Was Church Teacher St. Augustine Gay ? Part 2

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



Celibacy, he wrote, was the most blessed state. Although married people could reach heaven, it was in spite of succumbing to their degraded animal natures. Sex for procreation was to be tolerated--barely--but any sexual activity that could not result in conception, such as oral sex, sodomy, and homosexuality, was strictly forbidden.

Augustine's Confessions is the first intimate autobiography in Western literature. It is a long, often harrowing look into the mind of a man struggling with his deeply felt passions. In book 4, chapters 4 and 6, there occurs an account of a relationship in Augustine's youth with another young man. It is a love story which ends with the untimely death of the young man.

"I felt that his soul and mine," he wrote, "were Ă«one soul in two bodies' and therefore life to me was horrible, because I hated to live as half of a life. . . ." He felt the loss so keenly that he contemplated suicide, but decided to go on living because he felt that, because they had been so close, something of the youth lived on in him. "I feared to die, lest he should wholly die whom I had loved so greatly."

Most scholars and psychologists who have considered the question seem to agree that Augustine is describing what must have been a strong emotional, physical, and sexual attachment. There are no explicit sexual details given, but considering the general tone of the book and the literary conventions of the time, this is not surprising. Before his apparently total conversion to celibacy in late life, it is reasonable to assume that any strong attachment would have had its sexual side.

However, we do know that Augustine had countless sexual contacts with women. He was involved with one woman, with whom he had a son, for 15 years, whereas there is evidence for only the one male relationship.

The answer to the question Was Augustine gay? must be a resounding Yes and No. Yes, if we accept the occurrence of a single, strongly passionate relationship with another man as evidence of homosexuality. No, if we consider his apparent preference for women and the fact that, as far as we know, he had only one homosexual relationship. Most likely, as Dr. W. H. Kayy in The Gay Geniuses puts it, ". . .like many a bisexual youth then and today, he passed through a homosexual phase."

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