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Homosexuality and Tradition


What is Tradition?

Before discussing the content of Sacred Tradition regarding homosexuality, it is first necessary to be clear about what one is talking. The following discussion is an abbreviated version of a longer treatment.

Tradition and Scripture

It used to be common in Catholic thought (i.e. it tended to be the Official Teaching) that there were "Two Sources" of revelation: Scripture and Tradition. This has (I believe rightly) repudiated recently. "Vatican II" clearly teaches that there is One (re-)Source of Divine Revelation: The Word of God. The Word is made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, it is made conceptual in the Gospel message which is passed on (traditio) from one generation to the next both in written form (Holy Scripture) and by word of mouth (Sacred Tradition).

From this point of view, Scripture can be viewed as a sub-set of Tradition, and Tradition equated with The Gospel. This is what I tend to do and how I tend to speak and think.

To insist on the primacy of Sacred Tradition is part and parcel with the claim that the Church is "Apostolic" as well as "Catholic". Her doctrine is identifiable as extending geographically over all the World, in the belief of both Her lay and clerical members and temporally back to Apostolic roots. By both tests it is not particular or partisan (the root meaning of heretical).

Tradition and the Magisterium

Sacred Tradition is no more to be equated with the Magisterium or any activity of the Magisterium than is Scripture. Neither does the Magisterium have any authority over Scripture or Tradition. The Magisterium is entirely subservient to both. The Gospel rules the Church, not vice versa!  The only role of the Magisterium is to elucidate, proclaim and defend Sacred Tradition; with an attitude of reverence and fearful respect.

The Magisterium is the servant of Tradition or it is nothing. One influential commentary on the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation stresses the significance and consequences of such a view of the magisterium:

"When seen against this background, the explicit emphasis on the ministerial function of the teaching office must be welcomed as warmly as the statement that its primary service is to listen, that it must constantly take up an attitude of openness toward the sources, which it has continually to consult and consider, in order to be able to interpret them truly and preserve them: not in the sense of "taking them into custody" (to which sometimes the activity of the teaching office in the past may have tended), but as a faithful servant who wards off attempts at foreign domination and defends the dominion of the word of God both against modernism and against traditionalism. At the same time the contrast between the "listening" and the "teaching" church is thus reduced to its true measure: in the last analysis the whole church listens and, vice versa, the whole church shares in the upholding of true teaching."
[Joseph Ratzinger: Chapter II, in "Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 3"
Herbert Vorgrimler ed.  (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968)]

Tradition and the Laity

Necessarily, the part of the Church most involved in Tradition is the Laity: because they are the majority of the Church they do most of the talking!

Cardinal Ratzinger has recently reminded us that one can (only?) tell when the Magisterium has spoken "definitively" by the response of the laity. This does not mean that the laity have any kind of role in ratifying or approving doctrine, this "Gallican" idea has been rightly and roundly condemned, but just that Tradition recognizes Tradition! The sheep recognize the voice of a good shepherd, because he talks sense: with personal integrity, and in faithfulness to the Gospel.

Whenever someone who is generally thought of as being the Pope (e.g. Pius IX) apparently attempts to teach infallibly, the following questions always necessarily arise:

Does he really intend to teach this infallibly?
Partly this can be determined by what formula of words is used, but this is all convention and bound up in the uncertainties of human language.
Is he orthodox?
If not, he's not a Catholic, having (temporarily) lapsed from the Faith (as Pope Honorius certainly did) and so he can't be Pope, so he can't enjoy the charism of infallibility! The Church inevitably judges the orthodoxy of the Pope continually, just as the Pope teaches and admonishes the body of the faithful continually.
What does what he says mean?
Over to the theologians!

It might be nice if infallibility was neater than this little old mess, but I don't see how (in the kind of world which we actually inhabit) it could be so. Remember the Church can never proclaim anything that is new, unknown or surprising to Herself! The Gospel will always be what it always was, though it might (in the fulness of time) turn out to have implications (taught us by Holy Spirit) that take us aback at first. Though we may drift away from it, the Word of God is unchanging and He is Faithful. When we repent and return to the Gospel we will find it uncomfortably familiar.

When something is proposed that is not Apostolic, it will not be recognized by the laity and its proposer will be exposed as heterodox - be they putative Pope or Synod! When Nestorius the Patriarch of Constantinople defended the proposition that Mary Mother of Jesus was not the Mother of God it was the laity that rose up in revolt against his magisterium. The common folk of God knew very well that this was novel teaching and would have none of it.

In the days of the Arian heresy, it was the laity who defended the faith. Of the hierarchy, almost all compromised with the enemies of the truth, signing (not so) ambiguous conciliar texts. Pope Leo I of Rome and Patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria were the only notable clerics who bothered to defend Orthodoxy.

Tradition and Common sense

It shouldn't need to be pointed out that Tradition is not the same as common sense, even in the sense of "the consensus of the Laity" (or Church in all her orders.)  It is quite possible for The Church as a Whole to mistake something that is commonly held to be true (e.g. the "Earth is Flat", "The Sun circles the Earth", "the Jews are all personally guilty of killing God", "The Patriarchal Family is a good thing",  "lending money at interest is gravely sinful", "Democracy is a bad thing", "Slavery is legitimate", "Dolphins don't have souls", "all dancing is gravely sinful", "Democracy is a good thing" ....) to be Gospel Truth. In retrospect it is often easy to identify these mistakes and one wonders why they were ever made. The fact that they were made, and moreover strenuously defended by the magisterium and/or saints at the time, should be a cause for present humility. John Paul II made it his business to apologize for some of the worst historical errors of his predecessors, (as also for the gross irreverence and many scandals common in contemporary Catholic worship) however there is no present sign that anything has been learned in practical terms from the fact that they occurred.

Traditionalism and Radicalism

As an aside, I would like to point out an amusing irony.  Typically one might think that radical and traditional  theologies (or whatever) would be in opposition: as different as chalk and cheese. A little thought shows how wrong this should be, in theory.  Both mean "going back to origins". I like to think of myself as a "Radical Traditionalist". The contrast is with "Conservative Authoritarian", and "Innovationist Libertarian". More of this in another paper

What does Tradition contain?

Now that I've got that out of the way, it is now necessary to look at the specifics, as best we may. First it has to be remarked that in general there is no clear distinction between "The Official Teaching" of the Church and Tradition. Generally, Official Teaching is the best witness to (though it it is not the same as) Tradition. However, in our present field this happens not to be the case. It is apparent, on the most cursory investigation, that "The Official Teaching" on the subject of "sexuality" has a clear starting point, give or take fifty years (an instant in Church History). All of this I deal with in great detail in a subsequent paper. What I wish to discuss presently is "everything else that I am aware of", in order to put that paper in its proper context.

The Fathers

The next section of this paper discusses the testimony of "The Fathers". Hence it is now necessary to clarify the following issues:
Who were the Fathers?
The Fathers are nothing more than early Christian apologists and theologians. Many were Bishops, but some were lay people. As it happens none are known to be female. There is no definite date after which a writer is not considered to be a "Father of the Church", but the very earliest writers are called "Apostolic Fathers", as being people who typically claim or are thought to have been pupils of one or more of the Apostles. Two anonymous documents derive from this period: The Didache and The Shepherd and their unknown authors are counted as Apostolic Fathers: even though they may have been female!
Why should we pay their writing special attention?
The Fathers are not believed to have been inspired, like the Apostles. Nor, except for those few who also happen to be Popes, are they thought to have been infallible. As far as I know, no acts of any Patristic Pope are thought to have been exercises of the Extraordinary Magisterium: though the so called "Tome" of Pope St Leo the Great gets close to this.

