Posted in category "Celebrities"

The Book of Matt

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 9, 2014 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Politics, Scandals

Veteran journalist Stephen Jimenez unearthed a sleazy story in his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” An investigative journalist, he spent 11 years researching his story, and had access to formerly sealed court documents.  Book-of-Matt

Matthew Shepard is a gay icon and martyr, allegedly murdered by two men for his sexual orientation. The grisly murder happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998.  Shepard, 21, was a college student, and he was killed by two men he met in a bar. He was pistol-whipped with the barrel of a .357 magnum. Then the two men hung him, barely alive, on a fence, in a pose resembling a crucifixion.

Matthew Shepard died of exposure and his wounds six days later, a victim of homophobia.  Or was he? Here’s an unsettling element: one of the murders, Aaron McKinney, a bisexual hustler, had sex with Shepard weeks before the murder.

Shepard certainly could have been beaten and killed by a man in a homophobic rage…but he may also have been killed in a sex-for-drugs exchange gone badly. His death might not be a hate crime after all, but a drug dealer casualty. In the book Jimenez claims Matthew Shepard was a crystal meth addict, and was killed by McKinney, another dealer and trick strung out on meth and in desperate need of money.

The “gay panic” defense of Aaron McKinney, the killer, was a made-up story in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.

Jimenez was asked why he dug up the story: “As a gay man,” he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” “To understand who Matthew Shepard really was,” said Jimenz, “to alter our perception of him as a martyr and an icon, is not going to be damaging to gay rights.”  stephen-jimenez_200

I agree, and commend Stephen Jimenez coming forward with his story. The real conversation about Matthew Shepard should be about young gay men (and women) who do drugs, and why drug and alcohol use is still so embedded in gay culture. That could save some lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Father Dollar Bill

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 8, 2011 | Categories: Celebrities, Faith, Musings, Saints, Social Justice

Fr. Maurice Chase died on November 20, 2011 at his Los Angeles home of cancer.   He was 92.   Fr. Chase started his life as a “society priest” and ended it on Skid Row.   “I love it,” he said. “God has given me the happiest part of my life at the end.”

Nearly every Sunday morning, Thanksgiving and Christmas for almost three decades, the man they called Father Dollar Bill, Father Dollar or just D.B. for Dollar Bill showed up on a Skid Row sidewalk. Clad in a Notre Dame hat and a red sweater over his clerical collar, Father Dollar Bill would hand out crisp, new one dollar bills along with a handshake and a  blessing. Father Dollar Bill was a hugely popular figure on Skid Row.   Hundreds would gather each week to await his arrival, in a line that sometimes stretched for blocks. “He was just a glorious man,” said Beverly Taylor, who lived on Skid Row for decades. “He was just always there.”

Father Maurice Chase didn’t mind what name the destitute, penniless, homeless  and addicts called him.   He didn’t care how they spent the money. Nor was he bothered by criticism by other Skid Row service providers–that he was a self-promoting publicity hound whose cash assistance had little impact on the people who gathered to receive his dollar, handshake, blessing or hug.

Beginning in the 1980s, Father Chase gave out untold numbers of bills, about $3,000 each week. Almost all of them were ones, although to some he would offer larger notes, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. On holidays the total he handed out could rise to $15,000.

Some social service workers critcized Fr. Chase’s brand of charity, saying it had little impact. “I think his desire to bring people love was true, and can certainly be modeled by the rest of us,” said the Rev. Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission. “But the last thing people on the street need is cash. A lot of people took the money and spent it in unhealthy ways.” People who waited in line for a donation often told Fr. Chase how they planned to spend the money.   Many bought hamburgers, ice cream and other treats they couldn’t get at the shelters.

Fr. Chase acknowledge that in a neighborhood where drug abuse and untreated mental illness were common, a single dollar could not get someone off the street. But the money, he said, was not the point. He said what mattered was letting people know they weren’t invisible and that they were loved by God. “I’m out here to tell people  I love them and God loves them,”  he said. While he wasn’t afraid of potential trouble,  a L.A. police officer quietly stood by in case of any problems.

“Maury Chase planted his feet right on the sidewalk, the last place on earth where  the poorest of the poor live,” said Alice Callaghan, founder of the Skid Row advocacy center Las Famillas del Pueblo. “He didn’t attempt to single out the undeserving poor from the deserving poor. I’m sure he handed out money to thieves. But it wasn’t the dollar that mattered. It was the gift of human love.”

Fr. Chase began every trip to Skid Row with a prayer about serving the poor: “When you have done it to the least of men, you have done it to me.” Then he prepared the stacks of new dollar bills he had withdrawn from the bank earlier. “Everything is so dirty on Skid Row. I want to give them something new and fresh.” Fr. Chase said he always made sure to look each person in the eye. “By my looking into their eyes, I’m saying you have dignity, you’re a human being, you are made in the image and likeness of God.”

Fr. Maury Chase began his street ministry when he was a fund raising assistant to the president of Loyola Marymount   University.   His job was to persuade potential donors to write checks to the university. Through his friendship with actress Irene Dunne, he   hit the Los Angeles party circuit and became known as “the society priest.” He was frequently mentioned in social columns. He provided photos and information to the editors at the Los Angeles Times to help the paper prepare its society columns.

He came up with his Skid Row charity after contemplating the instructions of Loyola Marymount’s president, Father Donald P. Merrifield, who hired him in 1985. Fr. Merrifield told him, “I’m sending you out among the rich and famous.   You better have a balance in your life.”

