All posts by terryweldon

Our Queer Primate Cousins (Repost)

A favourite argument used by the religious right against homoerotic relationships, and by the Vatican theologians against any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and not open to making babies, is that such sexual activities are “against nature”, and that the “purpose” of sex is procreation.
Well, the people making these claims have never considered the actual evidence from , well, you know, – “Nature” itself, which shows the exact opposite. (But then, when did the Vatican, or the wingnuts, ever consider the trifling matter of evidence to interfere with their convictions?)

 

In the lively comments thread after an earlier post in this series, reader CS in AZ reminded me of a famous exchange with Anita Bryant:

This reminds me of Anita Bryant, back when she was on her anti-homosexul crusade … she said that homosexuality was unnatural and so repulsive that “even barn yard animals don’t do it” — then someone pointed out to her that barnyard animals in fact DO do that, with some frequency, as anyone who grew up around farm animals knows very well! LOL… well, she was only momentarily flustered, then she just pivoted 180 degrees and said, “well, that doesn’t make it right!”

 

Well no, but it sure as hell don’t make it wrong, either. On the subject of sexual ethics, “Nature” is entirely neutral. However, as so many self-righteous bigots attempt to introduce nature into ethical and political discussions, it is worth knowing just what “natural” sex really is (it’s also just fun to know.)

 

 

 

Bonobo females, with onlookers

 

In all the animal kingdom, those closest to us humans are the primates, who are generally divided into three classes – apes, old world monkeys, and new world monkeys. In all three of these groups, and in other mammals, birds, reptiles, birds, fish and even insects, homosexual and non-reproductive sexual activities have been widely reported in formal scientific studies. It is striking though, as Joan Roughgarden notes in “Evolution’s Rainbow”, that these supposedly “unnatural” sexual activities have been most widely reported among the primates, and especially among the apes, who are closest to us on the evolutionary scale.
 
So, in today’s lesson from nature, I want to consider just these. What do they tell us about “natural” sexual behaviour? Do they in fact indulge in what the theologians call “sins against nature”? Do they have sex which cannot produce babies? You betcha!
In some species, same sex encounters are actually more common than heterosexual activity. Among Bonobo Chimps, the most common form of sexual activity is between females, in a unique form of genital rubbing. Some evolutionary biologists have even speculated that the particular shape of their genitals has evolved to facilitate this.(Male same sex activities are also commonplace, but not to the same extent as females).

 

For Orang-Utans, Bruce Bagemihl describes homosexual activity as “characteristic” of younger males, but less common as they age. Gorillas live in small groups, some of which are “cosexual”, with a dominant mature male, younger males, and females, and some of which are all-male. In the all-male groups, homosexual encounters occur daily, and may exceed the frequency of heterosexual encounters in the cosexual groups.

 

What about “orientation”? Can we learn anything that might contribute to the vexed essentialist / constructivist debate for human sexuality? Without getting into a formal analysis, I was interested in Bagemihl’s accounts by two features: that in many of the species he describes, most individual animals practice both same-sex and opposite-sex activities, resembling the human descriptor “bisexual” – but individuals vary in the balance between them. Some are more primarily hetero, some more homo, which reminded me inevitably of Kinsey’s well-known thesis that we all sit somewhere along a bisexual scale. The other striking feature is that in many species (found among other primates as well as the apes), there are substantial variations between specific local troops. In some species where overall, same sex activity is commonplace, there are specific troops where it is much less so – and others where it is almost mandatory, immediately prompting parallels in my mind with human ideas about the social construction of homosexuality.

 

What about the specific sexual activities? Are they (at least the heterosexual ones)”geared to procreation”? Hell, no. For both same-sex and between sex activities, there is an extraordinary range of activities that have been observed. For full details, read Bagemihl’s book, but in summary these include the obvious opposite-sex copulation supposedly demanded by the “plumbing”, but also a great deal more. These include fairly conventional-seeming mounting, but without penetration or ejaculation, fellatio and cunnilingus, solitary and mutual masturbation, stimulation by a finger inserted into an anus or vagina, and activities less familiar or impossible for humans: anus to anus rubbing, clitoral penetration by females, and “penile fencing” by male Bonobos – while suspended from tree branches. I also bet you can’t do this: one female was described as masturbating herself with a foot, while using her hands to do the same to her partner. Many animals also use, or even make their own, “sex toys” – dildos and other objects for insertion into available orifices, and masturbation aids from leaves and fruits.

 

In another notable departure from Vatican descriptions, I was also impressed by the number of species where researchers observed more displays of simple affection between same sex couples than for opposite sex couples, and more frequent incidents of violence used to force submission (i.e. “rape”) in opposite sex couples. So much for the Vatican’s dismissal of “homosexual acts” as mere gratuitous self-indulgence, to be contrasted with (heterosexual) “loving conjugal relationships”. Onlookers are also less likely to disrupt or attack homosexual interactions than heterosexual ones: “homophobic” violence is less of a problem than violence directed at opposite sex mating.

 

Even where sex is of the standard, male-female variety including penetration and ejaculation,it is emphatically not exclusively directed at procreation. Heterosexual intercourse often continues almost right through pregnancy, and resumes soon after birth. In some species, young females reach sexual maturity, and begin sexual intercourse, several years before reaching full maturity and fertility – a period (known as adolescent sterility)where their completely “conventional” sexual activity cannot possibly lead to pregnancy. What then, is the “purpose” of sex?

 

Joan Roughgarden puts it neatly, in describing “at least six” situations that lead to sex among bonobos:

 

1. Sex facilitates sharing for example, reducing conflicts over food supplies) 2. Sex is used for reconciliation after a dispute 3. Sex helps to integrate new arrivals into a group 4. Sex helps to form coalitions 5. Sex is candy – females sometimes barter sexual favours to obtain gifts of food from males 6. “Oh, I almost forgot – sex is used for reproduction”

 

There’s something else she forgot – sex is fun.

