- RITE AND REASON: A Kiev art museum contains
a curious icon from St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two
robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best
man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a
husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is
unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.
- Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage"
is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea initially seems shocking. The
full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge
and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.
- While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early
Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded
as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained
that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were
joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek
account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the "sweet
companion and lover" of St Bacchus.
- In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies,
that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship
was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image
that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon
has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".
- The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems
incredible. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church
archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type
of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th
- Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage
has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both
as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition
to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents
(and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as
blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other
titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century
Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).
- These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of
a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before
the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation
of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet afterwards.
All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of
Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual
unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century,
as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.
- Boswell's book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions
in Pre- Modern Europe, lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found
in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order
for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union" having invoked St Serge and St
Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and
N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal
all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and
all thy saints." The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss
the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded."
- Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of
Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having
their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their
left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to
kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist,
would give them both communion.
- Boswell found records of same-sex unions in such diverse
archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul,
and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor
is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653)
includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.
- While homosexuality was technically illegal from late
Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual
feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex union ceremonies continued
to take place.
- At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's
parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were "married" at
Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, "taking Communion
together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and
ate together", according to a contemporary report.
- Another woman-to-woman union is recorded in Dalmatia
in the 18th century. Many questionable historical claims about the church
have been made by some recent writers in this newspaper.
- Boswell's academic study however is so well researched
and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders
and heterosexual Christians about their attitude towards homosexuality.
- FOR the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives
would be a cowardly cop-out. That evidence shows convincingly that what
the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards
homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.
- It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in
parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul
and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted
as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another
person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the
name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.
- Jim Duffy is a writer and historian. The Marriage of
Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell is published
by Harper Collins.
- Dear Jeff,
- I have never posted here before, but I felt compelled
to mail you this article because of what I believe to be false assertions
concerning gay "marriages" that were made in an article about
John Boswell. I am requesting that you post this article.
- PS I love your site. It's a great alternative to our
corporate controlled media. Keep up the good work!
- Rewriting History to Serve the Gay Agenda
- One of the most disturbing trends in academia today is
the wholesale practice of historical revisionism, or what has been described
as "advocacy scholarship, "that is, scholarship in the service
of a social and political agenda.
- What does all this academic gobbledygook mean? Basically,
historical revisionism is the kind of history you get when no one any longer
admits such thing as reality, principle, or truth. What we have is quite
simply the "pleasure principle adopted by historians,"  that
is to say, history at the pleasure of the historians. Thus, there are now
feminist histories, history re-written from a feminist perspective; or
"black" histories, whose focus in every period is the oppression
of blacks; or Marxist histories, which view every event as part of the
inevitable clash between the oppressed proletariats and the oppressive
capitalists. We can even get a "new" history like the recently
released Constantine's Sword, which maintains that Christianity's primary
aim since the death of Christ has been the oppression and persecution of
Jews. 1. 1. Gertrude Himmelfarb, On Looking Into the Abyss, (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 133.
- These absurd methods of "re-reading" history
are not only being tolerated, but accepted and praised in mainstream academia.
Since we have been supposedly "liberated" from the "coercive"
idea of truth and reality, why shouldn't feminists, homosexuals, and every
kind of revisionist with an agenda seize the moment to exploit their interests?
- That is exactly what John Boswell did. The past Chairman
of Yale's history department was gay and a convert to Catholicism. He resided
in New Haven with his long-time companion, and died not too long ago 
at age 42 of an AIDS-related illness. Now, in "history according to
Boswell," homosexuality was tolerated in the first centuries of Christianity
and homosexual marriages were celebrated liturgically in the Middle Ages.
- If you have a child enrolled in a Medieval History class
at a university, you might check out the reading list------there is a good
chance he will be exposed to Boswell's "scholarship." His 1980
book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality has become the standard
reference for those who want the Church to reverse its traditional teaching
against homosexual unions and activities. This book, which Boswell admitted
was written to "prove" there was acceptance of homosexuality
in the Western Catholic tradition from the beginning of the Christian era
until the 14th Century, won the American Book Award for History in 1981.
- His 1994 book, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, raised
the question of whether certain Greek or Byzantine Church medieval rituals
that Boswell terms "same-sex marriages" were ecclesiastical blessings
of homosexual unions. Despite Boswell's claim to an objective interpretation
of the facts, his views and scholastic labors were obviously shaped by
his personal lifestyle and convictions.
- "What Boswell is trying to do is change the Catholic
Church. I think that was his whole purpose," said Dr. Vern L. Bullough,
a professor emeritus of History at Buffalo Sate University of New York.
