, nor did He send this woman away scolding her for not upholding the purification laws. She was accepted as “Daughter.” Also, of great interest is that Jesus made no mention of her condition being sinful? He made no comment to her to go and provide atonement for her sin to the priests, as the Leviticus law prescribes. When healing lepers He does send them to the priests. Why then the omission in the case of the woman? The other question, which is perplexing, is the state in which Dionysius believed one should approach the Chalice of Communion. He said that no one who is not wholly clean in both soul and body should approach and receive. Who then could receive? Is not the Body and Blood of Christ intended to cleanse those who are sinful? If only pious, virtuous and perfect people can approach the Holies of Holies, then why do they need to approach at all? They are already clean, are they not? Yet we know that no one save Christ was wholly clean, therefore, according to Dionysius, no one should dare approach the Chalice. I am sure this is not what St. Dionysius is proclaiming, and that he intends those who approach to be fighting the good fight, and approach the Chalice with the “fear (awe) of God”, however, why should one’s natural functions affect one’s spiritual growth, and reverence for God?
Reading the Prolegomena of the Canons of St. Dionysius, one will discover that he was a pupil of Origen. This is quite interesting, as Origen was condemned due to his unorthodox views of the human body, and sexuality. Nevertheless, this Canon, inspired and written by one man was “indefinitely confirmed by c. I of the 4th, and definitely by c. II of the Sixth Ecum. C.; and by virtue of this confirmation it acquired what amounts in a way to ecumenical force.” Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria, in the latter part of the forth century, wrote 18 Canons, also known as “The Questions and Answers”. Question 7 asks: “If a woman finds herself in the plight peculiar to her sex, ought she to come to the Mysteries on that day, or not?” Timothy’s answer was very short, “She ought not to do so, until she has been purified.” The editor Nicodemus interprets and says that this Canon is in agreement with Dionysius. However, what do these Canon writers mean by “purified”? There is no purification practice for a woman undergoing a normal menstrual period in the Leviticus Law. Purification practices as we have read above, existed only for a woman with unusual flows (Lev. 15:30). Did Timothy view her purification to be that of having simply finished her “monthlies”, or did he like the Old Testament prophets view her as needing a rite of purification from sin? Did the Fathers view this natural body experience as sinful? The last Canons which deal with the issue of ritual impurity in The Rudder are by St. John the Faster, who lived in the late sixth century. St. John also makes mention of ritual impurity for men experiencing nocturnal emissions. Canon 6 states: Anyone, who has been polluted in sleep by reason of an emission of semen, shall be denied communion for one day; but after chanting the fiftieth Psalm and making forty-nine metanies, it is believed that he will thus be purified. Thus, according to the Canons of the Early Church Fathers, men also have periods of ritual impurity, and unlike women have a purification rite. Interestingly enough though, unlike most young girls who are told of the “uncleanness law” at puberty, most boys reaching puberty are not told anything7 Canon 17 of St. John dealing with women’s ritual impurity is based on Dionysius’ Canon, but with an interesting twist. It states: As for women occupying a separate seat, let them not touch holy things for as many as seven days, the second Canon of St. Dionysius, but in particular the seventh canon of Timothy bids. This is also what the old Law ordered but neither did it permit them to have any sexual intercourse with men; for it happens on this account that the seeds sown become weak and evanescent. Hence it was that divine Moses ordered the father of a defective to be stoned to death, on the ground that on account of his intemperance he failed to await the purification of his wife. But as for a woman, who has been so scornful of the same uncleanness during this period and has touched the divine Mysteries, they bid her to be excommunicated for forty days.
