More on Professor John Boswell's claim for Same Sex Unions in Pre-Mordern Europe.
One of the advantages of being around for a long time is that I've read just about everything that is being regurgitated today as serious studies on same-sex relationships and evidence such unions were approved and accepted by the early Church right up to Medieval times. Swallowing that, one must accept the conspiracy theory that the Church destroyed all the evidence, suppressed by the wretched hierarchy over time, just as they did away with women priests and deacons. Conspiracy theorists know it all - and then they write their books. When the books are published, they are immediately accepted as absolute truth while scripture and doctrine are thrown by the wayside, only to be rewritten according to the newly discovered data. These days when everyone is a philosopher and theologian, we prefer to depend upon our own scholarship and academic expertise, rather than trust what the Church teaches.
Lately I've complained that the Church's documents on homosexuality, which go beyond the Catechism - are frequently ignored or overlooked when it comes to its understanding and teaching on homosexual matters. I end up referring people back to the often ignored, and or dismissed documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A friend often complained to me, "The Pope hasn't really addressed himself to the issue of homosexuality, I'm waiting for some sort of letter addressing the issue." Hello? The Pope as Cardinal Ratzinger did that already as head of the CDF, principally in the 1986 document, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. The Pope, the Church has spoken. Was anyone listening?
Similarly, I'm beginning to think Fr. John Harvey's work will get to be overlooked, or simply ignored and dismissed as 'out-dated'. Gay activists already dismiss him and Courage, focusing their objections on the issue of reparative therapy, claiming Courage requires SSA persons to seek to change their sexual orientation. That is false of course, since Courage was founded as a spiritual support system for SSA individuals striving to live chaste lives in accordance with Church teaching, and as means to sanctify themselves through friendship, prayer, and the sacraments. I've come across a couple of faithful SSA writers who have voiced reservations regarding Harvey's conclusions. I'm not saying he is above questioning, or that Courage is the only way for SSA Catholics to sanctify themselves, yet the fundamental research Fr. Harvey accomplished remains valid, current and very important to any discussion regarding contemporary homosexuality.
In his 1996 book, The Truth About Homosexuality, Fr. Harvey examines the outrageous claims of John Boswell work in favor of same sex unions/marriage, and his so-called evidence for Christian acceptance of it. Fr. Harvey cites other scholars and critics of Boswell's flawed research and outright manipulation of ancient texts Boswell employed to suit his personal agenda. If priests and lay spiritual directors (I don't recommend lay spiritual directors BTW) do not have this book as a pastoral care resource, they need to get it. In Chapter 9, A Catholic Perspective On Same-Sex Marriage, Harvey covers just about everything the faithful Catholic needs to know on the subject. I can't take a lot of time on this subject, however, I will copy a couple of remarks made by two experts Harvey consulted.
"Boswell's argument stands or falls on his interpretation of a series of documents relating to a singular ritual practiced in the Christian church during antiquity and the high middle ages, principally in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. The bonds that are confirmed in these church rituals are cautiously (and a little coyly) labeled by him as 'same-sex unions'. For his arguments to have the force that he wishes them to have, the words, 'same-sex' and 'union' must be construed to mean 'male homosexual' and 'marriage'. If they signify other sorts of associations that happened to be same-sex in gender, or unions that were meant for purposes other than marriage, or a permanent affective union, then his claims fail." - Brent D. Shaw, A Groom of One's Own
"... neither Boswell's reconstruction of them [the medieval texts] nor his method of argumentation can possibly support the interpretation that he proposes: first, it is highly implausible that homosexual unions either in antiquity or in the Middle Ages would have been blessed by a religion that promoted ascetic devotion to the kingdom of God rather than that condition which contemporary Americans understand as the healthy expression of erotic drives... Furthermore, early Byzantine law codes contain extremely harsh punishments for homosexual intercourse." - Robin Young, Gay Marriage: Reimagining Church History
Fr. Harvey notes:
"It is astounding how Boswell 'reconstructs' early Christian history, downgrading marriage, distorting the historical meaning of Christian celibacy, asserting that Christianity did not focus on the biological family until a thousand years into its existence. Young points out that, in addition to patristic concern for the religious life and celibacy, the Eastern fathers gave due emphasis to the family as 'the primary way for Christians.'" - John Harvey, The Truth About HomosexualityAnyway - check your sources, and recheck them again. Much of the work refuting these false claims in support of same-sex unions has been done for us already. Trust the Pope and the bishops in union with him... The Magisterium. The Church does not lie.