 



Books:

Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)
Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People
Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

Parable of the Gay Samaritan

At his personal blog a few years ago, Fr Geoff Farrow published a post called  Delivery “Salvation”, in which he describes an encounter with two young men who came to his door attempting to deliver some salvation, in the form of a pep talk on heaven and hell. We are all familiar with the scenario. How many of us though, have the presence of mind to reply as he did, by quoting from the Gospel of Luke:
Jesus was asked about the afterlife in the Luke 10: 23-37. “Rabbi, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” The question, by a lawyer, was prompted because there were 614 laws that an observant Jewish person was expected to keep. To break one law, was to break them all. In the rabbinic tradition of questioning/discussion this question was posited, “What does God expect of me?” “What is essential, or central?”
This question is applicable to contemporary people as well, regardless of one’s religion (or lack thereof), “What must I do to achieve my full potential, to be truly whole and at peace?”
In the rabbinic tradition, Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with two other questions. “What is written in the law [Torah/Bible]?” In addition, “How do you read it?” Incidentally, that second question is of critical importance, because our motive in reading any spiritual text, will determine its spiritual value/harm in our life.
The lawyer responded by citing a passage from Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 “Hear, Oh Israel!” that is prayed by observant Jewish people to this day, as Christians pray the “Our Father.” And Leviticus 19: 18, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus approves the lawyer’s quotes and says, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you shall live.”
Luke notes that the lawyer, “because he wished to justify himself” asked, “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
Interestingly, Samaritans were regard as being beyond any hope of eternal life since they had comingled Judaism with pagan beliefs and practices. Their theological beliefs and religious practices were seen as flawed, heretical and impious. Jesus deliberately selects a suspect minority group who were believed beyond hope of eternal life to illustrate what God expects from us. I suppose that if Jesus told this parable in the USA today, it would be the story of the Good Faggot.
 
He does not elaborate further on this idea of recasting the familiar Good Samaritan as a Good Faggot, but there is no need. It has been done before, for example by Richard Cleaver, in the introduction to his book “Know My Name“. I summarise his telling here:
Cleaver imagines a modern traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is attacked by muggers and left for dead in the gutter. A bishop comes past  in his Cadillac, which had been given to him by a car dealer, one of the most generous financial supporters of the diocese. Seeing the half-dead body at the roadside, he first thought it was just a pile of litter. Realizing it was a human body, he considered stopping, but decided against: he saw that the body was naked, and feared that taking a naked man into his car might cause a scandal. So, he drove on, consoling himself that these kinds of social services were better left to the professionals.
He then describes another traveller passing by, a prominent Catholic layman. He too thought of helping the man by the wayside, but then considered the implications. If the man was already dead, it was too late for help, and he would find himself caught up in endless bureaucratic red tape. If he was not dead and recovered, there was a danger that the injured man might find a reason to sue him for any mishap en route to the hospital. There was also the problem of the man’s nakedness –  what had happened to his clothes? There was an assumption that the man obviously was not a man of god to be in that state, or must have done something to bring about his own misfortune. So he, too, went on his way.
Then a third traveller came past, a gay man returning home from his head office in Jerusalem, where he had just been fired, because someone had discovered he was gay, after his lover had beaten to death in a gay-bashing. When he saw the injured man, he immediately stopped, and was reminded of his lover’s beating and death. Realising the man was still just about alive, he applied what first aid he could, loaded him into the car and drove him to the nearest hospital.
“Later, the newspapers got hold of the story and came to interview him.  The bishop read the story and called a press conference, at which he announced that the diocese was giving its Good Samaritan Award to the man who had helped the mugging victim he himself had driven past.
At the award banquet, held at the episcopal palace, the bishop stood with this arm around the good Samaritan and gave a little homily about showing mercy to the neighbour in distress. This act, he concluded, showed a true Christian spirit. He turned to the man and shook his hand, adding, “God will bless you abundantly for this.”
“Oh, I didn’t do it for religious reasons. It just seemed to me like the human thing to do. I haven’t been to church since my priest refused me absolution when I confessed I was in love with the redheaded guy who was captain of the football team.” The gay man smiled at the cameras.
The bishop was trying to figure out how to deal with the question he knew was coming next.”

The Gospels’ Queer Values.

Jesus & Family

The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.”   This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged.  Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to do with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as certainly “queer”, if not quite as specifically gay.  In reaching this conclusion, I have been reading and reflecting on the social context of the ‘family’ as experienced in Jewish society and the broader social environment, at Jesus’ own ‘family’ in childhood and maturity,  at His actions, and at His words.

The Jewish Family.

It is important to recognise that traditional Jewish society did indeed place enormous importance on the idea of family, both in the narrow sense of the immediate biological family, and in the broader sense of the ethnic Jewish community.  This was so important that on the one hand, everyone was expected to marry and produce l, and on the other, that those outside the narrow ethnic group were regarded as inferior, even unclean.  The  detailed dietary and other regulations well -known from the Old Testament were part of an elaborate legal structure to maintain the ‘purity’ of the Jewish nation. The Jewish family, however, was very different from our modern conception, deeply patriarchal, and with uneven treatment of men and women. Women were were expected to show rigorous sexual fidelity to their husbands, and were thought of as the ‘property’ of their men.

In the broader social environment, the Jewish state in Jesus’ day was under Roman military occupation.  Like the Greek society of the time, the Romans too had a deeply patriarchal society, and one in which there was not the modern distinction between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ activities.  Distinctions were drawn rather, on the social class of one’s sexual partners, and male citizens would routinely have sex not only with their wives, but also with other lovers, prostitutes and slaves of either gender.

Jesus’ Families.

My reflections on this theme were initially prompted by a posting on “Nihil Obstat” for the feast of the Holy Family, in which she pointed out how very atypical for the time was the Lord’s own childhood family, so often quoted as a model for all Catholic families.

But our childhood families are not the only ones we live with.  More important as we grow older are those adult families we make for ourselves, usually by forming couples in marriage or out of it, and with or without children.  As LGBT people we are also very conscious of how often we may remain single, but still form looser groups of friendship, who may in a real sense become our ‘families’ of a different sort.

So what were the adult ‘families’ that Jesus made for himself?

First, and famously, He did not marry.  This alone is remarkable, given the expectation in Jewish society of marriage and procreation.  So, what were His other relationships – what informal ‘families’ did He form?  We get the answer to this easily enough by looking at the Last Supper.  The Jewish Sabbath meal, and most especially that of Passover, are the occasions above all when Jewish people get together as families.  It is significant then that the Lord spent his own Passover meal – which we know as the ‘Last Supper’, with the 12 apostles:  these were the people we must take to represent His closest family.  Who were these men?  If they ever had wives and families of their own, they had been set aside to spend the rest of their lives with Jesus.

Think about it:  on the most solemn holy day of the Jewish calendar, when it was customary for all Jewish people to share a ritual meal with their closest family, Jesus and the apostles spent the evening as a group of single men.  Does this not sound remarkably like a modern group of urban gay men spending our equivalent family festivals sharing meals together, away from biological families?

