The Thinking 

Chesterton on Homosexuality

February 21, 2013


AT Crisis Magazine, Dale Ahlquist writes:

In Heretics, Chesterton almost makes a prophecy of the misuse of the word “gay.” He writes of “the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion.” Carpe diem means “seize the day,” do whatever you want and don’t think about the consequences, live only for the moment. “But the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people.” There is a hopelessness as well as a haplessness to it. When sex is only a momentary pleasure, when it offers nothing beyond itself, it brings no fulfillment. It is literally lifeless. And as Chesterton writes in his book St. Francis of Assisi, the minute sex ceases to be a servant, it becomes a tyrant. This is perhaps the most profound analysis of the problem of homosexuals: they are slaves to sex. They are trying to “pervert the future and unmake the past.” They need to be set free.

Sin has consequences. Yet Chesterton always maintains that we must condemn the sin and not the sinner. And no one shows more compassion for the fallen than G.K. Chesterton. Of Oscar Wilde, whom he calls “the Chief of the Decadents,” he says that Wilde committed “a monstrous wrong” but also suffered monstrously for it, going to an awful prison, where he was forgotten by all the people who had earlier toasted his cavalier rebelliousness. “His was a complete life, in that awful sense in which your life and mine are incomplete; since we have not yet paid for our sins. In that sense one might call it a perfect life, as one speaks of a perfect equation; it cancels out. On the one hand we have the healthy horror of the evil; on the other the healthy horror of the punishment.”

Chesterton referred to Wilde’s homosexual behavior as a “highly civilized” sin, something that was a worse affliction among the wealthy and cultured classes. It was a sin that was never a temptation for Chesterton, and he says that it is no great virtue for us never to commit a sin for which we are not tempted. [cont.]

—- Comments —-

Will G. writes:

Sex was a tyrant to Oscar Wilde as it is to all homosexuals.  There is a biography by Joseph Pearce called The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde that was a pretty fair treatment of him.  Although, I would say in contrast to Chesterton that Wilde was not trying ‘to pervert the future and unmake the past’ – at least as far as his artistic work was concerned.   ‘An Ideal Husband,’ ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ ‘De Profundis’ are all works of his that reinforce a Christian understanding of human nature.  He was a man who was at war with his celebrity, dandy, witty persona and his inner conscience which came out in his plays.   His conversion to Catholicsm on his deathbed was a journey he was on for a good part of his life.

Laura writes:

I do not believe Chesterton condemned the literary works you mention.

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