So, after every society event, Fr. Chase would send letters to potential donors he’d meet, telling them how wonderful the party was. Then he pointed out that many people were less fortunate and needed their help.   He often received letters back that included a check for the priest’s Skid Row ministry. After awhile, he began soliciting donations from wealthy benefactors including Bob & Dolores  Hope, Frank  Sinatra, Merv Griffin, Vin Scully, Bob Newhart, Jackie Autry, Rick Caruso  and many others.

At a Thanksgiving dinner on Skid Row put on by the Los Angeles Mission word spread  that Father Dollar Bill had died. “Dollar Man is dead,” called out Wendell Harrison, 54, to the other diners.

James Rory, 60, told a reporter his interactions with Fr. Chase had helped him to  try to get off the street. “He’s definitely going to be missed,” Mr. Rory added. “Not because of the dollar. Because of what he offered me spiritually.”

 

Barbara Grier’s Lesbian Nuns

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 23, 2011 | Categories: Accountability, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

Barbara Grier, a founder and publisher of Naiad Press, a much-thumbed lesbian pulp fiction publisher, died of cancer on November 10, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. She was 78.   Her death was announced by her long-time partner (in work and life), Donna McBride.

Founded in 1973, and with a mailing list purloined from the Daughters of Bilitis, Grier went on to publish over 500 books with unconditionally lesbian themes–romance, erotica, poetry, science fiction and self-help. If you wanted to read a book with lesbian sex, you bought one of the Naiad titles.   Like real life, sometimes the sex was great, sometimes not-so-great.   The stand-out best book of lesbian awakening,  desire, seduction and sex is Katherine V. Forrest’s 1983 novel, “Curious Wine.” Buy it.

The availability of these novels–with lust and sex and a happy ending–was a tremendous service to lesbians everywhere.    In  lesbian fiction in the 1940s,  50s and 60s the heroine dallied with a female lover but ended up with a man.   Barbara Grier flipped this formula around: the women flirted with men or a heterosexual lifestyle, but came to their senses and ended up with a woman.

Many of these early  lesbian novels were straight men’s pornographic fantasies: a little girl-on-girl action to get things warmed up, but a man finishes up. Lesbians had to be content with reading to the middle of the book.

Besides an appreciation of some of her romance novels, my acquaintence with Barbara Grier and Naiad Press came through the 1985 smash hit, “Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence.” In 1984 I was asked by Nancy Manahan, one of the editor/authors, if she could solicit stories from the ex-nuns and sisters who were members of CCL – the Conference for Catholic Lesbians.   A number of CCL members ended up in the book, including two of the women who were presented as currently belonging to a religious community. One of them still is…although she published her story using her grandmother’s name not her own.

Nancy Manahan did a workshop at the 1986 CCL national conference where she talked about the book and the process of pulling it together. As I remember her, she was soft-spoken,  thoughtful, and earnest.   She wrote in the forward of the book that its intent was to break the silence about “erotic love between women in religious life.”

The book resonated with a large swathe of Catholic lesbians, especially former women religious, who left their communities because their lesbianism was not compatible with either their vows, or the forced  invisibility of homosexuals in the Catholic Church.   The spiritual community they experienced in religious life was missed, and it left an ache in some that was never healed.

There is an interplay between sexuality and spirituality in Catholicism especially, with its emphasis on sensuality and the body.   Think of the suggestive pose of St. Sebastian, and the orgasmic rapture of St. Theresa of Avila.   Even Christ hanging on the cross often has his loincloth positioned in a pretty erotic angle. How can anyone avoid the subtle message of these images or even avoid making them an object of desire?

When a local TV station in Boston promoted an interview with Manahan and her co-editor, Rosemary Curb, archdiocesan officials complained, saying the broadcast would be “an affront to the sensitivity of Roman Catholics.” The station cancelled the program, but the ensuing uproar sent sales of the book soaring. “This is crazy,” Grier told the New York Times , scrambling to fill new orders for the book, which eventually sold several hundred thousand copies. “I’m a mouse giving birth to an elephant!”

A year or two later, a controversy ensured when Barbara Grier sold the rights to some of the lesbian nun stories to Penthouse Forum, a male prono magazine. The CCL board sent an angry letter to Grier saying it was a betrayal, selling these women’s stories for the titillation of male readers.  Nancy Manahan and Rosemary Curb  protested, too, but to no avail–Naiad Press owned the book.

I can’t remember if Grier replied to us–I think she didn’t bother–but the story goes she did it because she felt she could reach new women readers through Penthouse.

My sense is she did it for the money and publicity it would bring to Naiad Press.   She had her mainstream hit, and she wanted to ride it for all it was worth. After all, she labored for many years on the margins with  a shoestring budget.

The tremendous irony of the whole thing is that Barbara Grier, who spent a lifetime working hard to publish lesbian literature, had her greatest notoriety from providing lesbian sex thrills  to men.

 

Iconic Images from My Youth

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 11, 2011 | Categories: Celebrities, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Scandals

The  NY Post headline screamed, “‘Tango’ Sex Bomb Dies.” A little blurb appeared underneath: “Maria Schneider, the French actress who was Marlon Brando’s young co-star in the steamy 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris,” has died, her talent agency said. She was 58.” Maria Schneider died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A quiet funeral was held at Eglise Saint-Roch on February 10, 2011. Among friends in attendance were director Bertrand Blier, actresses Claudia Cardinale, Andrea Ferreol and Christine Boisson, writer Jean-Henri Servat, and  actor Alain Delon.   Maria’s partner, Pia,  spoke at the memorial. “Ciao Bella, Ciao Maria,” she said, saluting her for bravery in the long illness that took her life. Pia and Maria had been together since 1980.  Maria’s ashes were to be taken form Pere Lachaise crematorium to later be scattered at La Roche de Vierge in Biarritz.

