Sunday, May 13, 2012

Recent disinformation about so-called gay marriage in the early Church

Recently, some hokum has been making the rounds of the Intertubes suggesting that, in the early days of the Church, gay marriage was not just recognized, but sanctioned and blessed.

The evidence ranges from circumstantial to falsified.

I won't add too much to the discussion here; the heavy lifting has already been done by Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea, who in turn cite more detailed articles that debunked the source of the "ancient gay marriage" myth when it came out almost twenty years ago:  a book written by John Boswell, late professor of history at Yale, which (except in that it claimed to be honest history instead of claiming to be a novel full of historical facts) is The DaVinci Code of gay marriage--something appealing only to those whose itching ears can only be satisfied by the hope that such scandalous ideas are true.

One of the articles--I won't link it, but you can get there from Mark's and Jimmy's sites if you really want--that has resurrected this notion attempts to describe the ritual as a wedding mass:  hands joined, vows and blessings made, followed by the Eucharist and a celebratory feast.

Um, hello?  It's a religious ceremony; of course there will be blessings.  Vows?  Could be marriage, could be joining a religious order or the priesthood, could even be one of the other sacraments, or something else completely.  They're Catholics/Orthodox; of course there will be the Eucharist during and a celebratory feast after.  If it were a wedding in an eastern church, there also would have been a crowning, but instead of that we only have this reference to holding hands.  

Well, that and bald assertions, like "While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place."  I guess Paul's allusions to Sodom don't count, since he technically wrote in Judea for the most part rather than Western Europe, but "gay marriage kept going on under the radar" is assuming the conclusion.

Maybe Boswell would have done well to consider the "current events" side of history before finding a publisher, see what modern trends and activities linger that are descended from practices of the time period of interest.  Maybe he would have been surprised to learn that this adelphopoiesis still goes on, or maybe he only would have been disappointed, instead, to learn that it is a blessing of friendships, not of romantic relationships.

It's sad in many ways.  The word used to describe a fraternal relationship between men is adelphopoiesis, which anyone familiar with the largest city in Pennsylvania would be literate enough to recognize as something other than eros, despite Boswell's insistence on translating it as "Office of the Same Sex Union."  Ah, but is it maybe a euphemism, or a misunderstanding arising from blind homophobia?  Okay, then where's the talk about gay sons pooling their inheritances?  Where's the talk of them adopting successors to continue the family name or business?  Where are the references to mundane relationships based on brotherly love?  How are we to know the difference?  Surely not so much time has passed that I am the last person to remember friendships between members of the same sex being understandably described without the use of terms like "man-crush" and "bromance," without even needing to be qualified with the word "platonic"--after all, I'm only middle aged.

But maybe, if a "bromance" is just "the kind of gay relationship that nominally straight men are comfortable having," then there is no meaningful difference between a friendship and a "relationship," and if these two things are distinguished despite having no differences, then one might argue that gay marriage is also distinct from traditional marriage for no good contemporary reason, for no real difference.

Maybe that's just what they want.


st bosco said...

Hi, whats so weird about gay marriage in the catholic church. a number of early Popes were openly homosexual, and male orgies were common at the Basilica.Let us know when are no gays in the catholic clergy...that will be news. Thanks

Ed Pie said...

"A number?" Names and dates, please. Same for the orgies. I'd be surprised if there weren't a couple, the human condition being what it is, but back in the day homosexuality wasn't even understood qua homosexuality.

Gays in the clergy aren't the problem. Gays using the clergy for cover is the problem.

But this all misses the point: that because modern society has such difficulty conceiving of a non-sexual affiliation between people, when it sees anything that is demonstrative of love, it is immediately cast in the mold of eros. It's so far from right it's not even wrong. Well, that's not true; it is incorrect, but the misunderstanding of the facts and context is almost irreparably vast.

Anonymous said...

Ed Pie and many other catholics just cant believe there were perverted popes. The catholic church is Pure and White and its popes can do no wrong. Catholics get their salvation from these holymen, they have to be pure and white. It says so in the catechism. Say Ed, look up Sixtus III, and not from Catholic Answeres, but a unbiased history site.

Ed Pie said...

Why do you think I can't believe there were perverted popes, since you never asked me, and I never said any such thing? "All men sin" is axiomatic in Christianity, so while scandal happens, nobody should really be surprised when we hear that someone sinned, even a pope.

All I asked for was evidence that "a number of early popes were openly homosexual, and male orgies were common at the Basilica," Old St. Peter's, I presume, and now again I'm told to go do the research for someone else's claims. Do you see how that comes off as spurious?

