Tag Archives: bishops

St Paulinus of Nola: Bishop, Poet, Saint – and Gay: (June 22nd )

Although some would dispute the description of Paulinus as ‘gay’, the description seems to me entirely appropriate to his sensibility. Although history records no evidence of physical expression of his same sex attraction, nor is there any evidence against it.  Given the historical context he was living in (4th/5th century Roman empire) , when sex with either gender was commonplace for men at at all levels of society, inside and outside the Christian church, the absence of written records of private activities after 15 centuries is completely unremarkable.  Nor is the fact that he was married particularly significant – for Romans, marriage and sex with men were entirely compatible.
What is known is that he was married, but also passionately in love with a man, Ausonius, to whom he addressed exquisitely tender love poetry.   This is of sufficient quality and gay sensibility to be included in the Penguin book of homosexual verse:

“To Ausonius”

I, through all chances that are given to mortals, And through all fates that be, So long as this close prison shall contain me, Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,
Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven, Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,Instant and present, thou, in every place.
Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken, And from the earth I shall have gone my way, Wheresoe’er in the wide universe I stay me, There shall I bear thee, as I do today.
Think not the end, that from my body frees me, Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee; Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin, Deathless, begot of immortality.
Still must she keep her senses and affections, Hold them as dear as life itself to be, Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
Living, remembering, to eternity.

[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

It is surely entirely clear from the above that whatever his physical erotic activities, his sensibility was entirely what we would today call “Gay”.  Paulinus’ feast day was on Monday of this week (June 22nd).  It is fitting that we remember him, and the multitude of other LGBT saints in the long history of the church.

Further reading:

For more  online, see Paul Hansall’s invaluable LGBT Catholic handbook, or the Catholic Encyclopedia(Note though that the latter’s entry on Paulinus is an excellent case study on how official Church history scrupulously edits out our LGBT history.  In a reasonably lengthy entry, Ausonius and the verses addressed to him are noted – but the essential facts that the relationship was passionate, or that the verses were clearly love poetry, are carefully filtered out.)

In print, see  John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality”, pp133 – 134.

German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

Consider the following Catholic views on sex and marriage:

  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on artificial means of birth control (only 3% of couples rely on natural family planning)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on premarital sex (Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together)
  • Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on gay sex (most approve legal recognition for same – sex unions)
  • Most Catholics criticize rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

All of this is familiar, and unremarkable – except for the source. Similar statements have been familiar to ordinary Catholics from formal opinion surveys, and from anecdotal evidence in discussion with parish peers, for years. Among lay Catholics, this is routine. But these statements do not come from secular opinion polling, or from any progressive group of church reformers, but from the German bishops themselves, as they have digested their results from the global survey on marriage and family. (Reported by Reuters, “German Bishops Tell Vatican: Catholics Reject Sex Rules“)

Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, Chairman of the German Episcopal Conference Continue reading German Bishops Agree: Sexual Doctrines Must Change!

“Hold Your Heads High, Your Liberation Is Near at Hand” (Psalm 24).

2013 has been dubbed the “Year of gay marriage”. Pope Francis was named  “Person of the Yea” by gay magazine the Advocate, and as  number two “Gay Rights Hero of the Year” by New Yorker magazine.  The words of the Psalm for today’s Mass will theerefore have particular cogency for LGBT Christians, as we await the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, later this week.

In Minnesota, just a few months separated the need to resist a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the passage of marriage equality legislation – with vocal support by many Catholic groups.

Continue reading “Hold Your Heads High, Your Liberation Is Near at Hand” (Psalm 24).

St Venantius Fortunatus, Italian Bishop and Homoerotic Poet

c.530-c.603
Venantius Fortunatus was a poet, born c. 530 in Treviso, near Ravenna in Italy. He spent his time as court poet to the Merovingians. After visiting the tomb of St. Martin of Tours at St. Hilary at Poitiers, he decided to enter a monastery. He continued to write poetry, some of which have a permanent place in Catholic hymnody, for instance the Easter season hymns “Vexilla Regis” and the “Pange Lingua” (Sing, O my tongue, of the battle). Three or four years before he died he was made bishop of Poitiers. Although never canonized, he was venerated as a saint in the medieval church, and his feast day is still recognized on 14th December each year.

Like Paulinus of Nola, St Veantius’s poetry also includes some decidedly secular verse of the romantic sort. That this celebrates male love is clear from its inclusion in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse.

“Written on an Island off the Breton Coast”

You at God’s altar stand, His minister
And Paris lies about you and the Seine:
Around this Breton isle the Ocean swells,
Deep water and one love between us twain.
Wild is the wind, but still thy name is spoken;
Rough is the sea: it sweeps not o’er they face.
Still runs my lover for shelter to its dwelling,
Hither, O heart, to thine abiding place.
Swift as the waves beneath an east wind breaking
Dark as beneath a winter sky the sea,
So to my heart crowd memories awaking,
So dark, O love, my spirit without thee.
>

[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

Books:

Coote, Stephen, ed., The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse
Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality.

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Percy Jocelyn (1764 – 1843), Irish Anglican Bishop

b. November 29, 1764
d. September 3, 1843

 Anglican Bishop of Clogher in the Church of Ireland from 1820 to 1822, who was forced from his position after two scandals involving sexual indiscretions with men.

