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LQD: When marriage between gays was by rite

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 03:24:22 PM EST

In doing some research on Bertie Ahern I came across an Op ED piece written by Jim Duffy and published in the Irish Times on August 11, 1998.  Jim is chiefly known in Ireland as the researcher whose interview with Brian Lenehan destroyed the latter's Presidential Campaign and enabled the election of Mary Robinson as President of Ireland.

In the article Duffy summarises John Boswell's research into gay Marriage in the Christian tradition and shows that there were formal marriage rites for the consummation of gay marriage that were extant as late as the 17th. Century.  I include the article in full below the fold because it gives the lie to so much "Christian" homophobic blather, but my main purpose in reproducing it here is to ask the question:  Why did homophobia become so prevalent in western societies and why did Christianity appear to take a lead role in that process?

I ask the questions, because I do not know the answer.

Promoted by Migeru


A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage" is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea initially seems shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".

The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems incredible. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet aftet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

Boswell's book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre- Modern Europe, lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union" having invoked St Serge and St Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints." The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded."

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Boswell found records of same-sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering ering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex union ceremonies continued to take place.

At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, "taking Communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together", according to a contemporary report.

Another woman-to-woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century. Many questionable historical claims about the church have been made by some recent writers in this newspaper.

Boswell's academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their attitude towards homosexuality.

FOR the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. That evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.

It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Jim Duffy is a writer and historian. The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell is published by Harper Collins.

Display:
Almost everything presented by the Christian, and especially Catholic Church as unchanging tradtion from the days of the apostles was made up or changed recently. Why would this be any different?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 08:33:39 AM EST
So what is the political dynamic behind those changes, who gains, who loses, why the changing choice of victims?  It's not as if the medieval Church was very tolerant in other respects.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 08:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the lies is the idea that the medieval church was very anything. There has been a wide variation in practise and tolerance across different places and times for the last two thousand years. I'm guessing here, but I would think that if you asked the Pope he'd tell you that such things where always contrary to central church teaching. It amuses me that the "true" beliefs of Catholicism are only held by a very small number of super-educated specialists: widely held folk practices and beliefs are routinely dumped for being non-official.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 08:50:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Catholic Church is built on hypocrisy - both of the common believer and the top clergy.

The common believer professes in church ceremonies to uphold the catechism and follow the Church in everything. Then goes on to practise all sorts of quasi or genuinely pagan customs and beliefs, cheat on his wife, steal from the poor, and so on. The top clergy does all that, plus uses some popular pagan practices/beliefs to keep in connection with (and keep influence over) the masses, and keeps others handy if some individuals or groups are selected for retorsions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the era before mass communications - when many people didn't travel more than a few miles from their birthplace - it is easy to understand how "the Church" could have evolved in many different ways in many different places.  It would have been relatively difficult to exert centralised control.  However what I find interesting about this gay rite story is that it demonstrates that the practice was widespread throughout the church, and also that the change to attitudes to homosexuality was widespread throughout Europe - and not limited to any one culture or locale.  So what drove the change?  Jews were always good for the scapegoat role.  Why gays?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:18:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember a particularly perplexing form of racism practised by people who got along perfectly well with colleagues and neighbours of a different ethnic origin.

They Should All Be Sent Back Where They Came From.  Except for the people these armchair racists actually knew, who "weren't like all the others."

My point is that localised acceptance of homosexuality within a small community-where the couple would be someone's sisters, brothers, cousins, in-laws-doesn't necessarily prove acceptance of homosexuality per se.

The Black Death ended the manor system, where the serfs were effectively the property of their lord and couldn't travel without his permission.

Maybe the displacement/mobility of the population broke the personal ties that had been the reason for tolerance in the face of anti-gay propaganda?

by Sassafras on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 03:02:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Black Death ended the manor system, where the serfs were effectively the property of their lord and couldn't travel without his permission.

Only in part of Europe.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 06:33:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just read a (French) paper about the sociological changes in the middle ages. Two important switches were happening : the move from a clan structured society, where people recognise their allegiance to a larger pseudo-familial group, to a core-family structure ; and the beginnings of spatial allegiance.

In the year 1000, one would be a serf of such noble person, whereas by 1400, one would be a serf/freeman of this village, who happened to be ruled by a certain lord.

Also, the move from a clans-based society to a core-family based society reinforced the sanctity of marriage, which was less used as a means of alliance between families, and thus became more strongly normalised : only clerics remained celibate ; lay people remaining celibate became suspected of heresy. This reinforcement of the sanctity of marriage was actively promoted by the church ; it goes hand in hand with its involvement in the social norms of sexuality.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 04:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See my comment below that summarises the development of the Roman Church's attitudes to these questions.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 08:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
I'm guessing here, but I would think that if you asked the Pope he'd tell you that such things where always contrary to central church teaching

Welll that would be a bit difficult to argue if you quote the

At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, "taking Communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together", according to a contemporary report.
Bit from the diary.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:37:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
apparent co-operation

See?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:51:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Old and milenary traditions hardly last more than a century...

Old traditions are basically less than fifty years old (on average).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:57:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe ...

14th century = Black Death.

Perhaps it is a reason "why" - one scapegoat is as good as another, and the more the merrier.

As to the role of Christianity, it may be as simple as jumping on the bandwagon. The church will always claim to be leading, even if it is following.

by det on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 08:58:55 AM EST
In the Romantic Era, the first half of the 19th century, the Church was considered an enemy by nationalists, due to their continued support for the emperors and kings of the time. Today, the opposite is true.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:08:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By definition the Church Hierarchy always seems to have gotten to a position of prominence by getting into bed with the established elite - and thus opposed to any revolutionary changes.  This can explain its reactionary role in history, but why were gays perceived as a threat?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:22:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interestingly, this is the point where celibacy was enforced on the catholic priesthood, I remember reading somewhere that it was thought that the black death was evil, sexually transmitted and so it was somewhat embarrassing to have the clergy dropping dead from sexually transmitted evil.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:49:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think celibacy (I nearly wrote celebrity) was imposed a good deal earlier - towards the end of Roman empire - in most places although not in Britain (no anglo disease then!) but how about straight forward sexual jealousy?  If heteros couldn't have sex any more why let gays have a free lunch?  Was there any concept of an STD then?  When was the connection between sex and babies made?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:02:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't that after the break-up between Rome and the Eastern Church. When did the Roman Empire end by your reckoning?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:11:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first bubonic plague of Justinian ... that's when the project of reclaiming the western Mediterranean lands was finally dropped and the Eastern Roman Empire was simply a name for Byzantium (just as the Holy Roman Empire was simply a name for something that was neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire).