 I agree with Dr. Bullough. The interest of Boswell was first and foremost
to find "facts" that could justify homosexuality as something
normal and acceptable in order to further the gay rights agenda of our
day. 2. 2. "Did Medieval Gays Marry," AP, reported in Prodigy.
- In Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Boswell based
his claim that the Church was blessing "same-sex marriages" on
the subjective reading of some 80 manuscripts that he found during 12 years
of summer research in the libraries of Italy, France, England, and Greece.
In fact, the adelphopoiesis ceremonies, from the Greek words adelphos [brother]
and poiesis [making], cited in Boswell's book [which are no longer in the
Greek liturgy] were a part of the history of blessings in the Church. What
Boswell came upon were probably so-called sealing ceremonies swearing loyal
brotherhood between men and presided over by a priest of the Eastern Catholic
or Schismatic rites.
- It is quite obvious to any reader of the texts that there
is nothing either explicit or implicit regarding "same-sex marriages"
connected with the blessings. By publishing translations of several heterosexual
marriage ceremonies alongside the "same-sex blessings," Boswell
sought to highlight similarities. Even a casual reading of the texts reveals
integral differences: the normal marriage ceremonies bless a physical union
of a man and a woman, celebrating "the cause for which Matrimony was
ordained . . . the procreation of children."  However, each and
everyone of the texts Boswell called "same-sex unions" stress
a union where the participants are "not bound together by nature,
but in the unity of the Holy Spirit," or "joined together not
by the bond of nature but by faith and in the mode of the spirit."
 These blessings of "spiritual brotherhood" were far from
being the "same-sex unions" that Boswell termed them.
- 3. Boswell, Same-Sex Unions, p. 323. 4. Ibid., pp. 291-5.
- Of course, for Boswell, interpretation of the texts can
turn on the meaning of few words. Here is one of the texts from the ceremonies,
translated from 11th Century Greek: "That these Thy servants [names]
be sanctified with Thy spiritual benediction, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That their love abide without offense or scandal all the days of their
lives, we beseech Thee, O Lord. That they be granted all things needed
for salvation and godly enjoyment of life everlasting, we beseech Thee,
O Lord." This liturgical ceremony, like all the others, specifically
states that the blessing extends to a union whose love should be without
offense or scandal." Boswell, however, didn't like the translation
"scandal," and replaced it with "envy."  In another
example of history at the service of the historian, Boswell changed the
translation of one Greek term inside a blessing text from "chaste
love" to "discretion," obviously to deviate from any implication
that chastity was an integral factor in monastic and temporal friendships.
5. Ibid., p. 319.
- In all his revised interpretations, Boswell unfairly
keeps silent about the fact that according to the early and medieval Church,
homosexual activity was scandalous and considered an abomination. For example,
St. Augustine called sodomy and similar vices "sins against nature,
which are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they
are committed." Speaking about the sin of sodomy, St. John Crysostom
said "there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more mad or damaging than
this perversity." St.. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas condemned
homosexual acts as obscene, addictive and against nature.  A ceremony
of blessing would hardly sanction------in a subliminal, contextual reading------what
Popes and Saints forthrightly condemned.
- 6. In the Appendix of In the Murky Waters of Vatican
II, Atila Sinke Guimarães provides documentation for these and other
condemnations of numerous Saints and Popes with regard to homosexual acts.
(Metairie, LA,: MAETA, 1997) pp. 353-365. If we view the documents within
the context of the time [rather than our own], the obvious question rises:
Why would the Byzantine Church be blessing homosexual marriages at a time
when Church laws imposed two to three years' penance for homosexual activity?
Both Byzantine and Roman civil law treated it as a crime to be punished
by torture, castration, or even the death penalty. [The death penalty was
punishment for homosexual behavior in late imperial Roman law.] Later Canon
Law codes mitigated this to mutilation; it also excused boys age twelve
and younger from guilt, although boys who had been sexually abused were
ineligible for the priesthood or deaconate.  The idea------that these
liturgical blessing ceremonies proves that the Church has sanctioned, legalized,
and even idealized homosexual union in the early and medieval Christian
Western world------falls flat in face of the legal evidence alone. 7. Ibid.,
- Boswell also revealed his complete misunderstanding of
the underlying spirit of the Age of Faith, which was marked by a tonus
of sacrality and spirituality that penetrated all the customs, institutions,
and laws, as well as relations of civil society. His interpretation of
Christian friendship was based on a complete and blasphemous distortion
of "the religion of the teacher who described friendship as the highest
love."  Boswell went so far as to suggest that the imagery describing
the "most controversial same-sex couple," the "beloved Apostle"
John and Jesus Christ, "was intimate, if not erotic."  He
also implied absurd libidinous relationships between Saints Peter and Paul,
Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, and Saints Serge and Bacchus [two Roman
soldiers and popular Martyrs of the early Eastern Church.] 8. Boswell,
Same-Sex Unions, p. x. 9. lbid., p. 138.