The reason that the writings of the Fathers are so important is that they testify to the "state of play" of the Apostolic Tradition close to its inception. Their writings serve as (incomplete but surprisingly extensive) "initial conditions" for the Development of Doctrine. When many Fathers from different geographical locals all agree on some doctrinal point, it is very plausible that they agree because it was a prominent feature of the original Apostolic Preaching.

How should their writings be interpreted?
In matters of faith, as opposed to morals, it is fairly easy to see how to proceed. When many Fathers explicitly and clearly agree about some point, then it is a reckless theologian who teaches the contrary opinion. Generally, matters are a bit more complicated than this, as the language used by the Fathers is typically not very sophisticated. They were often struggling to find the right words in which to express Gospel truths, and finding it difficult! Often, what they say is not clear and somewhat at odds one with another. Sometimes, what they say is mixed with their own legitimate opinion rather than simply a teaching that they are consciously passing on from their Apostolic Masters. Occasionally, what they say is simply heretical: some of the "Fathers" (e.g. Tertullian) went on to become heretics, after a long career as orthodox exponents of the Catholic Faith. Of course, even the writings of out and out heretics can yield invaluable data about what was the Common Belief of the Early Church.

Now note the silent premise that underlies all this. The idea is that "what the whole Church now believes must have been taught by the Apostles" because there is no other source, available to everyone, from which it could have come. This is, it seems to me, a plausible premise and I enthusiastically accept the argument. One should remember, of course, that as the date of the Father gets later, it is more and more plausible that the reason he agrees with other Fathers is just because he's read their works and (perhaps uncritically) adopted their teaching as his own.

In matters of morals, the situation is radically different. Clearly, there are any number of common sources other than the Apostolic preaching, from which a common moral stance might have resulted, such as: Roman secular law; Roman or Greek secular prejudices and sensibilities; Jewish religious law and sensibilities. The fact that a good number of Fathers agree that some status, action, activity or social institution (such as: being Jewish; being a slave; paying taxes; swearing an oath in a court of law; serving in the army; or marriage) is right or wrong does not constitute any kind of argument that the position that they hold in common is Apostolic. It might just as well be a secular prejudice that had not yet been exorcised from the Church by the Gospel.

Nevertheless, any overwhelming and clear consensus: especially if it has Scriptural backing, would generally be viewed as significant. As it happens, we shall see that there is no such consensus in the matter of "homosexuality".

Sexuality in general

Many early Christians were hostile toward any form of sexuality which was not purposefully procreative. However, there is no evidence that this followed from Christian principles. The Bible says nothing about non-procreative sexuality among married persons, and most Jewish commentators have agreed that anything was licit between husband and wife.
The Testament of Jacob
This is a Third Century Apocryphal text of unknown but seemingly Christian authorship.
"They were prepared to torment the sinners, who are these: adulterers, male and female; those lusting after males...."
" For the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God, nor will the adulterers, nor the accursed, nor those who commit outrages and have sexual intercourse with males..." [Testament of Jacob 5:8 & 7:19-20]
It doesn't really add anything to the Pauline corpus. I am not sure of the Greek of the original. In the translation offered here (not my own!), it seems to exclude all Christian wives in consummated marriages from salvation! I am sure this was not the intention of the author.
Saint Augustine and Saint Chrysostom
The two great sources of teaching on the subject of sexuality in general are Saint Augustine: Archbishop of Hippo, and Saint John Chrysostom: Patriarch of Constantinople. In essence, they do not add anything much to what the Apostle Paul has to say. However they do rather emphasize the tone of general suspicion regarding sexuality in general. So, Chrysostom was quite clear in asserting that "marriage is the remedy for concupiscence" [in illud, propter fornicationes uxorem, 2; Patrologiae cursus completus, Series graeca 51:210 ed J.P. Migne : Paris 1857-76]. St Augustine was quite clear that the purpose of marriage (and perhaps, by implication, sexual intercourse?) was the engendering and upbringing of children. This is in apparent contrast with the teaching of [Gen 2:18].
"Just as when you are farming, and you seed a field, you are not so stupid as to lose other seed before the harvest. And thus, since sexual relations is seeding, you must wait for the harvest before - a year later - you may spread your seed again." [St Augustine of Hippo]
Pope St Gregory the Great
The teaching that we shall next consider was certainly not "Solemn Church Teaching" at the time, though it is that of a Pope. He was almost certainly writing here as a theologian, not as the Bishop of Rome. Nevertheless, it is a clear testimony from one of the Fathers of the Church as to what the typical pastoral view was at the time. Pope St Gregory states:
"Admonendi sunt conjuges, ut suscipiendae prolis se meminerint causa conjunctos, et cum immoderatae admixtioni servientes propagationis articulum in usum transferunt voluptatis, perpendant, quod licet extra non exeant, in ipso tamen conjugio conjugii jura transcendunt? Unde necesse est, ut crebris exorationibus deleant, quod pulchram copulae speciem admixtis voluptatibus foedant."
"The married must be admonished to bear in mind that they are united in wedlock for the purpose of procreation, and when they abandon themselves to immoderate intercourse, they transfer the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure. Let them realize that though they do not then pass beyond the bonds of wedlock, yet in wedlock they exceed its rights. Wherefore, it  is necessary that they should efface by frequent prayer what they befoul in the fair form of intercourse by the admixture of pleasure." [Regula Pastoralis, Part III, Caput xxvii]
In other words:
  1. The singular purpose of wedlock (not sexual intercourse!) is procreation.
  2. In "immoderate intercourse" procreation is overtaken by "the service of pleasure".
  3. While this is not strictly speaking wrong, it is still (somehow) not right.
  4. It is a befouling of the "fair form of intercourse".
  5. They befoul intercourse by the admixture of pleasure.
It is possible to argue that St Gregory is not opposed to pleasure in "moderate intercourse" that is intended for the purpose of procreation (note, not open to procreation, but for the purpose of procreation). In a sense this is inevitable, for without, at very least some slight emission of semen induced by stimulation of the penis, procreation via sexual intercourse is impossible! Nevertheless, he explicitly states that the very admixture of pleasure (not of excessive or immoderate pleasure) befouls intercourse. He does not say that the sin lies in excessive pleasure, or pleasure sought for its own sake; but that the befouling is due to the admixture (presence) of (any) pleasure. Immoderate intercourse is immoderate exactly because it values the pleasure that Gregory decries. One presumes, reading between the lines, that inevitable and unavoidable pleasure was tolerable, but that no pleasure should be viewed as a positive aspect of intercourse.
"Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed." [Pope Benedict XVI "Deus Caritas Est" (2006)]


"In .... places .... which are subject to the barbarians .... the love of youths shares an evil repute with philosophy and gymnastics, because they are inimical to tyranny.  The interests of such rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bonds of friendship or attachments among them, which such love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire. Our Athenian tyrants learned this by experience: for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.
Therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the poor character of those who condemn them: that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed. On the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which they are given in some countries is attributable to the mental indolence of their legislators.
In our own country a far better principle prevails, but .... its description is not straightforward. For open loves are held to be more honourable than secret ones, and the love of the noblest and highest sort of person, even if they are not so handsome, is especially honourable." [Plato: the Symposeum]
The general rejection by the Fathers of  non-procreative sexuality, does not relate directly to gay people. The Fathers were attempting to impress on all Christians the obligation to acknowledge every act of heterosexual intercourse as the potential procreation of a child. They thought that to allow as licit any act of non-procreative intercourse would be the thin end of the wedge. Their fear was that it would result in irresponsible wishful thinking, that "perhaps I'll get away with it this time," which would in turn lead to promiscuity and the conception of children out of wedlock. No effective means of contraception was known; not even the rhythm method. The only way for sexually active adults to avoid the responsibility of bringing up children was to kill or abandon them. This sequence of reasoning is fairly explcit in the testimony of Justin Martyr:
"[W]e have been taught that to expose newly born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do anyone harm and lest we should sin against God, first, because we see that almost all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution. And for this pollution a multitude of females and hermaphrodites, and those who commit unmentionable iniquities, are found in every nation. And you receive the hire of these, and duty and taxes from them, whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. And anyone who uses such persons, besides the godless and infamous and impure intercourse, may possibly be having intercourse with his own child, or relative, or brother. And there are some who prostitute even their own children and wives, and some are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy; and they refer these mysteries to the mother of the gods" [Justin Martyr: First Apology 27, A.D. 151].
The Bishops therefore thought it important to impress upon their people that they had to envisage that a child might be conceived every time they shared sexual pleasures, and must welcome this. The only other alternatives in the world in which the early theology of the church was formulated were morally unacceptable. The original aim of this analysis was only to protect children. There was no thought to attack homosexuals.