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:22:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
my understanding is that celibacy became the norm for Priests in the 3/4/5 centuries - i.e. toward the end of the "Western" Roman Empire. That link you gave to Bosman above has more detail - I haven't had time to read it all yet

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:32:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
David Rice presents a comprehensive historical look at celibacy in his book about resigned priests entitled, Shattered Vows. Rice credits Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx in The Church with a Human Face with asserting that clerical celibacy originated in "a partly pagan notion of ritual purity," as Sipe indicates with the aforementioned examples. At the Council of Nicaea in 325, a proposal to require celibacy for all priests was defeated and at the Council of Trullo in 692, marriage rights for priests were reasserted. (Rice page 161.)

Schillebeeckx says that, first in the fourth century came a law that forbade a married priest from having sexual intercourse the night before celebrating the Eucharist. However, when the Western Church began celebrating a daily mass, abstinence became a permanent factor for married priests.

"At the origin of the law of abstinence, and later the law of celibacy," said Schillebeeckx, "we find an antiquated anthropology and ancient view of sexuality." (ibid) Rice follows with a quotation from St. Jerome which expressed the views of both pagans and Christians at the time that, "All sexual intercourse is impure." (ibid)

Because the resulting implication of a priest living with his wife like a brother led many priests into "deplorable situations," in 1139, the Second Lateran Council forbade the marriage of priests altogether and declared all existing marriages involving priests null and void. (ibid)

from here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:36:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you sure that quoting St Jérôme is entirely apt here AT ET?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 03:42:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There were also financial reasons. Property laws meant that property was passed on to offspring.

If there were no offspring, the Church could claim a priest's estate after his death.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 04:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've heard it said that the tradition within the British aristocracy used to be the first son to inherit, the second to the army, the third to the church.  Though, obviously, Church of England priests may marry, I can't help but wonder if the origin of this is the sort of ploy that reduces threats to the succession of the firstborn.

Offloading excess sons into the church was also a useful ploy in those countries where primogeniture (inheritance by the firstborn son) wasn't the cultural norm.  Assuming shared inheritance, a family's power and wealth is much easier to transmit down the generations if you can shift some of the potential inheritors into celibacy and avowed (if not necessarily practised) poverty.  Daughters might be treated the same way to avoid dowry payments.

by Sassafras on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 02:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Britain primogeniture wasn't just a cultural norm, it was the law. You also had entailment to help prevent property leaving the family. Army commissions were an expensive proposition while parishes tended to be in the de facto or de jure disposition of local landowners, along with the income that came with them. Both systems, along with the legal and civil service professions (the other two acceptable careers for noble and gentry sons) provided income and preserved control over the levers of power in the hands of the landed classes. To further help things the British elites routinely incorporated especially successful commoners - not just by ennobling, but by giving or requiring the acquisition of land. That had the effect of limiting bourgeois discontent while making sure that the economic, social, and political interests of the newcomers were aligned with the old elites.

It was a slick system, and it only really began to break down in the last third of the nineteenth century courtesy of expanded suffrage and agricultural depression.

by MarekNYC on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 02:17:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The religious angle is obviously an important strand here.  But can I start a comment thread focusing on other political/socio/economic factors which might have played a role?  The black death has been mentioned as a possible factor, perhaps the rise of puritanism and nationalism might have been others?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:26:01 AM EST
You'd probably need to look on a bigger scale: when does the whole attitude to sexuality go so completely mad?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:39:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The incentive to take the accumulated wealth of monasteries, on the one side, the incentive to proclaim that monasteries were sacred, holy places where no hanky-panky occured, on the other, and the need to raise a new generation of footsoldiers to fight for the one true faith, on both sides, could be a factor.

Hard to use Jews as a scapegoat to tar the reputation of a monastery ... very few of the monasteries had very many Jews.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:38:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The natural vs the social? ie moral framing based on what the 'natural' family unit should look like.

If we look at how diversity of family units has changed over the years there used to be more diverse 'families' that could have consisted of many people living under the same roof who may or may not have been biologically related or perhaps consisted of extended families, cousins and so on.  Maybe for practical reasons of poverty.  Also there would be servants, tutors, nannies and so on living in wealthier households, all loosely constituting a family of some sort.

Perhaps these loose relationships made gay relationships easier to conduct, I don't know.  My knowledge of history is appalling.

But come forward to more recent times, a distinct family unit emerged consisting of mother, father, children.  Heterosexual, prescribed norm, where marriage was the right thing to do and having children was expected.  So being gay, is 'not natural' and would not generally have resulted in children.  So perhaps that it where it lies, that as society advanced, moral norms prescribed what the family unit should look like and anything outside of that was vilified - hence why divorce was largely unacceptable too.  And religion is always a good form of control in order to enforce such prescriptions of how people should conduct themselves.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:55:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep - the nuclear family is about as natural as... err ... the markets are in economics .... and many have pointed out that the nuclearisation of the family drove consumerism and created much greater dependency on the state and commercial sectors to provide basic services such as child minding.  I can understand why "marriage stablity" should be encouraged to facilitate the raising of children but what's wrong with not having children - unless like Hitler - you were trying to out breed the competition.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:05:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well "promoting much higher levels of breeding" would rather tie in with the Black Death idea.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:13:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an address given by Boswell. He dates it to about the 12th C. Isn't that about the time that Rome, together with the Pauline tradition of hating humans, is consolidating its power over the Church?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:34:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. To make the connection explicit, homosexualism was propagandistically associated with the big 'heretic' movements, especially Bogumils and Cathars.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisley what I had read.

