16 September 2014

Newman's sexuality

I think it was Henry Chadwick who once dropped the hint that anybody genuinely interested in the sexuality of Blessed John Henry Newman 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. He records his deep sorrow that he had never disclosed to St John before his death his appreciation for St John's devotion to him: which proves that not only was the relationship not physically intimate; it was not even emotionally intimate. Newman, that is, was too shy even to say to his closest friend  ...

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.


Marco da Vinha said...

Are there any on-line resources where one could read up on those rites?I've heaqrd about them, but know nothing of them.

rick allen said...

There is a good article about them, and what has been made of them, here: