Was Church Teacher St. Augustine Gay ? Part 1

About the Church teacher Saint Augustine and the debate over whether or not he was a homosexual.



Person in Question: "Give me chastity," Augustine would fervently pray when in the heat of passion, "but not yet!" For this man, born Aurelius Augustinus in North Africa in 354 A.D., the struggle between his passionate nature and his ascetic yearnings was long and bitter.

He was raised a Christian by his devout mother, the future St. Monica, but his father's hot-blooded, philandering example and his own earthy nature led him temporarily to abandon Christianity when he went to school in Carthage. Although he led an increasingly wild and dissipated life, he was repeatedly drawn to religious cults that preached a life of self-denial.

He converted for a time to Manichaeanism, a sect founded by Manes, a Persian prophet who had been crucified in 276 A.D. The Manichaeans were enjoined to eat only vegetables and to avoid sex. Each soul trapped in a human body, they said, was one more struggle toward spirituality, which could be avoided if the baby were never conceived. Augustine was also attracted to the Skeptics, who, in their most extreme form, said that--since we can be sure of nothing--it is best to go into the desert and avoid all activity and human contact.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No: To find an answer we must look at both the Church's attitudes toward sexuality and those of Augustine himself. Sex was for procreation, not pleasure, said the Church. A rather extreme example of the Church's stand is seen in St. Jerome, who retired into the desert in sackcloth and scourged himself and fasted for a week at a time to try to banish phantom swarms of dancing girls that crowded into his mind.

Augustine finally won an uneasy victory in his battle with passion. He abandoned his concubine of many years and entered into a life of celibacy. From that point on, his influence in the Church was enormous. His Confessions, City of God, and On the Trinity formed a theoretical base for the Church to be equaled later only by St. Thomas Aquinas.

After being a wild-living hedonist, Augustine did a complete about-face. He carried the Church's stand on sex to its logical conclusion. He saw the sexual orgasm as a tempest involving momentary loss of control, and since control over one's mind and emotions was of paramount importance, it was to be avoided. Adam and Eve, he claimed, had coupled coolly and rationally before the Fall--a kind of cerebral mating. Passion came later, after the Kingdom of Heaven had been lost.

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