First, a little business: There will be more of ‘This Is A Republican, Part __’ soon because, well, you know Congress is just full of ‘em.
But, I needed a good Silkwood Scrubdown™ after all those posts yesterday and
then I stumbled across this story; the perfect story to add to one’s arsenal in
the discussion of same-sex marriage versus ‘traditional marriage’.
|Serge and Bacchus, in a same-sex marriage ceremony|
So, let’s go …..
John Boswell, a Catholic scholar at Yale, twenty years ago
published a book packed with evidence that same-sex marriages were sanctioned
by the early Christian Church during an era commonly called the Dark Ages.
Apparently they weren’t all that dark.
Boswell, a historian and Catholic who studied the late Roman
Empire and early Christian Church, was doing research, and reading all sorts of
legal and church documents from the Dark Ages, when he found something: dozens
of records of legitimate religious church ceremonies where two men were joined
in a marital union; he also found that these were the same rituals used in
performing marriages between men and women. Boswell says he found almost no
records of lesbian unions, but that may have more to do with the fact that
society was male dominated and most records, legal and religious, were recorded
Boswell, who died from complications of AIDS in 1994, took
all his information and published it in a book called Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, which
comes out next month, for the first time, in a digital edition. In
addition, Boswell had published and earlier work in the 1970s called Christianity,
Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the
Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century.
In his book, Boswell shows how the rituals and ceremonies changed
and grew, from "merely a set of prayers " in the earlier Middle
Ages to its flowering as a "full office" by the twelfth century that
involved "the burning of candles, the placing of the two parties' hands on
the Gospel, the joining of their right hands, the binding of their hands . . .
with the priest's stole, an introductory litany crowning, the Lord's Prayer,
Communion, a kiss, and sometimes circling around the altar."
From Boswell’s research:
The burial rite given for Achilles and Patroclus, both
men, was the burial rite for a man and his wife. The relationships of Hadrian
and Antinous, of Polyeuct and Nearchos, of Perpetua and Felicitas, and of
Saints Serge and Bacchus, all bore resemblance to heterosexual marriages of
their times. The iconography of Serge and Bacchus was even used in same-sex
nuptial ceremonies by the early Christian Church.
the Christian Church, the Catholic Church, and many religious scholars
criticized both the book and Boswell, but there is no dispute that his information
was based on fact and actual records from the time period. But that doesn’t
explain how these marriages have been forgotten by history? How do we not know
of these stories?
The Church. In the 13th century, the Christian
Church decided to reframe the idea of marriage as being a union created for the
purposes of procreation, and churches and religious scholars worked hard to
suppress the stories of these same-sex unions. Still, that kinda shoots down
that whole ‘marriage has always been one man and woman and has never EVER changed’ rant we so often hear, eh?
I mean, the Church itself redefined marriage at least once that we know about,
so I say let’s redefine it again.
And Boswell claims that since we have redefined and redefined
marriage over these last thousand years or so, it makes the issue all the more
complicated. It’s become almost impossible for historians to recognize
1800-year-old gay marriage documents when they see them because, oftentimes,
these documents refer to uniting "brothers" — which, at the time was a
way of describing same-sex partners in Rome. These marriages, before the
rewriting by the church of what constitutes marriage, were not based on procreation,
but upon wealth-sharing. Marriage often referred to a non-sexual union of two
people’s wealth, or of a family’s wealth, and Boswell does concede that some of
the documents he found do, in fact, refer to the non-sexual joining of two
men's fortunes; but he did believe that some were akin to what we call today
Which makes for an interesting argument today; many in the
legal field believe Boswell’s books and research form a valid argument for legal
same-sex marriages because they clearly show that marriage has changed and evolved
over the course of the centuries, and it hasn’t always been a one-man-one-woman
these same-sex unions in the middle ages the same thing as today's same-sex marriages?
Who knows; at the time homosexuality
wasn’t as taboo as it became in later years, so people at the time may not have
viewed two men forming a union as anything out of the ordinary. But it does
make an interesting argument, the least of which is the fact that marriage has
changed over the years, and that the Christian Church instituted that change
around the 13th century redefining marriage for purposes of procreation—which
effectively snuffed out the previously accepted unions of two men, or two women,
uniting in marriage.
So, we’ve come almost full circle, haven’t we? Same-sex
marriages are on the rise, and the idea that marriage is not solely based on procreation
may be coming around again; marriage is the union of two people, committing their
lives to one another.
Sadly, John Boswell died before same-sex marriages became
legal, but I’m guessing he’d be very happy to know that now gay couples are
marrying, and that the same-sex couples who legally married throughout history,
have their marriages recognized.