Was Aelred of Rievaulx a gay man? (Say 'gay-man' like Catherine Tate!)
So let's just get right into it here: Temptation to sexual sin, such as homosexual acts, is not evidence that someone is gay or has 'innate' homosexual tendencies. Temptations against chastity take many and varied forms in the lives of celibates, or any person for that matter. I mention this because the author of Sexual Autheticity, Melinda Selmys claims St Aelred of Rievaulx was same sex attracted. In a comment she says, "with Aelred of Rivaulx, we know for a fact that he did (have same sex attractions)."* The author's writing can be at times rather intellectually dense in her definitions of homosexual attraction and gay 'identity'. Hence I find her statement on Aelred misleading, albeit understandable, since glbtq literature is fairly unanimous when it comes to 'canonizing' gay saints.
In a comment on her post I expressed doubt that Aelred was gay or ssa in the sense we understand homosexuality today, writing: "I'm sorry, but I'm also not sure Aelred of Rievaulx was same sex attracted in the sense modern gay people like to think - his writings on friendship are directed to companions in communities of same sex religious and unfortunately are misinterpreted these days of sexual permissiveness."
To which the author responded: "I have it on the authority of an Aelred of Rivaulx scholar (a very straight conservative guy with no agenda to advance) that in his private letters to his spiritual director St. Aelred discusses his temptations to sodomy. These aren't available in English, so I can't quote you chapter or verse, but I think that's prima facie evidence of SSA."
First, I asked for the name and reference, but received no answer. Secondly, that is not evidence of anything except to document the fact - if it be true - that the abbot disclosed some of his temptations to his spiritual father. I know elsewhere Aelred discusses his loss of virginity in counseling a virgin (nun), likewise he writes about the infatuation between two young boys/teens. Reading into this that the monastic culture was gay is absurd, even references to two old monks cuddling and kissing does not constitute a generally accepted sense of approval for homoerotic, or particular/inordinate ssa friendship - especially in the modern sense. Even the early desert fathers condemn such things - as did Aelred. These friendships could never be tolerated in an observant monastery, and if they ever were, it just might help explain the demise of certain communities in history and in our day.
Now there is nothing wrong for same sex attracted persons to seek particular saints as their patrons, but it is very wrong to make statements as if they were undeniable fact, such as: "with Aelred of Rivaulx, we know for a fact that he did (have same sex attractions)." Thus implying Aelred was gay and therefore he is a gay patron saint. That is a very Boswellian claim. Other gay Catholic sites claim Joan of Arc as a gay saint, and of course Sebastian, along with many others. Selmys also said that "it would be a true scandal if the Church had never once managed to lead a single homosexual soul to sanctity." I'm absolutely convinced that the Church has indeed done so. Oscar Wilde comes to mind, as does Pier Vittorio Tondelli, the Italian author who died after contracting AIDS. No doubt there have been others, just as there have been numerous penitent saints who abandoned a disordered life and followed Christ. Likewise, the Church definitely continues to lead people with ssa to sanctity and salvation, in and through the sacraments, and not without support. One approved support apostolate is Courage. Not all may be inclined to a particular group, but the literature and guidance is always there to help the individual, as should be faithful priests for spiritual direction.
I once asked a holy Trappist father if he thought there were any gay saints. His answer was he did not know of any, although he said something like this, "I'm sure there were saints who experienced temptations to such things, the devil (and our own concupiscence) is very crafty when it comes to sexual temptation." That said, I expect the variety of sexual temptation could lead to another discussion on 'sexual fluidity' which is a novel concept very much accepted by gay Christians.
Anyway - I have written about this subject in the past, especially concerning the myth of a gay St. Aelred, read that post here: If there ever was a gay saint it may as well be St. Aelred. Now I'm sorry I titled the post that way. If you click here you should find a series of posts on the subject of socalled 'gay' saints. My apologies that some post may demonstrate my exasperation with the efforts of revisionists, I've since tried to change my tone to be more hospitable to everyone.
Let me also make clear that I totally understand that ssa people work through their difficulties and challenges in many different ways, and I understand the variety of spiritual experience can be idiosyncratic at best. Pier Vittorio Tondelli developed his own gay mysticism based upon the three Carmelite Doctors, Therese, Teresa, and John of the Cross, before his ultimate conversion. Though he died a holy death, one couldn't very well appropriate his gay spirituality or promote it as suitable or even in accord with Church teaching; however, it predisposed him to acceptance and reconciliation with the Church. That said, it would be irresponsible for clergy and even writers to accept uncritically such examples of 'gay spirituality' - chaste or not - and promote their idiosyncratic hermeneutic as unquestionably in accord with Church teaching.
I'll write more on these matters as time goes on. Obviously I'm not a scholar, much less an authority, but I think I have a legitimate case to question the scholarship and authority of those promoting the chaste/gay Christian thing. Something isn't right.
*To be fair, Melinda says he did have same sex attractions, not exactly claiming he was gay - but the implication is there, as it is on other websites, who do come out and claim St. Aelred was gay.