Single people know, of course, that the concept of “family” can be fluid. In addition to our closest, most intimate circle, there are often others who might be very close, almost family, but not quite in our innermost circle. Who represented this ‘almost family’ circle to Jesus Christ?  The most obvious candidates to me are the household of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, with whom He had an obviously close and special relationship.  What was the nature of this household?  Once again, very far from the expected “traditional” family.  The two women are described as ‘sisters’ and come across to me as the stronger, more vividly drawn characters:  Lazarus is famed more for his death and rescue from it, than for anything in his life.  Even at face value, this is an unusual household:  Jewish women would typically have been married off at an early age, not still living as adults with their brother.  Where such households did exist, it would normally be the brother, as the only male, who would be expected to dominate the household and be the focus of attention.  For a clearer understanding of the household, it is worth remembering that the word ‘sisters’ may have been used euphemistically: it is at least possible that Mary and Martha were a lesbian couple, living with a gay friend as lodger.

So: in His families of choice, the Lord spent His time either with a band of single men, or with a household of two single women  (possibly a lesbian couple), and yet another unmarried man. Even in the broader social circle, I am not aware of any instance where He is reported as spending time with a a conventional married couple with children.  Thus far, in examining the Lord in His own family context, we have found not an endorsement, but a repudiation, of the traditional family.

I still need to show that this repudiation of the traditional family is continued in His words and actions.  That I will do later in a  follow-up post.

My Homoerotic Retreat: Six days that changed my life.

(In offering the story below, I do so with some trepidation.  I know that many readers will be sceptical or cautious, may even find it ridiculous. I myself, given my particular background in faith and religious temperament, would have been made distinctly uncomfortable if any of my friends had asked me to take such a story seriously. Still, I think it is time to share it.  I leave you to decide for yourself:  was this a genuine mystical experience, as my eminently well qualified spiritual directors believed?  Or was I just suffering from some kind of spiritual delusions of grandeur?  Make up your own mind.)

During Advent of 2002, I underwent a 6 day directed retreat which turned out to be the most extraordinary spiritual, even mystical, experience of my life, which in certain key respects fundamentally changed my outlook on faith.

Background & Context

As the experience really was remarkable, sounding like an account that I myself would previously have dismissed as ramblings from the sentimental / superstitious wing of Catholicism, I want to begin by setting out my prior religious / spiritual background, as well as the context in which I began my retreat.  This will provide both context and contrast for what followed.

After drifting away from the church during my twenties as a married man, I later came out as a gay man.  Ironically, it was only after setting up in a committed long gay relationship that I was moved to return to the church.  The parish I then joined was led by Jesuit priests, and in time I began to explore the Ignatian approach to spirituality, by way of increasingly heavy involvement in the CLC – “Christian Life Community”.  In spite of this involvement, I did not see myself as particularly “religious” (a word I detest), nor “spiritual”, with all its connotations of “piety” and mysticism.  I simply knew that I enjoyed profound satisfaction in setting aside time for quiet reflection on my life.  My take on all matters of faith was primarily cerebral. (I was distinctly uncomfortable with the more ostentatious displays of images and relics, of novenas and special prayers “guaranteed” to bring results, or of mystical voices and apparitions.)  I did, however, find value in the Jesuit emphasis on balancing the promptings of head and heart, and on the value of paying attention to experience.  I became of convinced of the truth that Prayer is not just about speaking to God asking for favours, but also of attempting to listen.  I knew that by proper attention to the discernment of spirits within, one could, with care and imperfectly, hear the voice of the Lord speaking directly to us.

The context for this retreat was that after a long period of careful discernment, my partner and I had taken the important decision to leave South Africa, the only country I had ever known, to take up teaching posts in the UK – a country which I had never even visited. This was to be my final Christmas in South Africa, and the decision lay heavy on my mind.  I was also reoccupied with the nature of my gay relationship.  I had repeatedly considered the issue of homosexuality in prayer and under spiritual direction, and was comfortable that there was nothing immoral or reprehensible in our relationship.  Still, I was just a little bothered by the possibility that perhaps after all, I was fooling myself, making excuses and rationalising away some inner doubt.  So I was looking for final reassurance on two key questions in my life:  the decision to emigrate, and my status as a sexually active gay man in the church.

monstrance

The Retreat Experience

The setting for the retreat, which had been set up by our CLC team, was a Franciscan house and retreat centre on the banks of South Africa’s Vaal River. On arrival the first evening, we had a very simple liturgy, and were allocated to one of the two directors, with first appointments set for the morning.  During the first meeting with my director, I shared some of my preoccupations, and was advised to reflect among other readings, on the Song of Songs, and on the passage of Moses and the burning bush.

I knew of course that the Song of Songs was written as a love poem, wit the lover serving as a metaphor for god, but had never really looked at it closely before.  Approaching it afresh, I was struck by the clear eroticism, and also by how easily it could be read as two male lovers. (I later found that it may well have been written with that plain intent, but did not then know that). This reading, as homoerotic love poetry, was in case the way I read it, and found myself intensely moved and frankly aroused.

Later, I went out of doors under the shade of the riverbank trees, enjoying their cool and protection from the December African sun. I turned now to the story of the burning bush, which I had encountered before as a graphic illustration of how the Lord, in certain circumstances, speaks to us directly.   After reading and reflecting on the text a few times, I set aside my bible, and looked up at a bright blue sky through the dappled shade of the foliage.   Quite specifically and consciously I put a direct request to the Lord:  “Speak to me, Lord”, I said.  I am convinced that for the next 5 days, he did, in the most direct and unsettling terms.

I did not immediately realise what was happening, but later realised that I was gradually being drawn into an increasingly intense relationship with the human person of Jesus Christ, something that had previously always seemed remote and inaccessible from my faith experience.  During the Eucharistic adoration that ended the first day’s formal programme, I became totally absorbed in every second of the experience, fully involved and rapt from start to finish, with never a moment’s loss of concentration, nor any discomfort from my position sitting cross-legged on the floor for the full hour.  I was also completely self-aware of the intensity of the experience, so conscious of the intensity, far exceeding anything I had previously known, that I would not have been surprised to find myself levitating.  At the end of the exposition, I found myself in agony that my precious time of intimacy had ended.  I followed the group who removed the Sacrament to its place in the chapel, and then stayed behind for a couple more hours totally lost in the presence in front of the tabernacle.

So it continued for the rest of the retreat:  every morning I was up early, and into the chapel for an hour before the 8:00 Mass which began the formal programme, at intervals during the day, and for a long period before going to bed. During these times, was quite literally not just in conversation with Jesus Christ as a friend, but with Him as a lover, and with Mary during frequent rosaries as the mother of my boyfriend.

