Cover image for The silence of Sodom : homosexuality in modern Catholicism
The silence of Sodom : homosexuality in modern Catholicism
Jordan, Mark D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
322 pages ; 24 cm
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BX1795.H66 J67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The past decade has seen homosexual scandals in the Catholic Church becoming ever more visible, and the Vatican's directives on homosexuality becoming ever more forceful, begging the question Mark Jordan tries to answer here: how can the Catholic Church be at once so homophobic and so homoerotic? His analysis is a keen and readable study of the tangled relationship between male homosexuality and modern Catholicism.

"[Jordan] has offered glimpses, anecdotal stories, and scholarly observations that are a whole greater than the sum of its parts. . . . If homosexuality is the guest that refuses to leave the table, Jordan has at least shed light on why that is and in the process made the whole issue, including a conflicted Catholic Church, a little more understandable."--Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times

"[Jordan] knows how to present a case, and with apparently effortless clarity he demonstrates the church's double bind and how it affects Vatican rhetoric, the training of priests, and ecclesiastical protectiveness toward an army of closet cases. . . . [T]his book will interest readers of every faith."--Daniel Blue,
Lambda Book Report

A 2000 Lambda Literary Award Finalist

Author Notes

Mark D. Jordan is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion at Emory University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jordan investigates the ambiguous nature of the historical and the contemporary relationship between Catholicism and male homosexuality. Arguing that the Catholic Church is paradoxically both homophobic and homoerotic, he analyzes the established, and essentially hypocritical, church rhetoric concerning sexual morality. Although the church officially condemns homosexuality, the reality of the priesthood and its attendant clerical culture provide an ideal context in which male love can and does flourish. Examples of various institutional rituals and spiritual traditions evidencing the fundamentally homosexual character of the church itself are also provided. A thought-provoking and guaranteed-to-be-controversial analysis of a perpetually troubling issue within the Roman Catholic Church. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jordan, author of the prize-winning The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology and professor of religion at Emory University, argues that the culture of Catholicism and gay culture have much in common. Analyzing Catholic documents on homosexuality, Jordan determines that the Church is often vague and imprecise, its rhetoric designed to confuse readers. Despite the Church's teachings that homosexual sex is a sin, says Jordan, Catholicism is shot through with homoeroticism--the musical, incense-filled Catholic liturgy attracts gay men, and gay men's "coming out" is not dissimilar from Catholic seminarians' demonstration of a priesthood call. Even the Eucharist is drawn into this analysis: according to Jordan, male Catholics eating the perfect body of a perfect man is a homoerotic act, too, and the "priest without faith who celebrates Mass" recalls "a hustler having sex with his client." This treatise is provocative, but not convincing. Jordan's modest claim at the beginning of the book--that the Catholic Church needs to honestly recognize its many gay Catholics, some of whom occupy positions of leadership--is compelling. However, his suggestion that Catholicism and homosexuality are somehow inherently bound up with one another because the stereotypical gay man's fixation with fine clothes is reminiscent of priests' suiting up in vestments reads more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious effort to reshape Catholic discussions about sexuality. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jordan (religion, Emory Univ.; The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology) considers the conceptualization of male homosexuality within the context of the contemporary Catholic church. The first of the three sections seeks to "analyze the rhetoric of the church's bureaucratic speech about sexual morality" by examining Declaration Regarding Certain Questions of Sexual Ethics (1971) and Letter to all Catholic Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986). Jordan then investigates the hypocrisy and secrecy that surrounds clerical homosexuality. Finally, he dreams of ways to ameliorate the present situation, focusing on various approaches, such as those by organizations like Metropolitan Community Church and Dignity. The self-conscious sentences and fragmentary nature of the text, modeled on Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project, are not completely successful at teasing out the complicated nuances of this controversial subject. Recommended for collections specializing in religion and Gay Lesbian Task Force issues.--James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 The Pope Converts: imafination, Bureaucracy, Silence
Church Words
2 Teaching by Threatening
3 Bureaucratic Morals
Church Lives
4 Living Inside
5 Memoirs of Priestly Sodomy
6 Reproducing "Father"
7 Clerical Camp
Church Dreams
8 Reiteration, or The Pleasures of Obedience
9 Repentence, or Schools for New Speech
Works Cited