Born in 1952, the daughter of French actor Daniel Gelin and Romanian-born Marie-Christine Schneider, who ran a bookstore in Paris, Schneider began her career in the movie “Les Femmes” in 1969, and continued to star in French films until 2008 when she retired for health reasons. It is for her role in the movie “Last Tango in Paris” that she is remembered.   This role defined her in a way she never wanted.

“I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol,” revealed Schneider in 2007. “I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown.

In the film, Schneider plays Jeanne, a girl engaged to an annoying filmmaker, Tom, who goes to view an apartment in Paris. There she chances upon Paul (Marlon Brando), an American expatriate whose wife has committed suicide. They start a passionate affair.   Paul insists they don’t even reveal their names.

There is ample opportunity throughout the movie  to see Schneider’s  luscious body, but the scene everyone remembers is when Brando puts Schneider face down on the apartment floor, lubricates her with butter and anally rapes her. “That scene wasn’t in the script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea,” she said. “Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,” but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears…I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

Maria Schneider provided frank interviews in the wake of Tango’s controversy, claiming she had slept with 50 men and 20 women, that she was “bisexual completely,” and that she was a user of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

In fact, bouts of mental instability, drug addiction and even a suicide attempt, prevented Schneider from moving ahead professionally.   She also refused to let herself be typecast as a young sexpot ready to get naked on camera. “Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s for art,” she would later tell the Daily Mail.

In 1975, when Schneider was 23,  she  walked off the set of Rene Clement’s La Baby Sitter and signed herself into a Roman psychiatric hospital. Not for treatment, but simply to be with her inseparable companion of the past two years, American photographer,  Joan (“Joey”) Townsend, 28, the daughter of ex-president of Avis, Robert Townsend, who also wrote the best-selling book, Up the Organization.

She later told film critic, Roger Ebert, that hers had been a gesture of support to a friend who was locked up at the facility. Townsend had been picked up at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, babbling irrationally. On learning that her lover had been taken to a psychiatric hospital, Maria rushed to join her. “They locked her up, and so I had to do it out of loyalty,” Schneider explained.   Paparazzi snapped them in various embraces.

One of these photos appeared in People. Sitting in a dingy airport in Alaska, waiting for the weather to break to depart, I was idly thumbing through the magazine when I flipped to the page with the photo of Schneider and Townsend looking out the window of the hospital.   Townsend looked wild-eyed and distraught. Schneider had her head next to Townsend’s, and  her arm was  around her protectively.  Her tousled, curly black hair was a contrast to Townsend’s blonde.   I didn’t want people to see me staring, but I couldn’t stop looking at  the photo. I pretended to keep reading, but kept going back to that page.   I can’t remember what was written, except that Townsend was her lover, and that Schneider had ruined her prospects as an actress by going to her.

I did something I never do–I  surreptitiously tore the page out of the magazine and stuffed it in my backpack.

I had obviously seen pictures of other lesbians by then, but nothing made a positive impact until that photo of Schneider holding her lover close and standing by her.

The 1970s were turbulent years for Schneider, marked by drugs and a suicide attempt. “I was lucky–I lost many friends to drugs–but I met someone in 1980 who helped me stop. I call this person my angel and we’ve been together ever since.   I don’t say if it’s a man or woman.   That’s my secret garden. I like to keep it a mystery. Garbo had the right idea.”

A month after the Schneider obituary appeared the documentary “Making the Boys” was released in New York City. That film was the other gay icon of my youth.  Directed and produced by Crayton Robey, “Making the Boys”tells the story of the meteoric impact of “The Boys in the Band,” both the play and the 1970 William Friedkin film. Mart Crowley, the playwright and screen writer, was foundering in Hollywood before he “wrote what he knew” and became a voice for many gay men. The documentary paints a vivid portrait of the era when the closet was the norm. Footage of a CBS report on homosexuality shows Mike Wallace announcing that Americans consider homosexuality “more harmful to society than adultery, abortion or prostitution.”

“I felt Mart had been undervalued,” Robey said wistfully. “His play is a classic–a masterpiece. The revolution of the “Boys” has such a great history in terms of theater and in terms of visibility of homosexuals in mainstream culture, and the mainstream press introducing it to the masses and starting a conversation. His story should really come forward a bit.”

Mart Crowley was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1935.   His early life was deeply rooted in the Catholic Church; he attended a Catholic high school, and went from there to The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, graduating in 1957.

He eventually landed a very coveted film job as a production assistant.   He worked on such classics as “The Fugitive Kind” and “Butterfield 8” before becoming director Elia Kazan’s assistant on “Splendor in the Grass.” That’s when he met Natalie Wood, the film’s star, who became a close friend. She encouraged Crowley and introduced him to people who helped “Boys in the Band” come to fruition.

First staged on April 14, 1968 at the off-Broadway Theater Four, “Boys” played more than 1,000 performances before heading off to Los Angeles, where it won a Drama Critic’s Award in 1969, and then to London.   The film was released in 1970.

Themes include coming out issues, passing for straight, the unrequited love for a straight friend, the man who leaves his wife when he finally accepts the truth about himself, and the “Christ, I was drunk last night” syndrome.