In 1989 while attending Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology I surveyed the male students living on Campus if they were told at puberty of this canon and if they followed it. To my surprise none of the men had been told such a thing by their fathers. Those who even knew of the canon, were told about it years later. Some had just heard of it when they started Seminary. I was shocked to discover that Canons dealing with male ritual impurity were not strictly followed, even by the most devoted of the Orthodox males, while those Canons dealing with female ritual impurity were kept alive through mothers quietly passing it down to their daughters. Where men may purify themselves by chanting the fiftieth Psalm and make forty-nine metanies, and then possibly receive Communion, women who dare to receive while on their periods are to be given penance by being excommunicated for forty days. Interestingly enough this is the same penance given for masturbation, and other such sins of physical immorality. It is shocking and perplexing to read that partaking of the divine Mysteries, while experiencing this natural God given function could be equated with physical immorality, which according to Eph. 5:5 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10 deprives one of ever seeing the Kingdom of God. There is obvious misunderstanding on the part of the canon writers on the nature of women’s menses, its God given purpose, and the way it affects the spiritual and psychological state of women. This is the time when women need God most of all, as this is the time when they experience pre-menstrual syndrome, physical pain, panic attacks, crying spells, and other hormonal anomalies. This is the time when the soul needs to be doctored by the healing powers of Christ. To punish a woman in need of spiritual healing and nourishment at the time when she needs it most for daring to approach or to touch Christ by banishing her from him for an additional forty days, is not only an act devoid of any Christian compassion, but goes contrary to the very teachings of Christ, Himself.
Can the Canons of the Fathers then be refuted? The Church of Christ only follows the teaching of the Fathers when they are all found to be in agreement. Interestingly enough, there are Fathers of the Church, such as St. John Chrysostom, who championed strongly against superstition and impurity laws (see below).
The Rudder’s Footnote
The footnote in The Rudder, which seems to have been written by the collection’s compiler and editor Nicodemus, attempts to explain why these canons dealing with ritual uncleanness exist. It begins by defining the term “menstruous,10 (Also see Lev. 15:19 Lev. 15:25) and then addresses the question, “Why did God call this natural function which he himself created for woman unclean? The Hand of God created woman, with all her bodily functions, good in the Garden of Eden and thus no part of a woman’s physical composition can be considered either as sin or as uncleanness. St Chrysostom, (p. 1059 of vol. I of the series), and Theodore, or Diodorus, (ibid. 1032) both agree with the Apostolic Injunctions (Book VI, Ch. 26) which assert that only impiety and unlawful acts can separate one from the Holy Spirit (in Book VI, Ch. 26). Why then the attitude among the Fathers that Menses is unclean? As mentioned above, Leviticus 15 describes male and female bodily impurities. Verses 1 to 15 describe how unnatural bodily discharges defile the male. According to numerous modern Commentaries, and St. Chrysostom, these unnatural male discharges were a result of Venereal Diseases or Gonorrhoea. In order to be cleansed, seven days had to pass, and an atonement of two pigeons had to be given. The same applied for the case of menstruous women. Thus, these unnatural bodily discharge caused by wilful promiscuity are equated with a natural involuntary bodily discharge whose function is to bring forth life. Further reading reveals that the Father’s probably intended to prevent men from having intercourse with their wives during their monthlies. It was believed that children conceived during a woman’s flow were thought to be sickly, or worse carriers of diseases, more specifically, of leprosy. Accordingly, He made it a law that lepers should be chased out of cities and kept away from all association with human beings, as Isidore says, in order that He might prevent parents from having intercourse at such a time, on account of the uncleanness and the leprosy and the ostracism of their children to be born thereafter. … Proceeding further forward, God even commands that men who sleep with their wives when the latter are having the menses shall be put to death and exterminated…. (Lev. 20:18)…. (Ezek. 18:6). So for all these reasons, wishing to instill reverence and fear not only unto women, but much more into the impetuous vehemence of the natural instinct of men,11 both of old and now again through His saints, God has prohibited these women from coming into the temple proper and partaking of the divine Mysteries…
At this point, it must be stated that medically speaking leprosy is not a genetic illness that is acquired by one’s parents engaging in intercourse during the woman’s “monthlies.” Even those who were conceived “properly” were still susceptible to catching the leprosy bacterium. Dionysius’ argument has no medical foundation, as leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the organism “Mycobacterium leprae” and has no connection whatsoever with the method of conception. Secondly, it is amazing to note how restrictions are put on one gender, to solve problems supposedly caused by the other. It is illogical to put the blame on women for this supposed male lack of control, by labelling women unclean during the time when they experience the blood of life. Thirdly, the phrase “impetuous vehemence of the natural instinct of men” is very harsh not to mention groundless when referring to the male sex. It excuses, condones and labels as normal violent sexual behaviour, which is sinful, rather than promoting virtuous behaviour as found in men who have accepted Christ and have control over themselves. Theodoret may view this canon as honouring women, as protecting them from the approaches of their uncontrollable husbands, yet in truth, such men are more monsters than husbands are. By expecting all men to be “impetuously vehement” where is the call to love and respect one’s spouse which St. Paul writes about in Eph. 5:25-28? Women are not honoured here, but rather, this explanation has made them the scapegoats for certain men, who are ruled by their passions. This explanation may satisfy Nicodemus; however, this cannot be the real reason behind the writing of this canon, for it contradicts basic biblical teachings. The comment made next in the Footnote by Nicodemus holds within it what I feel to be the real reason behind these canons: i.e. the issue of hygiene. In agreement with these divine Canons, Novel 17 of Leo the Wise also makes a decree providing that women in childbirth as well as those in menstruation, if unbaptized, shall not be baptized; and if baptized, they shall not participate in communion unless they first be cleansed and purified, except only in case they should incur a deadly disease. What is meant here by “women in childbirth” are women who have just given birth and are discarding the blood, which nurtured their babies for the past nine months. This canon obviously is based on Leviticus 12 mentioned above.
It is interesting how the Church is willing to make a concession to baptize and Commune a menstruous woman who has been labelled in different places as being “sinful”, “dirty” and “unclean”, when on her deathbed out of love and compassion. And rightfully so, however, if baptism and Communion is permitted on a woman’s deathbed out of compassion, it should also be permitted during life out of compassion. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is needed for us in this life. It was meant to heal us spiritually in this life. If, however, the issue is that of hygiene, then logically as in the case for Communion, a woman experiencing her flow should wait until her flow stops, same as a person with bladder control problems, or one suffering from incontinence of stool, should wait until they are again in control of their body functions, before entering the baptismal font. Not found in The Rudder, is another second century Canon which is accepted as an authentic, authoritative document by our Orthodox Christian Church, the Canon of the Holy Apostles, which pre-dates any of the above mentioned Canons, and it states as follows: For if thou think, O woman, that in the seven days of thy flux thou art void of the Holy Spirit; if thou die in those days, thou wilt depart empty and without hope. But if the Holy Spirit is always in thee, without just impediment dost thou keep thyself from prayer and from the Scriptures and from the Eucharist? For if the Holy Spirit is in thee, why dost thou keep thyself from approaching the works of the Holy Spirit? Wherefore, beloved, flee and avoid such observances: for you have received release, that you should no more bind yourselves; and do not load yourselves again with that which our Lord and Saviour has lifted from you. And do not observe these things, nor think them uncleanness; and do not refrain yourselves on their account, nor seek after sprinklings, or baptisms, or purifications for these things. This Canon understands that the only way one can make women feel full of the Spirit is to allow them to participate fully in the New Life of Christ, including participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Naturally, women when continuously told that they are unclean during their monthlies, and are categorised among the unrighteous, would not want to pray, or read a divine book, or practice any aspect of their faith because they have been told that they are unclean and thus unworthy to approach God, and even if they dared to reach out to Him at that time, would not be accepted. Thus, women’s behaviour through antiquity has become that of the spiritually wounded. The Church needs to reexamine the effects such canons have on the spiritual growth of women, and Spiritual Fathers/Father Confessors must use their God given gift of discernment when dealing with their female spiritual children. The author of the above Syrian Canon realized the spiritual damage being done, and made a conscious effort to heal these wounds. In this canon one also finds the answer to the question of a purification rite for women. As women are not made unclean from their monthlies, it tells them not to seek purification for these things, and thus does not provide a purification rite for this situation. Interestingly enough, Nicodemus’ Footnote to Dionysius Canon, addresses the second century Syrian Canon which was mentioned above, and agrees with it only in part, refuting its permission to women to receive Communion stating that it was a later addition. Notice that the divine Apostles permit such women only to pray and to remember God, just as this Canon of Dionysius also contains these two permissions verbatim. They do not, however, permit them also to participate in communion or to go to church. For what is written on the side in the margin (in other manuscripts it says, “partake of the Eucharist”) has very little if any force, as not being found in the text proper of the Injunctions. This position, however, raises numerous contradictions. First, all Fathers are in agreement that women who have their “monthlies” are not devoid of the Holy Spirit. All affirm that woman was created by God and must not cease to pray to her Maker. This is in agreement with what was mentioned above, that which God created cannot be unclean. Yet, the writer of this Footnote turns and contradicts himself by stating that even though women are still full of the Spirit during their monthlies, entrance into the Church proper and participation in the Mysteries are forbidden. In other words, the Spirit which dwells within these women is forbidden to enter its own house in which the Spirit moves and guides, and is forbidden to Grace the Spirit dwells with its gift of Communion. Yet the Spirit we believe cannot be limited, the Spirit moves where it will, and is free to bring all to Salvation. If the Spirit is present within these women, then the Spirit will move them to a full life in Christ, and that includes participation in Holy Communion. As for that unfortunate insertion in the margin of the original second century Canon of the Holy Apostles, the writer is assuming it is a later insertion. I claim that the possibility exists that it was an original statement which was later removed for unfounded reasons, and again inserted in the margin by someone who realized that the Spirit wherever present moves one to a full life in Christ.
