Terence

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Irish Bishops’ Humpty Dumpty Language

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that’s all." Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs, they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!"

Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

In Ireland, the Catholic bishops are concerned about the imminent passing of legislation to allow civil partnerships.  In voicing their opposition, they are using an argument used before in Washingto DC, and in Boulder Colorado, to restrict the religious freedom of gay and lesbian Catholics. This time, though, the application of the argument is so breathtaking it would do Humpty Dumpty proud:

In a statement, Why Marriage Matters, released by the bishops yesterday, they describe provisions in the Civil Partnership Bill as “an extraordinary and far-reaching attack on freedom of conscience and the free practices of religion – which are guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution”.

Irish Times

Now correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that freedom of religion and of conscience meant allowing those who disagree with you, to act in accordance with their own conscience, and not force them to comply with your own.  The proposed bill is about civil partnerships, not religious marriage, and imply no obligations whatever on the actions or religious beliefs of anyone who does not wish to participate.  I would have thought that permitting civil partnerships for those who disagree with the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage was a way of implementing, not restricting religious freedom.

But then, I use words as Alice does – not as Humpty Dumpty does.

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Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2010 at 8:22 am

Last year, Sweden approved full marriage equality, including church weddings if desired, for gay and lesbian couples. Up to now, this has been the only country where it has been possible for same sex couples to have a full religious wedding in a major denomination, and have it recognized by the state. (The other countries which recognize gay marriage, do so only for civil marriages.) However, support for full religious marriage has been building steadily, among voters and in some of the churches themselves. It now seems likely that Denmark will soon follow Sweden’s example. This is not surprising – they have similar religious traditions, and similar social outlooks. Denmark was the first country in the world to approve civil unions, but has been slow to convert to full marriage. However, 1997 the bishops approved church “blessings” of civil unions, as long as the words “husband” and “wife” were omitted, so there’s not a long way to go.

Now the government is considering a proposal to go he whole way, and allow full religious weddings. With almost two thirds of voters expressing support for the measure, and six out of ten bishops also ready to agree, it looks like an open goal just waiting for the final push.

Apart from the obvious impact for the Danes themselves, there are two important implications for the rest of us. It provides further evidence of steady growth in support by voters, thus increasing the pressure on the remaining countries of the EU to folllow suit; and it shows that even religious leaders are accepting that there is at least room for dissenting interpretations of the old clobber texts in Scripture. The more we see major religious groups like the ECLA, Episcopalians, Swedish and Danish Lutherans conducting gay marriages, the more difficult it becomes for the religious right to persuade moderate voters that religion “demands” gay exclusion

From AFP:
Two thirds of Danes back gay Church weddings

Nearly two thirds of Danes support a call to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married by the Church, a poll showed Wednesday.
Denmark was the world’s first country to allow a civil union for homosexuals, in 1989, but its parliament is now split over a move by the centre-left opposition to amend the law to allow religious weddings too.
The minister for religion Birthe Roenn Hornbech has urged lawmakers to think the question through in-depth before reaching any decision.
But according to a poll published by the Christian daily Kristelig Dagbladet on Wednesday, 63 percent of the Danish population would be happy to see gay couples married at the altar.
A quarter of respondents said they would oppose the move, while 12 percent gave no opinion, according to the Capacent Research poll of 1,304 people carried out of March 5.
Separately, the Berlingske Tidende daily found that six out of 10 bishops with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church would agree to see gay couples make their vows in Church.

Boulder parents: ‘They told us in church to love everyone’

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

In their continuing series on the Boulder school which accepted then turned away the children of lesbian parents, NCR now has the second in a series of four interviews with other parents. In the previous interview, the parents highlighted how the decision in this case contradicted the practice of the school in dealing with other children whose parents were not living in full compliance with Church teaching. In today’s interview, the couple interviewed talk about the contradiction between this rejection, and the church’s own teaching, and its boasts about diversity. They also point out that the school’s reputation in the community will likley suffer, as will its enrolment – and that ironically, a decision which was supposedly taken to avoid having to teach the children about same sex relationships, has instead led to a situation where the children now talk of it constantly.

