Benjamin Wiker

Gay marriage and homosexuality were part of moral landscape in Ancient Rome

Benjamin Wiker
By Benjamin Wiker
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June 26, 2012 (CatholicWorldReport.com) - Given that the gay marriage agenda will be increasingly pressed upon Catholics by the state, we should be much more aware of what history has to teach us about gay marriage—given that we don’t want to be among those who, ignorant of history, blithely condemned themselves to repeat it.

Contrary to the popular view—both among proponents and opponents—gay marriage is not a new issue. It cannot be couched (by proponents) as a seamless advance on the civil rights movement, nor should it be understood (by opponents) as something that’s evil merely because it appears to them to be morally unprecedented.

Gay marriage was—surprise!—alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.

What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our “enlightened age,” but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.

So, what was happening in ancient Rome? Homosexuality was just as widespread among the Romans as it was among the Greeks (a sign of which is that it was condoned even by the stolid Stoics). The Romans had adopted the pederasty of the Greeks (aimed, generally, at boys between the ages of 12 to 18). There was nothing shameful about such sexual relations among Romans, if the boy was not freeborn. Slaves, both male and female, were considered property, and that included sexual property.

But the Romans also extended homosexuality to adult men, even adult free men. And it is likely that this crossing of the line from child to adult, unfree to free—not homosexuality as such—was what affronted the more austere of the Roman moralists.

And so we hear from Tacitus (56-117 AD), the great Roman historian, of the shameful sexual exploits of a string of Roman emperors from Tiberius to Nero. Nero was the first imperial persecutor of the Christians. His tutor and then advisor was the great Stoic moralist Seneca himself. Unfortunately, Seneca’s lessons must have bounced right off the future emperor. When he took the imperial seat, complete with its aura of self-proclaimed divinity, no trace of Stoic austerity remained.

In Nero, Tacitus tells the reader, tyrannical passion, the hubris of proclaimed divinity, the corruption of power, and “every filthy depraved act, licit or illicit” seemed to reach an imperial peak. He not only had a passion for “free-born boys” but also for quite literally marrying other men and even a boy, sometimes playing the part of the woman in the union and sometimes the man.

As Tacitus relates one incident (Grant’s translation): “Nero was already corrupted by every lust, natural and unnatural. But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible for him. For…he went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil. Dowry, marriage bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night.”

Such was only one instance. We also have from historian Seutonius, a contemporary of Tacitus, a report of Nero’s marriage to Doryphorus (who was himself married to another man, Sporus).

Martial, the first-century A.D. Roman poet, reports incidences of male-male marriage as kinds of perversions, but not uncommon perversions, speaking in one epigram (I.24) of a man who “played the bride yesterday.” In another (12.42) he says mockingly, “Bearded Callistratus gave himself in marriage to…Afer, in the manner in which a virgin usually gives herself in marriage to a male. The torches shone in front, the bridal veils covered his face, and wedding toasts were not absent, either. A dowry was also named. Does that not seem enough yet for you, Rome? Are you waiting for him to give birth?”

In Juvenal’s Second Satire (117), we hear of one Gracchus, “arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride,” now a “new-made bride reclining on the bosom of her husband.” Such seems to have been the usual way of male-male nuptials among the Romans, one of the men actually dressing up as a woman and playing the part of a woman.

The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus (ruled 218-222) married and then divorced five women. But he considered his male chariot driver to be his “husband,” and he also married one Zoticus, an athlete. Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally.

Our reports of homosexual marriage from Rome give us, I hope, a clearer understanding of what is at stake. As is the case today, it appears that the incidence of male-male marriage followed upon the widespread acceptance of homosexuality; that is, the practice of homosexuality led to the notion that, somehow, homosexual unions should share in the same status as heterosexual unions.

We must also add that heterosexuality among the Romans was also in a sad state. Both concubinage and prostitution were completely acceptable; pornography and sexually explicit entertainment and speech were entirely normalized; the provision of sex by both male and female slaves was considered a duty by masters. Paeans to the glory of marriage were made, not because the Romans had some proto-Christian notion of the sanctity of marriage, but because Rome needed more citizen-soldiers just when the Romans were depopulating themselves by doing anything to avoid having children.