In the first, two years after his appointment as bishop of Ferns, he was accused by his brother’s coachman,James Byrne, of‘taking indecent familiarities’ with him (possibly buggery) and of ‘using indecent or obscene conversations with him’. The bishop survived this accusation, instead suing the coachman for libel. On conviction, Byrne was sentenced to two years in jail and also to public flogging. Recanting his allegations at the prompting of the bishop’s agent, the floggings were stopped.

The second occasion was more serious and ended his career, when in 1822 he was caught in a compromising position with a Grenadier Guardsman, John Moverley, in the back room of a London public house.

Jocelyn was the most senior British churchman to be involved in a public homosexual scandal in the 19th century. It became a subject of satire and popular ribaldry, resulting in more than a dozen illustrated satirical cartoons, pamphlets, and limericks, such as:

The Devil to prove the Church was a farce
Went out to fish for a Bugger.
He baited his hook with a Soldier’s arse
And pulled up the Bishop of Clogher.

 For 178 years afterwards the Church of Ireland refused to let historians see their papers on the affair. In the 1920s Archbishop D’Arcy of Armagh actually ordered that they be burnt. This command was not obeyed, and the files were finally released for Matthew Parris’s research for his book The Great Unfrocked.

 

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Cardinal Francesco Maria de’ Medici, Gay Cardinal?

b. 12 November 1660
d. 3 February 1711

Born in Florence, the son of Grand duke Ferdinando II of Tuscany andVittoria Della Rovere. In 1683 he was appointed to governor of Siena, a position he maintained until his death. He was the grand prior of theSovereign Order of Malta in Pisa. Abbot commendatario of S. Galgano, Siena. Abbot commendatario of S. Stefano, Carrara, 1675. According to a family tradition was promoted to the cardinalate at a young age in 1686. He remained in Florence, in his villa of Lappeggi, devoting himself to a life not really religious, made of amusements and love affairs with men. He resigned cardinalate on June 19, 1709 and was named prince of Siena. He then was forced to marry in 1709 Eleonore Luisa Gonzaga, duchess of Guastalla, daughter of Vincenzo Gonzaga, in an attempt to save the dynasty, but they did not have children.
Books:
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Cardinal Borghese (1576 – 1633), Patron of Homoerotc Art

b. 1 September 1577
d. 2 October 1633

 The name “Borghese” will be familiar to many art lovers and tourists in Italy from the name “Villa Borghese”, the palace which was designed by the architect Flaminio Ponzo from sketches by Cardinal Borghese himself, and which housed his impressive art collection.

 The mere existence of this collection and its magnificence poses important questions about the institutional Catholic Church. What does this vast wealth that this collection represented, have to do with pastoral care, outreach to the poor, or preaching the Gospels? The questions become even murkier in the light of its manner of acquisition:

   In 1607, the Pope gave the Cardinal 107 paintings which had been confiscated from the studio of the painter Cavalier D’Arpino. In the following year, Raphael’s Deposition was removed by force from the Baglioni Chapel in the church of San Francesco in Perugia and transported to Rome to be given to the Cardinal Scipione through a papal motu proprio.

At this site, however, I am not interested in exploring the iniquities of the historical church. Instead, what interests me here is the nature of the artists and the works in the collection. Several commentaries of the collection note its substantial number of clearly homoerotic works, and he bestowed direct patronage on several well -known homosexual artists – Caravaggio the best-known among them.

He was also implicated in numerous scandals around his homosexual interests, including a close friendship with one Stefano Pignatelli, who acquired such a strong influence over Borghese that the Pope banished him entirely. Borghese thereupon fell into a long and serious illness, from which he only recovered once his dear friend was eventually allowed to return.

Pope Paul V then made the best of a bad job with Pignatelli, and made him a cardinal.
Although the implications are clear, and contemporary allegations plentiful, there appears to be little hard evidence for a specifically sexual relationship between Borghese and Pignatelli. If there was such a relationship  though, Pignatelli will not have been the first to owe his cardinal’s red hat to sexual favours granted.

This is how it is described in Aldrich & Wetherspoon, “Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to WWII”

He was adopted by his uncle who, when became pope with the name Paul V, made him Cardinal at age 29. His uncle’s favour allowed Borgese to accumulate an immense fortune, which he used to acquire which he used to acquire the vast land-holdings where he built Villa Borghese, now one of the most important Museums in Rome.

Scipione was oriented towards his own sex, and this led to full-blown scandals. In 1605, soon after being made a cardinal, Borghese wanted to bring to Rome Stefano Pignattelli, his intimate “friend”.

Paul V compelled Stefano to move out of Shipone’s house, but the cardinal doubled his love for his friend and succumbed to a severe melancholy which resuletd in a long and serious illness. Only when Stefano was allowed to return to Rome to look after Scipione, did the cardinal recover.

Shipione’s uncle the pope, thereupon decided that in order to keep a check on Pignattelli he must co-opt, rather than combat, him. He had Stefano ordained, the beginning of a carreer which led to his becoming a cardinal in 1621. But Stefano died in 1623. Scipione died ten years later.

 

Books:
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