“The Boys in the Band” is set in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where a surprise birthday  party is being held for a mutual friend.  The host, Michael, is a Catholic with a major drinking and self-image  problem.   He is in psychoanalysis–to change or come to terms with himself. Other characters include Harold, the birthday boy, who is increasingly morose   about the loss of his youth. One of his presents is “Cowboy,” a hunky but not  very bright hustler. Donald, a friend, house guest and occasional bed partner  of Michael is also conflicted about his homosexuality.   He left the city  to  spurn the homosexual “lifestyle.” Larry and Hank are a couple with  monogamy issues.   Larry, a fashion photographer,  tricks constantly, and Hank is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife.   Bernard is an an  African-American who still pines for the wealthy white boy in the house where  his mother worked as a maid. Emory is a flamboyant queen.

Alan, a surprise guest, was Michael’s roommate at Georgetown. He calls Michael from a pay phone, upset, teary, and asks to see him.   He was anxious to tell him something.   What that something is we never find out.   It could be his sadness about deciding to leave his wife.   It could also be that he is questioning his own sexuality.   Michael has kept in touch with another friend from Georgetown, Justin, who told him that he and Alan were deeply in love until Alan couldn’t take it, dumped Justin and married a woman. Michael is convinced that is what Alan was crying about on the phone.

Mart Crowley admits that his plays are autobiographical.   In his introduction to “3 Plays by Mart Crowley,” he refers to “The Boys in the Band” and says, “There was never a real birthday party attended by nine actual men…However, just before I began to write the play, I had…attended a party for a friend’s birthday and it gave me the idea of how to frame what had already been on my mind…All of the characters are based on either people I either knew well or are amalgrams of several I’d known to varying degrees, plus a large order of myself thrown in the mix.”

Michael: Forgive him father, for he know not what he do.

Harold: Michael, you don’t know what side of the fence you’re on. Say something pro-religion, you’re against it. Deny god, you’re against that. One might say youhave some problem in that area. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. You hang on to that great insurance policy called the Church.

Michael: That’s right, I believe in God. And if it turns out there isn’t one, okay, nothing’s lost. But if it turns out there is, I’m covered.   I’m one of those truly rotten Catholics who gets drunk, sins all night, and then goes to mass then next morning.

Michael is the character with whom Crowley most strongly identifies. The witty, self-deprecating,  and cynical Michael has also been the focus of detractors of the play. His most famous line, “You show me a happy homosexual, and I’ll show you a gay corpse,” has been used to indict Crowley for promoting self-loathing and negative stereotypes.

Crowley has strongly defended his play.   The play’s “self-deprecating humor was born out of a low self esteem, if you will, from a sense of what the times told you about yourself.”  The movie came out as gay liberation was just getting going, and any kind of negative sterotyping was not welcome.  “But that’s an awful standard to hold to art,” he said. “The curtain can’t just go up on two happy people in rocking chairs saying ‘I love you,’ and the other one saying, ‘No, I love you more,’ and then the curtain coming down! Very positive images are not what dramatic fare is all about.”

“The Boys in the Band” is an honest, funny, gripping, perceptive, and powerful portrait of gay life before Stonewall—one that in many ways remains as true today as it was 43 years ago.   “Some things don’t change,” said Crowley. “Not ever.   I mean, coming out is hard, even today. Growing old is hard.”

I saw the “Boys in the Band” when I was a freshman at Trinity College, an all-women’s college right next door to Catholic University. I believe the screen was at Catholic University(!), but perhaps it was at a theater close by. I remember I waited all week to see it.   I felt a rolling succession of emotions watching the film-most of all–and intense curiosity and a delicious fear of discovery. While I was dating guys at Georgetown, I was also aware my strongest feelings were around a friend at Trinity.   What did this mean?   On some level I probably knew, and went to see the movie to help me pierce through the walls I set up between who I was, and who I was expected to be.   As the feelings got stronger, so did the sense of denial.   I did not come out until well after college, two years after my marriage ended, and I was living independently. Like Hank,   I finally decided to stop living as a straight person.

The line in the film that resonated the most as I watch the film was Harold’s good-bye to Michael at the end of the party:   “You’re a sad and pathetic man. You’re a homosexual and you don’t want to be, but there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all the prayers to your god, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you’ve got left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you’ll always be homosexual as well. Always Michael. Always. Until the day you die.”

These words chilled me.   I was terrified.    I had homosexual longings.  I wanted to explore them, but I was afraid. I also knew that no matter how many boys I dated, or when I got married, or whatever life I lived, these feelings were a part of me and never go away. When the lights went on I left. I didn’t mention the movie to any of my friends.

In the end, Donald and Michael are left in the living room.   Hank and Larry are  making love in the bedroom, so Michael can’t go to bed. Donald starts to leave, but Michael breaks down and begs him to stay.  Michael wants to walk to clear his head of all the booze he  drank.  Donald tells him he’s going to finish the brandy but he’ll be back next week.   Michael heads out into the night.   “…there’s a midnight mass at St. Malachy’s that all the show people go to.   I think I’ll walk over there and catch it.” Donald raises his glass and says, “Well, pray for me.”

In the closing scene Michael laments: “If only we didn’t hate ourselves so much…if only we could just not hate ourselves quite so very much…”

How could we grow up and not  have avoided the miasma of anti-homosexual rhetoric, and the brutality and self-hatred that provoked?  Family, friends, church, society,   media and the arts were the endless source of queer jokes, put-downs and threats. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto reminds us, “Gays were not portrayed in movies generally, unless they were horrible victims or horrible perpetrators of crimes.” Being homosexual in that horrible environment was a terrible fate.

