"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Boswellian errors...

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 Homosexuality
 Anyway - 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.


  1. Speaking of errors, I'm tired of seeing "SSA." It isn't a medical term, a psychological term, or even a theological term. It's entirely made up.

  2. so is the term 'homosexual,' thom.

    1. There is long scholarly precedent for it, db.

    2. Since Victorian times. But "SSA" simply means that a person is attracted to a member of the same sex. "Homosexual" implies a different kind of person, a different class of human being, at least the way people think of it now.

      I think the former is correct and the latter is false. A man attracted to men is still a man.

    3. "SSA," no matter one's preference for its use, is still simply made up, and used with no precedence.

    4. And "homosexual" only has that precedence because someone made it up out of whole cloth a little over a hundred years ago.

      I'd say "SSA" is more in line with historical reality, since no one ever thought in terms of "gay people" and "straight people" as separate kinds of people.

    5. No one thinks that homosexuals are not "people," or a different kind of person.

      It's needlessly obtuse to use a word that has no historical, scholarly, or clinical merit.

      It's an indication of agenda. Nothing more.

    6. Agenda. Bwahahahaha! It's a conspiracy.

    7. I thought that buzzword might get your attention. :p

    8. Yes, Thom, because "homosexual" is now used as a way of describing a "kind" or "class" of people. This is why people are easily swayed by the emotional argument that gay marriage is somehow even remotely analogous to interracial marriage. People think of gays almost like an ethnic group.

      Hence "SSA" call attention to the reality that what is really being dealt with are not "gay people", but people, simply people, who happen to have an attraction to the same sex.

    9. "Homosexuality" is a sexual orientation. This is basic psychology. I'm not sure why you aren't understanding this.

    10. I understand it, Thom. But psychology is not necessarily a hard science, and almost anything to do with sexuality and psychology is highly politicized, and orthodoxy is strictly enforced. Psychology is a notoriously flimsy science, and its basic premises, theories, etc change every few decades.

      So frankly, I find much of the psychology of sexual orientation to be complete bullshit pushed for political and non-scientific reasons. See what happens when anyone challenges current orthodoxy, or brings up any evidence that homosexuality is perhaps not so rosy.

      "SSA" is simply a reality, and avoids the whole notion that there is such a things as "gay people" and "straight people" as separate classes of individuals. Most people are attracted sexually to the opposite sex, some people to the same sex.

      I don't believe in gay people. I don't believe in straight people. I don't believe in black people or white people either. It's all surface phenomena, not something that makes people different in an essential sense, such as sex or age.

      Of course, modern psychologists will tell us that homosexuality simply IS, and is immutable, yet that male and female are social constructs.

      I've read all the bullshit - studied it even, and I don't buy it.

    11. You don't have to buy it any more than you "buy" or don't buy evolutionary theory, causality of depression, anxiety disorders, introversion, or asexuality. As long as people who actually count in this discussion- scientists, philosophers, and theologians- do.

      You can believe or not believe anything you want to, really.

    12. You're adopting a condescending tone. Perhaps I did too. I am sorry.

      My point is that psychology in this field is not free, but has a rigid orthodoxy that must be followed at the risk of ruining one's career. And it is not scientific, but political.

      In any event, do you actually believe that homosexual and heterosexuals are actually different kinds of people beyond the simple fact that some people are attracted to members of the same sex for some reason?

    13. What about Dan Brown historians like Boswell, do they count?

    14. I didn't mean to be condescending to you. I'm sorry if it came off that way.

      There are standards in research that I suppose could be called "rigid orthodoxy," although I don't think that that's very helpful.

      I don't think that there are any fundamental differences between heteros/homos any more than I think that there are major differences in human-ness between, say, extroverts and introverts, for example. Are there some differences? Sure. Do we know why? Not necessarily, not yet anyway. Are they fundamentals? No.

      History as a discipline is an entirely different discussion, and not one that I brought up in this (admittedly) divergent comment thread. I don't know enough about it to throw my opinions out there.

    15. Thanks, Thom, and I am sorry if I also sounded condescending.

      So I guess you see "homosexual" in the same way I do "SSA", except we're arguing over which word to use. I guess you'd disagree that unlike introversion and extroversion, homosexuality is fundamentally disordered, but that's another discussion.

