Is Aquinas’ Natural Law Gay-friendly?

A book in French (“Amours“) by a noted Dominican theologian, an acknowledged expert on the work of Thomas Aquinas, argues that yes, indeed it is.

The only English reports about “Amours” that I’ve seen, have been hostile responses from the right. However, there’s no doubt that a gay friendly reading of Thomas is not only possible, but quite possibly more appropriate than the usual argument that same-sex relationships are contrary to natural law, and Oliva’s book is not the first to point this out – just the first to do so at length, and with such impeccable credentials.

The problem is that the critics cling to a few paragraphs about “sodomy” in the Summa, embracing Thomas’ conclusions, based on the state of knowledge in the 13th century – and totally ignore his method, which emphasises the importance of reason, and respect for the findings of science. If he were living today, with all the knowledge from natural and social science now available, he would surely have reached very different conclusions.

But even in his own time, according to Boswell some of his writing is indeed gay friendly, Even then, Boswell writes,Aquinas recognized that for some individuals, an attraction to the same sex is natural, and so not after all “against nature”.

“Thus it may happen that something which is against human nature, in regard to reason or to preservation of the body, may become natural to a particular man, owing to some defect of nature in him. The “defect” of nature should not be taken as implying some contravention of natural laws. Aquinas compares this sort of innate homosexuality to hot water. Although it is natural for water to be cold, it may be altogether natural in some circumstances, for it to become hot.Although it may not be natural for humans  in general to be homosexual, it is apparently entirely natural.for some particular individuals.”  (CSTH, p326).

In Aquinas’ view, moreover, everything which is in any way “natural” has a purpose, and the purpose is good: “Natural inclinations occur in things because of God, who moves all things…….. Whatever is the end of anything natural cannot be bad in itself, since everything which exists naturally us ordained by divine providence to fill some purpose”.  (CSTH, 327).

There seems to be much more interest these days in more sympathetic serious theology of same-sex relationships. It’s been suggested that one of the reasons the topic was largely ignored at the family synod assembly, was a recognition that the whole subject needs greater study, with due attention to the science, and to hearing the stories of gay people ourselves. I’m convinced that as this study proceeds, this gay friendly Thomism will indeed become “the wave of the future”

 (I’ll be looking for more reports of this, from less hostile sources)

Recommended Books

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People In Western Europe From The Beginning Of The Christian Era To The Fourteenth Century: Gay … of the Christian Era to the 14th Century
Moore, Gareth: A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality
Oliva, Adriano: Amours : L’église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels (French Edition)

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