In the year 1307 – a whole series of accusations were made against the Knights Templar by agents of the Pope and behind him, the King of France:
1) Desecration of the Cross which might include spitting, defecating and other bodily fluids
2) Denying the validity of the Holy Sacraments
3) Worship of idols
4) The kissing on the mouth, base of the spine and anus in ritual practices
5) Illegally amassing vast wealth in their preceptories
Let’s take a closer look at number 4) in that list! Why were the Templars accused of this?
The allegations of kissing inappropriate parts is very interesting. To understand what the Templars’ accusers were trying to suggest, you have to appreciate how Christian Europe regarded the Islamic East. We think of Europe today as secular and liberal and the Middle East as more prone to theocracy and a religious outlook. But in the Middle Ages and before, the west saw itself as morally upright and it was the east that was a sink of vice and moral corruption.
You can see this attitude going back to the Roman period and the west before Christian conversion. Romans – even Greeks – looked at the east as a part of the world where decent, upstanding western males succumbed to evil vices. Eastern men dressed garishly, painted themselves and indulged their passions to the maximum. Ironic then that the Islamic east has today reversed this viewpoint round 180 degrees. It looks at the west as being morally bankrupt in the same way a medieval Christian looked in horror at Egypt or Syria.
So to a medieval westerner, the east was a moral cesspit. Ergo – the Templars had been seduced by eastern pleasures – indeed, that’s why they had lost Christian possessions in the east – they’d gone soft, become effete, indulged their basest desires, etc.
Sodomy was always being associated with Islam in medieval propaganda. Muslim sultans and caliphs were often depicted as being sex-crazed and lecherous often regarding young boys with uncontrolled lust. Even the greatest Caliph of Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman is accused in one Christian tract of having martyred Saint Pelagius in the year 926, not because he was a Christian but because he resisted the Caliph’s advances.
The theme of gay accusations being leveled against Iberian muslims is looked at in another excellent paper called ‘The Sodomitic Moor: Queerness in the Narrative of Reconquista’ by Gregory Hutcheson.
To look at how westerners regarded muslims in more detail, this from an excellent paper by Mark Steckler titled ‘Brotherhood of Vice: Sodomy, Islam and the Knights Templar’.
“Muslims were thought to practice idolatry and it was believed that Islam promised a sensuous, materialistic afterlife. In fact many polemics against Islam focused on the theme of sexuality. The institutions of polygamy and concubinage provoked the recriminations of Christians who believed it corrupted its practitioners and made them enervated and effeminate. For medieval Christians Islam lacked spirituality, and was a religion of licentiousness and depravity. The perceived dissoluteness of Islam was the antithesis of Christian canons which celebrated celibacy and chastity, therefore sodomy was a believable accusation to be levied against Muslims.”