- In the case of Ss. Serge and Bacchus, Boswell chose to
ignore the document's emphasis on the fact that the two soldiers "were
joined not in the way of nature but in the manner of faith." Instead,
he tried to prove an erotic relationship based on the Psalm associated
with the pair, who were always singing, "Behold, how good and how
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." [Ps. 133:
1] He also based his claims for an illicit relationship on "the long
and hallowed relationship to democracy and military valor" that homosexuality
played in the pagan Greek and Roman armies.  For him, the only "honest
methodology" is to assume and seek the "erotic or romantic component"
of any same-sex friendship or brotherhood. 10. lbid., p. 61.
- According to Catholic doctrine, all men are brothers
by nature, but they become brothers in Christ through the Faith, by means
of Baptism, which opens the doors of Divine grace to the soul. This gave
fraternity a supernatural dimension in the early Christian era and throughout
the Middle Ages. Within this framework, close friendship, especially between
males, remained a high ideal imbued with supernatural principles. A true
friend was defined by St. Gregory the Great as custos animi, [a guardian
of the soul, that is to say, one who takes care of the soul of his brother.]
 Thus, a major component in Christian friendship is for each party
to assume a responsibility for the other's spiritual well-being and ultimate
salvation. The close bond of spiritual brotherhood as developed in Catholic
tradition, and particularly its monastic history, is either disregarded
or ridiculed by Boswell.
- 11. Brian Patrick McGuire, Friendship and Community,
(Cistercian Pub., 1988). Finally, Boswell argued that in its first millennium,
devout adherents of the Christian religion did not expect marriage to satisfy
emotional or sexual needs.  Such needs, Boswell implied, were met much
more satisfactorily in homosexual or extramarital relations. Yet this notion
that there was no love inside marriage has been totally discredited. David
Herlihy, a Harvard professor who was a specialist on the family in the
Middle Ages, has noted that contemporary attitudes toward the family as
a moral unity based on love and affection have ancient and medieval origins.
 According to St. Augustine, Amicitia, or friendship, in marriage was
present from creation. As early as the 3rd Century, Origen of Alexandria
affirmed love as a universal human experience that must be governed hierarchically
by reason: one loved God first, and then one's parents, spouse, children,
and domestics."  Love played much more than an "ambivalent
role" in marriages, contrary to Boswell's arguments, which falsely
aim at showing that many early Christian and medieval men only found satisfactory
emotional and physical love outside of marriage in extramarital homosexual
- 12. Boswell, Same-Sex Unions, pp. 108-61.
- 13. David Herlihy, "Family," in American Historical
Review, 96; No.1 (Feb. 1991), pp 1-16.
- 14. Ibid., pp. 1-3. The author utilized meticulous footnotes
and all the scholarly apparatus to gain credibility for his theories. However,
his scholarship was completely subjective and relativist. He felt free
to create a new vision of the past according to his own judgment of the
present. Like bogus Marxist, feminist and black histories, "homosexual"
histories such as Boswell's are intent on "politics," and these
scholastic works have become instruments in the struggle for influence
and right of citizenship. What they are intent upon toppling, however,
is the whole code of ethics and morality of Christian Civilization.
- The veritable media blitz today in favor of homosexuality
is an attempt to wear down all opposition, all barriers of healthy horror
and rejection to what Boswell derisively terms "the unmentionable
sin." In the name of tolerance, legislation is being introduced to
permit homosexual marriages, symbolic of a cultural and spiritual transformation
of the country, and an end of culture and civilization as we know it.
- As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen pointed out in 1931, what
the world is suffering from today is not intolerance, but tolerance: "tolerance
of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos."
Today's philosophical nonchalance, which has been interpreted as broad-mindedness,
has ended on the multi-cultural battleground, where the facts of the past
are at the mercy of any cultural or intellectual movement that distorts
history in order to reinterpret it. Boswell's work represents the victory
of tolerance as understood by Msgr. Fulton Sheen.
- Any objective medieval historian cannot be oblivious
to the serious flaws in Boswell's work. But because of the "politically
correct" tyranny of the gay rights movement on campuses, the Yale
professor's work is barely challenged. Books like Boswell's are just plain
"bad" history, in every sense of the word. And the practice of
bad history is even more dangerous than the practice of bad medicine, because
its poison seeps into the very soul of Christian Civilization. Note: Dr.
Marian Therese Horvat holds a Ph.D. in Medieval History.