The heterosexual moral disrepair in Rome therefore formed the social basis for the Roman slide into homosexual marriage rites. We hear of them from critics bent on satirizing such unions. The problem for the Romans wasn’t homosexuality as such, but that a Roman man would debase himself and play the part of a woman in matrimony.

Christians had a problem with the whole Roman sexual scene. We are, of course, not surprised to find that the first Christians accepted and carried forward the strict rejection of homosexuality inherent in Judaism, but this was part of its more encompassing rejection of any sexuality outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Christians are not to be lauded for affirming that marriage must be defined as a union of a man and a woman, because that is the natural default of any people intent on not disappearing in a single generation. What was peculiar to Christianity (again, not just following Judaism, but intensifying it) was the restriction of sexuality only to monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

The Christians found themselves in a pagan culture where there were few restrictions on sexuality at all, other than the imagination—a culture that, to note the obvious but exceedingly important, looks suspiciously like ours.

The first-century A.D. catechetical manual, the Didache, makes refreshingly clear what pagans will have to give up, in regard to Roman sexuality, once they entered the Church. It begins with the ominous words, “There are two ways: one of life and one of death—and there is a great difference between the two ways.” The pagan converts are then confronted with a list of commands. Some of which would have been quite familiar and reasonable to Romans, such as, “You will not murder” and, “You will not commit adultery” (although for Romans, abortion wasn’t murder, and a husband having sex with slaves or prostitutes was not considered adulterous).

But then followed strange commands (at least to the Romans), “You will not corrupt boys”; “You will not have illicit sex” (ou porneuseis); “You will not murder offspring by means of abortion [and] you will not kill one having been born.” Against the norm in Rome, Christians must reject pedophilia, fornication and homosexuality, abortion, and infanticide. The list also commands, “You will not make potions” (ou pharmakeuseis), a prohibition against widespread practices in the Roman Empire which included potions that stopped conception or caused abortion.

I include the prohibitions against sexual practices heartily affirmed by the Romans alongside prohibitions against contraception, abortion, and infanticide for a very important reason. Christians defined the goal of sexuality in terms of the natural ability to procreate. What was different, again, was not recognizing the obvious need for a man and a woman to make a child—Stoics argued along the same lines. What was peculiar to Christianity was removing all other expressions of sexuality from legitimacy (many Stoic men had male paramours). The Roman elevation of sexual pleasure above procreation, and hence outside this tightly-defined area of sexual legitimacy defined by Christianity, led to the desire for contraceptive potions, abortifacients, and infanticide.

It also led to seeing marriage as nothing but an arena for sexual pleasure, which in turn allowed for an equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual marriage.

The Theodosian Code, drawn up by Christian emperors in the fifth century, A.D. made same-sex marriage illegal (referring, as precedent, to edicts published under fourth-century emperors Constantius II and Constans).

We can see, then, that Christians face nothing new in regard to the push for gay marriage. In fact, it is something quite old, and represents a return to the pagan views of sexuality that dominated the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born.

[Editor’s note: The years for the reign of Elagabalus were incorrect in the original posting; his reign ended in AD 222, not AD 212.)

This article originally appeared in Catholic World Report and is re-published with permission.

Related stories:

* An unknown unknown for gay marriage supporters
* Emperor Nero’s Perverted Same-Sex Marriage!!
* UK homosexuals largely uninterested in gay ‘marriage’: poll
* 500,000+ signatures opposing gay ‘marriage’ presented to UK prime minister, Home Office
* Obama endorses gay ‘marriage’: says support based on Jesus, Golden Rule
* Pro-abortion, pro-gay ‘marriage’ socialist Francois Hollande wins French election
* Perversion of democracy: gay ‘marriage’ and the law
* Judaism Teams With Vatican to Counter Worldwide Homosexual ‘Marriage’ Push
* Archbishop decries homosexual ‘marriage,’ says western world has become ‘mission territory’

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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