If anyone has been following my Twitter feed recently, I’ve been posting updates as I finish individual heading pages for my compendium of (at last count) 879 LGBTQ-related Library of Congress subject headings. It’s the continuation of a research project that I started last fall for one of my cataloging courses on which I’ll be writing a paper once all of the analysis of the data is complete.
One of the delights to come out of this project has been recording the bibliographic references in the 670 note fields in the authority records. This evening I came across one for the heading “Sodomy–Religious aspects,” a reference to a 1997 book by Notre Dame scholar Mark D. Jordan titled The invention of sodomy of Christian theology.
An excerpt from the Library Journal review on the Amazon page:
[Jordan] examines paradoxes in the moral teaching on sexuality, especially the theological context for same-sex genital acts, by exploring the history of Christian writings. Eleventh-century theologian Peter Damian coined the term sodomy in relation to the word blasphemy in an abstracted analogy to the sin of denying God through homoerotic desires.
And from Kirkus Reviews:
Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at least as old as the book of Genesis, the view of sodomy as a form of sexual sin seems to have been invented in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. Jordan (Medieval Institute/Notre Dame Univ.) restates the now generally accepted view that the sin leading to Sodom’s destruction was transgression of the laws of hospitality rather than same-sex intercourse per se, and he gives some very relevant philosophical warnings about using centuries-old texts to find answers to modern questions.
From the Wikipedia page on Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah, it sounds as if Damian was just as obsessed with the private sex lives of his contemporaries as many conservative, evangelical Christians are today (although it also sounds like there is a long tradition of people looking the other way when it comes to Catholic priests abusing vulnerable boys).
This story may be one of the roots of the Church’s (and Western civilization’s) long history of persecuting gay people, and (until recently) of the sad legacy of anti-gay bias in the LC.
Language matters… as does justice.