The intensity continued to increase. On the following day, I remembered the well-known image of the “Bride of Christ”, an image that was clearly inappropriate to me as a man.  But thinking in terms of gay marriage, I imagined myself as the “groom of Christ”, which took my moments of intimacy with my “lover” to an entirely new level:  ever more intense, and frankly erotic. By extraordinary synchronicity, the following morning I was in a disused room of the retreat house, where I came across some old magazines that had once been art of the library.  Among these were some copies of a journal of spirituality. Picking one up at random and glancing at the contents, the first title I saw was something like “The Groom of Christ:  a Reflection for Men.”  This turned out to be a variation on the old metaphor, but from a male perspective. Recognising that most men would have difficulty imagining themselves as brides, the writer proposed instead turning the image on its head, imagining Christ as the bride. This seemed to me equally implausible, and I was grateful that as a gay man, I had not needed to make this distortion of gender to benefit from what is a perfectly good and powerful meditation just as it is.

I deliberately pass over the impact of direct reflection on the Passion, which came later, and move immediately to the sequel.

I remember one morning leaving my room with the clear intention of going to visit “my pal, my lover” Jesus in the chapel.  But while my definite intention was to turn left, my body was pulled right.  I knew I was being deliberately pulled aside, and tried to argue.  “I’m going to meet you in the chapel”, I said. The answer was clear:  “But I want you this way.”  There was clearly no point in arguing, so indeed I turned right, not knowing where I was headed.  This turned out to be the monastery’s private graveyard, leading to further deep reflection, in that Advent season, on life and death. But then I was pulled on further, to a large open field.  Around the perimeter were erected a series of almost life sized wooden crosses (about 8 feet high), each with a caption for a station of the cross.

Stations of the Cross

As I approached the first station, I was suddenly filled with powerful, uncontrollable emotion and fell to my knees, sobbing out loud. (This was out in the open, and in full public view not just of the retreat centre, but also of anybody passing in the street alongside.  I paid no attention)  It took quite some time before I could regain enough composure just to get back on my feet and move on – to the next station, where once again, entirely outside my control, the full emotional spectacle was played out once again.  And again, and again, over the full 14 stations.

After an experience so intense, so outside the experience of one previously so reserved in religious matters, as sceptical and cautious about the demonstrative, almost superstitious Latin / Mediterranean brand of Catholicism, where cold I go next?  In fact, the only way was to ease out of it.  I had of course been reporting on my increasingly intense experiences daily to my retreat director, who now advised me to ease off.  A day earlier than normal, she started to lead me through some gentler meditations to ease me gradually back to a point where I could re-enter the real world outside.  So the last two days were largely filled with riverside nature walks, and meditations through art, including a simple painting of a monstrance, as I remembered it so vividly from the Eucharistic adoration. .

In my final debriefing with my retreat director, she warned that would I had experienced had been unusually intense, even mystical, and would need to rounded off with my regular spiritual director, a senior Jesuit priest.

The Aftermath

When I did meet up with Fr Mike, I was fully expecting him to agree that the experience should be taken seriously.  I was not prepared though, for quite how seriously he took it.   He too described it as “mystical”, and said that encounters of such intensity were “blessings, rarely bestowed on just a few.”  He thought long and hard, and continued by saying that in his experience, where such encounters were given, it was usually in preparation for exceptionally difficult times ahead, a way of storing up spiritual strength as sustenance for the dry periods to come.  Thinking of my pending emigration, I laughed, and said that I well knew the years ahead would be tough.  “No”, came the response, I mean really tough.

So it proved.  Within weeks of arriving in the UK, my partner of nearly 20 years concluded he had made mistake in coming, and soon returned to South Africa.  I in turn was even more convinced that I needed to be here – that indeed, in Ignatian terms, I had been “sent” on mission, and so I stayed.  So began several years of serious difficulty, including emotional trauma, financial and professional difficulties, uncertainty over my immigration status, and recurrent bouts of depression, some of which remain problems to this day, 6 years later. Throughout all of this, at all the darkest times, I do exactly as Fr Mike anticipated:  I look back on that retreat on the riverbank, once again drawing on spiritual reserves to carry me through.

It would be good to say that I have remained in some kind of exalted, mystical or advanced spiritual plane – but it would also be completely untrue.  Indeed, removed from the firm structure of my closely bonded CLC group, my conscious practice of deliberate prayer and spiritual practice has moved somewhat behind where it used to be back in Johannesburg, and needs to be deliberately revived.

Two things, though, I have taken away from away from the retreat with unshakeable conviction. First, given the context of the start to the retreat, with a specific question about sexuality and some clearly homoerotic reflections, I have never since entertained even a moment’s doubt about the validity of a gay sexual life in faith.  Second, after I was given such a strong preparation for the difficulties around my emigration, I am more convinced than ever that the move was chosen for me as mission.  Indeed, I am firmly convinced that the specific reason why I was called here was to live openly as gay and as Catholic, and to help others to do the same.

Why He should have called me in particular, is completely beyond my understanding.  I claim absolutely no special training in these matters, no great wisdom and certainly no holiness.  But He moves as we know in mysterious ways, and sometimes chooses the most unlikely people to do His work.

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A Theory of Gay Inclusion, Pt 3: "It’s not wrong to be gay, but it is wrong to act gay?."

In March 2010, Fr Owen O’Sullivan published an article in the theological journal “Furrow” on the inclusion of gays in the Church. The CDF seem to have found this article dangerous, and have ordered him not publish anything further without prior approval. In the modern internet age, this attempted censorship simply does not work: the original article has been published on-line in a series of posts at an Australian Salvation Army blog, “Boundless Salvation”. 

Here is the third extract:

 ‘It’s not wrong to be gay, but it is wrong to act gay.’

Is a homosexual, by reason of that fact, called by God to lifelong celibacy? The church says yes.

Imagine someone saying to a group of Irish people, ‘There’s nothing in itself wrong with being Irish. I’m not saying there is. But that doesn’t mean you may act on it. So, no more Guinness, going to Croke Park, singing rebel songs into the early hours of the morning, waving tricolours, no more craic. Close the pubs as occasions of sin, and, while you’re at it, would you please do something about your accent: it’s suggestive – of Irishness. I’m not asking you to deny your Irishness, far from it, just not to act on it.’ Would you consider the speaker to be nuanced, respectful and compassionate, or pedantic, patronising and arrogant?

Being homosexual and trying to be faithful to church teaching – is it a cruel joke? Would God tie a starving person in a chair, put a plate of food in front of them, and say, ‘Your self-denial… will constitute for you a source of self-giving which will save you’? (See CDF Letter, n.12.)