The Didache, Sts Polycarp, Athenagoras, Cyprian of Carthage, Clement of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Eusebius and Augustine also have negative things to say about "homosexuality". Given that they weren't keen on "heterosexuality", either, this is not surprising. However, their testimony is surprisingly equivocal.

Athenagoras writes:

"For we bestow our attention, not on the study of words, but on the exhibition and teaching of actions - that a person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage: for a second marriage is only a specious adultery. 'For whosoever puts away his wife,' says He, 'and marries another, commits adultery;' not permitting a man to send her away whose virginity he has brought to an end, nor to marry again. For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer, resisting the hand of God, because in the beginning God made one man and one woman, and dissolving the strictest union of flesh with flesh, formed [them?] for the intercourse of the race."

"But though such is our character ....  the things said of us are an example of the proverb, 'The harlot reproves the chaste.' For those who have set up a market for fornication, and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure - who do not abstain even from males, malles with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonouring the fair workmanship of God .... revile us for the very things which they are conscious of themselves, and ascribe to their own gods, boasting of them as noble deeds, and worthy of the gods. These adulterers and pederasts defame the eunuchs and the once married .... but it incumbent on us to be good and patient of evil." [Athenagoras "Plea for the Christians", XXXIII and XXXIV]

Note that he seems to stipulate that a second marriage after legal separation from and subsequent death of the first spouse is adulterous. This is contrary to the official teaching and contemporary practice of the Catholic Church. As regards his remarks on same gender sexual activity: Eusebius, commenting on Leviticus, goes well beyond the text in saying:
"[H]aving forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men, he [God] adds: ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for in all these things the nations were defiled, which I will drive out before you.’" [Eusebius : Proof of the Gospel 4:10, A.D. 319].
St. John Chrysostom, commenting on Romans, condemns "the mad lust after males" and women "who seek after these intercourses":
"All of these affections ..... were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonoured than the body in diseases .... [The men] have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more shame than men." [Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 4, A.D. 391].
Here, he merely demonstrates his misunderstanding of St Paul. He goes on to argue that whatever he is talking about (I do not admit that it is necessarily "homosexuality") is its own punishment, simply because it is "contrary to nature":
".... they who received this law were pitiable, and objects for many tears. For these are treated in the same way as women that play the whore. Or rather their plight is more miserable. For in the case of the one the intercourse, even if lawless, is yet according to nature; but this is contrary both to law and nature. For even if there were no hell, and no punishment had been threatened, this would be worse than any punishment"
[Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 4, A.D. 391].
St Cyprian of Carthage betrays a similar incomprehension of same gender sexuality when he says:
".... you would see what even to see is a crime; you would see what people embruted with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do: men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them." [Cyprian: Letters 1:0, A.D. 253].
The presumption is that Cyprian can only envisage mad heterosexuals, who can derive "no gratification" from the "frenzied lusts" (perhaps cultic in origin) that "embrute" them as engaging in same gender sexual activity.

Similarly, Chrysostom says that St. Paul deprives the people he is discussing of any excuse by noting that their women "changed the natural use". No one can claim, that they came to this because they were precluded from lawful intercourse or that because they were unable to satisfy their desire .... Only those possessing something can change it.  He makes the same point about the men he is discussing: saying they "left the natural use of women." He says that St Paul thereby invalidates every excuse, charging that they abandoned a legitimate enjoyment (here contradicting the teaching of Pope St Gregory) which was natural to them in favour of another that was not. So Chrysostom is quite clear that St. Paul was writing about heterosexual people, probably married, who abandoned the licit pleasure proper to their own natures for an improper thrill or "kick". It is also without doubt that he was hostile to pederasty: "the corruption of boys":

"[The pagans] were addicted to the love of boys .... if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them. . . . As for their passion for boys, whom they called their paedica, it is not fit to be named." [Chrysostom: Homilies on Titus 5, A.D. 390].
The following passages suggest that both Sts Augustine and Clement of Alexandria thought, wrongly, that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality:
".... those shameful acts against nature, such as were committed in Sodom, ought everywhere and always to be detested and punished. If all nations were to do such things, they would be held guilty of the same crime by the law of God, which has not made men so that they should use one another in this way"
[Augustine: Confessions 3:8:15, A.D. 400].

"The Sodomites .... burning with insane love for boys; the All seeing Word .... cast his eye on them .... and ....  ordered Sodom to be burned"  [Clement:  "The Instructor" 8,  ca. A.D. 193]

St Basil, writing about monastic discipline, says:
"He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers" [St Basil the Great:  "Letters" 217:62, A.D. 367].

"If you [O, monk] are young in either body or mind, shun the companionship of other young men and avoid them as you would a flame. For through them the enemy has kindled the desires of many and then handed them over to eternal fire, hurling them into the vile pit of the five cities under the pretence of spiritual love .... At meals take a seat far from other young men. In lying down to sleep let not their clothes be near yours, but rather have an old man between you. When a young man converses with you, or sings psalms facing you, answer him with eyes cast down, lest perhaps by gazing at his face you receive a seed of desire sown by the enemy and reap sheaves of corruption and ruin. Whether in the house or in a place where there is no one to see your actions, be not found in his company under the pretence either of studying the divine oracles or of any other business whatsoever, however necessary" [St Basil the Great: "The Renunciation of the World", A.D. 373].

This teaching should be compared with that of St Aelred. Clearly it is directed towards preventing sexual activity among monks who are vowed to celibacy, and does not deal with the general case. The Saint would, I am sure, have been just as wary of involvement with young women. Amusingly, he almost implies that almost any young monk might be taken with desire for another young man: as if he thought that heterosexuality was not a very secure behaviour pattern or sexual orientation.
Regarding St Paul's supposed condemnation of lesbianism[Rom 1:26], while (as we have seen) St John Chrysostom applied this verse to lesbians, St Clement of Alexandria and St Augustine did not do so. They understood it to relate to hetero-gender anal or oral sex [Brooten: "Patristic Interpretations of Romans 1:26." Studia Patristica 18: 287-291 Cistercian Publishing (1985.);  Miller: "The practices of Romans 1:26: Homosexual or heterosexual." Novum Testamentum 37, 1-11 (1995)]. One early Christian writer, Anastasius, dismisses out of hand the view that Paul was referring to lesbianism:
"Clearly they do not go into one another, but rather offer themselves to the men."
[in Brooten: "Love Between Women", p. 337n (1996)]
St Augustine continues this line of thought:
"But if one has relations even with one's wife in a part of the body which was not made for begetting children, such relations are against nature and indecent. In fact, the same apostle earlier said the same thing about women, 'For their women exchanged natural relations for those which are against nature.'"
[Augustine:  "Marriage and Desire", 20.35]

It is certain that when "penitentials" (crib notes for priests to use in confession, with guidance as to the penances to be imposed for various sins) came to be popular, (some) homosexual acts featured as sinful. However, they typically attracted dramatically milder penances than usury, which is now not considered to be wrong at all. Moreover, Church Law in the 16th Century dealing with homosexual activity was chiefly directed toward married persons, and was therefore concerned with a species of adultery. Little is said of single people.