After the 3rd century there weere up and down regarding homosexuality perception in society, in the Roman elites and in the plebe.... sometimes one hierarchy or group of people support it or like it.. sometimes not... it changed quite a lot.

It was for sure that way until the 6th-7th century where some  kind hole of social knowledge appears regarding  a lot of social perceptions, but I took for granted that it probably was more or less like during the roman times... it changed with the wind, and teh area...

But during the cathar push and other heretic movements, homosexuality was fixed as something permanently bad (if maybe not prosecuted, I do not know enough). And I think the first clear documents appear then (or that's what I guessed from what I read)

then it was certainly prosceuted by the spansih inquisition.. together with red-haired powerful woman.

So it was strange to read that it was otherwise. But I think anotehr diary commented that good perception of homosexuality was confused with good perception of male bonding in some eastern areas durign the 18th century.

In other words, a comment to say ,that we probably have similar sources.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 03:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this link - I quote from it below

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 06:51:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
what's wrong with not having children

maybe that was reducing the future viability of the tribe.

i find it ironic the church always has had so much to dictate about homosexuality, when for centuries it has been the socially acceptable institution in which to park sons who quite obviously were not um, eager to play the mating game.

being different from the 'norm' has always been a risky road to travel, whether for reasons of sexual identity or not.

safety in numbers comes before principle for most sheeple. totally irrational, like many or most herd decisions!

it is reassuring that we have at least lived some cycles of history where we had better things to do than poke moralistic noses into others' bedroom pastimes-

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 06:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some parts within Europe that have had the "nuclear family" model for quite some times (According to Emmanuel Todd, the northern parts of France for example). But the widening of this model to the whole of Europe is essentially a 20th century phenomenon, and only happened thanks to the move to the cities. Most rural families cared too much about "the family farm" to allow it to be divided between generations or between siblings...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 05:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gay bashing is "free" for the majority of people. If you're straight, you don't surrender anything that you consider valuable if you renounce gay love. Now, if you were to renounce straight love instead, or just love, period, you would be giving up something most people enjoy. So it's a cheap way to be holier than thou for the majority of the Church. It is also a cheap and easy way to create an enemy that you are sure you can beat.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:42:27 AM EST
Yep - but puritanism effected everyone - even married people were supposed to abstain in certain cases or at certain times.  I accept the notion that gays are/were an easy minority target - but so are many others and to me that fact alone doesn't explain the specificity and vehemence of homophobia particularly in bible belt USA and many third world countries.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:54:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's possible that it's simply a historical coincidence. The luck of the draw, if you will.

There seems to be little rational reason for the fundagelicals to latch onto creationism either - or at least not in preference to relativity-denial, geo-centrism, etc., etc. It's simply biology's bad luck that evolution became the symbol of the scientific, technological, cultural and ethical advances during the 19th century that the fundagelicals so abhor.

Similarly, homosexuality may have simply been targeted because it was associated with one of the sides in some forgotten church schism about something else entirely. Or as a result of a particularly deranged pope, cardinal or inquisitor. Or something else lost to the mists of time and history.

That being said, however, I think that there is something to the idea put forward elsewhere in this thread that it may have to do with the fact that the Church decided that outbreeding the competition would be desirable. This also fits with the doctrine that sex for pleasure is Bad and Sinful, even to the extent that it justifies (to the Church's mind, if to no-one else's) the sanctioning of HIV-AIDS denial and lying about condoms.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:18:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sex-is-bad line is traceable back to one of the cults that forms the basis for Christianity, if I remember rightly. St Paul and his little mad people.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:37:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
homosexuality may have simply been targeted because it was associated with one of the sides in some forgotten church schism

Yes. Bogumils, Cathars. (Who may have only been the biggest and most lasting in multiple waves of schism/anti-homosexual-campaigns).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Focusing on the Bible Belt USA not to pick on them, but just because "many third world countries" is just too big a generalisation for me this afternoon, I'm happy to think about specific examples if there are ones you think are particularly interesting.

Anyway, if we focus on the Bible Belt for a moment, where's the "specificity" of homophobia. There's a pretty vehement history, only 40 or so years in the past, of picking on other minorities too.

And we can see there clear historical reasons (including the size of the prominent racial minorities and external pressures for change) that explain why "gay right" hasn't progressed there as "quickly" as for some other minorities.

One key issue however is that there's a string of homophobic lines through the Bible that maybe made it easier (back in the 14th century) to start a movement using gays as a target group:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibh.htm
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibh3.htm
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hombiblnt.htm

I would suggest that there are fewer lines that are as easily used to justify racial intolerance, largely because:

The "Middle East" area, sat between Africa and Europe was an area where people of many skin tones lived and mixed. There wasn't the homogeneity to promote a full on "pick on those people who look different" ideology.

Of course the "Dutch Reform Church" did construct a Biblical case for apartheid, but that came quite a bit later on. I'd argue that is possibly because it's much harder work.

Of course, since we're speculating, I've also read that the crusade against homosexuals started in the medieval era from political roots, because a few politically powerful church orders had a lot of gay members and those who opposed them found this a handy way to attack them. But that was in a book that has long since passed from my possession, so I can't quote anything useful.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:33:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody read the bible in 14th C, did they?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:37:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, true.

But for whatever reason, the records we have of populist preachers stirring up the masses largely seem to include genuine quotes from the Bible.

Your 14th C parish priest could actually make up anything most of the time, because the unwashed weren't allowed near the "source material."

But, in the end, if we're talking about a movement as widespread as Frank is suggesting, then it had to draw legitimacy from somewhere, and people's mindspace was "The Bible" to a large extent, as far as we know about those times.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:41:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone:
Your 14th C parish priest could actually make up anything most of the time, because the unwashed weren't allowed near the "source material."
Why do you think the Second Vatican Council was so revolutionary? For the first time in centuries the masses, unwashed or otherwise, could actually understand what the priest was saying.