      As far as the discipline of history goes, I know enough to know that Boswell commits all kinds of cardinal sins of historiography, and that no one in the field takes his work remotely seriously. His biggest mistake is not just his cherry-picking of sources, but the reading into the sources he does find. He also ignores the overwhelming evidence that is freely available to counter his argument, and translates dishonestly to prove his point.

    16. I'm totally deferring to you re: history. :)

    17. As for terminology, everyone should read the following essay:


      Then you will understand why ssa is the preferred term.

  3. Boswell's whole thesis is laughably stupid, and only someone completely ignorant of history and the historical method could even begin to treat it as anything but bullshit.

    Of course, most Americans are historical morons, so the fact that this thesis was blown out of the water decades ago won't matter. I've seen people posting this Boswell crap all over Facebook.

  4. Of course--one could just as easily use a similar term for those who are afflicted with attraction to the opposite sex: OSA.

    Incidently, I attended the Dominican parish which happens to be located in the midst of Yale back when Boswell died. His funeral was held there, and a beautiful green and gold Laudian altar covering was given in memory of him.

    1. People with OSA should be accepted and loved as individuals created by God. We should love them as persons, but not their sexual sins.


    2. Ace - you just got home from work, didn't you. Just by your comments and references I am assembling a complete profile on you. LOL! Just kidding - but I could.

  5. Since SSA is unacceptable, I propose USA's

    As in those who suffer from an Unnatural Sexual Appetite.

    An acronym which has potential for lots of fun uses.

    For instance, a reference to the USA armed forces takes on a whole new and entertaining S&M secondary meaning.

    1. That is a good one. I myself was trying think of something using unnatural sex - haha.

      The ancient term sodomite always impressed me as the most apt since there was never any mistaking the sinful element of the behavior.

    2. We as Catholics don't reject science, so why not use accepted nomenclature?

    3. You mean homosexual? There are 'elements' who reject that term within 'queering the Church' circles, you know.

      Seriously what is the PC term?

    4. If one is resistant to using the words by which people choose to identify themselves (i.e., gay and lesbian), one could always use the default "homosexual." At least it's not contrived.

      Then again, if someone wants to call themselves "SSA," they ought to go ahead, by all means. But they shouldn't expect anyone else to do so.

    5. I actually agree with you on all points. It's common parlance, as they say.

    6. I'm glad we agree on that. :)

      To me, "SSA" sounds made up to the point of trying to make it sound like a disease.

      "Oh, I have SSA."

      "Did you hear about Tammy Lynn? She's having an awful time with her SSA."

    7. Well, it is a disorder. Insert the term phobia, bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD in reference to Tammy Lynn and it seems to fit.

      I find myself using "SSA" when I'm trying to be as polite as I can. A lot of people don't know what it stands for though.

    8. It isn't a disorder according to the science. Some theology uses "disordered," which is not the same as a clinical disorder by any stretch of the imagination.

      Most people don't know what "SSA" means because it's contrived.

    9. Modern Science is the handmaid of Theology, not the standard by which it is judged.

      Further, any science which contradicts Church teaching is known by that contradiction to be false.

    10. Thom, like I said, "modern science" is especially fickle in the field of psychology, and often driven by political agendas.

      MOST, not some, theologians who accept Church teaching do use the term disordered, and you are right to point out that this is not the same as a clinical disorder. It is meant that this orientation is fundamentally opposed to the natural end of the sexual faculty.

      Since homosexuals can obviously function normally in society, it's not a "disorder" in the clinical sense, but then neither is masturbation or enjoyment of pornography, nor is random hooking up or adultery.

      If the APA came out tomorrow and said that pedophilia or ephebophilia are orientations and not disorders, would that make them no longer disordered? This sounds ridiculous, but there is a huge movement underway in Europe for this, and several prominent social voices call for an abolition of age of consent laws and the like. There is discussion among psychologists even in the US as to whether these orientations are to be considered clinical disorders or not.