To the best of my knowledge, the Tradition is otherwise silent on the specific subject of homosexuality as far as clear negative comment goes. There is considerably more that is positive, as we will soon see.

The Liturgical Witness

The general unease of the early Church with the whole matter of sex is clear from the fact that for the first many hundred years the Church did not generally get involved in marriage. This was considered to be a secular matter and entirely the affair of the laity.
Although the early Church was keen on purity issues, it would have been impossible for it to insist that all sexually active members be legally married [there were no Church marriages for hundreds of years as all acknowledge]. This is because marriage in Roman society was restricted to those who had the right of "conubium" - that is free Roman citizens. Marriage was understood as a contract, but contracts could not be made by many - including slaves. Thus many Gentile converts especially in Rome, [Jews, and residents of some cities could presumably make use of local marriage customs] would have been unable to contract marriage. While slave relationships did have some recognition as conterbinium,
a huge array of couples simply had no legal way of being "married".
But there is no evidence that they were precluded from marriage.
Another interesting variant was in Syria. There the extreme ascetic form of Christianity practiced apparently precluded all but celibates from being baptized until their deathbeds. Thus, apparently, no Syrian Christians were united by any Church ceremony. Certainly as non-baptized "adherents" they would not have been able to contract "sacramental marriages". [Paul Hallsal]
The idea of a "marriage service" came in round about 1000 AD, though the blessing of a marriage after the event and the idea of "nuptial Mass" may pre-date this, I'm not sure. Ecclesiastical involvement in marriage was first required, in the West, in 1215 AD when marriage was first declared to be a sacrament. I am not calling into question the sacramentality of marriage, or its elevation to a sacrament by Christ Himself during his earthly ministry. That is, largely, defined dogma, and I have no difficulty in accepting this.

Before moving on to the specific issue of homosexuality, I think it important to make a point regarding the Traditional Rite of Marriage. At the very heart of the ritual sanctioned for use in the United Kingdom (based on ancient Sarum usage) was the phrase "with my body, I thee worship". This witnessed to the central role of "erotic delight" in married life: see the Song of Solomon, for a Scriptural basis and contrast this with Sts Paul, Augustine and Chrysostom. I think that it is significant that there is no place for such a sentiment within the rite of Paul VI.

It is very difficult to believe, but it is nevertheless true, that in the same period that hetero-gender Marriage Rites were developed in the Church; other rites of pair bonding were developed intended for homo-gender unions. There is (and could be) no proof that these were "marriages". Often the ceremony title could be translated "spiritual brother making".

"Spiritual brotherhood was distinguished by saying that the couple's love was 'not of nature, but of the Holy Spirit'; which I consider not only to be a wonderful explanation of the term spiritual (it does not mean non-sexual; one should consider that heterosexual marriage is sexual but is also spiritual) but a rebuttal of the tired arguments about gay love being against nature". [Nicholas Zymaris, Axios Web Site]
The word brother (and sister) is often used euphemistically in the Old Testament and other ancient writings. On the other hand, the idea of same gender marriage is not something newly proposed in the 20th century. It was not rare in ancient times. For example, two Roman Emperors were married to men. Catholic liturgies for  homo-gender unions have been discovered dating from from the eighth to the seventeenth Century. They were performed everywhere that Greek was used as a Liturgical language, including Italy.

It is reasonable to interpret these rites as being homo-gender marriages because of the context in which they were found. Very commonly they appear together with related rituals, with the ceremonies listed in the following order:

Moreover, they share some of the characteristics found in hetero-gender marriage. For example, they regularly include some of the following: What are two lay (wo)men doing in a Catholic or Orthodox Church with their hands joined, or holding crowns over each other's head, at either a Communion service of the presanctified, or a Eucharist: asking for "unashamed fidelity and sincere love", or that "they be united in perfect love and inseparable life" or to be granted "the grace to love each other in joy without injury or hatred all the days of their life"? Two summary examples follow:
BELGRADE [date uncertain; before the 18th century: Serbian Slavonic]
SINAI 966 [13th century: Greek]
This liturgy is particularly important for its prayer that the two men should be joined together "more in spirit than in flesh".  This collect only appears in one other manuscript, a tenth Century Greek office of same gender union. "Joined in flesh" is a phrase used with reference to marriage both in Genesis [Gen 2:24] and by Jesus [Mat 19:5]. It is not clear whether it refers to the physical coming together of sexual congress or alternately the joining of  familial kinship relations by the contract of marriage.  Whatever it signifies, here we have a clear use of the very term in connection with a same gender union. Such a petition is exactly what one would expect if the liturgy was a celebration of a romanto-erotic union between Christians, for whom embodiment is important; but the spiritual more so.
"By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God's decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life." [Pius XI: "Casti Connubii" #7]
For more details, you must read "The Marriage of Likeness" (J. Boswell, Harper Collins 1994), also an article by Dr Dan Healey on the situation in Russia, and finally an eloquant testimony by Nicholas Zymaris that gives a fascinating account of the practice of the Albanian Orthodox Church. Suffice to say that it would seem that in Medieval times there was a considerable demand for the solemnization of same gender pair bonding covenants, rather like that of David and Jonathan, and that the Church was entirely happy to respond to this demand.

Gerald of Wales described the energetic same-sex marriage practised by the Irish:

"First they exchange covenants of co-fatherhood (compaternitas, also "comradeship"). Then they take it in turns to carry each other around the church three times. Next, they go inside, relics of saints are placed at the altar, all kinds of solemn obligations are given out, and then finally, with a Mass and priestly prayers they are indissolubly bonded as if by a betrothal (desponsatio)."
[Gerald of Wales c 1180 AD]

"About the existence of the institution of wed-brothers, or whatever you want to call them (sworn brothers, blood brothers, federated brothers, brothers-in-arms, love-brothers, amatory bilateral fraternity; for if we are not always talking of one single unitary thing, there does seem to be a very close family resemblance), in post-classical Europe, there is no doubt. In 1997, in a special edition of the academic journal Traditio dedicated to the topic, Claudia Rapp suggested the institution was pervasive in Byzantine society from the seventh century onwards. In the Latin West, it appears not only in popular ballads and literature, but in chronicles and even on pay-rolls: companies were sometimes commanded not by one knight but by two, who were paid for their services not as individuals but as a pair."
[James Davidson: reviewing "The Friend" by Alan Bray]

From the fourteenth century on, Western Europe was gripped by a rabid and obsessive negative preoccupation with genital homosexuality as the most horrible of sins. These rites of homo-gender union were then generally strenuously suppressed. Nevertheless, the ceremony remained licit into the thirteenth century and beyond. Catholic authority seems not to have recognized (or turned a blind eye towards) its significance!

One of the most interesting passages relating to the widespread conceivability of gay marriage comes from the French essayist Montaigne. His story is confirmed by other sources (records of a Venetian diplomat for instance) and so seems to refer to an actual event that took place in late 16th century Rome:

If Montaigne's informant was correct: The service remains a rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church. With the rising influence of western ideas, the rite ceased to be practised widely; and was largely forgotten or ignored except in isolated areas, most notably Albania and other areas in the Balkans: where it flourished throughout the nineteenth century and up to at least 1991 AD. The rite was celebrated for both male and female couples. Nowadays, this rite is performed in the Orthodox church at Elbasan in central Albania, and at some Orthodox churches in the United States of America. However, it should be noted that other Orthodox vehemently reject the rite.

