Father Jean-Baptiste Edart, is co-author of Clarifications sur l'Homosexualité dans la Bible" (Clarifications on Homosexuality in the Bible), published by Editions du Cerf.
Part 1 of this interview with Father Edart of the Emmanuel Community appeared Thursday.
Q: There are those who say that there are examples of homosexual relationships in the Old Testament. Some say David and Jonathan, for example, had a relationship of this type.
Father Edart: The account in 1 Samuel 18:1-5 shows gestures and words that express a profound attachment between Jonathan and David.
Although the terms used describe a real affective bond, their usual use in the Old Testament in no way allows for seeing a homosexual relationship there. For an example you can see Jacob and his son Benjamin in Genesis 44:30-31. The expression "to love as oneself" -- as his soul -- is frequent -- Leviticus 19:18.34.
The verb "to love," in a context of alliance, takes on a political dimension, the beneficiary being considered as partner or superior. Moreover, the gift that Jonathan made to David of his weapons illustrates the transfer of his prerogatives, among which was the right of succession to his father's throne. It's a political gesture. In the account, nonetheless, David ends up replacing Jonathan -- 1 Samuel 23:17.
Other passages, developed by Innocent Himbaza in our book, illustrate the friendship between Jonathan and David. All the gestures posed between these two men, however, can take place between parents and children -- Jacob and Benjamin; between brothers -- Joseph and his brothers; between father-in-law and son-in-law -- Jethro and Moses; between close friends -- Jonathan and David; between warriors -- Saul and David, Jonathan and David; and between brothers and sisters in the faith -- Paul and the Ephesians. We risk interpreting the latter askew here, but these are actually normal and usual gestures for people who feel close to one another.
We can affirm that nothing in the texts we are faced with allow for seeing any homosexuality between David and Jonathan, not even implicitly. If at times an expression is ambiguous for a modern spirit, reading it in context removes that possibility.
Q: The Church preaches love of neighbor, but is often reproached for wanting to put "barriers" to love, for not understanding every person's profound need to love. If the Church does not approve homosexuality, what message of hope can she give to a person who finds in homosexuality the means to give himself and to love?
Father Edart: The suffering of a homosexual person can be very great and not accessible to people who do not experience this situation.
Indeed, our whole world is marked by this fundamental fact of heterosexual love. Even the Chinese civilization, hardly susceptible to having been shaped by Judeo-Christian culture, also lives this reality. In that civilization, homosexuality is also perceived as outside the norm.
The homosexual person experiences an internal suffering, attested by psychological studies, but he also suffers from his confrontation with a world that very often will judge and condemn him.
This rejection will often even be violent. In fact, everybody passes a phase in their psychological development of ambiguity on the sexual plane in adolescence. A person might be, for some time, attracted by persons of the same sex, without being for all that a homosexual! If this stage of growth is badly lived or unfinished, it results in psychic suffering.
Subsequently, every confrontation with homosexuality will trigger this suffering, which will be translated in violent behavior. To learn to consider a homosexual person without reducing him to his sexual orientation can be difficult and lead to recognizing one's personal poverty.
In the face of this situation, the Church, in fidelity to the Bible, recognizing that active homosexuality cannot be a good for the person, forcefully affirms, in the same fidelity to the word of God, that every person, regardless of his sexual orientation, has the same dignity and in no way must be the object of unjust discrimination. As every baptized person, homosexual persons are called to holiness and to live here and now a living relationship with Christ in the Church.
The message of the Gospel is a source of hope for these persons and the Church witnesses to this. Christian communities can be places where people see their personal suffering accepted and understood. The latter will then be able, with the support of these communities, to seek to correspond to God's call.
We have a magnificent example of this in the friendship between Julien Green and Jacques and Raissa Maritain. Homosexual persons thus witness today that they have been able to walk with the support of other Christians and to build a happy life. The development of friendly and fraternal relations lived in chastity is an important place of psychological and spiritual healing.
Friendship with Christ is certainly the principal support and guide on this path. He is the best of friends. This friendship is nourished in the life of faith, prayer and the sacraments. The homosexual person desirous of progressing toward Christ will find an indispensable support there. He wants to be in alliance with each one by meeting the person just as he is and to conduct him to himself gradually with the continuous and unconditional support of his mercy.
It's a long and difficult but possible path. It is certain that the development of homosexuality in our Western society is an appeal to Christians to create new places to help those who are wounded in their sexuality.