      I am not comparing homosexuality and pedophilia - I am just pointing out that "psychology" has a tendency to redefine things all the time, and more so for political than scientific reasons.

    11. Just because there is a movement to adjust, for instance, the APA, doesn't mean it just "happens" because of demand. The APA develops its theories scientifically: there must be peer-reviewed research, and a significant body of it. "Homosexuality" was not re-designated as not a clinical disorder simply because people wanted it to chance. It was de-classified because the research supported doing exactly that.

      People may or may not believe findings, but that most often stems from a lack of understanding of both methodology and the subject of the research.

    12. You may be right. But, in any event, it doesn't matter one way or the other. What is considered "normal" in psychological studies is not necessarily right.

      And I do think there was a LOT of political pressure for the APA to change. As it is now, one cannot even begin to question this dogma. Any study that seeks to show anything negative about homosexuality is greeted with fanatical derision, IF it even gets to see the light of day.

  6. Terry--you stalking me AGAIN? I'm going to have call out the Lavendar Mafia! I'm beginning to think that you like me or something! ;-) Truth be told, I always rush home from work to be able to skip gaily down Abbey Roads and see what I missed during the day. BTW, the pope promised not to reveal my Third Secret until 2060, so you'll have to wait around till then to hear it! ;-)

    Thom--but to many who use "SSA" it IS a disease.

  7. Didn't homosexuals in the APA get homosexuality redefined as not a disease?

    1. Researchers and clinical psychologists did.

    2. Yes, but there was a concerted effort to get there. It was not like they objectively came to that conclusion. The sexual revolution was breathing down their necks.

    3. Then you don't accept the findings of the APA?

    4. It depends on what you mean. Do I believe that homosexuals can be functioning members of society? Yes.

      Do I believe that a sexual orientation that is fundamentally opposed to the very purpose of sexuality can be considered properly ordered in any sense of the word? Nope.

      Do I believe that gays can be better people than straights, and do I even know gays who are some of the kindest, charitable people I know? Yep.

      Do I think gay sexual activity is ever okay? Nope.

      Do I think the APA findings are based on science that is even remotely objective? Nope.

      Do I think there is no room for debate since all debate has been shut down for political reasons and any deviation from orthodoxy severely punished, thus negating the very nature and function of scientific inquiry, which is supposed to be objective? Yep.

    5. So you accept the research only as it supports your personal opinion. Got it.

    6. Thom, I believe what the Church teaches and has always thought. If science starts to make moral claims, which science has no competency to do in the first place, I do not believe it. Lots of scientists have "proved" that there is no God, or that the human soul does not exist. Are they right?

      Also, there is no denying that tge APA was and is subject to political pressure. There are those within the APA now who was to reclassify pedophilia as not a disorder, but an orientation along the normal "spectrum". So if the APA changes that in the next DSM, will it be something I should accept?

      You act like anything scientists say should be immediately accepted. This is especially silly considering the notoriously shifting sands of psychology, which changes course by the decade.

    7. Is de-classifying a disease a "moral claim?"

      Yes, there is denying that peer-reviewed research is tainted politically when it doesn't happen to agree with one's pre-existing notions and ideas.

      Do I act like anything scientists say should be immediately accepted? No, I don't. But I do think that peer-review and the scientific method have the competency classify disease.

    8. Besides, Church teaching on homosexual acts is absolutely clear and irreformable. There's really no way around it.

    9. I agree that homosexuality is not a disorder in the same way as schizophrenia or something, but it is still a disordered desire. Gluttony, pride, and wrath are also not "disorders" in the clinical sense either, but they are so in the spiritual sense.

      All of us are disordered in one way or another like this, but psychology cares not a whit for spiritual harm.

  8. "Further, any science which contradicts Church teaching is known by that contradiction to be false."

    Like the sun revolves around the earth or the earth is flat?

    1. Shhh. Don't you know we're not supposed to bring that up? Ever? :)

    2. What a canard. The Church's teachings are faith and morals. When science comes along and says "Jesus didn't exist" or "masturbation is healthy" or whatever else, we can believe it is bogus.

      The Church has never had any official teaching on heliocentrism, and the only people who seem to think it ever did are those who want current teachings to change, or trads who in their attempts to be as anti-modern as possible, actually find "traditions" that never existed.

