Back in August in my article on Queer Spirituality I mentioned that Professor George Klawitter of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, suggested that there was a higher proportion of ordained lgbt clergy throughout history than we might think. In the Roman Catholic Church this has been very controversial in our own time. A handful of its highest ordained clergy have been accused and de-frocked for homosexual behaviour or sexual abuse.
We need to remember that pre-20th century instances of same-sex attraction were recognised by the Catholic Church and were not thought of as being wrong or immoral. The Church recognised a difference between being gay and having gay sex. Being homosexual doesn’t seem to have been a problem to the medieval Church, particularly during the Renaissance when a whole host of clergy were known to have been partial to young men and boys. Falling in love with a boy wasn’t a problem. What the Church condemned, as it does now, is gay sex.
With the Renaissance promoting parts of the Ancient Greek world as a way forward it’s not surprising that the Greek attitude to man-boy sex should have become popular. The difference was that the Ancient Greek men had sex with boys but there’s no real evidence to prove that the majority of boy-loving Renaissance clergy did. Catholic clergy in more recent times, however, have been rightfully condemned and convicted for what we now consider as sexual abuse.
But let’s get on with today’s article. The medieval world considered high ranking clergy to be worthy of a coat of arms. They are still being granted arms today. Below is a selection of coats of arms of Roman Catholic cardinals (in alphabetical order) ancient and modern. Some of them were platonic affairs while others, particularly some more recent ones, were abusive. The red hat and tassels are those use in the heraldic achievements of cardinals.
They are numbered as indicated in the illustration as follows:
4 5 6
1) Allesandro Albani (1692-1779), Librarian of the Holy Roman Church
2) Scipione Borghese (1577-1633), Archbishop of Bologna
3) Carlo Carafa (1518-1566), Cardinal-Nephew of Pope Paul IV
4) Hans-Hermann Groër (1919-2003), Archbishop of Vienna
5) Francesco Maria de’ Medici (1660-1711)
6) Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
7) Keith O’Brien (b.1938), Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh
8) George Pell (b.1941), Archbishop of Sydney
9) Francis Spellman (1889-1867), Archbishop of New York