Saturday, October 09, 2010

St.'s Sergius and Bacchus: Martyrs, Soldier Saints.


Erastes, erastai, pederasty in the post-modern myth.
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Contemporary gay Catholics celebrate the feast of the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus (October 7) as a special interest patron saint day, especially since controversial 20th century historian John Boswell presented the two martyrs as examples of homosexual lovers and partners, suggesting gay partnerships were approved by the early Church.  Real scholars may debate the issue, but I say Boswell's theory is just that - a mythical theory of wishful thinking - totally prejudiced by his own homosexuality and 20th century sexual myopics.
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Early records refer to Serge and Bacchus as erastai - plural for erastes - which strictly speaking usually refers to a relationship between an older man and a male youth - hence the term pederasty.  Sometimes the Greek word erastai is used in non-sexual terms in the sense of 'beloved' - as is most probable in the case of the two martyrs.  Male friendship, bonding, closeness, brotherly love, loyalty - especially amongst soldiers, and in the case of Serge and Bacchus - because they were secret Christians - would not have been sexual, unnatural or immoral.  Their persecutors and executioners would have treated them with contempt - not unlike the humiliation Christ endured in his passion.  In a culture where homosexuality may have been recognized to some extent, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary, nor an exaggeration to expect the courage demonstrated by the martyrs to have been mocked and themselves shamed as homosexuals.  One legend claims the martyrs were paraded through the streets dressed as women - if true, it was a shameful act certainly not celebrating homosexuality.
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It must be remembered that the term erastai is archaic and originates from pre-Christian times, in a period when the acceptance of certain homosexual practices was much different than in our own day.  There is evidence homosexuality was not as exulted and respected across the board as modern gay historians like to imagine - especially by the time of Christ.  There is no credible evidence the Church ever blessed same-sex sexual relationships, just as there is no credible evidence the Church ever ordained women as priests, or that there was ever a woman-pope.
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"... Among you there will be false teachers who will smuggle in pernicious heresies.  Their lustful ways will lure many away.  Through them, the true way will be made subject to contempt." - 2 Peter 2
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Iconography:  As you can see most iconography of the saints depicts them as soldiers, friends.  There is no evidence that their friendship was any more than friendship in Christ, and their witness and example to be that of martyrs for Christ.  As such, the blessed martyrs St.'s Sergius and Bacchus are wonderful examples for all Christian men striving to live faithfully in an anti-Christian culture - but they do not belong to anti-Catholic political movements.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks, once again, Mr. Terry, for your scholarship and common sense.
    Love between two men, as love between a man and a woman, in Christian/Catholic tradition is always a sign of the kingdom of God...and homosex has no place there.
    Love, yes.
    Sometimes very deep and passionate love.
    Sex?
    Nope.

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  2. Thanks for writing this - I wish it could be broadcast everywhere.

    I just read on a Catholic blog where AGAIN liberal Catholics were pulling out the "Where did Jesus, himself, actually say that being gay was wrong?" card.

    I want to bash those folks upside the head. The world is going crazy.

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  3. Their feast is not just celebrated by the Latin Church, but also by the Eastern Churches where they have been especially revered, moreso than by the West. Read any Orthodox Menaion.

    Maybe they weren't gay lovers, we don't know, but maybe they were because we don't know that either. The fact that they were paraded through the streets in women's clothes does say something.

    I hear all this talk about deep, passionate, yet sexless love between men. I don't buy it. I've yet to see two men who love so deeply and passionately that are not lovers. I don't buy that the Church blessed same sex unions either.

    What I do buy is that "the closet" has been around as long as there have been human beings. Maybe Sergius and Bacchus were homosexual, and maybe they did love each other passionately as spouses, but without sex. But then again, maybe they hid their love and were found out. Perhaps that's why they were dressed as women. As with much of the early life of the church and many saints, there's always a spin.

    Whether they were lovers or not, they died confessing Christ, together. That's the example that's held up for both gays and straights.

