Did you know that for hundreds of years, the Catholic church performed same sex unions and has never declared marriage to be between one man and one woman?

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1:00 News and host chat

Richard Wagner, Dr. Dick7:00 Topic: What you need to know about the church and gay mar


Welcome to our special guest, Richard Wagner, otherwise known as Dr. Dick of Dr. Dick’s Sex Advice, a former priest and sexologist. Dr. Wagner debunks common misbeliefs about gay marriage, citing historical evidence that up until the 14th century, the church conducted same-sex unions, had an Office of Same Sex Unions and has never defined marriage as being between a man and a woman; in fact, it seemed to avoid using those terms.

Articles discussed: When Same Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by historian John Boswell

Dr. Wagner’s new book, the Amateur’s Guide to Death and Dying.

30:00 Thanks

Thanks to Shana, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at OpenSF, for the generous $200 donation!

32:00 Wrapup

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Commenting area

  1. This is very interesting, but my scientific curiosity makes me wonder if this is based on scientific facts or just hunches and personal interpretations.

  2. Cunning Minx June 18, 2012 at 11:24 pm · ·

    Which part? The history of the church performing same-sex marriage rites is well-documented, as is the Office of Same-Sex Unions.

  3. Actually, it’s not. At least not same-sex marriage rites. If modern “blood-brothers” are “same-sex unions” then sure, it happened.
    John Boswell was an excellent researcher and had an amazing skill for learning languages. I read his book in my class on Marriage and Sexuality in Medieval Europe while getting my degree in Medieval History.
    However, Boswell’s conclusions were specious and calling them controversial is understating, as he pretty much stands alone in his interpretation.
    One problem with the manuscripts Boswell found was that there was no indication of how often they were used, and examples of their use included male/male, male/female and female/female pairs, and these were not considered marriage in any of those groupings.

    The fact that this is discussed either way is proof just how successful the Christian church – and particularly the puritanical version – was at suppressing sexuality. It polarized our thinking into there’s either marriage or nothing, ignoring the many other forms of relationships in between. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Christianity (and Judaism) was the intolerance of sex and particularly of same-sex sexual activity. The Greeks and Romans around them were pretty much fine with it – some Greek city-states like Sparta even saw same-sex unions as higher than marriages (the homophobia in the movie “300” was made up). It’s quite probable then that Sergius and Bacchus (if they existed at all, since most scholars think they are just a fiction based on some earlier folks) would have had some sexual contact because they were Roman soldiers. However, the mosaic depicted is not a marriage mosaic. It’s not like any other Byzantine marriage image I have ever heard of. The couple don’t face each other, and there’s no altar or book between them. They are just 2 guys holding hands – and in ancient times that wasn’t a sign of homosexuality. Heck, read Moby Dick: Quiqueg and Ishmael walk around town holding hands and even share a bed but there’s nothing sexual about their relationship – and not because Melville couldn’t write about such things, rather male/male affection was so much more accepted even in the 19th century than it is today (or at least than it was 30 years ago).

    Sorry to run on so long. I’d say about half of what your guest said was correct, but the other half was either wildly speculative or flatly wrong. Since it’s kind of my area of expertise I get a bit picky.

    p.s. The only cite I find for “office of same-sex unions” is Boswell, and I can’t find the latin word though everyone else I found translates it as “office for union of brothers”.

  4. edit – I remembered after re-reading my post that the issue in “300” wasn’t homophobia and I apologize. It was men having sex with boys. The Spartans insult the Athenians for doing that, when in reality the Spartans not only did it but pretty much made it a mandatory part of their society.

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