Sunday, July 11, 2010

Newman and St John

As the parish priest of down town Brighton I have always felt that rather be embarrassed by Newmans deep friendship with Ambrose St John we ought to celebrate it.
The ubiquitous Jack Valero sent me a link to an article he wrote, The sad demise of celibate love in the Guardian, it is about Newman and St John, in the present climate I think he is being brave but he is saying something very important, rather sadly he ends:

Do we – can we – today applaud such friendship? Do we – can we – make room, now, for such "evidences of sweet brotherly love"? Men and women often have intense friendships with members of their own sex, friendships that have no sexual component; yet we are losing the vocabulary to speak about them, or we are embarrassed to do so. A "friend" is one you add to a social networking profile on the web; or it is a euphemism for a sexual partner outside marriage. Can a man nowadays own up with pride to having a dear and close friend, another man to whom he is devoted? Can he, without it being suspected as repressed homosexuality? I fear the answer to both may be "no". And it is hard to know which is the sadder.

I can't help thinking that part of recovering both our humanity and our sense of masculinity and feminity is about recovering this vocabulary of friendship.

15 comments:

Mac McLernon said...

It's also a sad reflection of the times to note that friendships between a man and a woman are assumed to be sexually motivated as well.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I agree with Jack Valero. In addition to the rumours spread about Newman and Ambrose St John, the following exchange in Act I, Scene II of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is routinely used as a lead-in to a classroom debate about Cassius and Brutus being gay lovers. In modern society, no intense relationship is regarded as capable of being without sexual expression -- and we are all the poorer for it.

CASSIUS
Brutus, I do observe you now of late:
I have not from your eyes that gentleness
And show of love as I was wont to have:
You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you.

BRUTUS
Cassius,
Be not deceived: if I have veil'd my look,
I turn the trouble of my countenance
Merely upon myself.

GOR said...

Yes, the usurpation of language and expressions is a sad reflection on our times. Years ago in Ireland if a man were of a happy-go-lucky disposition we would say that he was "a gay man..."

Not anymore.

Independent said...

Fr Ian Ker in his biography of Newman deals with the whole matter in his Afterword,pp 746-750.

He suggests that previous generations would have been astounded that the desire to be buried in the same grave could denote some kind of sexual attraction. As I think Herrick said in the 17th century "the grave's a fine and pleasant place, but none methinks do there embrace".Newman who was no fool would certainly not have suggested it if he had realised that it could be so construed.

It is a great paradox that a descendent of Ward in "Oxford Apostles" ,in the face of Newman's extensive and very revealing published works, should have first suggested that Newman's friendships denoted a homosexual condition. Neither of Newman's recent biographers, Fr Ker and Dr Gilley, have any time for the idea.

georgem said...

I agree Mac. I've been the subject of such speculation on both sides of the coin.
There is simply no understanding of deep, loving friendships without the inevitable sexual angle being insinuated.
I fear that some of the proseltysers of the gay movement won't be happy until we all "come out" and admit that gay is as nature intended and straight is an aberration.

Sonia said...

I think a lot of it comes down to media messages again, and also gender studies arrogations of people as individuals and groups and their histories. Movies and tv appropriate ideas of intimacy and intensity between people and usually present it as having one 'logical' conclusion. The narratives of relationship have changed radically. The intimacy of letters of 18th and 19th century writers are constantly being re-interpreted or reverse engineered to be read as sexual even if there is proof that no such consummation could ever have happened!? The impressing of a passing mindset on everything that's gone before as if we know better what people living a hundred or more years ago were about than they did themselves, I suppose happens in every passing generation. I don't think we would like to be so deconstructed from what ever angle by the next generation - or even the person standing next to us now. An old priest (who would have been around before the virtual became a part of our culture) once told me that it was best to accept what you see and not imagine beyond that - because that's when things become virtual - he had a distaste for everything fantastic and virtual. Because friendship of whatever intensity always has been and always will be and the because the current mindset is just a current thing, maybe the answer posited is not 'no' but perhaps just 'probably not right now'.

Physiocrat said...

I wonder whether sex is a reason why so many relationships fail to last. It could be that the Church has something important to say especially to same sex couples about how to avoid falling out of love.

Same sex partnerships are notoriously unstable. Perhaps we have part of the answer. "In love" has a biological function for the begetting of children and after that it is hard work, from which it might follow that avoiding a sexual relationship is the route to staying permanently in love with someone as the couple would long remain at the point they were completely enamoured with each other.

Just a thought, though there must be some evidence out there.

Terry Nelson said...

Very good that you took note of this and published it. Thanks Father.

I too saw the article and want to post on it, I think Valero makes an important case for solid friendship. It is a shame how 'gay' politics has saturated the public consciousness causing many to sexualize every relationship.

Dominic Mary said...

I've always been rather pleased by the fact that my oldest friend is gay . . . because the fact that I'm not, and that there has never been any sort of sexual relationship between us, provides proof that true and loving friendships can exist . . . even in these days.

Michael Clifton said...

There was a radio play on BBC last week which dealt with the relationship between Newman and St.John and made much the same point as Mr Valero. While I admit that such close affection can be non sexual (~David and Jonathon for instance) at the Seminary we were always warned about the dangers of Particular friendship.It always seemed to me that there will always be at least partially a repressed desire there. This point also came up in the Radio Play. For me Cardinal Newman and Fr St John were too close especially as they were in the one community.

johnf said...

I agree with Georgem. If the homosexual propagandists have their way, every male born will be assumed to be gay unless proved otherwise.

I am sick and tired of the way that they are corrupting society.

Seraphic said...

I'm very glad to read another post about deep, celibate friendships. I love my women friends very much, and I'm sorry that men these days are no longer able to express their deep and chaste love for their friends without unimaginative and uncharitable people assuming that this love is carnal.

Nârwen said...

>It is a great paradox that a >descendent of Ward in "Oxford >Apostles" ,in the face of >Newman's extensive and very >revealing published works, should >have first suggested that >Newman's friendships denoted a >homosexual condition. Neither of >Newman's recent biographers, Fr >Ker and Dr Gilley, have any time >for the idea.
"Oxford Apostles" was by Geoffrey Faber, not Wilfrid Ward. He was a nephew of Fr. Frederick Faber of the London Oratory, but his side of the family not only did not convert but was somewhat hostile towards Catholicism. A good contemporary refutation of ""Oxford Apostles" is found in "The Spirit of the Oxford Movement" by Christopher Dawson.

nazareth priest said...

Thank you, Father.
There is so much confusion, rash judgment and general misunderstanding in this highly sexualized "culture" of the West.
Friendship and deeply committed love between two people without any sexual involvement is suspect.
We need models of this kind of love, the love between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, Paul and Timothy, Jonathon and David, that reveals a true aspect of chaste, celibate love that is, in fact, possible, and needed.
Consecrated celibates are not to be denied love; they are to love in Christ, the love that is in heaven.

Independent said...

Narwen - Thank you for your correction, "Oxford Apostles" was indeed by Geoffrey Faber, but the paradox still stands.