It is amazing how the next section of the Footnote attempts to eliminate any question or argument to this “banning” position, which Dionysius’ Canon has taken. It states: We reply to them with this true and surer answer that we have but one obligation, to obey and follow the Canons with implicit obedience, and not to sit as judges and examiners of what has been commanded by the Holy Spirit, and to keep saying why this? And why that? Lest we incur the exceedingly horrible penalties imposed upon those transgressing the Canons. It is obvious, that even in its time, there was controversy surrounding this Canon. Otherwise, the author of the footnote would not try to argue against those who were saying “why this? And why that?” His final appeal is to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Yet, if it were truly by the Holy Spirit that this Canon was written, then it would not have so many contradictions, which would prohibit the freedom of the same Spirit. Are not Christians told to test the Spirit to ensure that it is genuinely from God? (1 John 4:1) And how can any one who truly understands these things equate the emissions of men caused by what the Fathers believed to be lascivious dreams, from a spirit full of desire, with the God given blood of life of women.
It is also of interest to note, that he who judged the earlier second century Syrian canon and attempted to refute its validity, would then turn around and state that we must not “sit as judges and examiners…” What if the earlier Canon, written within a hundred years after Christ, expresses a more accurate teaching of our Lord and Saviour? We are not called to follow human opinion. We are called to seek the Truth, and to discern from among the teachings of the Fathers, that which is human and that which is by the Holy Spirit. We must revere the Fathers of our Church, and hold them in high regard. However, we must also remember that they were fallible men who were products of their times. Times in which I believe sanitary hygiene played an important role. As the only logical reason for not permitting women to enter a Church building and participate in the Sacraments was to prevent them from physically dirtying the house of the Lord, and for no other apparent theological reason, and as these issues of hygiene are no longer relevant in this particular day and age, these canons need to be re-examined by the Church. We must understand that these canons were practical for their time period, however, for our society, whose understanding of the body is more advanced, and whose hygiene practices allow women to come and go “clean”, the usefulness of these Canons fall under question. It is time that we as a Church put the spiritual needs of women experiencing the blood of life in the forefront. It is time for our Clergy and Spiritual Fathers to use discernment in interpreting these as well as other Canons and to put the spiritual health of all their spiritual children in the fore. Forbidding Communion is a serious and grave thing, which causes not only spiritual, but also psychological and emotional harm. If their spiritual children have cleansed themselves on the inside, repenting and confessing their sins, and if they truly thirst for Christ, then Spiritual Fathers should show mercy and compassion by allowing them “with faith, love and the fear of God, to draw near” to our Saviour’s divine mystery.
*Maria-Fotini Polidoulis Kapsalis obtained her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1988. She then attended Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. where she graduated in 1990 with a Master of Theological Studies degree. Returning to Toronto, she attended the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education and in 1991 graduated with a Bachelor of Education Degree, and obtained Ontario Teacher’s Certification. Presently, she is working part-time for the Scarborough Board of Education as an Occasional Teacher and is also enrolled as a full time Doctoral student at the Toronto School of Theology, at St. Michael’s College. Fotini Kapsalis lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband John, and their baby girl Evangeline.

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