“The Boys in the Band” and Maria Schneider changed how I looked at homosexuals–and ultimately  myself. They offered me the first opportunity to see people struggling in their  attraction to a  friend;  who were bonded together in their same-sex attraction,  who made a life for themselves as best they could, and took the world on for love.

 

 

What happened to Mary Daly?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 23, 2010 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Dissent, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Weirdos

Mary Daly, 81, died two weeks ago, mostly forgotten, certainly unshriven.   Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet, noted that Daly “seems to have departed this life as a kind of orphan herself. The New York Times obituary notes that she ‘leaves no immediate survivors’. No family on earth? No father in heaven? I hope it really was not like that for Mary Daly at the end.” mary daly

After her two first two books, which stood the Catholic world on its head, Mary Daly spun off into the ether, writing books with titles like:    Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage;   and Quintessence..Realizing the Archaic Future. Daly created her own language, but most people weren’t interested in learning it.   She lost her hold on the larger Catholic imagination.

In the 80s the lesbian herd moved past her, too, migrating on towards the mainstream–“Ellen,” “The L Word,” “Rachael Maddow,” “Suze Orman,” human rights, marriage rights and child rearing.   The labrys pendant was lost or forgotten. Daly was, too.

Mary Daly was the quintessential Irish Catholic girl. Born October 16, 1928, in Schenectady, NY, she went all through Catholic schools, and received a BA from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY and a MA from Catholic University in Washington, DC. After earning her doctorate in religion from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1953, she went on to obtain two degrees from the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, since no U.S. institutions at the time offered theology doctorates to women.

Dr. Daly was hired as an assistant professor at Jesuit-run Boston College in 1967, when the school only enrolled men.   She started as a reformist, and her first book, The Church and the Second Sex, (1968) she argued that the Catholic Church was patriarchal in nature and had systematically opposed women for centuries. In response, the college attempted to dismiss her, but the support she received from students and the public kept her in the classroom.

As a student in the early ’70s at Trinity, an all-women’s college in Washington, DC,   I was thrilled about Mary Daly and her books.   “Someone speaking for us,” I thought as I picked one up, “someone speaking the truth about what it’s like to be a  woman in the Catholic Church.”

Sr. Joan Chittister reflected on Daly’s impact on history: “I learned how to look newly at things I’d looked at for so long that I was no longer really seeing any of them. Women need to thank Daly for raising two of the most important theological questions of our time: one, whether the question of a male God was consistent with the teaching that God was pure spirit, and two, whether a church that is more patriarchal system than authentic church could possibly survive in its present form. These two questions have yet to be resolved and are yet rankling both thinkers and institutions.”

Daly came out as a lesbian in the early 70s–when she was in her 40s. She began to study ancient cultures, and came to regard all major modern religions as oppressive to women, a view expressed in her second book, Beyond God the Father (1973). Her original critique of the Roman Catholic Church as a bastion of patriarchy was extended to the entire Christian tradition. She rejected Christianity’s focus on a monotheistic deity and what she attacked as its intrinsic patriarchy. She asserted that Christianity’s focus on Jesus Christ was just another dimension of its patriarchy–a Savior in a male body.

As Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger explains, Daly’s “compete rejection of Scripture” on the basis of its “irremediable patriarchal bias” took her far outside the Christian faith. While other feminists called for the adoption of female or gender-neutral language for God, Daly attacked those efforts as half-measures that fail to take the “phallocentricity” of theism seriously.

Her famous dictum, “If God is male, then the male is God,” stood at the heart of her argument against religion. She accused Christianity of “gynocide” against women and suggested that all monotheistic religion–and Christianity in particular–is “phallocentric.”

“I urge you to sin,” she wrote to women readers. “But not against these itty-bitty religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism–or their secular derivatives, Marxism, Maoism, Freudianism and Jungianism–which are all derivatives of the big religion of patriarchy. Sin against the infrastructure itself!”

In 1999 Professor Daly left Boston College after a male student threatened a lawsuit when he was denied a place in her class on feminist ethics. She had long limited enrollment in some advanced women’s studies classes to women only, maintaining that the presence of men there would inhibit frank discussion.

What happened to Mary Daly, that she imposed the same gender barriers in her classrooms   as she experienced? Daly went to Europe for advanced degrees because no U.S. Catholic university would accept a woman in a theology program. Years later, Daly bared men from her advanced courses in women’s studies because she felt their presence would have a negative impact on the other students.   Men, she said, “have nothing to offer but doodoo.”

It may be retribution, but it doesn’t seem right. How do you rail against a system of discrimination, and then implement it with glee yourself?

So I am left with a mystery to solve: why did Mary Daly, a “post-Christian,” continue to affiliate with Boston College, an unabashedly Catholic institution?   Love and hate are bound very closely.   Daly was never indifferent.

Perhaps it began with a girlhood hurt. Daly wrote about her intellectual formation in a 1996 article in the New Yorker “Sin Big,” in which she recalled being mocked by a male classmate, and altar boy, at her parochial school because she could never “serve Mass” because she was a girl.

“(T)his repulsive revelation of the sexual caste system that I would later learn to call ‘patriarchy’ burned its way into my brain and kindled an unquenchable Rage,” she wrote.