Of course, it is not possible to tell definitively from the form of the rites, what exactly was intended. It is easy to determine that a heterosexual bonding rite envisages "sexual activity", simply because it typically involves a prayer for children, something that would be a nonsense in any same gender union! Hence, these rites might just have been "solemnizations of friendship", and the extravagance of language be attributed to "Eastern Flamboyance". If so, why do we not still have them? Do modern folk no longer feel the need for friendships to be affirmed and publicly celebrated? Why were these rites suppressed?

"For a very long period, formal amatory unions, conjugal, elective and indissoluble, between two members of the same sex were made in Europe, publicly recognised and consecrated in churches through Christian ritual. They were never identical to heterosexual marriages - in societies in which gender differences wwere so significant, how could they have been? - but were often implicitly or explicitly compared to and contrasted with heterosexual marriages, and were by no means considered to come off the worse for the comparison.

Indeed, as partnerships entered into by individuals acting as autonomous agents out of love for each other, same-sex weddings are much closer to modern companionate marriages than the heir-centred, family-allying and often family-arranged marriages of former times. In historical perspective, a love for someone greater than love for life itself, a love that obliterates the mundane world, wife, property, nation, children, is most typically a feature of the discourse of a same-sex lover. Which is why

"would that all the Trojans died and all the Greeks as well, and you and I, Patroclus, alone survived to demolish Troy's holy crenellations"
were considered by ancient commentators just about the gayest lines in the Iliad."
[James Davidson: reviewing "The Friend" by Alan Bray]
Of course, these rites might have been what I suggest they were, but as such were an abuse: the "general absolution" of the Thirteenth Century!

The history of same gender affection in the Church

This section of my text is concerned with practice more than theory. Most of the history presented postdates the Age of the Fathers, so it cannot really be claimed to elucidate the formal Apostolic Tradition. Rather, it evidences the general spirit and attitude of the Christian faithful. While this is no less than the living Tradition itself, it would be no more proper to draw clear conclusions from this material alone than from the more recent "official teaching" isolated from this context.

The following saying appears in the Anonymous Series of the Apophthegmata Patrum :

"Two brothers who were attacked by lust went away to get married. Later on they said to one another, 'What have we gained by leaving the angelic order and coming to this impurity? In the end we shall suffer fire and punishment. Let us then return to the desert and repent."
[The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers, (Fairacres: SLG Press, 1975)]
A fuller text and commentary is given elsewhere. The point that I want to make here is simple: the obvious meaning of this text is that the two brothers (i.e. monks) married each other. They: If the text had read:
"Two religious who were attacked by lust went away to get married. Later on they said to one another, 'What have we gained by leaving the angelic order and coming to this impurity?'"
then anyone reading it would have taken it at face value and presumed that one was male and the other female and that they had married each other. The only thing that prevents a similar interpretation of the first text is that the two religious are explicitly stated as being "brothers", coupled with the unstated and unestablished premise that two males cannot "get married".

The reason that the relationship between the two parties is described as lustful is that it led them to give up their vocation to the monastic life, rejecting a higher love and substituting a lower.

Saint George of Cappodocia
Nothing whatsoever can be established about St. George as a historical figure. Nethertheless, no one reading early texts about George can fail to notice their homoeroticism. George at one stage is about to marry, but is prevented by Christ:
"[George] did not know that Christ was keeping him as a pure virginal bridegroom for himself".
[E.W. Budge: "The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappodocia": The Coptic Texts,
(London: D. Nutt, 1888)  page 282]
Later on Christ welcomes George into Heaven with bridal imagery: -
"And the Lord said to the blessed George, Hail, My George! Hail beloved of myself and of My Angels …. I swear by My right hand, Oh my beloved one that I will establish a covenant with thee that when thou shalt bow thyself upon thy spiritual face in heaven and shall come with all they congregation to worship the holy Trinity, all the saints know thee by reason of the honour which I will show thee, O My beloved… "
[E.W. Budge: "The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappodocia": The Coptic Texts,
(London: D. Nutt, 1888)  320-21]
In these texts, here from Coptic versions, George is presented as the bridegroom of Christ. Bridal imagery is quite common in discourse about Christ, but usually male saints are made into "brides of Christ", but with George homo-gender marital imagery is used.
Saints Sergius and Bacchus
The story of the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus (feast day in the Traditional Roman Calendar, October 7th) is very significant. You should read it in Boswell's book. Basically, they were "passionate friends" who suffered martyrdom in the Third Century.  Interestingly, their passion (cf passion of Christ) has never before been translated into English from the original Greek. Here is a summary. The language they are portrayed as using one for the other as their trials proceed is quite remarkable
"The Emperor immediately ordered their belts cut off, their tunics and all other military garb removed. Gold torguates were taken from around their necks and women's clothing placed on them. Thus they were to be paraded through the middle of the city to the palace, bearing heavy chains around their necks. As they were paraded through the city streets they chanted together: "Yea , though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil Lord, because denying ungodliness and worldly lust we have put off the form of the old man and we, naked, rejoice in you, because you have clothed us with the garment of salvation. You have covered us with the robe of righteousness. You have decked us as brides with women's gowns, and have joined us one to another for you, through our faithfulness."
Sergius and Bacchus are subject to a series of torments, typical of the time. They are described as '...being as One, in their love for Christ....'.  Bacchus finally dies. Then, the blessed Sergius, deeply depressed and heartsick over the loss of Bacchus, wept and cried out: 'Oh my other half, never will we sing together the hymns and songs we used to sing. You have been unyoked from me, and gone up to heaven, leaving me alone on earth, now single and disconsolate.' Then Bacchus appears to him, the biographer describes him as radiant and beautiful. He says: 'Why do you morn and grieve, beloved? I have been taken from you bodily, but in the bond of union, I am with you still. Hurry now so that through your good and perfect fidelity, you may be worthy to obtain me when you have finished the race. For my crown of justice is to be with you.'"
This is a remarkable story. No other early account of martyrdom features love between two human beings in this way. They are martyred for confessing the name of Christ. This narrative affirms the value of love between two people based on their common faith. In the scores of liturgies down through the centuries that bless homo-gender unions, Sergius and Bacchus are invoked as the archetypes, their friendship the model for homo-gender relationships.
Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus
Saints Polyeuct (d.259 AD) and Nearchus were Soldiers in the Roman army and deeply attached to each other. They were stationed in Militene, Armenia. The earliest account of Polyeuct’s martyrdom was written by Nearchus. The theme of his account is the desire of these two friends to spend eternity together. When the emperor issued a new edict against Christians, Nearchus became terribly worried that, since he was a Christian, while his friend was a pagan, his own possible martyrdom would lead to their being separated after death. When he learns of his friend's concern, Polyeuct reassures him that he has long been drawn to Christianity and intends to die a Christian. With a convert's fervour, Polyeuct then attacks a pagan procession and gets himself arrested. The judge appointed to try the case is the accused's own father-in-law, Felix. He begs his son-in-law to reconsider his conversion. Then Polyeuct’s pagan wife, Paulina, comes to court and unsuccessfully implores him, for the sake of their marriage and their son, to change his mind. He refuses, accounting faith and friendship as of more account than family ties. After severe tortures, he is condemned to death. Just before he is beheaded, Polyeuct sees his Christian friend Nearchus near. His final words to Nearchus are "Remember our secret vow".
St Jerome, the famous translater-monk who produced the Vulgate was clearly deeply emotionally attached, at least for a time, to one "Rufinus", for he wrote:
"For I who fancied it too bold a wish to be allowed by an exchange of letters to counterfeit to myself your presence in the flesh .... Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you .... with what a close embrace would I clasp your neck, how fondly would I press kisses upon that mouth which has so often joined with me of old in error or in wisdom. But as I am unworthy (not that you should so come to me but) that I should so come to you, and because my poor body, weak even when well, has been shattered by frequent illnesses; I send this letter to meet you instead of coming myself, in the hope that it may bring you hither to me caught in the meshes of love's net." [St Jerome: "letter to Rufinus the monk]
Paulinas Bishop of Nola
According to Paul Halsall, Bishop Paulinus lived from 353 to 431 AD. Although married, he was passionately in love with his teacher and fellow Christian, the writer Ausonius. Later in life he distanced himself from Ausonius. Perhaps their love was a victim of a narrowing view of sexual ethics. The following is one of the most beautiful love poems ever written: "To Ausonius"
I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
And through all fates that be,
So long as this close prison shall contain me,
Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,

Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.

Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
Wheresoe'er in the wide universe I stay me,
There shall I bear thee, as I do today.

Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
Deathless, begot of immortality.

Still must she keep her senses and affections,
Hold them as dear as life itself to be,
Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
Living, remembering, to eternity.
[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

An Epigram by Ausonius [c. 310-390]:
Glad youth had come they sixteenth year to crown,
To soft encircle they dear cheeks with down
And part the mingled beauties of thy face,
When death too quickly comes to snatch your grace.
But thou'll not herd with ghostly common fools,
Nor piteous, waft the Stygian pools;
Rather with blithe Adonis shalt thou rove
And play Ganymede to highest Jove.
[in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]
Saints Symeon and John
According to Paul Halsall, Symeon the the "Holy Fool" of Emesa lived in the sixth century. His Life was written in the seventh century by Leontios of Neapolis.

Symeon, with his mother, and John, with his new wife, meet on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They become friends and "would no longer part from each other". In fact they abandon their families and go together to dedicate their lives to God. In the monastery they first join, they are tonsured by the abbot who blesses them together. This may refer to an early monastic version of the adelphopoiia ceremony. As with St. George, both Symeon and John are referred to as the "pure bridegrooms (nymphoi) of Christ". Both men express concern that older ties of family may hold their "brother" back.

The two men then leave the monastery and live together as hermits for twenty-nine years. There is no reason to suspect that they were ever genitally intimate, but they were very much a homo-gender couple. After all those years the Life moves to the next part of the story: Symeon's activities in Emesa as a "Fool for Christ". The depth and tenderness of their relationship is revealed at this point. John is distraught at the prospect of Symeon leaving. He says to Symeon

".... Please, for the Lord's sake, do not leave wretched me …. Rather for the sake of Him who joined us, do not wish to be parted from your brother. You know that, after God, I have no one except you, my brother, but I renounced all and was bound to you, and now you wish to leave me in the desert, as in an open sea. Remember that day when we drew lots and went down to the Lord Nikon, that we agreed not to be separated from one another. Remember that fearful day when we were clothed in the holy habit, and we two were as one soul, so that all were astonished at our love. Don't forget the words of the great monk .… Please don't lest I die and God demands an account of my soul from You."
[D. Krueger: "Symeon the holy fool: Leontius's Life and the late antique city",
series: Transformations of the Classical Heritage, XXV,
(University of California Press, 1996)]
These words fail to move Symeon, who insists on going. He urges John to pray with him.
"After they had prayed for many hours and had kissed each other on the breast and drenched them with their tears, John let go of Symeon and traveled together with him a long distance, for his soul would not let him be separated from him. But whenever Symeon said to him 'Turn Back, Brother', he heard the word as if a knife separated him from his body, and again he asked if he could accompany him a little further. Therefore, when Symeon forced him, he turned back to his cell drenching the earth with tears."
[D. Krueger: "Symeon the holy fool: Leontius's Life and the late antique city",
series: Transformations of the Classical Heritage, XXV,
(University of California Press, 1996)]
From this point on the Life concerns Symeon's activities in Emesa.

This is a description of an intense and emotional homo-gender relationship which defies reduction to "just friendship". The story is awash with marital and sexual imagery.

Saint Alcuin, Bishop of Tours
According to Paul Halsall, Alcuin was a leading figure in the Carolingian renaissance of the late seventh and early eighth centuries. A distinctly erotic element is notable in the circle of friends presided over by Alcuin at the court of Charlemagne. This group included some of the most brilliant scholars of the day, but the erotic element subsisted principally between Alcuin and his pupils. Intimates of this circle of masculine friendship were known to each other by pet names. The prominence of love in Alcuin's writings, all of which are addressed to other males, is striking. One expects hyperbole in poetry, but even in Alcuin's prose correspondence there is an element which is passionate. He wrote to a friend (a bishop...):-
"I think of your love and friendship with such sweet memories, reverend bishop, that I long for that lovely time when I may be able to clutch the neck of your sweetness with the fingers of my desires. Alas, if only it were granted to me, as it was to Habakkuk [Dan. 14:32-38], to be transported to you, how I would sink into your embraces .... how much would I cover, with tightly pressed lips, not only your eyes, ears and mouth, but also your every finger and toe, not once but many a time."
And here is a poem by Alcuin: "Lament for a Cuckoo"
O cuckoo that sang to us and art fled,
Where'er thou wanderest, on whatever shore
Thou lingerest now, all men bewail thee dead,
They say our cuckoo will return no more.
Ah, let him come again, he must not die,
Let him return with the returning spring,
And waken all the songs he used to sing.
but will he come again? I know not, I.

I fear the dark sea breaks above his head,
Caught in the whirlpool, dead beneath the waves,
Sorrow for me, if that ill god of wine
Hath drowned him deep where young things find their graves.
But if he lives yet, surely he will come,
Back to the kindly nest, from fierce crows.
Cuckoo, what took you from the nesting place?
But will he come again? That no man knows.

If you love sings, cuckoo, then come again,
Come again, come again, quick, pray you come.
Cuckoo, delay not, hasten thee home again,
Daphnis who loveth thee longs for his own.
Now spring is here again, wake from thy sleeping.
Alcuin the old man thinks long for thee.
Through the green meadows go the oxen grazing;
Only the cuckoo is not. Where is he?

Wail for the cuckoo, every where bewail him,
Joyous he left us: shall he grieving come?
let him come grieving, if he will but come again,
Yea, we shall weep with him, moan for his moan.
Unless a rock begat thee, thou wilt weep with us.
How canst thou not, thyself remembering?
Shall not the father weep the son he lost him,
Brother for brother still be sorrowing?

Once were we three, with but one heart among us.
Scarce are we two, now that the third is fled.
Fled is he, fled is he, but the grief remaineth;
Bitter the weeping, for so dear a head.
Send a song after him, send a song of sorrow,
Songs bring the cuckoo home, or so they tell
Yet be thou happy, wheresoe'er thou wanderest
Sometimes remember us, Love, fare you well.
[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury
St. Anselm was the founder of scholasticism. He was born at Aosta, Italy, in about 1033 AD. In 1057 AD he entered the Benedictine monastery at Bec, in northwestern France. In 1078 AD he became the abbot there.While on inspection tours of monasteries in England, Anselm was befriended by King William I. In 1093 AD William I's son and successor, William II Rufus, apointed him archbishop of Canterbury. He was declared a saint by Pope Alexander VI in 1492 AD and proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Clement XI in 1720 AD [Compton's Online Encyclopedia].