Here are some extracts. Read the full interview at NCR online:

NCR: Are you members of the parish?

Chris: No, we’ve been going to St. Thomas Aquinas, [a neighboring parish]. We now have two young children, 13 and under, and they’re talking about this and upset with it. The first day our sixth-grade son, Aidan, said, “Dad, they told us in church that we’re to love everyone, even gay people. So what’s going on?” That was his expression.

Fr. Bill and the archbishop are in this together. They are monolithic and they are calling all the shots. It is my impression that their priority is to enforce their policy, and that it’s more important for them to have not only the last word, but the only word. That’s more important than children, teachers, parents or anything else.

Cathy: A lot of people want to talk to Archbishop Chaput or send letters. We’ve been through other situations at the school. You don’t get a response. It’s pretty much closed. We can’t talk about it. It’s very secret. Everything is very secret and if you don’t like it, they don’t really care if you leave.

NCR: Are you implying that you think that this incident is going to cause a change in enrollment?

Cathy: I think it will hurt enrollment. They run ads showing kids of different ethnic backgrounds to show how diverse we are, implying that it’s a welcome place for everyone. Yes, I think it is. But now my kids didn’t even want to go into Target without putting a jacket over their Sacred Heart uniforms because they are so embarrassed. They are afraid to be seen wearing their uniforms.

NCR: Presumably the second grader has very little understanding of this.

Cathy: They know something. Some at the fourth grade level are aware, particularly if they have older siblings. The excuse the parish used to get rid of the children [of the lesbian couple] is that they would be taught that homosexual or gay marriage is bad. I asked my daughter yesterday who went through the entire nine years there, “Did they ever talk to you about gay marriage at all?” They barely do sex ed. They do girls in a room and boys in a room, and just go over bodily stuff in fifth grade. That’s it. They never talked about homosexuality, but now they are all talking about it because of Fr. Bill.

Gay Bishops: John of Tours (promiscuous, gay) and Ralph of Tours

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm

In  1098!

With all the current fuss about the decision of the US Episcopal Church to consecrate openly gay bishops, and the Catholic Church’s declared hostility to gay priests and to gay marriage or even civil unions, we forget that in the older history of the church, it is not gay priests and bishops that are new, or gay marriage, but the opposition to them.  Many medieval and classical scholars have produced abundant evidence of clearly homosexual clergy, bishops, and even saints, and of church recognition of same sex unions.

gay bishops

Gay Bishops in Church History

One story is particularly striking.  At the close of the 11th Century, Archbishop Ralph of Tours persuaded the King of France to install as Bishop of Orleans a certain John  – who was widely known as Ralph’s gay lover, as he had previously been of Ralph’s brother and predecessor as Bishop of Orleans, of the king himself, and of several other prominent men.   This was strongly opposed by prominent churchmen, on the grounds that John was too young and would be too easily influenced by Ralph.  (Note, please, that the opposition was not based on the grounds of sexuality, or even of promiscuity.)  Ivo of Chartres tried to get Pope Urban II to intervene.  Now, Urban had strong personal reasons, based in ecclesiastical and national politics, to oppose Ralph.  Yet he declined to do so. In spite of well-founded opposition, John was consecrated Bishop of Orleans on March 1, 1098, when he joined two of his own lovers, and numerous  others, in the ranks of openly homosexual Catholic Bishops.

An earlier example was St Paulinus of Nola, whose feast day was celebrated earlier this month.  Paulinus was noted as both bishop and poet: his poetic “epistles” to his friend Faustinus are noted in the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia.  What the CE does not remind us, is that Pulinus ans Faustinus were lovers, and the “epistles” were frankly homoerotic verse, which may be read today in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse.  Church history for its first twelve centuries at least is littered with further stories of male and female clergy, some canonized or popularly recognised as saints, with clear homosexual orientations.  Some of these, as clergy, probably lived celibate lives.  Many clearly did not.

In England, there was Bishop Longchamps, the bishop that Richard the Lionheart made Regent. The well-knonwn line on him was that the barons would trust their daughters with him, but not their sons.

Gay Saints in Church History

Church history for its first twelve centuries at least is littered with further stories of male and female clergy, some canonized or popularly recognised as saints, with clear homosexual orientations. Some of these, as clergy, probably lived celibate lives. Many clearly did not. Among many examples from Church history, some of the better known are:

Aelred of Rievaulx (probably celibate, but wrote intensely ardent love letters to male friends);

St Patrick (believed to have worked as a prostitute in his youth, and may have taken a male lover in later life);

SS Sergius & Bacchus( Roman soldiers, lovers & martyrs)

St John of the Cross (Well known mystic, whose metaphorical poetry of his love for Christ uses frankly homoerotic imagery)

Cardinal John Henry Newman (soon to be beatified, was so devoted to his beloved friend Aubrey St John, that he insisted on being buried with him in the same grave.)

Same Sex Unions in Church History

The earliest church, in Rome and in the Slavic countries, recognised some forms of same sex union in liturgical rites of  “adelphopoein” .  It is not entirely clear precisely what was the precise meaning of these rites.  They were clearly not directly comparable to modern marriage – but nor were the forms of heterosexual unions at the time.  Some claim that they were no more than a formalised friendship under the name of  “brotherhood” – but many Roman lovers called themselves “brothers”.  Some of the couples united under this rite were certainly homosexual lovers, but it is possible not all were.  What is certain, is that the Church under the Roman Empire, for many years recognised and blessed liturgically some form of union for same sex couples.  As late as the sixteenth century, there is a clear written report of a Portuguese male couple having been married in a church in Rome.

This recognition also extended to death.  From  the earliest church until at least the nineteenth century, there are examples of same sex couples, both male and female, being buried in shared graves, in a manner exactly comparable to the common practice of married couples sharing a grave – and often with the parallel made clear in the inscriptions.

The modern Church likes to claim that in condemning same sex relationships, and resisting gay marriage and gay clergy, it is maintaining a long church tradition.  It is not.  To persist in this claim, in the light of increasing evidence from modern scholars, is simply to promote a highly selective  and hence dishonest reading of history.

See also on “Queering the Church“:

From the “Lesbian and Gay Catholic Handbook

  • The Calendar of Lesbian and Gay Saints
  • The Passion of Sergius & Bacchus (Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs)
  • Two Texts for Rites of Same Sex Union
  • Gay Marriage in 16th Century Rome
  • Also available on-line:

    Burials in Greek Macedonia (Valerie Abrahamsen)
    Books:

    • Donald Boisvert:  Sanctity and Male Desire – a Gay Reading of Saints
    • John Boswell:  Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality
    • Jon Boswell: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Mopdern Europe
    • Matthew Kuefler (ed): The Boswell Thesis
    • Bernadette Brooten: Love Between Women  -Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism
    • Alan Bray:  The Friend
    • Andrew Harvey: The Essential Gay Mystics

    Gay Popes: The Embarrassing Death of Paul II

    In Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve been reading Martin Duberman’s anthology, “Hidden From History”, and in particular James Saslow on Homosexuality in the Renaissance. One of Saslow’s key points is that at this time, men who had sex with men were not exclusive – in modern terms, they w0uld more likely be described as “bisexual”. In a passage about how the rich and powerful freely made sexual use of their subordinates, I came across this throwaway reference:

    Similar patterns prevailed among the clergy and educated humanists. Charges against Paul II and Julius II centred around their seduction of much younger men; Cellini’s autobiography records a beautiful and talented youth, Luigi Pulci, who made a career out of service to Roman bishops.
    Now, I knew about Julius II  – and for that matter, Julius III – but this was the first sexual gossip I have come across concerning Paul II, so I explored further.  This is what I found: it seems he died while being sodomized by  a page boy.
    Paul II died, on July 26, 1471 of a stroke, allegedly whilst being sodomized by a page boy. After his death, one of his successors suggested that he should rather have been called Maria Pietissima, “Our Lady of Pity”, because he was inclined to break into tears at times of crisis. Some historians have suggested the nickname was rather due either to Paul propensity to enjoy dressing up in sumptuous ecclesiastical finery, or his likely homosexuality.

