A look at marriage equality from a historical perspective

Debate over same-sex marriage is raging these days in the United States, be it in the courts, the media, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and even among one’s friends and family. Deep beneath the breakers runs a broad stream of little-known history that might bring some calm.

 

A Roman funerary relief

 

By Thomas M. Finn

The biblical view

For most of us, marriage has been shaped by our culture, largely founded on the Book of Genesis and developed over centuries of tradition. God created humans male and female — Adam and Eve — to be partners who cling to each other to carry out the mandate to increase and multiply. After the fall, the rest of Genesis recounts the results: The descendants increase and evil multiplies. God determines to make a new start: the flood, Noah and the family ark, a covenant that guarantees God’s protection. But the mandate to increase and multiply remains.

And so it goes for the centuries recounted in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, with marriage as a primary institution. To fulfill the mandate, husbands have many wives; family members marry each other; masters impregnate slaves, sometimes founding a new people (Abraham, Hagar and the Ishmaelites); boys marry at 14 and girls at 12 — all to ensure the continuity of households. In this long process, the mandate is well on its way to fulfillment, but a cloud hangs just over the horizon: What to do when the mandate is fulfilled?

Early Jews and Christians

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Adopting Genesis and the rest of the Bible as their own, Jews and Christians in antiquity adopted the institution of marriage as defined in its pages. Yet marriage was also an institution of the world in which they lived, a Roman world, where true marriage — matrimony — was a partnership in which a couple consented to live together with mutual affection and respect and to raise a family. For pagans, Jews and Christians, mutual consent was legally and literally the heart of the matter in their Roman world, and from which a series of laws and customs flowed, including their distinctive ways of getting married.

As Christians spread westward, becoming more numerous — by mid-fourth century 30 million of a population of 60 million in the Roman Empire — some early Christian thinkers began to worry about the cloud on the horizon: Heaven was already too full. Indeed, St. Augustine, the celebrated bishop of Hippo in Roman Africa from 395 to 430, thought the cloud had already moved from the horizon to the center of his Mediterranean sky, overshadowing, indeed threatening, his “City of Man.”

Commenting on the Book of Genesis, Augustine reasoned that after the fall from paradise, Adam and his descendants were bound by the precept to increase and multiply until it had been fulfilled by Abraham and his descendants, the patriarchs. Now fulfilled, he concluded, the mandate to increase and multiply had been replaced by a concession: allowing couples to have intercourse without the mandate to procreate. Indeed, St. Paul had proposed a remedy that “it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

Augustine saw that marriage was here to stay, offering three important social benefits — fidelity, offspring and a sacred union. By fidelity, he meant the commitment to have sex only with one’s spouse; by offspring, having and raising children; and by a sacred union, a bond signifying the indissoluble union between Christ and the church described in the Letter to the Ephesians (5:31-32).

As time passed and the population grew, Augustine’s thinking about marriage gradually changed. Tutored by his Roman world and his pastoral life as a bishop, he came to see what made marriage marriage: mutual consent to a life together characterized by marital affection and respect. The importance of offspring, so prominent a reason for marriage, gradually receded in his mind, for his pastoral life brought him face to face with countless childless marriages he considered true marriages.

Medieval Christian view

Augustine’s thinking about sex and marriage has been at the root of the traditions about sex and marriage in the West, because he was the only church father to write extensively about sex and marriage. Christian thinkers and writers for centuries have been deeply beholden to Augustine. With the rise of universities in the late 12th century, for instance, their masters — the early Scholastics — sought to determine how marriage in their secular world fit into their sacramental world. A sharp debate arose among them about what constituted true marriage. One group argued that it was at the point of sexual consummation true marriage exists, because consummation embodied the union between Christ and the church. A second group argued that it was consent given in the present to live together as equal partners with mutual affection and respect that embodied the union. By the end of the century the “consentist” position had won the debate, largely because its architect, the prominent Parisian theologian Peter Lombard, had written a textbook that became the theology text for the next 400 years.

A contemporary view

Thus, for some 1,600 years, what made a marriage a true marriage was consent, from which its three benefits — fidelity, children and sacred union — flowed. Whether a couple could have children was, like sexual attraction, nature’s call — not what makes marriage marriage. Although same-sex couples can have a child by adoption and nurture the child in a home characterized by mutual affection and respect, they cannot beget a child of their own. That same situation often is the case for an opposite-sex married couple who adopt and nurture. Neither couple can be said to contravene the law of nature by marrying.