    3. "The Galileo affair was a sequence of events, beginning around 1610, during which Galileo Galilei came into conflict with the Aristotelian scientific view of the universe (supported by the Catholic Church), over his support of Copernican astronomy.[1]

      In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. He went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619. He argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth, and promoted the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543). These ideas created conflicts with other scientists and Catholic scholars. Galileo's part in the controversies over theology, astronomy, and philosophy culminated in his trial and sentencing by the Roman Inquisition in 1633 on a grave suspicion of heresy."


    4. Thom, that story has been dealt with so many times by so many learned people. The idea that Galileo was condemned because he opposed official geocentric Church doctrine, or that heliocentrism was a heresy, is laughable.

      The fact was that Galieo did two things - a.) he pissed off his rivals in astronomy and b.) he insisted that the traditional view was wrong and that the Church must therefore change its interpretation of Scripture in order to fit the new model.

      It is also true that Galileo could not prove crap, and that there were grave errors in his science, such as the parallax problem which he could not solve, and which was not understood until about 200 years later. He happened to be right on this particular issue yes, but remember that at the time the science was by no means settled, and there was just as much evidence for geocentrism as there was for heliocentrism.

      Furthermore, other scientists had also proposed a heliocentric model and had run into no trouble whatsoever. When the Galileo affair was over, heliocentrism became the norm anyway, even (and especially) among Catholic astronomers, many of whom were clergy.

      Why don't you read what Cardinal Bellarmine had to say back then?

      The fact is that Galileo's "heresy" was that he claimed that he had the ability to tell the Church when they had to reinterpret scripture. It was not because he proposed heliocentrism, and geocentrism has NEVER been an official doctrine of the Church.

      It is deliberately misleading and disingenuous to pretend that the geocentrism / heliocentrism thing is anything remotely like the Church's teaching on homosexual acts.

      It goes like this: "the Church used to teach geocebtrism as doctrine, and science forced them to change; therefore, now that science says homosexuality is normal, the Church will eventually change as well."

      The Church was never given the authority to teach definitively about the physical universe. But she was sure given the authority to teach which kinds of human acts are good and which are not.

    5. Thom, here are some sources with more detail on the Galileo controversy:



      You can find all kinds of information all over the Internet on this issue, even from secular historians. It's simply not true that Galileo's assertion of heliocentrism was considered heretical.

      Furthermore, like I said, at that time the older model actually explained a hell of a lot more than the heliocentric model did, and several of Galileo's proofs were actually dead wrong.

  9. Mercury writes : "The Church was never given the authority to teach definitively about the physical universe."

    The Eucharist, i.e. transubstantiation, is grounded in an understanding of the physical universe as defined by Trent.

    1. And I don't want to muddy the water too much here, but :

      heliocentrism and geocentrism are both true.

      The error that is typically made by advocates of helicentrism is the assumption that creation is not ordered to man.

      The error typically made by the advocates of geocentrism is refusal to recognize the empirical evidence.

  10. Thanks for this Terry..Fr John Harvey's book is excellent..

  11. According to the PC rulebook:

    B.C = C.E. So I guess hundreds of years of history books are now incorrect, but this is necessary not to offend other faiths.

    Mankind = humankind. So now most Christmas songs and quotes from the lunar landing are offensive, but this is necessary to be gender inclusive.

    Black = African American. So I guess if an “African American” moves to Britain, they acquire a new race. Even though this is false, the term is necessary to stamp out racism.

    If words can be made more confusing and less meaningful in the name of inclusiveness and sensitivity, what’s the gripe about SSA? Not all SSA people consider themselves homosexual, but all homosexuals are attracted to persons of the same sex. I say political correctness should cut both ways. I am aggrieved! I demand inclusiveness and sensitivity. SSA it is!

    Of course I think non-PC words are better. PC is offensive to the broadest group of people in the world: people with sense in their heads. If “homosexual” is the word we are to agree upon because it is medically accurate I have no grievances. But if that’s the case, then “homophobia” is medically incorrect and the word needs to be eradicated in the name of science.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.