20 September 2019

Newman's sexuality

There is, I fear, more than a risk that the ill-disposed will take advantage of the canonisation of Blessed John Henry to try to conscript him posthumously into the homosexualist cause. A surviving letter from the teenage Newman referring to 'temptations' from girls at parties is enough to put paid to such offensive nonsense.

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.

7 comments:

Oliver Nicholson said...

Actually, according to the recent study of the Byzantine ritual of adelphoiesis by Claudia Rapp (Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual, Oxford, Oxford UP, 2016), "the liturgical gestures and prayers that appear with adelphopoiesis show that, in the eyes of its practitioners, the ritual bore no resemblance to marriage".
I think I am right in saying that Boswell in his earlier study simply took lumps of the Byzantine marriage rite and quoted them as though they were part of that of adelphopoiesis, which they were not. There is a learned review of Boswell by Robin Darling Young at
https://www.firstthings.com/article/1994/11/gay-marriage-reimagining-church-history

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. Sick societies think it healthy to be interested in the sex lives of others.

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Stephen Barber said...

There is a useful article on adelphopoesis on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelphopoiesis. There is a good chapter on friendship in C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves.

PM said...

The neglect of friendship is indeed odd, given that St Thomas Aquinas, who is supposed to be the doctor communis, thought that the theological virtue of charity was primarily a type of amicitia. I have seen the thought among Dominicans and sympathisers such as Bishop Barron, but rarely elsewhere.

Anacharsis said...

There is the concept of "amour d'amitié" as developed by the French Dominican and founder Père Marie-Dominique Philippe...perhaps, we need somebody to take it up again, away from all the unpleasantness that recently emerged.

Thorfinn said...

Regarding Friendship --

I have started a book on The Friendship of Christ by Robert Hugh Benson -- perhaps you know it, or know it well. Early reviews from this quarter are solid.