Also, for a long time even a lot of clergymen were illiterate in latin and the introduction of the missal made it unnecessary even for priests to read the bible.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 05:22:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
afaik, the Middle East was pretty tolerant of gays until the colonial west , principally Britain, stuck their noses into it.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:58:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That and the crazy wahabist crowd. Though the Iranians don't like it much either, so I guess some of the Shia have  a problem with it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:01:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The wahabis were of little consequence till post-WWII. But the distaste for homosexuality and gender transgression generally was in full force by the end of the 19th C.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:12:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is more support for slavery in the bible than there is criticism of homosexuality.  The references to Sodom are understood by scholars to refer to the sin of inhospitality, not homosexuality as commonly understood. Even St. Paul is thought to have been referring to the sin of extra-marital affairs rather than homosexuality per se. Given that homosexuality was exalted in Greek culture, and a matter of complete indifference to the Romans, it is striking there is no explicit New Testament discussion o the subject one way or the other.  Celibacy became a requirement for the Priesthood as im many ascetic traditions, and it is understandble that the frustrated clerics would rail at licentiousness in general.  But specific condemnation of homosexuality seems to have arisen only in the middle ages - perhaps because of the prominence of gays in celibate orders and general ant--clerical resentments directed at the wealth of the Church?  Homophobia having its roots in anti-clericalism would be an interesting twist...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:17:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The references to Sodom are understood by scholars to refer to the sin of inhospitality, not homosexuality as commonly understood.

And threatened rape.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 04:11:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you suggesting that racial intolerance in the "bible belt" has something to do with the lack of a variety of skin color vs. the situation in the Middle East?  I suspect not, but it could be taken that way.

More to the point, it seems to me that a lot is being made of what could be a relatively few cases of gay marriage overseen by the "Church" during a very long time period and over quite a large geographical area.  Yet, we seem to ignore, more or less, the clear statement that a union between persons of the same sex was illegal (by the Church?) from the time of the Roman Empire. Maybe the few documented cases were truly just aberrations of a particular time and place. Of course this is just my supposition.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 08:31:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't really know too much social history, but wasn't it around the same time that women were enervated in the general population ?

Previously, in the more agrarian societies, they'd worked at animal husbandry as well as in the fields alongside the men; Thomas Hardy records the harvesting being a mostly female concern in the middle of the 19th century and were considered equal contributors to the household.

But when industrialisation and the move to the cities began, heavy labour became the province of men and women's roles were relegated. Their work was devalued by employers and so were considered lesser contributors.

So the church simply reflected the changed role of women. This would also have required the trumpeting of manliness, where sissiness was a threat, not just ot general order, but to impoverishment of the immediate family.

However, this article is quite illuminating .

The widespread appearance of queer subcultures across Europe around the year 1700 is almost certainly linked not to the rise of capitalism but to the rise of surveillance. Efficiently organized "police forces" hardly existed before then. The subculture was uncovered as a result of new social regulations rather than created by some tenuous link with economic structures or changing gender conceptions.

It seems that there were groups such as the Society for the Reformation of Manners whose original focus was prostitution, but who used the Biblical prohibition against buggery to bring the trade into disrepute (I could be mis-reading here). However, within a few decades they were seen as a general nuisance but had, by that time, succesfully driven homosexuality underground. Thus allowing puritannical instincts within society to demonize it further and render it socially unacceptable and shameful.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 10:55:48 AM EST
Helen:
So the church simply reflected the changed role of women. This would also have required the trumpeting of manliness, where sissiness was a threat, not just ot general order, but to impoverishment of the immediate family.

Although interestingly, the Roman Empire, that most militaristic and "manly" society had no problem with homosexuality whatsoever...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:21:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A different era. The romans were not divorced from the general culture in the Mediterranean at that time where diverse expressions of sexuality and identity were commonplace.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:38:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Although interestingly, the Roman Empire, that most militaristic and "manly" society had no problem with homosexuality whatsoever...

That's not entirely true. Roman social sexuality seems to have been very complicated, with equal parts austere and ranting fundie patriarchy, and wild swinging.

Man-love seems to have been accepted, but not integrated. It wasn't persecuted, but it was seen as slightly disreputable and decadent, especially when compared to the Roman ideal of dutiful marriage.

The 'manly' part wasn't so much manly as driven by frenetic ancestor worship. The worst possible humiliation wasn't gay sex, it was letting down the family name.

The opposite of that was claiming glory for the family. Which is why the Romans eventually bred a generation of lunatics who conquered most of the known world more or less on their own, by force of will.

But I think there is a relationship between gay hating and nationalistic imperialism, at least in the Anglo countries. Anglo culture seems extremely rigid, controlling and obsessive, and the perceived passivity of gay sex might threaten that mindset.

I don't even think it's about sex, necessarily. The core Anglo myth is belief in one own's hermetically sealed individuality and personal destiny, and the personal power to influence people, places and things.

The prospect of getting buggered by someone doesn't sit well with that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 04:57:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The prospect of getting buggered by someone doesn't sit well with that

How about the prospect of buggering?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 06:08:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah!  I really enjoyed your comment, just got me thinking!

Late night listening.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 06:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Lenny Bruce - Christ & Moses

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 06:32:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's add that in the Roman army, gay sex was anything but consensual. I recall reading that one famous poet wrote poems complaining of the officers' conduct he was under, but in a "such is life" fatalist mindset, but I don't remember who it was.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 04:01:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Women supposedly were equals and priests, etc., in the very early christian church, but pushed out (I'm guessing here) before, say 800 A.D. No idea why, and I'm relying on hazy memory rather than specific cites.

But almost everything stated above about the de-socialization and general dissing of gays can also be applied to church treatment of women. So you're left with all the control in hands of a bunch of old, mostly white, men.

