From The Tablet, 8th January:
News from Britain and Ireland
Priest leader says Church likely to lose same-sex battle
08 January 2015 by Sarah Mac Donald
A LEADING IRISH priest has warned that opposing proposed same-sex marriage legislation is a battle the Church is “destined to lose”, writes Sarah Mac Donald.
Fr Brendan Hoban, one of the leaders of the Association for Catholic Priests (ACP), said: “If the Church had been generous in welcoming civil partnerships in 2010 we’d be in a stronger position to argue about the definition of marriage.”
He added that some of the arguments offered by official and non-official church bodies against the Irish Government’s proposed change “seem unconvincing”.
Full report at The Tablet,
Or, to put it in the words of the correspondent who sent me the report –
“IT ALREADY HAS … IT JUST NEEDS TO ADMIT THAT!”
Not only is it now clear that the Church, in Ireland, the USA and elsewhere, has already lost its quixotic fight against marriage equality – it’s also at grave risk of losing whatever respect it still enjoys for its entire corpus of teaching on marriage and human sexuality, after displaying such abysmal ignorance of what marriage and committed relationships are actually about, in real life.
As LGBT Catholics, it is important to recognize that our counterparts have featured strongly in Church history, although modern bowdlerized versions thereof have airbrushed us out. To redevelop a sense of our rightful place in the church, it is important that we recover and take ownership of this history.From a range of sources, I am assembling a partial roll call of same sex lovers (not necessarily genital, but certainly intimate) in the history of the Catholic Church. There are many others. These are some that I have come across:
David the prophet and Jonathan, his lover (10th /11th Cent BC)
The story of David and Jonathan is well known from the Hebrew bible. It is not explicitly stated that there was a sexual relationship between them but the passionate language is certainly that of lovers.
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soulof Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. “
Asher & Caleh.
Asher was a son of Solomon, Caleh a shepherd. By some accounts these were the two lovers in the frankly erotic love poem, the “Song of Songs”, widely used as a metaphor for the love between God and humanity. Usually presented as conventional heterosexual love, there is increasing recognition that the lovers were probably both men.
A translation by Dr Paul R Johnson directly from early texts includes the frankly homoerotic
“How delightful you are Caleh,My lover-man, my other half.Your pleasing masculine love is better than wine.The smell of your body is better than perfume.Your moustache is waxed with honeycomb.Honey and milk are under your tongue.The scent of your clothing is like the smell of Lebanon.”
A review of this book, posted on the Wild Reed, notes that:
“It gets to the heart of the question of whether the Hebrews and early Christians were fundamentally homophobic, or whether, as John Boswell has maintained, homophobia was a later addition. Johnson has consulted with many Hebrew scholars, who reluctantly concede the validity of his revolutionary word-for-word translation.”
The “Song of Songs” was recommended to me by a retreat director early in the most important, totally profound, retreat I have ever undertaken. She made no mention of gender in the recommendation, but I immediately interpreted the texts in same -sex terms. I believe that such reflections on this book contributed significantly to the powerful retreat experience that followed. I strongly urge my male readers in particular to read and pray over this marvelous homoerotic love poem.
Ruth & Naomi
Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law. Some people argue that there was also a lesbian relationship between them (which is not necessarily contradicted by the legal relationship). What really matters though, is the sheer quality of the devotion. Whether this was in any way physical, or purely emotional, is no the point. Theirs is an inspirational story of devotion and loyalty overcoming enormous difficulties fro women, which many women in our day still find helpful.
Jesus & John, the Beloved Disciple:
We cannot know precisely the nature of this relationship, but it was clearly a close one. some people find the mere suggestion that this was a sexually intimate one positively offensive; at least one reputable biblical scholar (Kevin Jennings, in “The Man Jesus Loved” argues that it was indeed so). I find the idea certainly plausible without being offensive, but also irrelevant. There are other reasons for accepting that Jesus was at least gay – affirming, and that John represents a good role model.
-for more, continue reading at Queer Saints and Martyrs
The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar- but should be. John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before Sergius & Bacchus .
Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians. The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.
The dangers inherent in translating texts are obvious to anyone who has attempted to use Google Translate. Professional linguists and translators fo better, but difficulties remain, especially with literary and biblical texts. For LGBT people, the consequences have been profoundly damaging.
The widely held belief that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality underpins both religious and secular opposition, but this belief is unfounded. The word does not exist in the original text, for the simple reason that in Biblical times, the word and concept as we understand them, were unknown. What we have, is a set of modern interpretations of a series of translations from what are now dead languages. It is now widely recognized, for instance, that the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokotoi” that occur in Corinthians, do not in fact simply refer to “homosexuals”, as some translations imply. There has been less attention paid to the Hebrew texts of the First Testament.
In a new book, “Love Lost in Translation“, the biblical scholar and linguistic specialist Renato Lings argues convincingly that in fact, all of the damaging texts of terror that have been so widely used to object to homoerotic relationships have been similarly distorted, with their original sense badly corrupted. In a fascinating opening chapter, he describes how these difficulties have affected not only modern translators, but even the writers of the Gospels and Pauline letters, in their understanding of the Jewish scriptures. These were written in a classical Hebrew over hundreds of years, so that by the time of the Second Testament, it was no longer the common speech, having been replaced by Aramaic and Greek. To make the Hebrew bible more widely accessible, it had been translated from classical Hebrew into Greek (the version known as the Septuagint). The Second Testament itself was written directly in Greek – and for its quotations and references to the Hebrew prophets, depended on the Greek translations in the Septuagint. A few centuries later, the Greek bible, both Septuagint and Second Testament writings, were themselves translated into what had since become the common language of the people – Latin, in Jerome’s Vulgate version. Continue reading Biblical Love – Lost in Translation?