“Amours”: A Supportive Reading of Aquinas

This book by an eminent theologian and expert on Aquinas caught my attention last year. Aquinas’ presentation of natural law theory is widely used as one of the cornerstones of traditional Catholic opposition to homosexuality, but in this book, Oliva finds a supportive reading. He notes that while Aquinas is clearly against same-sex genital acts in general, he does accept that for some people, an attraction to others of the same sex is entirely natural. Being a natural part of who they are, concludes Oliva, it is also natural, and acceptable, that they should express this in sexual love. This is not the first time the point has been made: John Boswell drew attention to it in his own discussion of Aquinas in “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, and Gareth Moore also touched on it in “A Question of Truth”. However, this is the first extended presentation, and the first by such a distinguished specialist on Thomas.
Oliva Amours

Even though it’s in French, I thought it sufficiently important that I bought a digital copy, to struggle through with my limited skill and the help of on-line dictionaries and translation software (Google Translate, Duolingo, Linguee).  Unfortunately, the timing was bad – I got caught up first in the November meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and follow up obligations, then health issues, then…… and I ended up forgetting about it.
I’m now taking another look, and am delighted to find that Bill Lindsay has a post about it at Bilgrimage. Bill is himself a trained, professional theologian and knows what he’s talking about. (He also has a good knowledge of French, which helps). As he points out, this book is really important, and also reasonably accessible to those with just a modest reading knowledge of French. Here’s Bill’s introduction – follow the link for the full, helpful post.
I’ve just finished reading the new book by the noted French Dominican Thomist scholar Reverend Adriano Oliva, Amours: L’Église, les divorcés remariés, les couples homosexuels (Paris: Cerf, 2015), and would like to offer you today some notes about this important new study. Oliva is a distinguished student of the very important Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas, on whose understanding of natural law much Catholic theology has been built over the centuries. He is president of the Leonine Commission, the group charged with producing and publishing faithful critical editions of Aquinas’s work, and is a research fellow at the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes, and a researcher with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), both in Paris.
Unfortunately for English readers who do not read French, Amours is not yet in English translation. The French is, however, lucid and accessible for those who read at least some French. What I want to offer you with my following comments is more a set of notes about the book than a review per se.
As Oliva states in the preface of his book (pp. 7-8), he’s writing it to address a specific context: this is the current ongoing discussion among Catholic theologians, if not among pastoral leaders of the Catholic church, about how the Catholic church might most effectively (and responsively) deal with divorced and remarried Catholics and with LGBT Catholics, particularly those in committed marital relationships.* In other words, Oliva is addressing the questions that, for many lay Catholics and Catholic theologians in the developed sector of the world, occupied central attention as the Vatican’s synod on the family took place last year.

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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