Why does this sound so familiar?

by Mnemosyne on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 04:23:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women were pushed out much earlier: when the patriarchic church leaders clamped down on gnosticism (the variant in which men and women were equals -- to the extent that they revered Mary Magdalene as an apostle and had a number of - later forbidden - gospels with her as central character), basically from the second century. That process was more or less finished when Athanasian Christianity (or Nycene Christianity, the inventors of the Trinity and editors of the Bible [by censoring out most scripture then current], of which all major Christian churches are off-shoots) took over in the disintegrating Roman Empire by the end of the 4th century, and crushed all rival interpretations.

Women still had important roles later on, but not as official church heads.

A forgotten "saviour" of Athanasian Christianity is Theodelinda (lived AD ~570-628). She was a Bavarian princess married to Lombardian king Autharia (AD 584-590), after whose death she became a strong ruler: first shortly on her own, then via a figurehead husband-king (Agilulf, AD 591-616), then via her own son Adaloald (AD 616-626). At this time, Athanasian dominance was gone because most of the Germanic tribes were Arians (which was the main rival in the 4th century battle for monopoly in the Roman Empire). Now, Theodelinda was a religious fundie, and by propping up the Church in the forms of financial support, church-building and repression against Arians, she played a key role in resurrecting Athanasian Christianity as dominant at the heart of Christianity. (Though it would take another century until Athanasians also win against and suppress Arians among the nobility.)

Then, in the 9th century, the papacy had one of its more decadent periods at the time of Muslim invasions into Italy, called the pornocracy. Called so because the blame was later laid on some female aristocrats (Theodora and her daughter Marozia) who were in incestuous relationships and controlled several Popes. What they 'forgot' was that these women were shaped by exploitative Popes and aristocrats already in childhood, and male contemporaries and successors were no less decadent -- in fact Marozia's bad reputation is the work of her own power-hungry son Alberic II from 932, when he deposed her and her husband and took over, to rule Italy and control six successive puppet Popes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 03:58:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Allegedly the role of women in the church survived much longer in the Celtic church, which Rome really only tamed around the first millenium.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 04:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about European women, but my mother, her sisters and both grandmothers worked in the fields along side the men (their husbands and sons). I suspect their mothers did the same when they weren't engaged in other chores. That pretty much covers the industrial revolution period and then some.  I suspect the article (you quote) is correct.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 08:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Homosexuality," Plato wrote, "is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engen

As late as the eleventh and twelfth centuries, there appears to be no conflict between a Christian life and homosexuality. Gay life is everywhere in the art, poetry, music, history, etc. of the 11th and 12th centuries. The most popular literature of the day even heterosexual literature, is about same­sex lovers of one sort or another. Clerics were at the forefront of this revival of the gay culture. St. Aelred, for instance, writes of his youth as a time when he thought of nothing but loving and being loved by men. He became a Cistercian abbot, and incorporated his love for men into his Christian life by encouraging monks to love each other, not just generally, but individually and passionately He cited the example of Jesus and St. John as guidance for this. 'Jesus himself," he said, "in everything like us. patient and compassionate with others in every matter, Transfigured this sort of love through the expression of his own love. for he allowed only one - not al l- 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."

After the twelfth century Christian tolerance and acceptance of gay love seems to disappear with remarkable rapidity. The writings of St. Aelred disappeared because they were kept locked up in Cistercian monasteries until about eight years ago, when for the first time Cistercians could again read them. Beginning about 1150, for reasons I cannot adequately explain, there was a great upsurge in popular intolerance of gay people. 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-no longer able, for example, to attend universities in which they had previously been enrolled. double monasteries for men and women were closed. There was suspicion of everyone. In 1 180 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, but by the end of the 13th century, sleeping with a Jew was equated with sleeping with an animal or with murder, and in France Jews, according to St. Louis, were to be killed on the spot if they questioned the Christian faith. During this time there are many popular diatribes against gay people as well, suggesting that they molest children, violate natural law, are bestial? and bring harm to nations which tolerate them. Within a single century. between the period of 1250 and 1350, almost every European state passed civil laws demanding death for a single homosexual act. This popular reaction affected Christian theology a great deal. 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.

It is very difficult to describe how this came about. St. Thomas tried to show that homosexuality was opposed to nature in some way, the most familiar objection being that nature created sexuality for procreation and using it for any other purpose would violate nature. Aquinas was much too smart for this argument. In the Summa Contra Gentiles he asks, "Is it sinful to walk on your hands when nature intended them for something else?" No, indeed it is not sinful, so he shifted ground. This is obviously not the reason that homosexuality is sinful; he looks for another. First he tried arguing that homosexuality must be sinful because it impedes the reproduction of the human race. But this argument also failed, for, Aquinas noted in the Summa Theologica, "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 fulfill the duty. The commandment regarding procreation applies to the human race as a whole! which is obligated to increase physically. It is therefore sufficient for the race if some people undertake to reproduce physically." Moreover, Aquinas admitted in the Summa Theologica that homosexuality was absolutely natural to certain individuals and therefore inculpable. In what sense, then, could he argue that it was unnatural? In a third place he concedes that the term "natural" in fact has no moral significance, but it is simply a term applied to things which are strongly disapproved of. "Homosexuality," he says, "is called 'the unnatural vice' by the common people, and hence it may be said to be unnatural." This was not an invention of Aquinas'. It was a response to popular prejudices of the time. It did not derive its authority from the Bible or from any previous tradition of Christian morality, but it eventually became part of Catholic theological thought. These attitudes have remained basically unchanged because there has been no popular support for change in the matter. The public has continued to feel hostility to gay people and the church has been under no pressure to re­examine the origins of its teachings on homosexuality.



"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:43:47 PM EST
Beginning about 1150, for reasons I cannot adequately explain, there was a great upsurge in popular intolerance of gay people. 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-no longer able, for example, to attend universities in which they had previously been enrolled. double monasteries for men and women were closed. There was suspicion of everyone. In 1 180 the Jews were expelled from France.

I smell revanchism. In the early 12th century, the Church had just had its ass handed to it by the Turks and the Mamluks. Time to find a domestic enemy to kick when the foreign enemies kicked back too hard, methinks.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 01:15:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the early 12th century, the Church had just had its ass handed to it by the Turks and the Mamluks.