Daly described herself as a pagan, an eco-feminist and a radical feminist in a 1999 interview with The Guardian newspaper of London. “I hate the Bible,” she told the paper. “I always did. I didn’t study theology out of piety. I studied it because I wanted to know.”

So with all that, how could she in good conscience continue to teach at a Catholic university?

Here’s what I think: at BC,   Daly could   be an outlaw, get a paycheck, credibility for book deals, and still have the protective mantle of identity that gave her cachet: a professor at a highly regarded Catholic university.

She lived on the piercing insights she fearlessly raised 40 years ago. But Daly had ceased to be a theologian, and even her philosophical writing declined into self-important gibberish. She should have taken her own advice–a person becomes stagnant if they don’t move on. daly book

If you’re going to call yourself a Post-Christian, then be Post-Christian.   If you have moved on… move on, and stop clinging to institutions that you say you no longer believe in.

A man wrote the best epitaph for Daly that I have read:   “When I was in the seminary, attending class at B.C. during the eighties, Mary Daly was a joke. Imagine my surprise when, years later, as a purely cynical move to impress a feminist scholar, I cited Mary Daly in a paper, but was not able to put her work down. Although her work never persuaded me to abandon my beliefs, or my own thinking, Mary did push me to consider a whole world of concern that years earlier I would have dismissed as nonsense. Now, when I think of her, I do not think of a nut, or a totally whacked out feminist. I think of a pioneer, who, although not worthy of discipleship, is certainly worthy of being taken seriously as a thinker and a human being. I wish I had met her, although I’m not sure of how it would have turned out.”

 

The Day of Quotable Quotes

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 22, 2009 | Categories: Celebrities, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Weirdos

Yesterday was a day of quotable quotes by fellow Catholics and would-be Catholics.

Vatican: In a move that caught just about everyone off guard, the Vatican said yesterday it would make it easier for conservative Anglicans uncomfortable with women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions to re-join the Roman Catholic Church. Anglicans would be able to “enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving   elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” said Cardinal William J. Levada, the perfect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at a news conference announcing the decision. “The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows,” he said.

“I don’t want to be a Roman Catholic,” said Martyn Minns, an Anglican bishop from Fairfax, Virginia. “There was a Reformation, remember.” Bishop_Martyn_Minns

“Not all Anglo-Catholics can accept certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, nor do they believe that they must first convert to Rome in order to be truly catholic Christians,” said the Rev. Jack Leo Iker of Fort Worth, Texas.

Your Censor Librorum says: I don’t think more than a handful of Anglican bishops, priests and congregations will take advantage of the Vatican’s new “Apostolic Constitution” to join the Roman Catholic Church.    Bishops have big egos, and they will be nothing but small potatoes in the Church, because a lot of them are married. The big upside to this for liberal Catholics is the issue of a married priesthood. Why make an exception for Episcopalians, but not Catholics–Catholic priests, former priests and parishioners are going to ask.   This latest Vatican outreach to bolster the fold with more conservatives  is going to end up as  a big pain in the neck for U.S. and other Roman Catholic bishops.

Sports: ESPN analyst and Ex-Met general manager, Steve Phillips, had a fling with a 22-year-old production assistant named Brooke Hundley  over the summer. He dumped her. She got mad and wrote to his wife.   The New York Post published her letter.   “…he enjoys being with me,” Brooke wrote to Marni Phillips, “because I have more of a passion and drive to really do something with my life. And that you’re making him go to mass and therapy despite the fact that he doesn’t believe it will save your marriage, but he doesn’t want to lose hs kids.”

She went on..“I’m not telling you all of this to hurt you in any way, but simply to show you that I am a real person in his life and that I care deeply about his happiness. I was raised Catholic too and while I know our faith dissuades divorce, it also respects it with regards to infidelity because people should have the opportunity to be with the whomever makes them happy and can give them what they need.” brook hundley

The finale is the worst: “I may be only 22, but I’m not stupid, and I hope you can understand we never wanted you to find out this way. I want you to meet me and I want to tell you anything you may want to know, my cell number is xxxxx, check the phone records you can see I’m not lying and to top it off Steve has a big birthmark on his crotch right above his penis and one on his left inner thigh, so you know I’m not being fake.”

Your Censor Librorum says:   I hope Mrs. Phillips can see a way to speak to her husband again after she’s finished beating him to a pulp. As for Miss Hundley, where did you hear  the Church “respects” infidelity if a married person finds someone on the side to fill an unmet emotional or sexual need? I must have missed that one in my pre-Cana conference.

American Idol: Adam Lambert is an American Idol runner-up who  came out of the closet after the season ended.   But a recent Details magazine shoot had Lambert in a steamy embrace, kissing a lingerie model who shed her bikini. “Women know he’s gay, but they are still crazy about him. He’s no Liberace,” said Details editor-in-chief, Dan Peres. “To put him with a beautiful female model felt absolutely right.”   adam_lambert

Lambert told the magazine, “I like kissing women sometimes. Women are pretty. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sleeping with them.”

Your Censor Liborum Says: This sounds like Rock Hudson.

Mob Guy:   A confessed Gambino family gunman, Robert Mormando, had a surprise for everyone in a Brooklyn courtroom  on Monday.   He told the judge he was gay.

Mormando, 44, was being sentenced for his part in the 2003 shooting of a bagel store owner, who was wounded in his driveway.

A divorced father of two, Mr. Mormando was born and raised in Ozone Park, Queens, a neighborhood long associated with former don, John Gotti.