According to Paul Halsall, Anselm had emotional relationships with Lanfranc and then a succession of his own pupils. He would address his letters to his "beloved lover" [dilecto dilitori]. Here are samples:

"Wherever you go my love follows you, and wherever I remain my desire embraces you...How then could I forget you? He who is imprisoned on my heart like a seal on wax- how could he be removed from my memory? Without saying a word I know that you love [amor] me, and without my saying a word, you know that I love you."
[Epistle 1.4; PL 158:1068-69]

"Brother Anselm to Dom Gilbert, brother, friend, beloved lover ... Sweet to me, sweetest friend, are the gifts of your sweetness, but they cannot begin to console my desolate heart for its want of your Love."
[Ep. 1.75, PL 158:1144-45].

St. Anselm was one of the first saints to address Jesus as mother, a practice and spirituality later taken up by Julian of Norwich.

There have been long running arguments among academics about Anslem's sexuality. Brian McGuire is probably the most important scholar working on Anselm these days. For many years, well aware of the anachronism of calling any pre-modern individual "gay" or "homosexual", McGuire was not pinned down on the issue [McGuire, Brian P., "Love, Friendship and Sex in the 11th Century: The Experience of Anselm", Studia Theologia 28 (1974)]. Recently, however, he has argued that it is appropriate to see Anselm as "homosexual", if we are to use such terms. [McGuire, Brian P., "Monastic Friendship and Toleration in Twelfth Century Cistercian Life", in W. J. Shiels., ed., Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Tradition, Studies in Church History 22, (1985)]

Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx
The teaching of St Aelred, the twelfth century English Abbot of Rievaulx (feast day in the Traditional Roman Calendar, March 3rd) is very pertinent. In his Rule of Life for a Recluse, written for an unnamed hermitess, he warns in strident tones about safeguarding her virginity from defilement either with men or with women. He never felt his own sexuality was entirely in his control, either [integrity website]. As novice master, responsible for the training of impressionable young men, he found it necessary to build a concealed tank in which he could immerse himself in icy waters to bridle his physical passions. Even in his final days, sick and aged, he felt his celibacy was in need of vigilant protection.

St Aelred had a deep appreciation for friendship, and by that is meant the particular love between two individuals. Traditionally, we hear much about universal charity, the disinterested love every Catholic should have for all humankind. We hear little about the worthy love between two people, except in the context of marriage. Of all the gifts St Aelred has given the Church, the best is his joyous affirmation that we move toward God in and through our relationships with other people, not apart from or in spite of them. It is important to remember who those particular individuals were, whose love taught Aelred of the love of God. Aelred writes of his school days as a time when he thought of nothing but loving and being loved by men, and of losing his heart to one boy and then another. He was a man of strong passions, who spoke openly of the men for whom he had deeply romantic attachments. After the death of one monk whom he clearly loved, he wrote:

"The only one who would not be astonished to see Aelred living without Simon would be someone who did not know how pleasant it was for us to spend our life on earth together; how great a joy it would have been for us to journey to heaven in each other's company ....Weep, then, not because Simon has been taken up to heaven, but because Aelred has been left on earth, alone."
In his famous book on Christian friendship, he extols same gender bonding. He drew upon his personal positive experience of love for other men in his ministry as a Cistercian Abbot, encouraging his monks to love each other, not just generally and in the abstract, but individually and passionately. He cited the example of Jesus and St. John as a basis for this comparing their relationship to a marriage:
"Jesus himself, is in everything like us. Patient and compassionate with others in every matter. He transfigured this sort of love through the expression of his own love; for he allowed only one - not all - to recline on his breast as a sign of his special love; and the closer they were, the more copiously did the secrets of their heavenly marriage impart the sweet smell of their spiritual chrism to their love."
St Aelred describes the friendship that he so valued in the following passage:
"It is no small consolation in this life to have someone to whom you can be united in the intimate embrace of the most sacred love;  in whom your spirit can rest; to whom you can pour out your soul; in whose delightful company, as in a sweet consoling song, you can take comfort in the midst of sadness;  in whose most welcome, friendly bosom you can find peace in so many worldly setbacks; to whose loving heart you can open, as freely as you would to yourself, your innermost thoughts; through whose spiritual kisses – as by some medicine – you are cured of the sickness of care and worry; who weeps with you in sorrow, rejoices with you in joy, and wonders with you in doubt; whom you draw by the fetters of love into that inner room of your soul, so that though the body is absent, the spirit is there, and you can confer all alone, the two of you, in the sleep of peace away from the noise of the world, in the embrace of love, in the kiss of unity, with the Holy Spirit flowing over you; to whom you so join and unite yourself that you mix soul with soul, and two become one."
Of course, later on, St Aelred's teaching was entirely reversed in typical monastic discipline. Following the lead of St. Basil, so called particular friendships were discouraged aggressively. To my knowledge, it was not made explicit why they came to be thought to be so wrong; but one suspects that the motive was to eliminate homosexual attachments and possibly eradicate homosexual practice in monasteries.
"In my seminary I was constantly warned .... against particular friendship. It was written into our statutes that the students were to be watched for signs of particular friendships. Now .... this term .... means simply friendship. Yes, belive it or not, simple friendship between two students was forbidden. We were supposed to be equally fond of all alike, and equally not fond of all alike, which is humanly impossible.
The result was that none of us spoke to anyone else most of the time. Ten years of silence and mutual mistrust. A veritable hell was our seminary, as far as humanity goes.
To my big suprise and regret, I see that this sick term particular friendhsip is being used again in the revue of the american seminaries. God in Heaven! We can't have firends, we can't have sex, we can't have love, we can't have relationships.
To this day I find it very hard to call anyone my friend, or to accept friendship, or to bind to my peers. I have the fear of particular friendship drilled into me, another layer of sickenss added onto the total lack of human contact already present in my life when I entered the seminary." [A Catholic Priest (2005)]
St. John of the Cross
St. John of the Cross lived between1542 and 1591. He was instrumental in the reformation of the Carmelite Order and was declared a Doctor of the Church by pope Pius XI in 1926. He was in love with Jesus, passionately; in a sort of non-sexual homosexual way. It seems the church is blinded to the passion of one man for another even if one is Our Holy Savior Jesus Christ. The following is a love poem that he addressed to Jesus (one presumes!): "On a Dark Night"
On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
- oh, happy chance! -
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
- oh, happy chance! -
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which
burned in my heart.

This light guided me More surely than
the light of noonday
To the place where He
(well I knew who!) was awaiting me
- A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for Himself alone,
There He stayed sleeping,
and I caressed Him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted His locks;
With His gentle hand
He wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased
and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

An Upsurge in Intolerance

After the twelfth century Christian tolerance and acceptance of same gender affection disappears, with remarkable rapidity. The writings of St. Aelred were lost because they were kept locked up in Cistercian monasteries. Mysteriously, beginning about 1150 AD, there was an upsurge in popular intolerance of homosexuality. There were also at this time violent outbursts against Jews, Muslims, and witches. Women were suddenly excluded from power structures to which they had previously had access.  They were no longer able, for example, to attend universities in which they had previously been enrolled. Double monasteries for men and women - often governed by an Abbess - were closed. There was suspicion of everyone. In 1180 AD the Jews were expelled from France.

The change was rapid. In England in the 12th century there were no laws against Jews and they occupied prominent positions in society. By the end of the 13th century, sleeping with a Jew was equated with sleeping with an animal or with murder!  In France, Jews, according to St. Louis, were to be killed on the spot if they questioned the Christian faith. During this time there many popular diatribes were written against gay people, suggesting that they molested children, violated the natural law, were sub-human, and brought harm to any nation which tolerated them. Between 1250 and 1350 AD, almost every Western European state passed civil laws demanding death for a single homosexual act! This popular movement infected Christian theology. Throughout the 12th century homosexual relations, had, at worst, been comparable to heterosexual fornication for married people, and, at best, not sinful at all. During the 13th Century, because of this popular reaction, writers like Thomas Aquinas tried to portray homosexuality as one of the very worst sins, second only to murder.