Turks, Mamluks, early 12th century? What do you mean? Even Saladin was last third of the 12th century, and the Crusades weren't over by then.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 04:06:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Meh. Me bad. Got a century ahead of history :-P

Still, the crusades definitely had their "Mission Accomplished" moment around 1100 AD. They won the first crusade in 1099. After that, they didn't really win anything anymore.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 11:02:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
Still, the crusades definitely had their "Mission Accomplished" moment around 1100 AD. They won the first crusade in 1099. After that, they didn't really win anything anymore.

Well the current Crusade could well continue until 2099 if McCain has its way probably with a similar lack of success - although Bin Laden is no Salidin

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 11:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upthread, I made the point that the 12-13th century church homophobia was a result of propagandistically connecting homosexualism and the two main heretic movements of the day, the Eastern-origin Bogumils and their Southern France-centered spinoff the Cathars. It's in our words:

Bogomilism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The name of the movement was bulgarus in Latin (meaning "Bulgarian"), which included Paulicians, Cathars, Patarenes and Albigenses. It became boulgre, later bougre in Old French meaning "heretic, traitor". It entered German as Buger meaning "peasant, blockhead" (and went on to English as bugger) and the French term also entered old Italian as buggero and Spanish as bujarrón, both in the meaning of "sodomite", since it was supposed that heretics would approach sex (just like everything else) in an "inverse" way. The word went on towards Venetian Italian as buzerar, meaning "to do sodomy" (the sexual acts performed by homosexuals). This word entered German again (see reborrowing) as Buserant and went on to Hungarian as buzeráns, becoming buzi around the 1900s, a form still in use as a sexual slur for male homosexuals. The word also entered Swedish, through the mediation of August Strindberg[citation needed], as bög, meaning male homosexual.

Cathar Perfect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cathar Perfects travelled the Languedoc in twos, in imitation of Christ's instructions to the Apostles in the Gospels (such as Luke 10: 1-12). Male and female Perfects always travelled with partners of the same sex to avoid sexual temptation. To their enemies this drew accusations of homosexuality.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 04:21:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks DoDo, for the illuminating quotes.  It all seems like an accident of history, with homophobia getting lumped in with xenophobia and the many vicious conflicts of the time often directed at foreigners or minorities.  If one supposes that gays were also statistically more likely to enter celibate orders and seek the protection of the Church in so doing, there might also have been some class warfare involved - the Church being seen as part of the Feudal landowning classes and with peasant/serf resentment directed at its wealth.  Later Church defeats in the Crusades might not have helped.  

The Thomist quotations above seem to indicate that the Church was responding to popular prejudice against gays rather than leading the way, but nevertheless that prejudice subsequently became entrenched in Church Dogma because of the politics of the time.  The subsequent attempts to provide Biblical justification for the prejudice against gays (and Jews) may have been more a consequence of the printing press/Gutenberg Bible and the rise of Protestant fundamentalism.  Fierce competition between sects may have resulted in very strenuous attempts to enforce conformity/uniformity/solidarity within sects with correspondingly fierce condemnations issued toward outsiders/non-conformists.

All in all a pretty sad history of exclusion/internalisation of violence and one being fought in fundamentalist groups to this day.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 05:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Church was responding to popular prejudice against gays rather than leading the way

As my quotes indicate, it was rather more insidious: it exploited popular prejudices to crush popular (and more connected to the populace) rivals to its monopoly over faith, first isolating and then more easily executing them. Tactics not unlike those the Nazis used against communists and Jews.

printing press/Gutenberg Bible and the rise of Protestant fundamentalism.  Fierce competition between sects may have resulted in very strenuous attempts to enforce conformity/uniformity/solidarity within sects with correspondingly fierce condemnations issued toward outsiders/non-conformists.

There was the Spanish (and Italian) Inquisition, too. An escalation of full-blown insanity, when even the descendants of converted Jews and Muslims were sought after.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 07:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Were gays a particular target of the inquisition or were they incidental to it?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:15:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it matter?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does this answer your question?

Spanish Inquisition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Homosexuality, known at the time as sodomy, was punished by death by civil authorities. It fell under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition only in the territories of Aragon, when, in 1524, Clement VII, in a papal brief, granted jurisdiction over sodomy to the Inquisition of Aragon, whether or not it was related to heresy. In Castile, cases of sodomy were not adjudicated, unless related to heresy. The tribunal of Zaragoza distinguished itself for its severity in judging these offences: between 1571 and 1579 more than 100 men accused of sodomy were processed and at least 36 were executed; in total, between 1570 and 1630 there were 534 trials and 102 executions.[20]



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:59:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it matters if, as in this diary, we are trying to understand why homosexuality moved from being exalted in greek civilisation, to being a matter of indifference under the Roman empire, suddenly seemed to become, a capital crime after the 12th. century.  There were vicious power struggles in all periods of history - why did homosexuality become a negative even if it was only being opportunistically and falsely ascribed to a rival group?

The obvious answer would be to blame Christianity, but the Bible wasn't popularly read until later, there doesn't appear to have been any major theological shift until later, and I suspect the Church harboured and protected many gays at the time as is evidenced by the rites of gay marriage described in the diary.  Was homophobia brought in by the Huns and invading tribes from the east who also destroyed Roman civilization (with which the Church was heavily identified).  Was it popular/class resentment against the wealth and power of the (aristocrat) Church within feudal societies?  Was it the need to rebuild populations post multiple wars, disease and famine?

I suspect it was a loss of nerve and leadership by the Church in giving way to popular sentiment or political/economic pressures and who sold out on gays as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter to save their own hide.  The theological justification may have been a later post hoc rationalisation.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 10:05:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I found this, which might be interesting

With the decline of the Roman Empire, and its replacement by various barbarian kingdoms, a general tolerance (with the sole exception of Visigothic Spain) of homosexual acts prevailed. As one prominent scholar puts it, "European secular law contained few measures against homosexuality until the middle of the thirteenth century." (Greenberg, 1988, 260) Even while some Christian theologians continued to denounce nonprocreative sexuality, including same-sex acts, a genre of homophilic literature, especially among the clergy, developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (Boswell, 1980, chapters 8 and 9).