The church requires abstinence of the homosexual. To abstain from the physical expression of sexuality means, for the homosexual, abstinence from the truth, from reality, from identity, from recognition, perhaps also from family, and surely from love. Sexuality is not an optional extra to our humanity; it’s an integral part of it. An alcoholic is invited to abstain from alcohol – yes. But alcohol is not an integral part of anyone’s humanity; it’s an optional extra.

Official teaching invites a homosexual to a strange limbo-like existence where being and doing are required to be separated. It says there’s nothing in itself wrong with being a homosexual – as long as you don’t act like one. There’s nothing in itself wrong with being a bird, as long as you don’t fly. How can that be an honest or a healthy way of living?

The distinction between being homosexual and doing homosexual acts is phoney. It’s like saying, ‘Your sexuality is part of you; but you must not be part of your sexuality.’ Have we forgotten that the Incarnation brings matter and spirit, body and soul into one in the human-divine body of Jesus? The Incarnation is God’s answer to dualism.

Being and doing are not as separable in life as they might seem in a lecture hall. But, even in a lecture hall, Saint Thomas Aquinas said, ‘Agere sequitur esse in actu.’ (Summa contra Gentiles, 3.53, 69.) If my Latin is not too rusty that means, ‘Doing follows being in action.’

Homosexuals who try to be faithful to church teaching are in danger of distorting themselves, like left-handed people forcing themselves to use only their right hands; they are in danger of developing a Jekyll-and-Hyde mentality, suppressing what is true about themselves. The statement of the CDF that, ‘Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral’ applies here. (Letter, n.15)

The pastoral rhetoric about respecting homosexuals is meaningless at best when the associated moral rhetoric undercuts a homosexual’s personhood. It means that homosexuals are neither in nor out, neither persons nor non-persons, but tolerated somewhere on the border.

A 2nd Cent. Queer Hymn of Praise: "The Father Who Was Milked"

Sometimes, I come across an idea or image that is so remarkable, so fresh and new (to me) that it just has to be shared.  This one is hardly new (itdates back to the late second century), but it is startlingly fresh, remarkable and new – to me.
I have been trying to research a number of themes from the history of the early church.  While reading Ivor Davidson’s “The Birth of the Church:  From Jesus to Constantine AD 30 -312”, I came across a passage which had nothing to do with the subject(s) I was investigating, but which I want to promote.
Wall painting from a Syrian house church, showing the healing of the paralysed man.
The context is a Chapter on Christian worship.  After some discussion of the regular practice of community Eucharist on Sunday morning and Agape (“love feast”) on Sunday evening, he goes on to discuss the practice of regular fasting, prayer and praise. Services of “praise” incorporated psalms and hymns of praise into other Bible readings, as in the Divine Office.  Davidson then goes on to refer to a less familiar from of praise for worship, lost for centuries and rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th Century. Originating in the church of Eastern Syria, these are Gnostic in flavour, but probably orthodox in origin. The hymn quoted, Ode 19 of the “Odes of Solomon”, introduces an exaltation on the original conception.  Davidson says the odes contain some “striking” language.  The imagery of the Trinity as presented here, in its description of the conception of the Son, is not just “striking”:  it slams one across the face with a force sufficient to shake up one’s brain, and with it all  preconceived ideas of Trinity, and also of God and gender.
I present it here without comment:  see what you think.
A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord’s kindness.
The Son is the cup,
and the father is he who was milked;
and the Holy Spirit is she who milked him;
Because his breasts were full,
and it was undesirable that his milk should be released without purpose.
The Holy Spirit opened her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father, ……
The womb of the Virgin took [it],
and she received conception and gave birth.
How’s that for a new idea?
Read the full, text, and other Odes translated by James Chattlesworth, here.
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Gay Saints: Do They Exist? Do They Matter?

Lovers & Martyrs?

“Sergius & Bacchus: Lovers & Martyrs?”

The recognition of saints is an important part of Catholic history and tradition. Growing up in a Catholic school, I was frequently urged to read the lives of the saints, of which our small school library had a copious supply, for my spiritual well-being.

Many adult Catholics retain a special affection, even devotion, to particular favoured saints. For some of us, this makes us a little uncomfortable. Partly, this is because the more demonstrative forms of veneration may come dangerously close to the Protestant perception of a cult of idolatrous ‘worship’ of the saints; for others , the problem is simply that of the remoteness of most of the saints: remote in time, overwhelmingly limited in geography to Europe, and particularly certain regions of Europe. There is also the problem that the recognised saints were, if not ordained clergy and religious sisters, at least celibate lay people – creating a perception that saintliness is reserved to the asexual, even unsexed, among us, leading lives devoid of intimate personal relationships. (This creates the further problem of a simplistic association of healthy emotional and sexual lives with ‘sin’.) Pope John Paul II, during his long pontificate, set about creating an unprecedented number of new saints for the modern age, deliberately seeking to undo this sense of remoteness. We now have many more saints, and beatified saints-in-waiting, from recent history and from beyond Europe. There were even reports that he was actively looking for a suitable married couple for elevation, to counter the perception that sainthood applied only to the celibate. But we in the LGBT community remain excluded – or think we are. “How great it would be”, we think, if we too could have saints of our own. It is in this spirit that a number of modern scholars (most notably John Boswell, followed by others) have dug into history and produced evidence of recognised ‘gay saints’ in church history. The LGBT Catholic Handbook has an extensive listing of the best known of these. Is it realistic to think of these as ‘gay saints’? Is it helpful? I suggest that the answer to the first question is probably “No”, at least not as narrowly defined. But to the second question, I would answer, most certainly, “Yes, helpful indeed, if interpreted more broadly.” The problem with the term, narrowly interpreted is that it is so fluid, imprecise and anachronistic. For St Jerome and St Alcuin, where the status of sainthood is uncontested, there is a different problem. Although there is clear evidence that these two, and others, experienced strong, even intimate emotional relationships with other men, it is not absolutely agreed that these relationships were sexual. And so, it is argued, these men cannot be understood as ‘gay’. (Others would suggest that the naysayers are deliberately ignoring the plain evidence infront of their eyes, but no matter, the dispute is plainly there. So where are the gay saints, narrowly defined? I do not know of any who unambiguously meet both criteria: agreed to be saints, agreed to be gay. Nevertheless, I don’t think this is important. It is not only the canonised saints who are important: I was taught that we are all potentially saints, even if not recognised. The “communion of saints” includes many more than the limited number who have been publicly acknowledged. It is also of no consequence whether particular individuals expressed their emotional intimacy in genital acts to be considered in some snese ‘gay’. (We do not require that other saints show evidence of genital activity with the opposite sex to be considered ‘heterosexual’). By applying a looser, broader definition, then I suggest that there will be many ‘gay saints’ that have gone before us, and many who still live among us. This not to suggest that praying to them is likely to produce miracles in support of official canonisation – but it is important that we recognise and offer respect to role models in our history. It is in this spirit that I commend a closer examination of the many figures who have been suggested as supposed ‘gay saints’.