Thomas Aquinas

The teachings of St Thomas, although due the greatest respect and admiration, are more the inspiring works of a devout, original and incisive mind rather than a witness to the Apostolic Tradition. Nevertheless it is worth reviewing what he has to say on this matter, as a snap-shot of reflective thought in his day. He lived in an age when hostility towards homosexuality was common. He tried to show that it was against nature in some way, and so evil. The most familiar contemporary objection was that because the natural role for sexuality was procreation, using it for any other purpose violates nature. In his early work, the Summa Contra Gentiles he writes, along these lines:
"Now though the semen is superfluous for the preservation of the individual, yet it is necessary to him for the propagation of the species ....  the object in the emission of the semen, is .... the profit of generation, to which the union of the sexes is directed ..... The emission of the semen then ought to be so directed as that both the proper generation may ensue and the education of the offspring be secured.
Hence it is clear that every emission of the semen is contrary to the good of man, which takes place in a way whereby generation is impossible; and if this is done on purpose, it must be a sin. I mean a way in which generation is impossible in itself as is the case in every emission of the semen without the natural union of male and female: wherefore such sins are called 'sins against nature'. But if it is by accident that generation cannot follow from the emission of the semen, the act is not against nature on that account, nor is it sinful; the case of the woman being barren would be a case in point."
This would seem to amount to special pleading. For Aquinas, as an Aristotelian, it was "accidental" for a woman (or man) to be infertile, because infertility was (obviously!) not essential to (wo)man! On the one hand he claims that every emission of semen that is purposefully frustrated from engendering a child is wrong, then excludes one case: because, one might say that one didn't intend that one's wife was barren, but is just "putting up with" - or "taking advantage of" - the fact.
".... in human acts the line of natural rectitude is not drawn to suit the accidental variety of the individual, but the properties common to the whole species .... Marriage then is natural to man, and an irregular connexion outside of marriage is contrary to the good of man; therefore fornication must be sinful."
This might be taken to mean that what is good for the majority should be imposed on those for whom it is not good. All that Aquinas is actually saying is that what should be labelled as natural to a species is that which is for the common good of the species. From this it does not follow that any activity on the part of an individual of that species that is not natural is sinful. The sinfulness of fornication lies (as Thomas himself implies) in the fact that every act of sexual intercourse that is open to procreation risks engendering a child, and this is reckless when there is no intention to provide for its upbringing.
"Nor yet should it be counted a slight sin for one to procure the emission of the semen irrespective of the due purpose of generation and rearing of issue, on the pretence that it is a slight sin, or no sin at all, to apply any part of one's body to another use than that to which it is naturally ordained, as if, for example, one were to walk on his hands, or do with his feet something that ought to be done with his hands. The answer is that by such inordinate applications as those mentioned the good of man is not greatly injured: but the inordinate emission of the semen is repugnant to the good of nature, which is the conservation of the species. Hence, after the sin of murder, whereby a human nature already in actual existence is destroyed, this sort of sin seems to hold the second place, whereby the generation of human nature is precluded."
It is obvious that Aquinas is here conscious of the weakness of his argument. The rejoinder to his answer is obvious: that the common good of the species requires only that in sufficient instances the emission of semen is procreative, not that in all instances it should be. His conclusion that masturbation "seems" to be the second worst sin, after murder is so extreme as to be laughable. In fact, Aquinas later modified his position. In his mature work, the Summa Theologica, he remarks that:
"A duty may be of two sorts: it may be enjoined on the individual as a duty which cannot be ignored without sin, or it may be enjoined upon a group. In the latter cases no one individual is obligated to fulfil the duty. The obligation regarding procreation applies to the human race as a whole. It is therefore sufficient for the race if some goodly number of people undertake to procreate."
Aquinas further admits in the Summa Theologica that homosexuality is an essential characteristic of certain individuals and therefore inculpable for them! He also concedes that the term "natural" in fact has no moral significance, but it can even be simply a term applied to things which are in fact, rightly or wrongly, strongly disapproved of:
"Homosexuality, is called 'the unnatural vice' by the common people, and hence it may be said to be unnatural."
Indeed, Aquinas' teaching was itself an expression of the prejudice of his time. It did not derive its authority from the Bible or from the Catholic Tradition. Nevertheless, it  became part of Catholic theological thought.

Writing in the next Century, St Bernardine of Siena went further. He claimed that "sodomy" was the greatest sin of all, and described "sodomites" in terms otherwise - sadly - reserved for the Jews:

"No sin in the world grips the soul as the accursed sodomy; this sin has always been detested by all those who live according to God .…
Deviant passion is close to madness; this vice disturbs the intellect, destroys elevation and generosity of soul, brings the mind down from great thoughts to the lowliest, makes the person slothful, irascible, obstinate and obdurate, servile and soft and incapable of anything; furthermore, agitated by an insatiable craving for pleasure, the person follows not reason but frenzy .… They become blind and, when their thoughts should soar to high and great things, they are broken down and reduced to vile and useless and putrid things, which could never make them happy ....
Just as people participate in the glory of God in different degrees, so also in hell some suffer more than others. He who lived with this vice of sodomy suffers more than another, for this is the greatest sin."
[St. Bernardine of Siena 1380-1444, Sermon XXXIX]
It occurs to me that this change of tone may be attributable to Islamic influence. As we have seen, the Koran is explicit in its condemnation of same gender sexual activity. It may be that Christians were (incorrectly) shamed into adopting more puritanical attitudes when they came into contact with Islam. It may have been difficult for them to sustain what may have seemed to be "lower moral standards", when they wished to command the moral high ground. Ironically, in practice, Muslim culture has been more tolerant of homosexuality than Christian, from medieval times until recently.

In Summary

What we seem to have is the following.

Sts Augustine, Chrysostom and Gregory pick up on St Paul's general unease with human sexuality and tend to erect it into a principle. Nevertheless, the general sense of the Tradition is much more "positive" about sex in general and homosexuality in particular: in line with Old Testament teaching. In the late Middle Ages, for reasons that are not clear, first the State and then the Church became increasingly hostile to all forms of same gender affection. While still not explicitly condemned in official teaching, strenuous efforts were made to eradicate any pretext or apparent approbation for homosexuality. For more details, read Boswell's other relevant academic publication "Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality" (Chicago, 1980).

One must remember that the reason for looking at the evolving and living Tradition is to try and discern what is Apostolic. What was the explicit or implicit teaching of Our Lord Jesus and His Apostles? The fact that some set of saints or popes happened to teach something over some period is not necessarily of any particular significance. They may have been doing nothing more than repeating commonly accepted secular prejudice, without realizing that they were secularizing the Church rather than evangelizing the World. The question always has to be asked: is this corpus of teaching authentic? In the end this is decided by the Magisterium (and that decision recognized as correct by The Church as a Whole). In the interim, one has no choice but to make one's own judgement based on prayerful study; and in particular on the conformance of the matter to the core of the Faith.

The orientation and teaching of the Contemporary Church is the subject of a subsequent paper, but next I think it necessary to review Teleology, the philosophical basis of Ethics.

A Prayer of St Aelred of Rievaulx

"Sweet Lord, release wisdom from the seat of your greatness that it may be with us, toil with us, work with us, speak in us. May she, according to your good pleasure, direct our thoughts, words, and all our works and counsels, to the honour of your Name, the profit of the community, and our salvation. Through our friend Jesus Christ, to whom; with you and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory throughout all ages. Amen."

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