The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology

Overview

In this reexamination of what it means to have a tradition, Catholic and otherwise, Mark D. Jordan offers a powerful and provocative study of the sin of erotic love between men. The Invention of Sodomy reveals the theological fabrication of arguments for categorizing genital acts between members of the same sex.
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Overview

In this reexamination of what it means to have a tradition, Catholic and otherwise, Mark D. Jordan offers a powerful and provocative study of the sin of erotic love between men. The Invention of Sodomy reveals the theological fabrication of arguments for categorizing genital acts between members of the same sex.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

James F. Keenan
[A] powerfully passionate esposé of about ten texts extending from the mid-10th to the mid-13th century. . . . Jordan's challenging though profoundly hopeful book makes a cogent case for the irrationality of bias, for the importance of the erotic, and for having confidence in revelation. -- Theological Studies
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly critique of how the term "sodomy" arose in the Middle Ages and came to influence Roman Catholic moral discourse.

Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at least as old as the book of Genesis, the view of sodomy as a form of sexual sin seems to have been invented in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. Jordan (Medieval Institute/Notre Dame Univ.) restates the now generally accepted view that the sin leading to Sodom's destruction was transgression of the laws of hospitality rather than same-sex intercourse per se, and he gives some very relevant philosophical warnings about using centuries-old texts to find answers to modern questions. For example, there is no clear medieval equivalent for our concepts of "homosexuality" (a 19th-century neologism of forensic medicine) or, indeed, of "sexuality." Jordan's study begins with the Canoness Hrotswitha of Saxony's account of the martyrdom of St. Pelagius, who died rather than serve a caliph's sexual desires, and Peter Damian's Book of Gomorrah. Our author guides us adeptly through the writings of Alan of Lille, St. Albert the Great, and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as several confessors' handbooks, as he explores how the terms "sodomite" and "sodomy" were used and notes inconsistencies in emphasis and argumentation. For example, Albert the Great, contrary to his normal method, omitted medical data from his Arabic sources that would have suggested a natural (and therefore morally positive) basis for sodomy. Jordan succeeds in showing that Thomas Aquinas's analyses of luxuria and unnatural vice are inadequate for contemporary Catholicism's evaluation of gay and lesbian relationships, but the methodological problems he highlights would seem to emphasize the tradition's stance that sexual intimacy belongs to heterosexual marriage.

A stimulating, if not quite convincing, contribution to Thomistic and gay studies.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Mark D. Jordan is the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University. He was previously the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity and Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University and also taught at the University of Notre Dame and Emory University. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
A Prelude after Nietzsche: The Responsibilities of a History of Sodomy 1
1 The Passions of St. Pelagius 10
2 The Discovery of Sodomy 29
3 Peter Damian: Books in Gomorrah 45
4 Alan of Lille: Natural Artifices 67
5 The Care of Sodomites 92
6 Albert the Great: The Sodomitic Physiology 114
7 Thomas Aquinas: The Sin against Nature 136
A Postlude after St. Ambrose: The Responsibilities of a Theology of Sodomy 159
Works Cited 177
Index 187
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