The latter part of the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries, however, saw a sharp rise in intolerance towards homosexual sex, alongside persecution of Jews, Muslims, heretics, and others. While the causes of this are somewhat unclear, it is likely that increased class conflict alongside the Gregorian reform movement in the Catholic Church were two important factors. The Church itself started to appeal to a conception of "nature" as the standard of morality, and drew it in such a way so as to forbid homosexual sex (as well as extramarital sex, nonprocreative sex within marriage, and often masturbation). For example, the first ecumenical council to condemn homosexual sex, Lateran III of 1179, stated that "Whoever shall be found to have committed that incontinence which is against nature" shall be punished, the severity of which depended upon whether the transgressor was a cleric or layperson (quoted in Boswell, 1980, 277). This appeal to natural law (discussed below) became very influential in the Western tradition.




keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 04:29:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The end of the twelfth century and the thirteenth century mark the apex of the church's power in medieval Europe. I wouldn't be amazed if the turn against Homosexuality was a symptom of the need of the dominant institution to enforce and show its power, even in not-precedented ways ; i.e. the church needed everybody to be a sinner to control them, and sodomy was among the sins "created". I think some kings, for example, were accused of sodomy when they were not acting as the church wanted. Philosophical justifications could come afterwards.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 06:36:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I suspect it was a loss of nerve and leadership by the Church in giving way to popular sentiment or political/economic pressures and who sold out on gays as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter to save their own hide.  The theological justification may have been a later post hoc rationalisation.
You give the church too much credit - poor priests, they sold out the gays to save their own hide as opposed to they used sexual repression in all forms to advance a political agenda.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 05:14:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it matters if, as in this diary, we are trying to understand why homosexuality moved from being exalted in greek civilisation...

It appears to me that you are looking for a single-step explanation. However, what I see is a process, one that can easily gain its own momentum: first opportunist rhetoric against opponents executed for the sin of hereticism aimed at cutting their popular support, then making homosexuality one of the sins of the heretics, then making homosexuality a marker enough to identify heretics, then homosexuality as a mortal sin on its own. It was a very similar escalation that took the Spanish Inquisition from the hunt for open heretics to hunt for Jews, then converted Jews, then grandsons of converted Jews. So I see your original either-or question as corresponding to different stages of an escalation.

Now, the above was my original view, but considering my own quote on the Spanish Inquisition, some nuance is in place: e.g. apparently, homosexuality used to be judged by 'worldy' courts in most places, thus the anti-gay escalation wasn't even under the full and direct control of the Church.

I suspect it was a loss of nerve and leadership by the Church

Why so lenient? Selling out was nothing unusual in the Dark Ages. Review the history of monastic orders on the verge of being declared heretic, the battles for political control with the Holy Roman Emperors, the Avignon Papacy, the backstabbing of the Temple Knights and so on. Also, publicly sentencing a few hundred homosexuals doesn't mean that their own homosexual priests weren't sheltered on - without publicity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 04:19:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any evidence that gays constituted "rivals to its monopoly over faith"?  I suspect it was more a case of scapegoating/deflecting tensions against a vulnerable minority.  While there may have been individual cases of homosexuality being used as a stick to beat a rival for power, my understanding is that gays did not become an identifiable sub group/sub culture until much later, and never constituted a threat to the Church's hold on the faithful (until now!).

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:20:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any evidence that gays constituted "rivals to its monopoly over faith"?

You misunderstand. Cathars, Bogumils and so were the rivals I meant, and calling them gays was a way to exploit popular homophobia to split these popular non-Church-controlled religious movements from the people, and later to more easily demonise executed 'heretics' before the populace.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:49:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colonialism and homophobia combined:

Colonialism: the real `Apocalypto'

"Furthermore," Mejía concludes, "the conquerors treated `sodomy' as a special Indian sin and hunted it down and punished it as such on a grand scale. They orchestrated crusades like the Holy Inquisition, which began burning sodomites at the stake as a special occasion, as in the memorable auto-da-fé of San Lázaro in Mexico City."

This bloody crusade of terror is confirmed in the colonizers' own words.

Antonio de la Calancha, a Spanish official in Lima, wrote that during Vasco Núñez de Balboa's incursion across Panama, he "saw men dressed like women; Balboa learnt that they were sodomites and threw the king and forty others to be eaten by his dogs, a fine action of an honorable and Catholic Spaniard."

When the Spanish invaded the Antilles and Louisiana, "[T]hey found men dressed as women who were respected by their societies. Thinking they were hermaphrodites, or homosexuals, they slew them."



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 08:57:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that the very same can be applied for Africa is slowly accumulating, but I've not found irrefutable evidence for it so far. I have, however, found many indicators that homosexual behaviour was well integrated in African cultures prior to the white man came along, at least for southern Africa.
by Nomad on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:33:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If one supposes that gays were also statistically more likely to enter celibate orders and seek the protection of the Church in so doing

By the way: does anyone here have sources for the claim that the charge of homosexualism was used against fallen-from-grace monastic orders?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 07:53:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure about the references of this article, but I would say that the big changes regarding homosexuality actually happened much more earlier.. before 1200. And actaully more profound changes at the transition between collapse of Roman and the emergence of the first local kingdom structures.

In any case, this is the first place I read that, although not universally considered good (as in the first centuries in the catholic tradition), was not considered some kind of sin well up to the 17th.. this clearly surprises me.. I though jews, gays, bitches (specially poor red-haired independent women) were already Inquisicion fodder.

I certainly could be wrong

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 01:05:23 PM EST
I've been looking at some French mediaevalists on this, in particular Georges Duby and Jacques Le Goff. Since this stuff is not online, I'd have to type it all out and translate, so I'll try to summarize instead.

The first point is that the toughening in attitudes to homosexuality is part of a general revision of Church doctrine on sexuality. The second is that these changes concern Western Christendom, ie the Roman Church. The third, that they are contemporaneous with the rise of the Middle Ages.

