Monday, July 23, 2012

An Accountability Partner, or a Spouse?

One of the things that I read in my latest reading of John Boswell's Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe was the "Appendix of Translations", which contained the texts of ceremonies for heterosexual marriages, same-sex unions (according to Boswell), and adoption in Christian Europe.

So what was my impression of the ceremonies for same-sex unions?  Do I agree with Boswell that they actually were ceremonies for same-sex unions?  I'm unsure at the moment.  On the affirmative side, they do appear to be ceremonies that united two people for life.  On the negative side, they do not mention marriage (as far as I could see), and their emphasis is on Christian love and unity, spiritual growth, and salvation.  There's also a statement in a few of the ceremonies that the couple is not bound by nature (which I take to mean "brothers").  It's almost as if they are ceremonies for accountability partners rather than marriage ceremonies, but I don't want to project the twenty-first century evangelical sub-culture onto medieval Christianity. 

Could they be ceremonies that declare two Christians to be spiritual brothers?  Granted, Christians regarded all of their fellow believers as spiritual siblings, but perhaps there were times when one Christian felt a special bond with another Christian, and wanted to form a sort of mutual brotherhood.  I'm just guessing, for I have much to learn about medieval times.

Was there anything in the ceremonies for same-sex unions that gave an indication that there would be a sexual component to the relationship?  There was one passage that caught my eye.  On page 292, we find the following passage from a tenth-century ceremony for same-sex union: "Guide them in thy holy fear, grant them joy, that they may become united more in the spirit than in the flesh."  Does that imply that there was a union of the flesh within this relationship, a sexual union?

Tomorrow, I will be finishing up Boswell's book, and I will also discuss (in a general sense, perhaps) critiques of Boswell's works.  You can read the critiques in advance here.

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