I can't speak for all Catholics, but as for me, you're dead wrong. I suggest you read the catechism; we don't "get our salvation" from the pope. The clergy are the primary ministers of most of the sacraments, but that is not the same thing.

Can you suggest a resource that is actually unbiased, or are you just riffing from some source that happens to be biased against Catholicism? Even the Atheism portal at and Brittanica Online say little more than he was a Pelagian sympathizer before he became Pope.

Anonymous said...

Benedict IX, born Theophylactus of Tusculum, is known mainly for two things: 1) he held office on three separate occasions, and 2) he is the only pope who ever sold the papacy (to his own godfather, of all people).

Benedict became pontiff at a very young age, thanks to the political prowess of his father, who had managed to get the papacy reserved ahead of time for his son. With little actual training or preparation that qualified him to act as pontiff, Benedict led a highly immoral life, and was accused of various rapes, adulteries, and murders. According to St. Peter Damian, Benedict was “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest,” and his carousing eventually caused him to be forcefully expelled from Rome.

Benedict managed to regain his throne, but then – surprise, surprise! – he was sidetracked by a prospective marriage (to his cousin) and sold the papal chair for a significant amount of money to his godfather, a priest who named himself Pope Gregory VI. His later repentance and attempt to resume his position created quite a controversy, forcing the German King Henry III to intervene. Benedict was subsequently excommunicated from the church.

“His life as a pope,” wrote Pope Victor III, “was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.”

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Hello Ed,i am St Bosco, for some reason my computer wont let me into my google acct. I have my own blog and i cant get in it either,. its some virus.It wont let me into yahoo mail or craigslist and many other sites. keeps saying that they are not trusted. i thought the homosexual orgies and other wild parties were common knowledge.Its not that i am any better, its that the popes are supposed to be a cut above us mortals.

Anonymous said...

. Pope Alexander VI (1431 – 1503)


The reward for “Baddest Pope Ever” arguably goes to Rodrigo Borgia, who enjoyed the benefits of having an uncle who just happened to be Pope Calixtus III. Thanks to his convenient social status, Borgia passed through the ranks of bishop, cardinal, and vice-chancellor, gaining enormous wealth along the way. In 1492, he was actually able to buy his way into the papacy, defeating two other opponents by means of bribery.

Alexander was so corrupt that his surname eventually became a byword representing the hellishly low papal standards of the time. He sired at least seven different illegitimate children by his mistresses, and didn’t hesitate to reward them with handsome endowments at the church’s expense. When low on finances, he either established new cardinals in return for payments, or he slammed wealthy people with completely fabricated charges, jailed or murdered them for said false charges, and then stole their money.

Not surprisingly, there is very little about Alexander VI that can be considered godly or even lawful. His goals were selfish and ambitious, and the orderly government he initially administered quickly deteriorated until the city of Rome was in a state of complete disrepair. The words spoken by Giovanni de Medici (the future Pope Leo X) after Borgia’s election are telling:

“Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacious perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all.”

Read more:

Anonymous said...

In 1501 Alexander VI once threw a party he called the "Joust of the Whores":

...50 dancers were invited to slowly strip around the pope's table. Alexander and his family gleefully threw chestnuts on the floor, forcing the women to grovel around their feet like swine; they then offered prizes of fine clothes and jewelry for the man who could fornicate with the most women.

Anonymous said...

. Sergius III (904-11), known by his cardinals as "the slave of every vice," came to power after murdering his predecessor. He had a son with his teenage mistress — the prostitute Marozia, 30 years his junior — and their illegitimate son grew up to become the next pope. With top Vatican jobs auctioned off like baubles, the papacy entered its “dark century.”
Benedict IX, (1032-48) continually shocked even his most hardened cardinals by debauching young boys in the Lateran Palace. Repenting of his sins, he actually abdicated to a monastery, only to change his mind and seize office again. He was “a wretch who feasted on immorality,” wrote Saint Peter Damian, “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest.”

After massacring the entire population in the Italian town of Palestrina, Boniface VIII (1294-1303) indulged in ménages with a married woman and her daughter and became renowned through Rome as a shameless pedophile. He famously declared that having sex with young boys was no more a sin than rubbing one hand against the other — which should make him the patron saint of Boston priests today. The poet Dante reserved a place for him in the eighth circle of Hell

My friend Ed, you should re-think what the catholic church has been feeding you. Successors to Peter, unbroken line. Heck, Peter was never in rome or even close.Jesus is the only way my friend

Anonymous said...

