Same Sex Unions Essay Research Paper The

Same Sex Unions Essay, Research Paper The question of same-sex unions and their legitimacy in many different societies is a topic that has been hotly debated for centuries. One society in particular

Same Sex Unions Essay, Research Paper

The question of same-sex unions and their legitimacy in many different societies

is a topic that has been hotly debated for centuries. One society in particular

is pre-modern Europe. Noted author and historian Dr. John Boswell looks

extensively at the topic of same-sex unions in his book Same Sex Unions in

Premodern Europe. Dr. Boswell argues extensively in his book that the Catholic

and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the

same sex, but actually sanctified them. This critique examines some specific

aspects of the book, and analyzes them. Before an analysis of the Same Sex

Unions in Premodern Europe can be evaluated, it?s important to know a little

about the author himself and what he stood for. Dr. Boswell was a professor at

Yale University and Chairman of Yale?s history department for many years. He

was an award winning scholar, author and historian. In addition to writing Same

Sex Unions in Premodern Europe he also wrote several other works such as

Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. Two of his greatest

professional achievements included being a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Fulbright

scholar. It is his extensive training as a Historian and an understanding of his

own homosexuality that gave him unique insight into the writing of Same Sex

Unions in Premodern Europe. In Same Sex Unions in Modern Europe, Boswell takes a

highly controversial position in saying that the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox

churches actually sanctified same sex unions, while at the same time, presenting

his viewpoints in such a way that any well educated historian would? very

carefully. He almost contradicts himself at several points in the book and

mentions that his ideas are subject to debate among his peers. Boswell, in

writing this book has essentially established a Premodern Europe where

heterosexual marriage was largely ignored by pagans and discouraged by the

church. Also, according to Boswell, men would essentially pair off in order to

perform duties that were considered essential to society such as war, trade,

education, friendship, etc. As Boswell puts it ?it is hardly surprising that

there should been a Christian solemnizing same sex unions.? I do not agree

with him on this premise, although homosexuality has existed in animal species

and in humans since the beginnings of our existence, how can he be so bold as to

assume that the majority of these supposed pairs were homosexual? In my opinion

that broad of a statement is like saying that any two men that shake hands or

embrace must automatically be gay. There is a second specific point that I wish

to point out with regards to medieval priest and the monastic life. Boswell

points out in Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe that young boys caught

performing homosexual acts were ?punished? by being sent to a monastery. Was

this meant as ?punishment? to deprive these boys of their youth or to

isolate them from the supposed forces that made them perform these acts? Boswell

points out ?in any event, being placed with monks was likely to provide the

best environment to locate other men romantically interested in their own

gender.? That?s all well and good, but he undermines his own thesis here. If

the Christian Right of the time so vehemently supported same sex unions, then

why would boys who engaged in same-sex acts be ?punished? at all? Should not

they be encouraged to be homosexual? Boswell not only mildly contradicts himself

here, he goes a step further and practically destroys his own thesis. Through

reading Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, relating it to my own experiences

as a history major, and gay male, not to mention discussions in class, I do not

believe that same sex unions were as heavily sanctioned in Premodern Europe by

churches as Boswell would have us believe. It is my opinion that there have

fluctuations between then and now as to exactly how much homosexuality is

tolerated by the so-called mainstream society. There were places such as Ancient

Greece where it was accepted and modern day liberal locations such as San

Francisco, California that have a large gay/lesbian population. In both places

both in the past and present, a certain percentage of religions Christian or

non-Christian have spoken out against same sex unions. In one respect I can

agree with Boswell in that perhaps in the past (in certain premodern Europe

geographical locations) that same sex unions were more tolerated than they are

today here in the United States. This is especially true in the so called

?Bible Belt? which comprises many of the Southern and South Western states

where groups such as the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority have gained

a lot of political clout with their conservative (and anti-gay) viewpoints.

These groups tend to be at the forefront of what I consider to be backwards

thinking. They do not recognize that many gays and lesbians wish to have

families and be considered as ?normal? members of society, instead these

groups and others view them as ?deviants? and ?sinners? because of whom

they chose to have relationships with. In recapping some of the major themes of

Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by Dr. John Boswell, I find his basic thesis

in his book to be how openly both the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox

Church supported same sex unions. Although he provides some good evidence that

there was some recognition, I believe he makes the mistake of assuming that

most, if not all of these unions were sexual partners and companions. While some

may have been, certainly not to the degree that he states. Furthermore in

looking into other church records of the time period, it is clear that the

Catholic Church did not support same sex marriages or unions. Bottomline,

Boswell makes some good points and provides some evidence, but it was not

persuasive enough for me to agree with his thesis, there are too many open ends

in terms of his interpretations of documents and other sources.