Monday, January 30, 2006

Benedict the pro-gay Straussian?:

From Andrew Sullivan:

At the same time, I have to say I'm struck by the references in the document. It's pretty stunning to me that Benedict should cite Plato's Symposium for his definition of eros. This sentence is mind-blowing:

"That love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings, was called eros by the ancient Greeks."

Er, not exactly. For the Greeks, eros meant a kind of longing. Plato saw it as bound up in the search for truth, as well as for beauty. But also - critically - it describes same-sex love as well as opposite-sex love. The Symposium, the source of Benedict's description of eros, treats same-sex love interchangeably with opposite-sex love, and the myth cited by Aristophanes even places same-sex erotic love on a higher plane than mere heterosexuality. (I'm even hoping to use the passage in my own marriage service, and began my anthology on gay marriage by citing it.) Benedict must know this. He's a deeply learned man. Why rest his own treatment on sources that clearly embrace gay love? Beats me. He even cites Virgil's Eclogues, a deeply homoerotic work. Part of me thinks that Benedict's anti-gay posture is just orthodoxy, made more reactionary by the social revolution of our time. And then I wonder if he doesn't have an esoteric meaning as well. Nothing in this encyclical couldn't apply to same-sex eros; his bigoted Instruction has helped expose the fact that the Church is a deeply homosexual institution, and in the West, at least, there's no real attempt (so far) to purge gay seminarians and priests. Maybe the Instruction's unpersuasive and naked bigotry is esoterically designed to advance the argument that gay people are obviously not "objectively disordered" in such a way to render them unfit for the priesthood. Is Benedict quietly showing the validity of same-sex eros and equal dignity of same-sex eros, even while publicly denouncing it? Or have I read too much Leo Strauss? Probably the latter.


Speaking of the Straussians, see this excellent article by Robert Kagan entitled, I Am Not a Straussian. My favorite part:

As best I can recall, their biggest point of contention was whether Plato was just kidding in The Republic. Bloom said he was just kidding. I later learned that this idea--that the greatest thinkers in history never mean what they say and are always kidding--is a core principle of Straussianism. My friend, the late Al Bernstein, also taught history at Cornell. He used to tell the story about how one day some students of his, coming directly from one of Bloom's classes, reported that Bloom insisted Plato did not mean what he said in The Republic. To which Bernstein replied: "Ah, Professor Bloom wants you to think that's what he believes. What he really believes is that Plato did mean what he said."

3 comments:

Karen McL said...

Well, I have to direct you to this HOWL from Driftglass on Sullivan.

Tis a "Cautionary Tale of Sully the Mollusk.

;-)

Jonathan said...

Thanks. I'll check it.

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