Given the percentage of people for and against same-sex marriage, more than 60 percent of our citizens, including Catholics, seem to agree with what our Western predecessors concluded about what truly constitutes marriage, whether for an opposite-sex or same-sex couple, namely, consent to a life together of partners infused with affection and respect constitutes true marriage, from which the social benefits flow.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis reaches out to gays, says he won’t judge gay priests

Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked.

Francis in the airPope Francis urged young Catholics to shake up their dioceses and get out and preach during his trip to Rio de Janeiro.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

Francis’ remarks came Monday during a plane journey back to the Vatican from his first foreign trip in Brazil.

He was funny and candid during his first news conference that lasted almost an hour and a half. He didn’t dodge a single question, even thanking the journalist who raised allegations reported by an Italian newsmagazine that one of his trusted monsignors was involved in a scandalous gay tryst.

Francis said he investigated and found nothing to back up the allegations.

Francis was asked about Italian media reports suggesting that a group within the church tried to blackmail fellow church officials with evidence of their homosexual activities. Italian media reported this year that the allegations contributed to Benedict’s decision to resign.

Stressing that Catholic social teaching that calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized, Francis said it was something else entirely to conspire to use private information for blackmail or to exert pressure.

Francis was responding to reports that a trusted aide was involved in an alleged gay tryst a decade ago. He said he investigated the allegations according to canon law and found nothing to back them up. But he took journalists to task for reporting on the matter, saying the allegations concerned matters of sin, not crimes like sexually abusing children.

And when someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives but forgets.

“We don’t have the right to not forget,” he said.

The directness of his comments suggested that he wanted to put the matter of the monsignor behind him as he sets about overhauling the Vatican bank and reforming the Holy See bureaucracy.

Speaking in Italian with occasional lapses in his native Spanish, Francis dropped a few nuggets of other news:

— He said he was thinking of traveling to the Holy Land next year and is considering invitations from Sri Lanka and the Philippines as well.

— The planned Dec. 8 canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will likely be postponed — perhaps until the weekend after Easter — because road conditions in December would be dangerously icy for Poles traveling to the ceremony by bus.

— And he solved the mystery that has been circulating ever since he was pictured boarding the plane to Rio carrying his own black bag, an unusual break from Vatican protocol.

“The keys to the atomic bomb weren’t in it,” Francis quipped. Rather, he said, the bag merely contained a razor, his breviary prayer book, his agenda and a book on St. Terese of Lisieux, to whom he is particularly devoted.

Complete Article HERE!

REMEMBER THESE PHOTOS

Remember these photos every time you hear a Catholic bishop tell you to ignore your conscience and blindly follow what he tells you to do, think, and how to vote.

 

Our bishops tell us that we homosexuals are intrinsically evil, but when they had the opportunity to say something similar about the Nazis…well, not only were they silent, but they were actively complicit with the regime.

Our bishops are as morally bankrupt today as they were then!

Weighty Matters

I’m cross-posting, here, an exchange I had with a correspondent on my sex advice site this morning. I believe it will be both relevant and insightful to my audience on this site. — Richard

Name: Seattle Guy
Gender: Male
Age: 27
Location: Seattle
Dr. Dick – Were you really a Roman Catholic priest? I’m Catholic – and trying to figure out where I stand sexually. I’d be gay in a second if I had confidence that was my authentic self. I’m definitely bi – somewhere in the middle. Anyway, have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality? But I guess I should ask, do you still believe in God? How did you find your way to producing porn? How does God figure in everything, in your opinion? Do you think a soul has a sexuality? Are these too many questions? Any response you have would be very appreciated!

Yes, Seattle Guy, you have way too many questions! But because you asked so nicely, I’ll do my best to answer each and every one. Because I’m such a friggin sweet guy.

“Were you really a Roman Catholic priest?” I were, I really were! I was a Catholic priest for 19 years. Technically I still am a priest, but I no longer practice in that capacity. Here’s a little known fact, I am the only Catholic priest in the whole wide world with a doctorate in Clinical Sexology. How about them apples? That and a $1.50 gets me a ride on the bus.

I completed my doctorate with the publication of my thesis concerning the sexual attitudes and behaviors of gay Catholic priests in the active ministry in 1981. This was unprecedented research back then. Hell, it’s groundbreaking even now. Needless to say, there was a firestorm of international publicity upon publication. I was soon to be known as “The Gay Priest.” Like if I was the only one. This notoriety (some would say infamy) effectively ended my public priesthood. I fought the Vatican for the next 13 years, from 1981-1994, in an attempt to salvage my priesthood and ministry, but they would have none of it. I published a book about my ordeal, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest. It came out last summer. (Click on the title for more information about the book.)