Roughly sketched, the fall of the Roman Empire opened a period of barbarian invasions often called the Dark Ages, that came to an end in the C10. At that point the barbarian kingdoms are Christianised, but Rome's hierarchical hold over local Churches is tenuous. From the C10, there is the beginning of economic change (rise of towns and trade) which is concomitant with the rise of the monasteries. New monastery-building goes hand in hand with a spirit of reformation, the most important aspect of which is the Benedictine reform set off especially from Cluny (founded 910) in Burgundy. Monastic life becomes stricter and its spiritual aspirations higher. This "puritanical" movement sees, not just the monasteries but also the bishops and secular clergy, as corrupt and in need of profound change. It seeks independence from royal, feudal or episcopal control by calling for patronage on the bishop of Rome - in other words, the traditional head of Western Christendom, who finds in return a new means of asserting power over the crumbled remains of the empire.

So the monastic reformation leads, during the C11 and into the C12, to a Rome-led general reformation of the Church (celebrated from the C12 in Gothic architecture).

Georges Duby, Le Moyen âgeDuby, The Middle Ages
Il était urgent d'épurer le clergé, disaient les rigoristes: deux souillures, le sexe et l'argent, l'infectaient. Au XIe siècle, tous les prêtres ou presque étaient mariés. Les chanoines aussi. Non point les évêques, certes, mais on pouvait douter qu'ils fussent chastes.There was an urgent need to purify the clergy, said the rigorists: two impurities, sex and money, infected it. In the eleventh century, all or nearly all priests were married. The canons too. Not the bishops, but it was doubtful they were chaste.

Jacques Le Goff, Corps et idéologie dans l'Occident médiéval
Ce qu'on appelle la réforme grégorienne a été un grand aggiornamento de la société médiévale, conduite par l'Eglise et commençant par elle, des alentours de 1050 à 1215 (IVe concile de Latran). Elle institue d'abord l'indépendance de l'Eglise par rapport aux laïcs. Quelle meilleure barrière instituer entre clercs et laïcs que celle de la sexualité? A ceux-ci le mariage, aux premiers la virginité, le célibat et la continence. Un mur sépare la pureté de l'impureté. Les liquides impurs sont bannis d'un côté (les clercs ne doivent répandre ni sperme ni sang, et ne pas transmettre le péché originel en procréant), simplement canalisés de l'autre. L'Eglise devient une société de célibataires. En revanche, elle enferme la société laïque dans le mariage. What is known as the Gregorian Reform was a great aggiornamento of medieval society, led by and starting with the Church, from around 1050 to around 1215 (Fourth Lateran). It first established the independence of the Church in relation to the laity. What better barrier to set up between clergy and lay people than sexuality? For the latter, marriage, the former, virginity, chastity and continence. A wall separates purity from impurity. The impure liquids are banned on one side (clerics should not shed semen or blood, and not transmit original sin by procreating), simply canalized on the other. The Church becomes a society of celibates. On the other hand, it imprisons secular society in marriage.

And so the Roman Church, from the C11 to C13, creates the new concept of Christian marriage, outside of which sex has no place, and within which sex is strictly regulated (no sex during the woman's "impurity", on Sundays, in other than the missionary position, etc). Le Goff continues:

Jacques Le Goff, Corps et idéologie dans l'Occident médiéval
Mais la répression sexuelle ne touche pas que le mariage. J. Boswell a montré que l'Eglise, jusqu'au XIIe siècle, avait manifesté, dans la pratique au moins, une assez grande indulgence à l'égard de l'homosexualité. Une gay culture avait même pu s'épanouir à l'ombre de l'Eglise et souvent en son sein. Désormais l'indulgence est en règle générale finie. On lutte contre la sodomie, rapprochée de l'hérésie dans un amalgame redoutable. Ainsi le pécheurs sexuels font partie du monde des réprouvés, dans cette grande opération d'exclusion du XIIIe siècle.Les réprouvés sexuels bénéficient même difficilement et rarement du nouvel au-delà qui crée un espace et un temps supplémentaires de purification dans l'Autre Monde: le Purgatoire. Le sexe reste gibier d'Enfer.But sexual repression does not affect marriage alone. J. Boswell has demonstrated that the Church, until the twelfth century, showed, in practice at least, fairly broad indulgence towards homosexuality. A gay culture had even been able to flourish in the shadow of the Church and often within it. From this time on, indulgence is, as a general rule, over and done with. Sodomy is fought against, brought alongside heresy in a fearsome combination. Thus sexual sinners are part of the world of reprobates, in this great thirteenth-century operation of exclusion. Sexual reprobates scarcely and rarely benefit from the new Beyond that creates additional space and time for purification in the Other World : Purgatory. Sex remains hellfire-bound.

There are fairly obvious subjacent questions here, to do with popular belief, with purity/impurity, with rising hysteria regarding the body and its functions, on which the Church built what is still recognisably its doctrine with regard to sex. They'll be for another time...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:37:29 AM EST
Thanks for these substantial quotes.  I get the impression that the repression of gays was almost collateral to the suppression of sexual activity amongst the clergy in general and part of a much larger attempt to reform (and re-exert control over) a lot of almost autonomous local churches, monasteries and religious orders which were perceived to have become corrupted by wealth and licentiousness.

When looking backwards from today it is easy to make the mistake of seeing the church through the eyes of a centralised, homogeneous, monolithic and all powerful institution when the reality was very different - a lot of power struggles within and without the church around money, land, inheritance, and political power.

The insistence on celibacy was as much about ensuring that all property accrued to the Church rather than to the children and heirs of priests and Bishops - than it was about sexuality per se.  I suspect homosexulaity may have been practiced very widely to get around rules re. mixing with the opposite sex and so too had to be condemned.  This was a time of very great turmoil in society and anyone acting outside perceived norms would have been in great danger.  It doesn't quite explain why same sex marriages were discontinued, but certainly a great wave of puritanism seems to have engulfed the Church, if not society as a whole.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 07:31:41 AM EST
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