Complicating matters, Mr. Mormando had a close personal friendship with Richard G. Gotti, John Gotti’s nephew. Richard Gotti is currently in prison on a federal racketeering charge. While there is no suggestion that the friendship was anything more than that, the mere fact an “avowed” gay man was once “inseparable” from a member of the Gotti family is  “an intolerable stain on their name,” said a person who has knowledge of the case.

Indeed, that kind of “stain” can get you killed if you’re mobbed up. In 1992, John D’Amato,a former boss in the DeCavalcante crime family, was murdered by an underling when, after an argument, D’Amato’s girlfriend told his cronies he was gay.

Anthony Capo, a former soldier for the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante family, which is often described as the real-life “Sopranos,” said he killed John “Johnny Boy” D’Amato after finding out about his secret life.

Nobody’s gonna respect us if we have a gay homosexual boss sitting down discussing La Cosa Nostra business,” Capo told jurors in Manhattan federal court.   “She told me John D’Amato and her were going to sex clubs in the city, swapping partners and John was engaging in homosexual activity,” he said. JDAmato

Your Censor Liborum Says: This guy must have been absolutely nuts to come out in court. Didn’t he watch the Sopranos?

 

 

 

Spicy Stories, Snits, Snubs and No Perdonanza

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Celebrities, Dissent, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes, Scandals

A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI asked the Italian Bishops’ Conference for an “assessment” after the editor of its newspaper, Avvenire, was accused by another publication of homosexual behavior and harassment.

“His Holiness has asked for information and an assessment of the current situation,” said a statement posted last week on the website of the bishops’ group, which publishes the daily Avvenire.

Yesterday, Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, resigned–ostensibly in the wake of a tumultuous feud with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. dino-boffo

The row erupted after Boffo ran a series of stories in Avvenire that criticized the immigration policies and personal life of the prime minister.

Letters from readers complained that a Roman Catholic newspaper had a moral duty to denounce divorce, consorting with teenage girls, naked poolside parties and the prime minister being caught on tape telling a prostitute to wait for him in “Putin’s bed” while he showered.

Boffo, the editor, began to weigh in. “People have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering this arrogant neglect   of sobriety has caused the Catholic Church,” Boffo wrote last month.

Under cover of a paper owned by his brother, Paolo Berusconi, the prime minister retaliated.

Under a front page banner headline, Il Giornale, ran an article accusing Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, of running a “moralistic campaign” against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72. The article went on to scrutinize Dino Boffo, 57, Avvenire‘s top editor, claiming he had a homosexual affair and had accepted a plea bargain in 2004 for harassing the wife of his lover.

The Il Giornale article openly admitted that the article was in response to Boffo’s criticisms of Berlusconi’s private life, and called Boffo a hypocrite.

In a statement, Mr. Boffo described the report as an “absurd” attempt to smear his reputation. Mr. Boffo described himself as “the first victim” in the 2001 harassment case. He didn’t elaborate on the matter.

After the story appeared, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and deputy to Pope Benedict XVI, telephoned Mr. Boffo to offer his “solidarity.”

He was joined by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan, who said he had offered Mr. Boffo his “esteem and gratitude.”

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the bishops conference, described the attack on Mr. Boffo as “disgusting.”

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II and now Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, said it was “the first time a Catholic paper has been attacked with such violence.” He added that he was “very worried by the moral decadence into which Italy is sliding because of the behavior of certain important political leaders.”

Il Giornale ‘s attack escalated when another editorial aimed at the Catholic Church itself, mocking not just the “hypocrisy” of sexually active priests with “weak flesh,” but even the “Mitteleuropean” accent of Pope Benedict XVI, a German.

Earlier in the week Il Giornale reported how Dino Boffo had been successfully sued by a woman who claimed that he had tried to steal her husband from her in 2001. The matter, which involved a couple from Terni, near Perugia, was settled out of court in 2004 with Boffo agreeing to pay a small fine.   The article claimed Boffo had been listed by police in  document as a gay man “noted for this kind of activity.” (It’s not clear–harassment or chasing married men??)

The story dragged in the Italian goverment with Robert Maroni, the Interior Minister, was forced to telephone Mr. Boffo to assure him no such police document existed.

Officials said the alleged police document appeared in reality to be an “anonymous letter” sent to Italian bishops earlier this year.

Prime Minister Berlusconi and his allies had hoped to patch up his relationship with the Catholic Church after months of articles linking Berlusconi with teenage models and “spicy” parties. He denied he paid for sex after an Italian prostitute went public with claims that she slept with Mr. Berlusconi at his residence in Rome.

“Gossip isn’t enough to crucify someone,” Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale wrote.

In April, the premier’s wife announced plans for a divorce, accusing him of “consorting with minors.”

“I’ve never had ‘relations’ with minors and have never organized ‘spicy parties,’ retorted Berlusconi. “I’ve simply taken part in engaging dinners which were absolutely in line with morality and elegance. And I’ve never knowingly invited anyone to my house who was not a serious person,” the premier told Il Giornale.

After photos of scantily clad guests and a naked man partying at his Sardinian home were published, Berlusconi then found himself embroiled in an escort scandal when Patizia D’Addario claimed she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences. 19patrizia9

Berlusconi admitted that he was “no saint” after the left-leaning daily La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso posted audio takes and transcripts that it alleges are of conversations between the premier and a call girl on their websites.

