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John Chrysostom: (d. 407)
Against the Opponents of Monastic Life 3

(Adversus oppugnatores vitae monasticae)


From Migne PG 47, 360-362
Trans. in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality

This text by Chrysostom, in which he is describing life in Antioch, is thoroughly anti-homosexual. But read with more open eyes seem to indicate that among Antiochene Christians, same sex eros was not regarded badly. In short, Christians did not "always" and everywhere oppose same sex love.

What then is this evil? A certain new and illicit love has entered our lives an ugly and incurable disease has appeared, the most severe of all plagues has been hurled down, a new and insufferable crime has been devised. Note only are the laws established [by man] overthrown but even those of nature herself. Fornication will now seem a small matter in the reckoning of sexual sins, and just as the arrival of a more burdensome pain eclipses the discomfort of an earlier one, so the extremity of this outrage [hubreos] causes lewdness with women, which had been intolerable, to seem so no longer. Indeed to be able to escape these snares [in any way] seems desirable, and there is some danger that womankind will become in the future unnecessary with young men instead fulfilling all the needs women used to..

And this is not even the worst, which is that this outrage is perpetrated with the utmost openness, and lawlessness has become law. For no one fears, no one any longer shudders. No one is ashamed, no one blushes, but, rather, they take pride in their little joke; the chaste seem to be the ones who are unbalanced, and the disapproving the ones in error. If [the chaste or disapproving] happen to be insignificant, they are beaten up; if they are powerful, they are mocked, laughed at, refuted with a thousand arguments. The courts are powerless, the laws, instructors, parents, friends, teachers all are helpless. Some are corrupted with money, and some are only out to get what they can for themselves. As for those more honorable, who have some concern for the welfare of those entrusted to them, they are easily fooled and gotten around, for they fear the power of the debauched.

It would be easier, in fact, to escape a suspicion of tyranny than to get free from their clutches after having tried to save anyone from these disgusting activities Right in the middle of cities men do these unseemly things to each other, just as if they were in a vast desert. Even if some escape these snares, they will be hard put to avoid the evil reputation of those who revel in such vices first of all because they are very few and might easily be lost in the great throng of the wicked....

There is among some animals a powerful sex drive [oistros], an irresistible urge no different from madness. Even so, they do not experience this type of love but remain within the bounds of nature. Although roused ten thousand times, they never transgress the laws of nature. But seemingly rational humans, the beneficiaries of godly learning, those who instruct others in what should and should not be done, those who have heard the Scriptures brought down from heaven-these do not consort with prostitutes as fearlessly as they do with young men. Just as if they were not men, as if God's justice did not wait, as if there were no final judgment, as if darkness covered all and no one could see or hear such things, they dare all this with absolute frenzy. The parents of the abused youths bear this in silence and neither sequester their sons nor seek any remedy for the evil.


Text in PG, 47:360-62. A Latin translation accompanies the Greek text, and there are two French versions, one in Saint Jean Chrysostome: Oeuvres complètes, ed. M Jeannin (Bar-le-Duc, 1874), vol. 2, and one by P. E. Legrand, Saint Jean Chrysotome, Contre les détracteurs de la vie monastique (Paris, 1933).