OURCE/FURTHER READING: Duffy, Eamon, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, (Yale, 2002); De Rosa, Peter, Vicars of Christ: the Dark Side of the Papacy (New York, 1988).

my site is

Ed Pie said...

Well, thank you for backing up your claims. Someone willing to do that is rare on this Internet, and whether or not we ever see eye to eye, I'm glad to know you're around. I apologize for being short with you; more often than not, when I hear someone make outrageous claims about the Church, it's just because that person wants to sling some mud and doesn't care if he hasn't done his homework because he figures at least a little of it will stick. I seem to have mistaken you for such an individual, and I regret the presumption.

I would not say I have studied the Borgia popes in great depth, but suffice it to say I wasn't shocked when "The Borgias" aired on Showtime. But it gets back to the point I wanted to make before: that popes, like any other clergy or layman, sin. Ideally we'd always have very holy men chairing Rome, and we're fortunate these days that things there are very unlike how they were a thousand years ago, but there are no guarantees that a bishop anywhere will be a living saint.

I don't know if you intended to go in this direction, but this comes up with regard to papal infallibility as well. The popular notion is that the pope is regarded as so holy that he can engage in some kind of communication directly with God on matters of morals and Church administration or whatever. The truth is that the pope is believed to be protected from error by a special grace, because he is concupiscent. If he were so holy as to never err on his own, he wouldn't need any special safeguards in running the Church.

As for Peter...well, we've got his bones.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you honest talk.The original topic, i think was gay marrrage or something. The catholic clergy, being predominant gay, is a farse in itself. The CC, like the bible, condemns homosexuality. We all sin but homosexuality is a mindset, a way of life.Murders and drunkards and thieves can go to heaven, as long as they get saved and born again. Then they turn from the sinful life. But we all still sin, we cant help it.But being covered by the blood justifies us.Homos rarely want salvation that Jesus has to offer. Like you said, gays hiding behind a priest robe is a prob. The CC has no moral right to point a finger at homosexuality, since it is itself a homosexual sanctuary.Well, all are born unsaved and all have the chance to askJesus for salvation. I know, i was unsaved at one time. I dont point a finger at someone for being unsaved, evn though im saved. I tell them that Jesus stands at the door and knocks.
By the way, Peter never got anywhere near Rome. Lord knows whos bones the Vatican rattles around. Havent you ever asked yourself why the CC is so preoccupied with dead mens bones? Start piecing it togeather my friend Ed. Pedophiles in robes and babylonian fish hats, lesbian nuns, wicked men they call saints.St Valentine married under age girls. Hes sittin in hell along with the nuns and priests. Is this where you put trust for your salvation? Blessings my friend

Ed Pie said...

Can you show me a study/survey that shows the priesthood is predominantly gay?

Whether homosexuals want what Jesus has to offer, I think is an interesting question. It's a complicated matter in some ways. Some of the Christians in this country, sadly, have been real jerks about addressing the issue (to borrow your words, people who don't "tell them that Jesus stands at the door and knocks"), and that tends to drive people who are conflicted about the matter (whether they're so oriented or just sympathizers) into the wrong camp. Some recognize their orientation as a temptation to be resisted, and struggle more or less with resisting it. In some other countries, they're persecuted violently. I'd like to learn the opinions of people who live in places where violent persecution against homosexuals, and nascent persecution against "heteronormativity" of the sort we're starting to see in America, have not yet taken root. As a parallel, I have heard that in India, there is little uproar over Darwinian evolution, but a lot of people have a hard time with the Big Bang, because that fits so badly with Hindu creation myths.

If there were a place we could find some homosexuals who were not either directly or by association harassed by Christians who let their sense of charity get eclipsed, nor encouraged to indulge and celebrate destructive behavior, I wonder how they would describe having these feelings that just run 180 degrees to the vast majority of their neighbors.

The bones in Rome are right where it's said Peter was buried. That's not a mathematically conclusive proof, but it's historically significant. Please don't tell me he went to Babylon; that city's been derelict since the second century BC. Why do bones matter? Because they're historical evidence. No one else claimed to have them anywhere else, which suggests the argument that Peter went to Rome is true after all. Arguments that disdain history entirely or present no plausible alternative don't have a leg to stand on.

I hesitate to say anyone is in hell. I'll call an act or a behavior hellworthy, many of those have been pretty well spelled out in the Bible, but putting a man there to me is the the highest level of the sort of judging we were admonished not to do.

My salvation I trust to the Lord. I just happen to believe He has implemented some temporal tools bigger than my self and my own conscience to help me along the way.