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Homerotic Christianity: The Medieval Flowering

In the modern popular imagination, the middle ages have generally had a bad press, compared unfavourably with the classical civilizations which preceded it, the Renaissance flowering which followed it – or even the Islamic and Byzantine centres of scholarship and learning alongside medieval Europe. However, the thousand or so years between the fall of Rome and the high Renaissance cover a wide range of conditions. In the midst of this period, at the start of the second millenium, lies a period which deserves greater attention from anyone interested in the history of the church, or of homosexuality, or (most particularly) of the intersection of the two. This was a period of the most visible, most public “gay” sub-culture in Europe before the late twentieth century. It was also a great age of church reform – and despite strong pressure from vocal opponents, the church reformers generally ignored it.

 


This coinciding of Church reform and homosexual tolerance is important: Classical writers observed that in Greece, those cities where male love was most common, were also those with “good laws”. (A superficial look at the modern countries and US states which have approved gay marriage or civil unions certainly matches my perception of those with “good”, i.e. democratic, laws. Does the same principle apply to the Christian church?) Because it is important, let me spell out the evidence.The abuses of the papacy and bishops before the Reformation are well known. However, there are specific periods that stand in stark contrast to these. The period I am looking at here, the opening of the second millenium, is described by Eamonn Duffy in his history of the papacy, as the great “age of reform”, featuring among many notable reformers, the reign of Gregory the Great.

Now note also, that this same period is seen, from the prism of modern teaching, as a key point in the development of anti-gay theology. In “The Invention of Sodomy” Mark D Jordan shows how Saint Peter Damian’s hostility to homoerotic relationships is central to modern homophobic theology. Now, here’s the fascinating thing: the clear homophobia expressed by Peter Damian, central to modern approved thinking, is the one part of Damian’s proposals that was REJECTED by the popes and other churchmen of his time. Although the official line at the time was that same sex relationships were sinful, this was not taken very seriously. Instead, the evidence from actual practice, was that such relationships were at worst tolerated, at best celebrated. Let’s look at some “for instances”.

From literature, we have the example of bishops and other clergy writing verse with frankly homoerotic themes: Marbod of Rennes, Baudri of Bourgueil,and Hildebert of Lavardin wrote poems which, while superficially orthodox, also treat frankly homoerotic themes with remarkable frankness and authenticity. All three of these later were consecrated bishops. (Much earlier, two other bishops had written homoerotic verse, which may be read today in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. St Paulinus of Nola wrote erotic love poems to his male lover, while St Vergilius Fortunatus wrote verse with a clearly homoerotic flavour.) Alcuin of Tours also wrote gay love letters, such as one to Arno the bishop at Salzburg:

Love has penetrated my heart with its flame,

And is ever rekindled with new warmth.

Neither sea nor land, hills nor forest, nor even the Alps

Can stand in its way or hinder it

From always licking at your inmost parts, good father…

(Read the full letter, and also one by Marbod of Rennes, at Gay Love Letters through the centuries: Medieval clerics)


Another notoriously (and promiscuously) gay bishop was John of Orleans, whose lovers included two archbishops of Tours, and the French king. Yet when widespread opposition to his consecration was presented to the Pope, it was not on the basis of his orientation or promiscuity, but on the grounds of his youth. Even so, the objections were ignored, and the consecration of an openly and promiscuously gay bishop went ahead.

At much the same time, the Archbishop of Canterbury, St Anselm, was presented with a decree by the council of London calling for harsher penalties against “sodomites”. But he refused to publish the decree, noting that the practice was widespread, and that ordinary people did not even know it was wrong. St Anselm himself was notable for the intensity of his (chaste) relationships with this predecessor at Canterbury, and a succession of his pupils. (Read some of his letters to a pupil at “Gay Love Letters through the centuries: Anselm“). He also undid centuries of earlier monastic practice, by recommending, not prohibiting, close friendships among men in monasteries. Across the channel in France, another famous Monastic saint was in a similar position. St Aelred of Rievaulx was another celibate, chaste priest who nevertheless penned letters containing extraordinarily clear, frankly homoerotic sentiments to his pupils.

 

Sadly this medieval flowering of a gay sub-culture, described as the most open and visible in Europe until the 1970’s, was all too brief. Not long after attitudes changed, and saw active persecution by the church and state which was horrifying in its severity. That too is a period in gay church history which deserves to be remembered, for exactly opposite reasons. For now, though, let us simply reflect on the thought that at one important time in church history, church reform and “good laws” did indeed co-incide with homosexual tolerance.

 

Sources:

John Boswell: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality

Eamonn Duffy: Saints & Sinners

Excluded From God's People?

Question: Look carefully at this picture of assembled Catholic cardinals, and decide (carefully, now): Which of these, in terms of Pope Benedict’s own reasoning, are “excluded from God’s People”?

Answer: If you are to follow the line of reasoning of Pope Benedict himself, in his earlier incarnation as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the answer should be plain to see: all of them.
How so?

In the first Church document dedicated to the matter of homoerotic relationships, “Homosexualitatis Problema“, the “Problem (sic) of Homosexuality”, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) quotes two verses from Leviticus which appear to condemn homosexual relationships, and then leaps to the completely unsubstantiated assertion that, because these verses describe such actions as an “abomination”, the people so described are excluded from the Kingdom of God.”
If we are to accept the reasoning as sound, we should be able to apply it equally to the other behaviours which are similarly described as “abominations“, and so discover who else are “excluded from the Kingdom of God.”
These verses include in their condemnation those well-known disreputable sinners as the eaters of shellfish and rabbits, those wearing clothing of mixed fibres, and (it pains me to say this), those who have shaved their beards. Now, the picture shown does not show a great deal of detail, but I fail to see a single beard among the assembled throng. To be consistent, on the basis of this argument we have only two options: either we must accept that the illustrious cardinals shown (and the overwhelming majority of all clergy) are likewise “excluded from God’s people “, or we must accept that the reasoning is flawed. Which is it?
Homosexualitatis Problema” concludes with two wonderful verses from Scripture: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:32), and “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), both stirring verses that I would endorse fully. What enrages me, is the deceitfulness, the utter dishonesty, of a document which purports to be about “Truth”, but instead bolsters its claims (for that is what they are: claims, not reasoned arguments) with a long series of palpable falsehoods.
I could accept in good faith a document that submitted ts claims and supported them with clear reasoning. This document does not. Instead, it provides us with an excellent example of what Dr Mark Jordan has described as the typical rhetorical style of the Church: to present statements as unquestionably true, without justification, and then to bludgeon us into submission by sheer force of repetition. These are examples of the statements made in exactly this way, without demonstration, that are demonstrably untrue:

In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God who behave in a homosexual fashion.

