Aquinas and the Pegasus

There is a curious little section in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica in which Aquinas is talking about angels and their nature. I was reading it this morning and it made me think of one of the themes of my blog, namely the question of sexual identity. I’m putting this here primarily for me as a bit of a place marker, so I can have it and reflect on it some more.

I find the notion of an infinite possibility of sexual identities to be the result of “deception and falsehood,” two of the key words here in Aquinas’s treatment below:

But by accident, deception and falsehood creep in, when we understand the essence of a thing by some kind of composition, and this happens either when we take the definition of one thing for another, or when the parts of a definition do not hang together, as if we were to accept as the definition of some creature, “a four-footed flying beast,” for there is no such animal.

When it comes to a “gay man,” the “definition does not hang together.”

“Male and female he created them,” ordered towards their sexual complement the foundation of a true anthropology of man.


17 thoughts on “Aquinas and the Pegasus

  1. Just for the sake of discussion since so many men,especially the young, suffer from a self-loathing I myself have tried to helpthem overcome, and with all due respect to those I’m about to mention, wouldn’t theallusion to Pegasus be more analogous to someone likeChastity Bono or Bruce Jenner? And I’m not even talking of those who possessindistinct gender identification from birth since, being God’s children, theyare creatures endowed with dignity and owed love and respect. (And I don’tmean to imply that anyone I havereferred to is a freak since only God knows their hearts and emotionalcapacities. Plus from their vantage point, they could look at me and very wellthink I’m the freak.) Changing one’s gender is a different thing. For instance, I think Bruce Jenner is no more afemale than I would be if I put on adress and asked people to call me Emilee. He might want to be a woman, but he’s not. He has his feet firmly planted in a myth where Pegasus might also reside, not in reality. I don’t sit here dreaming of one day taking flight andbeing with a man in wedded bliss; it’s not God’s plan for me. That I amattracted to men is not a choice, not in my world. So, yes, God made me a man,but I cannot connect romantically with a woman nor can a woman make me feel as appreciatedas a man can – and I am speaking non-sexually, not referring to intimacy onthat level at all. As a matter of fact, I love women and they have been myfriends throughout my life. I am also very protective of women.Whatever the reason is that I turned out this way, I don’tknow; nor do I know if I would push that button that would make me heterosexualbecause to me it’s scary that I would suddenly become another me with a brandnew set of ‘unknown’ weaknesses. So I continue to fight and ask God for Hishelp and continue to hang on to Him as a man, a man who is flawed, but not onewho feels he can take flight.May all of you have a nice weekend. See you Monday.Emil From: Letters to Christopher To: Sent: Friday, September 11, 2015 11:21 AM Subject: [New post] Aquinas and the Pegasus #yiv8756436891 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8756436891 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8756436891 a.yiv8756436891primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8756436891 a.yiv8756436891primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8756436891 a.yiv8756436891primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8756436891 a.yiv8756436891primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8756436891 | D. C. Mattson posted: “There is a curious little section in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica in which Aquinas is talking about angels and their nature. I was reading it this morning and it made me think of one of the themes of my blog, namely the question of sexual ide” | |

    • Thanks for the comment. As I said, it’s something I want to reflect some more on, and my thoughts on it haven’t coalesced. It’s an intriguing little section.

      But I suppose where I’m thinking here is what is the definition of a man, or a definition of a woman. I suppose that I would suggest that any sort of view of man’s sexuality that is distorted from our true nature is part of the definition of man “not hanging together.”

      Thus, the person who is an “asexual biromantic” isn’t really the sort of person who exists, except within one’s subjective feelings and inclinations, and in the first place (asexuality) we are taught by Aquinas that this is in itself a vice, whereas in the second, being “biromantic” is opposed to the true nature of mankind in that if the person is a man, romance directed towards another man is a misdirection of the purpose of romance. And indeed, if the person is a man, and is only interested in romance, with no direction towards sexual union with a woman in marriage, then he is indulging in the sentimental good feelings that accompany romance, but is missing the reason and purpose for which romance is given to mankind.

      But I see your point as well.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      • Curious as to how Aquinas reconciles this Scriptural Verse with “Asexual” being a Vice
        Matthew 19 vs 12
         12″For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
        I don’t think Christ was talking about physical castration in all these examples of being a eunuch. But when one becomes a eunuch does not that individual become in a sense “Asexual” (non-sexual). Wasn’t St. Francis of Assisi non-sexual through a grace he received after throwing himself in a patch of briars (or snow) and St Faustina also when Christ appeared to her and she received the “golden girdle of Chastity”?(something she writes about in her Diary Divine Mercy) It was something she prayed for for a long time.

      • A good place to start here would be Josef Pieper’s Four Cardinal Virtues.

        But as a quick comment here, why would “the golden girdle of Chastity” mean “asexual?” Chastity isn’t equated with “asexuality” but rather is the virtue that assures that our sexuality–which is a great good–is ordered towards its appropriate end. Seeking some sort of “unfeeling” sexuality is more akin to Buddhist views of extinguishing of all desires. The notion of chastity as “non-sexual” is opposed to Catholic thinking.