    Nor was he the only cleric who enjoyed some male company.  Here’s Saslow again:

    The intimate living arrangements of the all-male clerical world and the opportunities that educational and religious duties afforded for privacy and empiotional intimacy, while not themselves “causes” of of homosexuality, may have contributed circumstantially to their expression.  Priests in fifteenth century Venice and Stuart Sussex were convicted of sex with young parishioners, unpublished records of church trials in Loreto, Italy, in the 1570’s detail the activities of a choirboy who slept successively with various older monks……

    Remember, while Paul II was enjoying his adventures with co-operative pages, elsewhere in Italy and the rest of Europe, “sodomites” were being burned at the stake for their “sin”.

    Nor was it only Paul’s interest in boys that got my attention.  On his election as pope back 1464, the cardinals tried to rein in papal power (and thus to increase their own), by imposing s range of tight conditions, which:

    • bound the future pope to continue the Turkish war;
    • forbade him to journey outside Rome without the consent of the cardinals;
    • limited the number of cardinals to a maximum of twenty-four,
    • all creations of new cardinals were to be made only with the consent of the College of Cardinals.
    • Upon taking office, Paul II was to convene an ecumenical council within three years.

    Alas, for the best laid plans of mice and men……

    Paul II simply ignored these requirements, declaring  that election “capitulations”, which cardinals had long been in the habit of affirming as rules of conduct for future popes, could affect a new pope only as counsels, not as binding obligations. He then created a whole slew of new cardinals from his own loyalists.

    Now, a half a millenium and more later, why does all this sound so familiar?
    (Among his “achievements”, he was friendly to Christian scholars; he restored many ancient monuments; made a magnificent collection of antiquities and works of art; built the Palazzo di St. Marco, now the Palazzo di Venezia; and probably first introduced printing into Rome. Paul embellished the costume of the cardinals, and collected jewels for his own adornment.)

    Pope Julius III

    In Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm
    In his early career in the Church Julius established a reputation as an effective and trustworthy diplomat, and was elected to the Papacy as a compromise candidate when the Papal Conclave found itself deadlocked between the rival French and German factions. As Pope he lost, or failed to show, any of the qualities which had distinguished his previous career, devoting himself instead to a life of personal pleasure and indolence.  His lasting fame, or notoriety, rests rather on his relationship with the 17 year old boy whom he raised to the position of Cardinal-Nephew, and, it was said at the time, with whom he shared his bed
    Julius_III
    At the start of his reign Julius had desired seriously to bring about a reform of the Catholic Church and to reconvene the Council of Trent, but very little was actually achieved during his five years in office; apologists ascribe the inactivity of his last three years to severe gout.
    In 1551, at the request of the Emperor Charles V, he consented to the reopening of the council of Trent and entered into a league against the duke of Parma and Henry II of France (1547–59), but soon afterwards made terms with his enemies and suspended the meetings of the council (1553). (For the history of papal conflicts with councils, see conciliar movement).
    The Innocenzo scandal
    Julius’s particular failures were around his nepotism and favouritism. One notable scandal surrounded his adoptive nephew, Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a 13 or 14-year old beggar-boy whom the future Pope had picked up on the streets of Parma some years earlier and with whom he had allegedly fallen in love.On being elected to the Papacy Julius raised the now 17-year old but still uncouth and quasi-illiterate Innocenzo to the cardinalate, appointed him cardinal-nephew, and showering the boy with benefices

    Artistic legacy

    Julius spent the bulk of his time, and a great deal of Papal money, on entertainments at the Villa Giulia, created for him by Vignola. Julius extended his patronage to the great Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whom he brought to Rome as his maestro di cappella, Giorgio Vasari, who supervised the design of the Villa Giulia, and to Michelangelo, who worked there.