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  4. Those who promote and accept homosexuality (and all forms of sexual promiscuity, for that matter) are unable to fathom, let alone ever experience, true friendship because they view other people as objects to be used. How very sad and lonely they must be.

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  5. When I said, "deep and passionate", I meant it in a more "classical" sense; not concupiscent...
    love among men, as brothers, as father and son, as friends, can be in Christ chaste while having the component of personal love...
    it may be rare, but it is possible.
    Leon Podles has written of the "soldier love" (my words, not his)...the bonding that takes place amongst men in battle; not sexual but very deep and committed to one another.
    Just some thoughts

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  6. I don't promote promiscuity, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual. People are not objects to be used but souls to be loved. But I can't see how one cannot fathom or experience true friendship if they did. I sincerely doubt that even the most promiscuous person wants to "jump the bones" of every person they see and can't have a friendship not based on sex.

    This "true friendship" that is often euphemized as what certain people touted as gay, such as David and Jonathan, Ss. Sergius and Bacchus, Newman and St. John, Lincoln and Speed, for example had, goes, for me at least, beyond the acceptable societal boundaries of normal friendships.

    So define it, this friendship. Being so close in spirit to your friend that you feel them with you when you are not there? Needing to see or speak to them and share the deepest parts of yourself? Wanting to share your joys and sorrows with them when they happen? Is it living the in same house and loving each other deeply and passionately but never touching each other. Writing passionate letters (now emails or texts), because you miss your friend so badly when you are apart? Or mourning unconsolably if your friend leaves or dies?

    If I had such a friendship with one of my friends*, I am quite certain that it would be very troubling to my spouse* and our relationship. How do you who are married feel about that? What would be the limit for you with your spouse and their true friend*?

    *For the record, I am not married and leave the genders specifically neutral so that you can fill in your own situation.

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  7. Sara will most likely be around tonight and hopefully she will comment on the bond between soldiers.

    Ace - I was actually going to write that even if they had been an item... etc.. Although I would have stressed that they would have changed their life-style to live according to Church teaching, which in turn prepared them to die for Christ. Or something like that. But you see how we are interjecting our own cultural attitudes to the legend.

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  8. Ace: Just a thought..."romantic" is one thing; committed and deep friendship is something quite different.
    If a married man has a close friend with another man, the friendship should not be in conflict with the love he has for his wife. If a single man has a close friend, it should not be something that obscures or hampers his ability to live his vocation, in whatever that means.
    Yeah, Mr. Terry, I'm waiting for Sara here...
    In my humble opinion, the problem here is that we equate the love/friendship between two men or two women with a romantic relationship between a man and a woman; they are really distinct.
    And they, if to be Christian, must be ordered to the vocation and the moral norms that Christ has given us.

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  9. wow..you guys really put me on the spot... :)

    There is definitely an indescribable bond between military members, especially those who have served together in combat. It's almost like a "soul mate" kind of thing. It is different than marriage and should not be seen as any kind of competition to a marriage. The bond is deeper than marriage, and among some individual, even deeper than family. There is a trust, a shared experience and comaradiery that I cannot find the words to describe. When one of my fellow "brothers in arms" during Desert Storm took his own life, after strugggling for years with PTSD and alcoholism...I cried and grieved more deeply than I did for my own father and grandmother. Military members always have this "brotherhood" even respected by military members of other nations.. in the US you really see it among Marines.."once a Marine, always a Marine."

    One thing to also consider...up until fairly recently marriages were "business arrangements." Your wife/husband were just that, and you had a family and raised children. You weren't necessarily best friends or even really liked each other. So in that aspect, Sergius and Bacchus were probably best friends, whom you would share hopes and dreams and joys and sorrows with that they would never think of sharing with their wives..and especially Christian discussion and study..

    Sara

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  10. Terry said it best, that even had they been lovers, once they were Christian they would have become celibate and lived according to Christian principles. Their bond would have become a spiritual rather than physical one and they would have lived and been died as true martyrs. "There is more joy in Heaven........"

    This is the spin we must put on the gay theory of these saints. If they were gay, then they carried their cross of mutual attraction in celibate, chaste love through the power of the Holy Spirit and were thus shining examples of how to carry the cross of same-sex attraction!

    That said - they were likely not gay but soldier friends implying the deep bond that exists there.

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  11. nazareth priest said: "Ace: Just a thought..."romantic" is one thing; committed and deep friendship is something quite different.
    If a married man has a close friend with another man, the friendship should not be in conflict with the love he has for his wife. If a single man has a close friend, it should not be something that obscures or hampers his ability to live his vocation, in whatever that means."

    I get that Father and agree with it, But these friendships sure don't look that way to me. Can someone please define this "true friendship." Classical vs concupiscent. I put in my descriptors, which could or could not be taken as romantic. No one responded or has given the definition or description of what true friendship looks like. Yet many of these friendships look more spousal than friendly.

    I read the letters that Bl. JHN wrote at the death of St. John and maybe it's just flowery Victorian prose, but it sounded to me that he was mourning for him as one mourns for a spouse. Right down to his imperative last will that he be buried in the same grave.

    Maybe this true friendship form died at the end of the 19th century?

    I totally get the soldier thing, I really do. My father and most of my uncles fought in WWII. You're trusting those in the trenches with you to protect your life and you theirs. You suffer through probably some of the worst conditions while in the field. I get that in those conditions people become close. But war ends and troops come home and get married, go back to their lives, and grow apart and move on. Is that a true friedship or a situational one?

    Terry said: "Ace - I was actually going to write that even if they had been an item... etc.. Although I would have stressed that they would have changed their life-style to live according to Church teaching, which in turn prepared them to die for Christ."

    Again, this a every much spin and conjecture, just as the spin of those who insist they were lovers. There was no CDF to write nice letters or CCC to teach that it's a "grave depravity" and "intrinsically disordered." Things weren't so neat and tidy. So they just gave it up? They couldn't have been prepared to die for Christ if they still had been lovers?

    I lost my best friend to death when he and I were both 33. We shared our sorrows and joys, and in the last few years of his life when we were in very different places geographically and in our lives in general, communicated much less than we had in college. But we could always pick up where we left off the last time and would certainly always be there for each other. His death stunned and moved me and I would say that we were no less close on the day he died than we were when we saw each other every day. But I could never use the letters of Newman or Lincoln to put that friendship into words. I'm not trying to be difficult, just trying to see things without the spin of history and time. The winner always writes the story.

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  12. Ace, True Friendship, which is True Love, always wants what is best for the other person. And ultimately that is to help the other to reach heaven (or at the least, not to cause anything that will keep them from entering heaven one day).

    If we are using the other person to fulfill our own selfish desires, or we lead the other person into grave sin that deeply offends God, we are NOT LOVING that person. Ths is not true love, it is not true friendship. It is something else. Such relationships need to be looked at more seriously and through God's eyes. Romance can be used as a very powerful tool of Satan to get us to sin and to lead others into sin. It can blind us to the spiritual warfare that is raging all around us (which is the pull of evil on us towards hell).

    Sexual intercourse is the language of marriage between a man and woman only. Anything outside of that, then the language becomes a lie.

    If we love our friends, we should not lead them into sin by using them to fulfill our selfish desires (the same can be said of heterosexual friendships outside of marriage as well).

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  13. Ace: I'm so sorry. Really.
    Sometimes, these things are so hard to describe.
    Something that has stuck with me, and think it is valid, is that deep, abiding, loving friendship is between those who look together "towards something beyond them"...between two men, or two women, the love must always be centered upon our Lord, the Divine...and His wishes...
    the love between man and woman is sanctified in Christian Marriage, the Sacrament that gives them the graces to live their commitment, even when everything else is coming apart...the love of friendship is always modeled upon our Lord and Saint John...faithful until the end...not sexual/genital but "heart to heart"...I cannot describe it any better. Blessing to you, Ace.

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