        As to the eunuchs, the answer is not that people become “non-sexual,” nor would we say that St. Francis was “non-sexual.” Rather, his sexuality was ordered towards its proper end: that of fatherhood, which in his case is one of spiritual fatherhood.

      • Not to debate, just out of my own curiosity, (eunuchs have no sexual feelings after castration ) did St Francis and St Faustina still experience sexual feelings? Asexual can have a few different meanings, I am thinking of the definition that reads “lack of sexual feelings or desires in humans”

      • Why do you believe eunuchs have no sexual feelings after castration? Some of the Italian castratis were famous womanizers. Here is a case in point from this article:

        Castrati were also supposed to be great lovers: “They could last long,” says Tomasini. To Montesquieu they “would have inspired a taste for Gomorrah in people whose taste is the least depraved”; and when Casanova fell in love with a “castrato” who conveniently turned out to be a woman in drag, he asked her to dress as a castrato in bed. For those women who chose, as Dryden put it, to “in soft eunuchs place their bliss/ And shun the scrubbing of a bearded kiss”, affairs were idealised and safe. But bedhopping could be risky for the castrati. One was assassinated by his lover’s furious family and another, who wrote to the Pope requesting permission to marry on the basis that his castration had been ineffective, received the reply: “Let him be castrated better!”

      • To my ears, “The Guardian” article sounds far more fictional than based on fact, please, no offense intended. I was thinking of the power behind the promises given to St. Faustina by Christ on this 80th Anniversary of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy given to her by Christ and the graces He gives to those that recite the Chaplet. Castration is a sin unless necessary for medical purposes, it is a mutilation of the male human form created by God .

      • This a tangent that I’m not interested in spending time on any longer. It’s not fiction that castrati were sexual beings–these are facts of music history.

        What is your main point here? Do you think chastity means “asexual” as in the lack of sexual desire? What’s at the root here? Do you desire to be free of sexual desire?

  2. Dear DC,

    I’m so embarrassed. My message must not make full sense and it’s because there has been a similar discussion on the Yahoo! Courage group, and when I replied, I didn’t even notice and wrote back, but to what I thought was Courage — didn’t even pay much attention to the ‘change in format’. Thus, the ‘See you Monday’. I know I have partially disagreed with two of your posts, but I am in no way a troublemaker; as a matter of fact, I try to help other men who are going through difficulties. It’s been a comedy of errors that brought me to your blog, but I see your intentions and they are good and thought-provoking. I look forward to continue receiving your blog and to get to know you, as well. May God bless you and your ministry. Please feel free to contact me should you ever need a friend or just someone to talk to.

    With love in Christ,

  3. The root? To be as free of sexual desire and sin to the best of my ability through prayer, education on SSA issues and obtaining the graces necessary to avoid even thoughts of sexual activity with another man in order not to offend Our Lord any further. In simplest terms “Growth along the Journey to Union with Christ”

    • I don’t think that it is a good goal to be “free of sexual desire.” Within the history of the Catholic Church, there are many heresies that viewed this as a goal, and viewed the body as evil and sexual desire as evil. Desire, in and of itself is not bad. Lust is bad, but sexual desire, in and of itself, is something that is neutral, morally. It’s what we do when we feel the sexual desire that becomes a question of morality.

  4. There are people that are born asexual which would make them naturally celibate so I understand the confusion with asexual being considered a vice. Chastity is often considered a synonym of celibacy, I certainly understand why this is a confusing understanding of semantics.

    • I suppose I’d ask you on what basis you say anyone is “born asexual?” Celibacy in no way means “asexual.” Actually, celibacy has always been viewed as directly connected with our human sexuality and is seen as a great expression of human sexuality. The greatest model of human sexuality in marriage is the celibate and chaste marriage of Mary and Joseph. This is an important aspect of the tradition of the Church that people are often unaware of. Celibacy isn’t absence of sexuality–it is the channeling of our sexuality in a way that foreshadows and anticipates our sexuality as it will be reborn in eternal life.

    • This is a sign of the confusion of our age. Romance is the sort of thing that is directed solely towards fulfillment in marriage between a man and a woman. It is unhealthy as a goal in and of itself. The church fathers were also very clear that mankind should not have a revulsion to sex, for all that God created is good. Asexuality is opposes to our nature as sexual creatures.

  5. Living in a very large south Central American state (with a small percentage of Roman Catholics) where men are “overly macho” cold, and distant and women are hyper critical towards any man they perceive to have the slightest weakness in the “man parts” department and settle for nothing less than a Brahma Bull, Texas Longhorn stance and mentality….I am grateful for your blog. I think Catholicism breeds the falsehood out of what real men and women truly are and the SSA side of my existence doesn’t feel it needs to live in fear when I visit your page. Thanks for educating many of us with your blog.

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