16 September 2010

Newman's sexuality

It stands to reason that our impartial media will leap at the opportunity to attack the Holy Father on the eve of his visit. I expect a real attempt to get a new paedophile story up and running; and if so, that the 'story' will actually be quite old but that the discovering 'investigative journalist' will have sat on it until the ripe moment (rather, for example, than taking his evidence immediately to the police), and that he/she will have taken decisive steps to prevent all the other 'investigative journalists' from sharing the scoop. Undoubtedly Peter Tatchell will be flickering across our screens; the ideologues of Channel Four will have a field day; the 'case' of the former Provost of the Birmingham Oratory may be dusted down; and a discredited story about Newman's grief at the death of Ambrose St John may be resurrected. By the nature of things, none of these stories will be able to be explained, disproved, contextualised, for a day or two: by which time the papal visit will be over, the 'story' old and tired, and nothing left but a nasty general impression in the mind of the public. The methodology of the anti-Catholic and anti-Papal propaganda machine really is becoming very similar to that of Goebels. Someone should do study of this. Perhaps somebody has.

As far as Newman's personality is concerned, I think it was Henry Chadwick who once dropped the hint that anybody genuinely interested in his sexuality should have a look at his relationship with Maria Giberne. There is certainly evidence in his letters that Newman regarded the love which St John had for him, and that of Maria, as of the same nature; and felt the same response to the affection of each (and was unhappy that he had never disclosed to St John before his death his appreciation for St John's devotion). But let us set that aside and consider a broader question: deep but non-sexual, non-physical, friendships.

There is a long history in the Christian tradition of thinking about such friendships. S Aelred wrote about them. Byzantine sources, notoriously, provided liturgical rites for sanctifying such friendships, which even included rituals borrowed from the liturgies of matrimony. Notoriously, these analogues have been used to support 'gay marriage'. But in an age when legal codes commonly provided severe penalties, not excluding death, for sodomy, the assumption enthusiastically made, that those composing and celebrating such rites were cheerfully and consciously providing publicly sanctified occasions for genital relationships, is nothing less than plain dippy. A person who could believe that, could believe anything; there is probably little point in reasoning with people who have stationed themselves so far apart from the world of reality and from what is historically probable. But the question of Friendship does require re-examination simply because it is a part of our Tradition which is suffering something of an eclipse.

I hope to return shortly to 'The Demise of Friendship'.


William Hyland said...

In an undergraduate course I teach on the Twelfth Century, we read St. Aelred's great text. I consider it a quintessential example of authentic Christian humanism. Many of the students find it very meaningful, even life-changing, year after year.

Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Me thinks thou protesteth too much good Sir!
I think that most people in the U.K. see through the anti-Catholic/Papal lies. Even if they agree with it outwardly to get their 15 seconds of fame on a news bite, inside they know it's wrong. The proof in the pudding will be AFTER Pope Benedict XVI returns home, how the people respond.
You can't underestimate Benedict the Magnificent!

Gabe said...

It is highly demeaning to homosexual people to refer to their relationships as "genital relationships". Gay people are real persons with all the complexity that entails, not just embodied genitals. This constant rhetorical linkage of "being gay" with "being sexually active" has got to stop.

Joshua said...

Fr Joseph Vnuk, O.P., argues cogently (based upon his readings in postmodernism, as for example in Irigaray) that those arguably termed homosexual people, far from aping heterosexual genital relationships, should rather establish forms of non-genital relationships: to be gay ought be about attaining the highest degree of Platonic love, not about settling for a sorry substitute for sex in sodomy.

fieldofdreams2010 said...

One great and important difference between matrimonium and amicitia is that the former, for Christians, is essentially a relationship between one man and one woman, with a view to parenthood, whereas the latter need not be exclusive. Indeed, it seems to me that friendship is healthier when it is open to include others into the circle of friendship, whereas the marriage relationship opens out into parents-and-children.

F.G.S.A said...

People are not homosexuals by nature. Homosexuality does not, cannot exist as something ordained by natural law. Its a consequence of the Fall, and a perverted direction of the will and power of choice. -Hence, part of our fallen nature, which Christ has come to redeem. Isn't that the genuine Catholic doctrine?