I was kicked out of the religious community I belonged to, but I was never defrocked. So, like I said, technically I’m still a man of the cloth. Scary huh? And what a difference 30+ years makes. The political climate in the church is even more repressive than it was in the early 80’s, but now openly gay men serve as priests all over the world. I can’t explain it either.

So you’re a Catholic too, OK. But you’re still (at 38) trying to figure out where you stand sexually. I’m not sure I know what that means. You say you’d be gay in a minute if you thought that was your authentic self. You’re bi for sure…somewhere in the middle. In the middle of what, may I ask? You’ll pardon me, darlin’, but you sound suspiciously like a mugwump. Do you know what that is? A mugwump is a fence-sitter, someone with his mug on one side and his wump on the other. The reason I say that is if your were authentically bi, you’d leave it at that, as do all authentically bi men.

“Have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality?” You betcha I have! But I have a completely different take on this then you apparently do. Ya see I would have phrased the question in the reverse. How does our sexuality fit into god? The way you have it, suggests that the infinite can fit into the finite. And this is precisely where most religious people go very, very wrong. We do god a disservice by trying to stuff the divine into the mundane.

My sexuality fits into god when I am honest and authentic with myself about who I am and acknowledge my insignificance in the greatness of creation, I fit into god when I honor my sexuality, when I celebrate it, when I give it as a gift. I do not fit into god when I am dishonest with myself, or others, when I falsely claim my own significance in the mind of god and when I belittle god with my pettiness and insecurity.

You’ll notice that I was careful not to mention anything about sexual orientation, even though I think that’s what you were ultimately asking me about. Mugwumps are so predictable. Ya see sexual orientation, as we currently understand it, is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. And all of human history barely registers in cosmic history. Why do you suppose we’re so consumed about something so irrelevant to the big picture? And god is the ultimate “BIG PICTURE.” What concerns me is that you’ve come this far in your life and still haven’t been honest to god…or yourself.

Do you still believe in God? Yes, in a manner of speaking! I tend not to use the word “god” as much as I used to, because it comes with too much cultural baggage. I prefer the term, “divine. But whatever I call it, I’m positive my god is nothing like your god. Your god is made in your image. My god is not made in my image. In fact, my god so unlike me — a mere fallible, insignificant mortal — as to make my god incomprehensible to the likes of me. But that doesn’t mean there’s no appreciation. There is!

“How did you find your way to producing porn?” God led me! Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. It all started back in 1981, believe it or not. My career as a therapist in San Francisco coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS . Not surprisingly, my practice evolved into working primarily with sick and dying people. In the mid-90’s I founded a nonprofit organization called, PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach and resource for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. Despite the fact that this was brilliant cutting-edge work, I couldn’t find the funding I needed to keep the nonprofit alive. This precipitated a massive mid-life crisis and a rather sudden move to Seattle in 1999.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here. I developed programming for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and men with prostate cancer. This lead me to develop concepts for videos for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses; to help them deal with reintegrating sex and intimacy into their life post diagnosis. But I needed to find funding for this ambitious project. I soon realized that no mainline foundation would fund an overtly sexual project like this. I would have to fund this on my own. But how? Friends prevailed on me to start by making porn. I’d make a load of money and then I could turn my attention back to the original project — death and dying work. Thus Daddy Oohhh! Productions was born. Unfortunately, the load of money has yet to materialize. But while I was shooting porn, my focus is to create projects that are different in style and tone from what currently rules the marketplace.

“How does God figure in everything, in your opinion?” Once again, I think you’ve got that backwards. The better question, to my mind, is: How does everything figure into god? And here my answer echos my previous answer. If there is a god, then everything figures into god with ease and grace.

“Do you think a soul has a sexuality?” Nope, I don’t. Sexuality is part of the finite material world. It’s a bodily function that apparently goes away when our body dies. A soul, as it is popularly understood, is something other. What precisely? I can’t really say. Hey, maybe something else takes the place of sexuality in the spiritual world, if there is a spiritual world. I guess you and I will just have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be great if you freed yourself up to be exactly who you are? And not wait on someone, especially someone of a religious bent, to give you permission to do so, or tell you what you can and cannot be.

Good luck