St Aelred, whose feast we celebrate today, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott. He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron. From the website of Integrity, this Collect for the feast of Aelred:
Michael Sean Winters, a columnist at National Catholic Reporter, recently wrote on the failing nature of Catholic teaching on homosexuality in light of the University of Notre Dame’s decision to approve a comprehensive plan for LGBTQ students. You can read an earlier Bondings 2.0 post on the decision here.
Winters notes the decision garnered a positive statement by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, the diocese in which the University is located, before divulging his personal commentary. His commentary takes up several points relevant to the Notre Dame decision, the first of which is the theology surrounding homosexuality:
“Here is the bottom line for me on these issues. The Church’s theological reflection on homosexuality is inadequate at the moment, usually crammed into the worldview that existed for a very long time that assumed that the sexual activities of gay people were the perverse acts of straight people.”
Winters acknowledges that advancements of the past decades allow a deeper understanding of homosexuality as something “constitutional” and “it is not an aberrant choice.” This leads him to conclude:
“The language about ‘intrinsically disordered’ should be dropped entirely because it ran the danger of creating a new category of sin, not a vice like the seven deadly to which we are all prone, nor a specific act like stealing a car, but a disposition that was itself flawed and unique to certain persons.”
Finally, Winters directly addresses the decision at Notre Dame, which he calls “courageous” because the University recognizes the human dignity of LGBTQ students beyond a theology of human sexuality that is outdated:
“We also have a Christian obligation to ‘create a community where all may flourish and feel welcome, where we aspire to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of Catholic teaching, and where the human dignity of each Notre Dame student is valued.’ That, too, is part of our Catholic moral tradition. Notre Dame is right, and even courageous…”
Winters has named the essential struggle for LGBTQ and Ally students at Catholic colleges and universities, and indeed for the entire church: how to protect human dignity .
Only emphasizing Catholic sexual ethics that classifies homosexuality as a sin set apart when addressing LGBTQ campus needs is dehumanizing. Students fade from being persons who deserve pastoral and educational care into partisan activists that are to be battled for nothing more than their sexual orientation. Worse, these anti-inclusive institutions miss some legitimate issues at stake: a student’s safety, well-being, and success in higher education.
New Ways Ministry joins Michael Sean Winters in applauding the University of Notre Dame and over a third of Catholic colleges that defend their student’s dignity foremost by providing resources for LGBT persons. You can view our listing of gay-friendly Catholic schools here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
- CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Notre Dame Releases Pastoral Plan for LGBTQ Students (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Catholic Notre Dame announces services for gay students (wtvr.com)
- Notre Dame’s First LGBT Student Organization Will Have To Promote Chastity (thinkprogress.org)
St Aelred, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott. He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron.
Others point to his work as insisting on chastity, and believe that his well-recognised male friendships were entirely non-sexual. Whatever the genital truth, we should remember and honour Aelred as a reminder of the important place of intimate (emotionally, if not sexually) relationships between same-sex couples in the history of the church.
From the Calendar of LGBT Saints:
How Aelred Made it to the American Book of Common Prayer
by Louie Crew, founder of Integrity, [email: lcrew@ANDROMEDA.RUTGERS.EDU]
Aelred was not in ECUSA’s calendar until a Roman Catholic head of history at Yale, John Boswell, wrote about him powerfully in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality Boswell dwelt at length with the lesbigay positive evidence. That spurred Integrity member, the late Howard Galley, one of the major architects of the 1976 Prayer Book, to initiate the actions which finally led to Aelred’s inclusion: using Aelred’s own texts, Galley shaped the readings which appear in THE LESSER FEASTS AND FASTS, including this collect:
Pour into our hearts, O God, the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, that we, clasping each the other’s hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred, draw many to your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who livers and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
Select bibliography (From the Calendar of LGBT Saints)
Catholic Encyclopedia – entry on Aelred (available online)
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, trans. Mary Eugenia Laker, (Kalamazoo MI: Cistercian Publications 1977), see esp. p. 21 on Aelred’s homosexual attractions.
