Michelangelo, Homosexuality and the New Pope

In Featured, Sexuality by eric holmberg5 Comments

Not surprisingly, gay-rights advocates have used the process for selecting the new bishop of Rome to score points for their side. Andrew Sullivan is just one who has noted that the new head of the largest organization still pushing back on the efforts to normalize homosexuality was chosen by representatives that deliberated in a room arrayed with the most famous frescoes in the world. Their creator? Michelangelo Buonarroti, artiste and supposed homosexual extraordinaire.

Oh, the irony.

Allow me to take Sullivan’s claim, break it apart, and see what light it may shed on our own culture’s deliberations concerning the love that at one time did not dare speak its name.

1. No learned person would deny that homo-erotically inclined people have existed in every time and place immemorial. But it has only been in the past 150 or so years that the notion of a homosexual — a person who self-identifies primarily on the basis of their all-encompassing and supposedly immutable same-sex inclinations — has come into vogue. Before that people just had sex, many wherever they could find it. And if it happened to be with someone of the same sex, for many cultures that mattered only a little or not at all. And very few of these people would do it exclusively and, furthermore, would have created an identity based around this particular behavior or inclination. So to call Michelangelo a homosexual is an anachronism right out to the gate.

2. Along with our modern obsession with self — self-actualization, absorption, definition, love, pleasuring…everything “self” except “self-control” (which by the way is the cultural seed-bed from which the modern notion of a “homosexual” sprang) — our era tends to eroticize everything. We have substituted the orgasm for the Cross “as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment,” as Malcolm Muggeridge so poignantly observed. As a result, any deep love and affection between two men is immediately charged with all manner of homo-erotic overtones. And this is particularly true when viewed by people who have same-sex inclinations themselves and a interest, whether conscious or not, to make them seem common, normal and, all the better, the disposition of extraordinary people. (The same impetus drove the 10% myth for so long…until studies finally popped that balloon.) I would suggest that Sullivan’s insinuations say more about him than the Roman Catholic church.

So Michelangelo and Tommaso dei Cavalieri had a deep and affectionate relationship. What does that prove? So did Jesus and John.

Oh wait, homophiles think they were homosexuals as well.

Frankly that’s almost as blockheaded and agenda driven as it is blasphemous.

Sistine Chapel

3. Even if Michelangelo had homo-erotic impulses, there is no evidence he acted on them. Contrary to the LGBTQ playbook, having these types of feelings (which are actually something many men will experience at some point in their lives) and not acting on them no more makes a person a homosexual than other men’s innate sexual interests in a beautiful woman who is not their wife makes them an adulterer. Orientations are not necessarily sinful. Acting on those that are contrary to the word of God is.

4. Michelangelo was famously unconcerned about his appearance, often sleeping in his clothes, and lived a very austere and, by every indication, chaste life. And there is some evidence that he once strongly rejected what would be many gay men’s dream. It was reported that a man once approached him about taking his son on as an apprentice, telling him that boy could double as a willing partner in bed. Michelangelo refused and sought to get the man fired from his job for having made the offer.

5. Cavalieri was not the only inspiration for Michelangelo’s poetry. Later in life he fell in love with a widow, Vittoria Colonna. They became very close, writing poems to one another. Sadly, she died before the relationship could go any further, something the great artist called the greatest regret of his life.

6. If Michelangelo was homo-erotically inclined and actually had a sexual relationship with Cavalieri, that’s not anything the LGBTQ world should crow about. The great artist was thirty-four years his senior.

This brings up a little discussed problem within the homosexual ethos. The number of May/December romances (and that’s putting it kindly) is pretty incredible and creepy. Troy Perry, the founder of the gay “Christian” denomination (Metropolitan Community Churches), after numerous failed attempts, is at last in a long term relationship…with a man young enough to be his son. Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and William Burrough’s preferred younger men (by corey jefferson). Sadly their fame among the younger, drug-addled kids of the 60s gave them ample opportunities to explore these interests. Gay rights icon Harvey Milk was known for not only his promiscuity but his interest in younger men. And the British writer Christopher Isherwood was forty-eight when he began his relationship with Don Bachardy, eighteen.

One of the great but little-known ironies of the gay rights movement of the time was that one of its heroes, Evelyn Hooker, the psychologist who supposedly “proved” that gay people were completely normal, was a close neighbor of Chris and Don. She wouldn’t allow them both in her home she was so disturbed by their relationship.

Now this isn’t to say there aren’t any May/December relationships between heterosexuals that are troubling. Any relationships that involve great disparities in age, particularly when the younger party is yet a teenager, are troubling. But I would contend that heterosexual May/December relationships are less troubling than the homo-erotic relationships going back to the Greco-Roman world and beyond that reflect a fascination with “boy beauty.” When you factor in the father issues that affect so many gay men (politically incorrect to say but nevertheless true), things get even more disturbing. Finally, May/December heterosexual relationships at least embody the male-female structure that nature and nature’s God ordained.

6. Finally, if Michelangelo was ahead of his time by five-hundred years and was a self-identified, practicing homosexual like Andrew Sullivan, what would that prove? Every advocate of Biblical morality that I know, and I would presume that would include the college of cardinals and certainly the new pope, accepts that homo-erotically inclined people can be talented, bright, kind, etc.; possessing all manner of positive attributes. No one who isn’t simply ignorant or a bigot thinks that gays have any less value than other people and shouldn’t be afforded all the protections and rights due any other citizen of this country. What relevance does it have if Michelangelo was straight, gay or, more than likely, just an odd genius who redirected so much of his energies to his art that he never found the way to be one or the other? His genius should be marveled at and enjoyed regardless.

One can only wonder whether in the end Michelangelo’s frescoes helped inspire the cardinals to choose well and give the world a man who will stand on the word of God rather than the vagaries of trends or ill-founded traditions; a man who will lift up the cross of Christ as the true focus for longing and fulfillment.

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5 Comments on "Michelangelo, Homosexuality and the New Pope"

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Chad Usher

Very thorough in your process, well thought out, and a very contrevertial subject.

I am in aw.

Ashleigh Hill

Sorry for being crass (i have views that words are words and there is no reason to get offended, in the same vain i know they do offend and i like to be respectful), Eric u are F*cking amazing. Your observations are very logical and that is something that i can understand – Thank you for this

William Powers

Excellent piece; interesting and well-thought out, or through.