I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Raffalovich and a Catholic Theology on Homosexuality

The Young Marc-Andre Raffalovich

Frederick S Roden in his book "Same-sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture" comments how Raffalovich's ideas lead to a Catholic theology on homosexuality and that Raffalovich ideas are reflected in the modern understanding of the Catholic Church as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Older Marc-Andre Raffalovich

The Catholic Catechism of the Catholic church writes about same-sex attraction : 

"2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms throughout the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1Tim. 1:10], tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered [Persona Humana 8]. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."


Raffalovich was a 19th century Hebrew Catholic or Catholic Jew. His name was Marc-Andre Raffalovich and was a famous French poet and writer associated with John Gray and Oscar Wilde. He came from a wealthy Russian Jewish family from Odessa who moved to France a year before his birth. He became a Catholic in 1896 through the reading of Catholic mystical literature especially St John of the Cross.

Raffalovich's sister Sophie also became a devout Catholic when she married her husband William O'Brien. His brother was Arthur Raffalovich. His mother Marie Raffalovich was noted for her artistic and literary salons in Paris and Marc-Andre was to establish his own salons in Britain. Marie married her uncle Hermann Raffalovich. She was the daughter of the banker Leon Raffalovich and Rosette Lowensohn. Marie and her husband Hermann Raffalovich were attached to Judaism enough that they left Odessa rather than convert to Christianity.

Hermann's father Abraham and brother Anissim (Onesime) had converted in order to continue the family banking and merchant interests in Odessa in 1857. Abraham's brother Solomon remained a leader in the orthodox Jewish community and continued the family's ship building business for the Czar.

Abraham and Solomon's brother Kalmaan Raffalovich left Russia in the 1870's and settled in the Holy Land. These three Raffalovich brothers were the grandsons of Raphael Parnes and Miriam Mirels. Miriam was the daughter of Rabbi Moses Mirels the Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam who was in turn the son of Rabbi Zalman Mirels the Chief Rabbi of Hamburg.

John Gray

Marc-Andre Raffalovich advocated a Catholic spirituality of channelling same -sex or homoerotic desires into sublimation through divine intimacy with the Messiah Jesus. He saw that there were two major kinds of homosexuals -a higher or elevated kind who had a high sense of art and beauty and those who were lower and were absorbed in the lustful homosexual activities. It would seem this was based on a Jewish understanding of the animal and divine souls in men. 

These lower homosexuals or inverts live out acts only according to their animal or base nature of man whereas those who united themselves to divine beauty through the power of the Cross and the dark night of sublimation (bitul and mesirut nefesh) could attain to that part of man that connects with the Divine. One could then have intimate and life-long spiritual and mystical friendships with those of the same-sex as advocated by St Aelred. 

Raffalovich considered that those of the higher type of homosexual to be the ones who made the best priests followed by heterosexuals who were also able to embrace celibacy. The lower type of homosexual he considered unsuited and dangerous to religious life. His life-long friend John Gray a former lover of Oscar Wilde was to become a Dominican priest supported by Raffalovich. Raffalovich himself became a Dominican Tertiary taking the name of Sebastian in honour of St Sebastian.

St Sebastian

In Raffalovich's understanding of homosexuality I perceive his Jewish sources in Hasidic Judaism united with Catholic mysticism. Uniting Raffalovich's insights with those of John Paul II's theology of the Body and the teachings of Hasidic Judaism can lead to a new understanding of the homosexual and his potential for holiness and becoming a living icon of the crucified Messiah and a great Tzadik who can enter into the suffering of others in a deep way and make tikun (reparation) for them. Raffalovich was also familiar with other famous Hebrew Christians as he mentions Joseph Wolff and Alphonse Ratisbonne in one of his letters.
Marie Raffalovich: Mother of Marc-Andre Raffalovich

Hasidic Jewish teachings warn of the dangers of p'gam ha brit (spilling the seed/masturbation) which feeds the animal soul (or inclination)of the homosexual (this also applies to the heterosexual) whereas the divine element is fed by reflecting on beauty in nature, religion, music and the arts. Masturbation and lustful thoughts distort ones spirituality and leads to loneliness and an obsession with the self. 

Priests and religious are called to focus on the perfect male who is the God-Man and when they shift their focus from divine intimacy with him, it may lead to them focusing on the closest thing to the manliness they find in Christ- young, handsome men. Instead of using their sexuality as a way to give selflessly to God and others they fall into the power of the evil inclination and hurt themselves, others and God.

The man or woman caught in the lower form need only to start to desire the higher ways and God will respond and send them help if they remain open and avail themselves of the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration. It is not the case of denying who they are but of embracing it and using it for a higher purpose. 

Raffalovich and Gray may have started out as physical lovers before Raffolovich's conversion to Catholicism (but this is not clear)but after his conversion they grew into a deep, celibate and spiritual friendship that lasted their entire life by sublimating their homoerotic desires to a higher purpose rooted in the Cross of the Messiah.

In the case of Marc Andre Raffalovich, John Gray and Oscar Wilde (as well as Lord Alfred Douglas) who all embraced Catholicism we have wonderful models of hope for those struggling in this area of their lives. Oscar Wilde seems to give hope for those caught up in the lower form who then embrace a desire to be transformed by the Messiah. 

Many were surprised when the Vatican newspaper published a positive article on Oscar Wilde. Once the Church fully assimilates the rich teaching contained in John Paul II's "Theology of the Body", then Raffalovich's ideas may help in developing a deeper understanding of the spiritual and emotional aspects of same-sex love and desire and its transformation in the Messiah. This will be 'deep calling to deep' and the turning of a great cross and struggle into Eucharistic Intimacy and Glory.

Oscar Wilde's "The Dole of the King's Daughter"

Note: Abraham Raffalovich the father of Hermann, Annissim and Leon Raffalovich was married to Olga Lowensohn (the daughter of Leon Lowensohn). Olga's sister Bella Lowensohn was married to Charles Joachim Ephrussi of Odessa. The Ephrussi family were related to the Rothschilds. Marie Raffalovich's sister Elena Raffalovich was also famous in Italy.