Boswell, John, CSTH, 221-20
McGuire, Brian P, “Monastic Friendship and Toleration “, in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Traditions, Studies in Church History 22, ed. W.J. Shiels, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985) pp. 147-160
McGuire, Brian P, “Looking Back on Friendship: Medieval Experience and Modern Context”, Cistercian Studies 21:2 (1986), pp. 123-142
McGuire, Brian P., Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx, (New York: Crossroad, 1994)
In his earlier articles, McGuire, the foremost expert on early Cistercian bonding, professed to find explanations of Aelred as homosexual as “one-dimensional”, but in this book he more forthrightly identifies Aelred as homosexual.
McGuire, Brian Patrick, “Sexual Awareness and Identity in Aelred of Rievulx (1110-67)”, American Benedictine Review 45(1994): 184-226
This probably the best work of its kind out on Aelred. It is the most comprehensive, and actually covers more ground than Brother & Lover.
Russell, Kenneth C., “Aelred, the Gay Abbot of Rievaulx”, Studia Mystica 5:4 (Winter 1982), 51-64
“The North American Old Catholic Church looks forward to establishing a presence in Minneapolis with the ordination of Father Kearns,” said Bishop Benjamin Evans, who is presiding over the ordination on January 19. “God’s Holy Spirit continues to bless us with growth.”
Founded in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church has a mission of social justice, does not submit to the authority of the Pope, and is open to female and LGBT clergy.
“I am honored and humbled to have my calling to ministry affirmed by the North American Old Catholic Church,” says Kearns, who transitioned while studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “I look forward to many years serving as a priest.
- Women’s Ordination in the Catholic Church: A Way forward? (queeringthechurch.com)
- Women’s Ordination: A Way forward? (emmaus2rome.co.uk)
- Quote of the Day: Timothy Radcliffe (queeringthechurch.com)
- Feminist Catholics Want Church to ‘Ordain a Lady’ (patheos.com)
The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar- but should be. John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before Sergius & Bacchus .
Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians. The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.
Radical feminist philosopher, academic, and Catholictheologian. Daly, who described herself as a “radical lesbian feminist”, taught at Boston College, a Jesuit-run institution, for 33 years. She retired in 1999, after violating university policy by refusing to allow male students in her advanced women’s studies classes. She allowed male students in her introductory class and privately tutored those who wanted to take advanced classes.
Women who are pirates in a phallocratic society are involved in a complex operation. First, it is necessary to plunder–that is, righteously rip off gems of knowledge that the patriarchs have stolen from us. Second, we must smuggle back to other women our plundered treasures. In order to invent strategies that will be big and bold enough for the next millennium, it is crucial that women share our experiences: the changes we have taken and the choices that have kept us alive. They are my pirate’s battle cry and wake-up call for women who want to hear.
As one of the most influential feminist thinkers and theologians of the second half of the twentieth century, Daly had a profound impact upon other feminist writers and scholars. As colleague Mary E. Hunt observed in announcing her death to the Women’s Alliance in Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) email list: “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory are many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”
However, Hunt was also controversial in some feminist and LGBT circles. Audrey Lourde and some other Black feminists accused her of ignoring the contributions of feminists of colour, and she angered the community. In Gyn/Ecology, Daly asserted her negative view of transsexual people, writing, “Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent . . . in . . . phallocratic technology. . . . Transsexualism is an example of male surgical siring which invades the female world with substitutes.” “Transsexualism, which Janice Raymond has shown to be essentially a male problem, is an attempt to change males into females, whereas in fact no male can assume female chromosomes and life history/experience.” “The surgeons and hormone therapists of the transsexual kingdom . . . can be said to produce feminine persons. They cannot produce women.”
Daly’s other published books are:
Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Beacon, 1978);
Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Beacon, 1984);
Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (Beacon, 1987);
Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage Containing Reflections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (Harper 1992);
Quintessence…Realizing the Archiac Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto (Beacon, 1999); and
Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).