Being only slightly older than a Biblical generation, this author hardly has a right to muse on how things were “back in my day.” Which is all the more reason for me to express alarm when I observe that certain morally corrosive movements have grown with frightening rapidity since I was a young man. One such movement — probably the most prominent — is the homosexual agenda.
Whether it be the effort to redefine marriage (so that we are expected to distinguish “gay marriage” from real marriage, which we might redundantly refer to as “heterosexual marriage”), the indoctrination of children in government schools with all manner of homosexualist propaganda, or the systematic queering of the military, the pace of the movement and the sheer arrogance of its partizans has increased beyond all proportion to the numbers of homosexuals themselves.
A subtler reality is the more widespread degeneration of masculine friendship. I was reading a passage from The Return of the King the other day when it struck me how often men are said to “love” other men, and that in a very devoted way. Legolas spoke of how Aragorn inspires love in all who know him. Many of the more noble male characters, including Sam and Frodo, are said to love each other. Now, surely, the author was no homosexualist. Tolkien was describing, in very noble and beautiful terms, an ardent love of friendship between two normal men (or elves or hobbits, as the case may be).
These thoughts brought to my mind a cause célèbre that occurred shortly before the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman. There were camp assertions in the British press that the Cardinal was a homosexual. The claim was based upon the friendship that existed between Cardinal Newman and his long-time friend, Father Ambrose Saint-John. For instance, Newman wrote thus of the then-recently-deceased Saint-John:
From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable. At Rome 28 years ago he was always so working for and relieving me of all trouble, that being young and Saxon-looking, the Romans called him my Angel Guardian. As far as this world was concerned I was his first and last. He has not intermitted this love for an hour up to his last breath.
The two were buried next to one another, which led to a dustup when the Church wanted to exhume Blessed John Henry’s body and move it as part of the beatification process. A homosexual activist shrieked that separating the two “gay lovers” was “an act of moral vandalism” and “an act of shameless dishonesty and personal betrayal by the gay-hating Catholic Church.”
The defenders of Cardinal Newman, including Jack Valero (Opus Dei’s Press Officer in the U.K.), made the point that, in former times, there was a nobler ideal of friendship, and that two male friends could love each other very devotedly, in a way that is not so common now. In other words, the gratuitous assumption of the homosexual activist that Newman and Saint-John were queer was more a testimony to the low ebb of modern friendship than it was a critique of the moral character of Cardinal Newman and Father Ambrose Saint-John.
But the Cardinal is certainly not alone as a victim of this interested historical revisionism. According to a certain degenerate reading of the Scriptures, the relationship between such Biblical figures as David and Jonathan is subject to the same interpretation. (Alas! So is that of Jesus to His “Beloved Disciple,” Saint John.) In all these cases, genuine love of friendship is rendered erotic in the complete absence of evidence. Taken to its logical terminus, this process will end in defining all love as erotic. In the interests of decency, I must refrain from fleshing out this observation.
Is it the case that in place of what Saint Thomas calls the “love of benevolence” there now exists only the “love of concupiscence” — and that, of the basest and most unnatural sort? If the answer is in the affirmative, then charity has grown cold and the end times may soon be upon us: “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Whether or not that is the case, we have work to do. That work includes safeguarding what is true, good, and beautiful in friendship.
If charity has not completely grown cold, it certainly has suffered a notable drop in temperature. Not all the blame for this falls on homosexuals, of course. If it did, their negligible numbers would make for an equally negligible effect. But we are seeing a pandemic phenomenon, which was observed above when I referenced Jack Valero’s defense of Cardinal Newman. One of the signs of this increasing lukewarmness of charity is that normal men do not really love each other the way men did in more Christian (and even more humane) times. Perhaps they are afraid to love one another lest they be branded perverts.
But this fear cannot be the initial cause of the problem; rather, it is part of a continuing downward spiral. The real problem runs deeper, and has already been hinted at: The modern male — stuck in the rut of adolescence — has lost the concept of the love of benevolence, a love based upon the good of the other, and has instead made the love of concupiscence the sole love he knows. In many cases, this weak love is but an extension of his own narcissism, as if he might write, instead of the moving lines of Cardinal Newman, something like this: “I like you because you gratify me in some way — and gratifying me is what I’m all about.” Add several buffoonish acronyms, abbreviations, and misspellings and you have the definitive “text” of the modern male (lol!).
The intimate male friendships of which we have been speaking are merely natural relationships. To be sure, they can and should be elevated by divine grace so that we love one another in Christ; but, like other legitimate forms of love, they are natural to man. Taking into account the great truths that grace builds on nature, and that Jesus Christ calls us to be His “friends,” we conclude that the modern male must cultivate the authentic love of friendship if he wants to be a Christian. Otherwise, how can he be intimate with Jesus Christ, the Man-God whom he receives in Holy Communion?
Intimacy with Jesus is necessary for sanctity. Sanctity is necessary for salvation.
Recovering true friendship is also necessary if we are to maintain (much less recover) a Christian ideal of social normalcy. Some years ago, I wrote a paper on Saint Augustine’s ideal of Christian friendship. The father who wishes to teach his son what real friendship is might want to give it a read.