These verses from Leviticus are well known, and it is inexcusable that they should be so badly misrepresented. They do not condemn those “who behave in a homosexual fashion”, but a much narrower set of behaviors – men who lie with men “as with a woman”. It does not condemn women’s relationships, nor does it condemn other kinds of “homosexual behavior” – such as caressing, or home-making, or cooking, or mutual love and support, or dancing,or…… Just what is behavior “in a homosexual fashion“?

“There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there (in Genesis 19, of the story of Sodom) against homosexual relations”.
Note that this is not just a claim that the story is a condemnation of “homosexual relations”. It is much stronger, and says that “there can be no doubt“. In fact the opposite is true – there is indeed a great deal of doubt. Not only is there “doubt”, but even outright denial. Many reputable Biblical scholars now point out that there is in fact no condemnation of homosexual relations anywhere in Genesis 19. The story as told in Genesis does not in any way identify the infamous “sin of Sodom” – but it is identified elsewhere, and it is not “homosexuality”. (See “Countering the Clobber Texts” for more on the real sin of Sodom.)
The document goes on to claim that there is a “clear consistency within the Scriptures themselves on the moral issue of homosexual behavior. This is nonsense. Among over 30 000 verses in Scripture, there are only half a dozen which appear to criticize some homosexual behaviors and even these verses are debatable. (Over 300 verses carry admonitions against heterosexual behavior). there are also very many texts which support loving same gender relationships (see The Gospel’s Queer Values) – but these the CDF simply ignores.

The Church’s teaching today is “in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and her own constant tradition.”
The Vatican likes to repeat this phrase about a “constant tradition” (or “unchanging” tradition) on “homosexual relations” at regular intervals. In fact, there is no “constant” tradition, when you take a long view over history. There is indeed “organic continuity”, but it has changed substantially over the two millenia of history, just as teaching has changed on many other issues: on slavery, on usury, on women’s proper & expected subjection to the will of there husbands, on the sacramental nature of marriage, and the need for its solemnization in church (which was once required only for priests), on compulsory celibacy for priests, on the evils of democracy………..
On homosexuality, historians such as James Boswell, Mark Jordan and Alan Bray have shown just how much the teaching has evolved and changed over the centuries. I have listed some of this at Queering the Church, in my post “The Church’s Changing Tradition“.

The church’s perspective “finds support in the more secure findings of the natural sciences

It does not. The natural sciences, like the human and social sciences, clearly show the opposite view. Zoologists have shown that homosexual behaviour occurs throughout the animal world. (See “God is Slightly Gay“). Physiologists have found some differences between the brains of people with homosexual and heterosexual orientations. The professional associations of the medical and psychiatric professions agree that homosexuality is not pathological or in any way “abnormal”. (Anthropology and social history show the same, but let us stick with natural sciences for now, as the Vatican does.) None of these natural sciences “support the Church’s perspective”, as the document fraudulently claims. But note the slippery rhetorical style: it does not claim that all science supports it – just that the “secure” findings of natural science do. In other words, those findings that do support Church teaching are “secure”, those that don’t can simply be dismissed as “insecure”, no matter what are the views of the scientific community as a whole.

“Homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfilment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God.”
This outrageous assertion is one that the CDF would no doubt like to believe, but there is no basis at all for accepting it – nor is any justification provided. On the other hand, there are two clear reasons for rejecting it, at least as applied to persons with a natural homoerotic orientation. First, if this is the way we have been made by the creator, how can its expression be “contrary to the creative wisdom of God”? God does not make mistakes. Does the CDF really believe we are called to somehow repair God’s mistakes? The truth here, as so often in this document, is precisely the opposite of the claim presented. The lessons from psychotherapy are clear: what is dangerous to mental health, and prevents human fulfilment and happiness, is the denial of one’s identity and personal truth, including one’s sexual identity. As John McNeill, the notable theologian and psychotherapist, endlessly reminds us in his books, bad psychology is bad theology.
These are the most obvious, clear falsehoods in the statement. There are others which are less extreme, but are also misleading.

St Paul, in 1 Cor 6:9 “proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God”;

This text does not list those “who behave in a homosexual fashion”. It lists rather, “malakoi” and “arsenekotoi“. Do you know what those are? No? Nor does anybody else. Accurate translation of these terms has puzzled Biblical scholars, because their meaning is unclear, but could be associated with idolatry, or the practice sometimes described (inaccurately) as “temple prostitution”. It most certainly does not refer to people who behave in a “homosexual fashion”, whatever that might mean.

1 Tim 10 “explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.”

Again, it does not. It “explicitly” names only “malakoi“, for which – see above.
There are numerous other nasty rhetorical tricks employed by Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict in this document, from the choice of language and false contrasts he sets up, for example, by contrasting “homosexual acts” with “conjugal relationships”. For balance, he should compare “conjugal acts”, with all their associations with a loving marriage, with loving homoerotic relationships. Of course he does not – he totally ignores all consideration of such loving same sex relationships, writing instead only of “homosexual” (historically, a medical term) acts and behaviour, of the “homosexual condition” , and of “disorder”.
The very title of the document is deceitful: it is headed “Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”, but in fact the formal title of the work is “Homosexualitatis Problema“, again simply resenting “homosexuality” as a “problem”. it is not. The only problem here is the Vatican’s total failure to understand , or even to attempt to understand, the problem.
Even the choice of Scriptural verses is telling: “Speak the Truth”, the document concludes. But what about listening? For all the claims of the modern church to be a “listening church”, there is not a shred of evidence in this document, or anywhere else, that the writers have made any attempt to listen to the people who know most about it – those who have learned from personal experience what it is to have a homoerotic orientation. Those churches which have in sincerity engaged in proper listening exercises have found that they have modified their previous views, and have recognized that their traditional views of Scripture on the subject were inadequate. There is a reason, though, why the Catholic Church refuses to do the same kind of listening, and it is one that affects us all- straight or gay.
Now, I would really prefer NOT to be dealing with issues of the church and sexual orientation here, at the Open Tabernacle. For that, I have my own site, “Queering the Church”, where I have been writing for the past year on this and related topics. However, it is clear from some of the observations in the comments threads to other posts, that this is a topic that cannot be simply ignored here. It is also important to note that the issue is of far wider significance and application than just to matters of sexual morality, still less exclusively homoerotic sexual morality. The real motive hiding behind the letter, which should be of concern to us all, has nothing to do with “pastoral care”, nor with “speaking the truth”. Rather, as the text of the letter itself makes clear, the real object is simply one of control. This is reflected in the document’s consistent denial of the validity of any conclusions that differ from its own: if science does not support it, it is not “secure”; if  scriptural exegesis is in conflict with the Magisterium, the Scripture scholars are in error. Nothing, it seems, is to be accepted unless it conforms with the writer’s own view of the Church “truth”. Dissent, debate, discussion are all simply ruled out. (Recall that the origin of the CDF was as the infamous Inquisition – which had thousands of alleged homosexuals executed, usually by burning, between the centuries after the high middle ages and the early Reformation. Unlike other atrocities in church history, this is one for which there has still been no official apology)
The lies, half truths and nasty rhetorical sleight of hand which the CDF has used in an attempt to stigmatize and condemn loving same sex relationships, under the pretence of pastoral care and speaking the truth, should be seen as much more than just a hostile act against a small minority. It is, rather,  just the most obvious symptom of a much wider malaise within the power establishment of the church, which threatens us all. This is of the utmost importance: the ecclesiastical obsession with control and power, and its frequent abuse at all levels, have been clearly shown to be one of the primary root causes behind the ongoing scandals of clerical sexual abuse – in Ireland, in the US, in Australia, and right around the world.

The Sin That Cries to Heaven For Vengeance

For a long time, I’ve been thoroughly irritated by those sanctimonious Catholics (and others) who tray to remind us (for our own good, they would claim) that homosexuality is “the” sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.  However, as I had never myself come across any such reference, I did not know the origin of the claim, and could not respond.  Finally, I got my act together and investigated. What I found was useful, and worth sharing.

First, as one might expect, there is not such thing as “the” sin that cries out, but several: depending on your source, there are four or five of them.  The claims for grouping these together come from old sources, and are based on a shared interpretation of Biblical verses.  Apart from the allegation that “homosexuality” is one of them, the others are:

Murder (not surprising):
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Gn 4:10)
Oppression of Widows and Orphans
“You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” (Ex 21-23)
Now, I would have thought that a failure to provide health care to widows and orphans counts as “oppression”.
Cheating Laborers of Their Due
“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be a sin in you.” (Dt 24:14-15)
So, paying unfair low wages is  also a sin crying out to the Lord.
Sodomy
Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me.” (Gn 18:20-21) The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of homosexual activity. So far gone were they in this vice that the men of the town would not even accept heterosexual license with Lot’s daughters, both virgins, as a means of sating their lust (see 19:8-9).
Ah, there it is – the old canard that homosexuality is the sin of Sodom. It is not – as any actual reading of the Bible, and not the endless commentary that abuses it, makes clear. I will return to this below.
The four cases listed above are the four given at the  “Catholic Doors” website, which also warns us (ironically to interpret these carefully, free from cultural conditioning.  Yet their interpretation of the Sodom story is entirely based on cultural conditioning.  It is not Scripture, but popular prejudice that has associated the sin of Sodom with homoeroticism. History shows that religious opposition to same sex relationships has followed  popular bigotry, not led it.
Another source , the blogger Douglas Lawrence, adds to the above list a fifth, the “oppression” in Egypt:.
Q. 1. How many sins cry out to Heaven for vengeance?

A. There are five sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance.

Q. 2. What are they?
A. Based on # 1867 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are:
(1) Wilful murder – the blood of Abel, [Gen. 4:10]
(2) The sin of the Sodomites, [Gen. 18:20; 19:13]
(3) The cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, [Ex. 3:7-10]
(4) The cry of the foreigner, the widow and the orphan, [Ex. 20:20-22] and
(5) Injustice to the wage earner. [Deut. 24:14-5; Jas. 5:4]

So, what is this “sin of Sodom”?  Canon Bailey, writing half a century and more ago, did extensive research in Scripture, in the Apocrypha, and in the Pseudepigrapha, and came up with some clear answers.
Genesis 19, which tells the story of Sodom’s destruction, is remarkable vague on the subject of the precise sin that had brought down this dramatic penalty. I had read previously (in Boswell, and elsewhere) some of the texts from other books of the Hebrew scriptures that tell us more, but Bailey has an impressively long list. Gay men in particular,who have for so long been beaten over their heads for their supposed “sin of Sodom”, would do well to absorb these, and understand just what the true sin is.
Jer 23:14
In the prophets of Jerusalem also I have seen a horrible thing; they commit adultery, and walk in lies, and they strengthen the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them become unto me as Sodom , and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Ez 16: 49-50
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease…..; And they were haughty, and committed abomination (to ‘ēbhāh) before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
Wisd 19: 8
Whereas the men of Sodom received not the strangers when they came among them; the Egyptians made slaves of the guests who were their benefactors.
Ecclus 16: 8
God spared not those with whom Lot sojourned, whom he abhorred for their pride
3 Maccabees 2:5
“Thou didst burn up with fire and brimstone the men of Sodom, workers of arrogance, who had become known for all their crimes
Jubilees 13: 17
The Men of Sodom were sinners exceedingly
Jubilees 16: 5-6
The Lord executed his judgement on Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Zeboim, and all the regions of the Jordan ad he burned them with fire and brimstone, and destroyed them until this day, even as I have declared unto thee all their works, that they are wicked and sinners exceedingly, and that they defile themselves and commit fornication in their flesh...
Jubilees 13: 17
And Abraham told of the judgement of the giants and the judgement of the Sodomites, how they had been judged on account of their wickedness, and had died on account of their fornication,  and uncleanness…..
Josephus, Antiquities
About this time, the men of Sodom grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth; they became unjust toward me, and impious toward God…… they hated strangers
Josephus, Antiquities
Now when the Sodomites saw the young men [the angels] to be of beautiful countenance, and this to an extraordinary degree, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence.
Bailey has more, but I leave it there.  It is clear that only the last of the list refers to sex with men – and the emphasis there is not on gender, but on force and violence.  Otherwise, apart from some generic statements about “wickedness”, or “fornication”,  the sins specified are about pride, injustice, indolence, and hostility or lack of hospitality to strangers.
Now that we have a clearer understanding of the sin of Sodom, we can now return to the “sins crying to heaven”.  In addition to murder, all the sins crying to heaven are about injustice and oppression.  Not one has anything at all to do with voluntary sexual relationships between men.
We as gay men are not the perpetrators of sins crying to heaven – we are their victims.