Friends of the prime minister warned him he is wadding into dangerous waters with the church that could harm him politically. Many Italians care about what candidates have its normally implicit support. The church generally supports candidates on the right, like Mr. Berlusconi, making the current confrontation that much more unusual and significant.

But Berlusconi’s popularity has started to drop in the polls, and he appears deeply worried about further damage, especially from moderate Catholic voters.   This week he announced he was bringing defamation lawsuits against several publications that have been critical of him, part of what his critics and allies alike   worry is a dangerous trend toward treating any criticism as disloyal and possibily illegal.   (Hmmmm…does this sound familiar in some Church circles??!!)

As part of an effort to mend relations with the Vatican, Mr. Berlusconi had planned to attend a high profile religious service and dine with the Vatican’s No. 2 official when the Holy See issued a statement withdrawing the dinner invitation. The statement also said that Mr. Berlusconi wouldn’t attend the service, known as the “Perdonanza,” or the annual day of pardon for sins. perdonanza-celestana-aquila

Mr. Berlusconi’s plans to attend the Perdonanza was seen by the Italian public as a gesture in the direction of atonement.

The service was established in the 13th century by Pope Celestine V, who decreed that anyone who entered the basilica on August 28 and 29 could receive a plenary indulgence–if they have already confessed to their sins in private and taken Communion.

In its statement, the Vatican said Mr. Berlusconi’s dinner plans with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who officiated Friday’s service, was called off partly out of concern that the meeting woul be “exploited.” The Vatican official said the Holy See didn’t want to be viewed as giving a “benediction” to Mr. Berlusconi’s political positions and his personal life.

The situation become more complicated and shaded when Gian Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, didn’t speak out on behalf of Boffo in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera. giovanni-maria-vian-vatic-001

Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life because the paper is international and is not designed to cover controversies in Italian politics.

Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administratin prior to the Holocaust.

The comments of Vian were interpreted   as constituting a point of contention between the Vatican newspaper and the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Benedict XVI sought to dispel any ideas of a rift by personally calling Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the conference, and affirming his esteem for the episcopal body.

Both in articles published in Avvenire,as well as in the letter to Cardinal Bagnasco tendering his resignation, Boffo, who is married, insists on his innocence and states that Il Giornale‘s accusations are not true.

He thanked the Church for its support, but aded that it “has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted.”

Boffo said he believes the attacks against him are due to the fact that Avvenire is a voice that is independent of “secular power.” He asks, “What future of liberty and responsibility will there be for our information?”

Cardinal Bagnasco expressed in a communique gratitude to Boffo “for the commitment shown over many years with competence, rigor and passion, in fulfilling such a precious assignment for the life of the Church and of Italian society.”

The cardinal also expressed his “closeness and support” to the former director. ppbagnasco230608

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco was in the news a few years ago when he claimed that permitting gay marriages was merely the beginning of slippery slope.   “Why then say ‘no’ to incest? Why say ‘no’ to the pedophile party in Holland?” he asked.

Draw your own conclusions.


 

The Dalai Lama is Not Gay-Friendly

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 10, 2009 | Categories: Celebrities, Lesbians & Gays

Last week a masked gunman killed two and wounded 15 at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv.   As protesters mourned the victims and condemned the homophobic sentiment assumed to be behind the attack, police hunted for the assailant, whom many believe to be a member of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The Orthodox have clashed with Israeli gay and lesbian Jews over civil rights. “While Judaism is a religion of peace and tolerance, without strict adherence to the commandments of the Torah – which speaks strongly and unambiguously on this issue – we cease to be the “light unto the nations” G-d commands us to be,” said one Orthodox statement on a gay pride march.

Knowing how strictly traditionalist Christians, Jews and Muslims feel about gays and homosexuality, I thought I would check out the Buddhists; specifically the Dalai Lama, who seems to have become an international spokesman for Tibetan liberation and cultural survival, and a universal spiritual icon for peace and justice. dalai_lama1

My 25-year-old son is quite taken with him and his philosophies on inner calm, the practice of meditation, compassion, and peaceful living.   I have not delved into his teachings, but he seemed to me to be a jolly, joyful, earnest and indeed, holy spiritual leader and man.

Imagine my shock, then, to discover the Dalai Lama doesn’t sound one whit different than the most conservative Vatican bureaucrat, bishop, fundamentalist preacher or orthodox rabbi when it comes to gay and lesbian sex.

“A gay couple came to see me,” he said during an interview, “seeking my support and blessing. I had to explain our teachings. Another lady introduced another woman as her wife – astonishing. It is the same with a husband and wife using certain sexual practices.   Using the other two holes is wrong.”

“A Western friend asked me what harm there could be between consenting adults having oral sex, if they enjoyed it,” the Dalai Lama continued, warming to his theme. “But the purpose of sex is reproduction, according to Buddhism. The other holes don’t create life. I don’t mind – but I can’t condone this way of life.”

Although he says that no real love between people can be condemned and that any discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation must end, the Dalai Lama nevertheless persists in considering the natural expressions of gay and lesbian physical love as “wrong,” “unwholesome,” a “bad action,” and as “vices.”

In an interview with the French magazine Dimanche, the Dalai Lama says of gay and lesbian sexuality:

“It’s part of what we Buddhists call “bad sexual conduct.   Sexual organs were created for reproduction between the male element and the female element–and everything that deviates from that is not acceptable from a Buddhist point of view.”

In the same interview, he specifically said he was “for” (heterosexual) sex with condoms or the pill. That is, it’s fine for heterosexuals to have non-procreative, recreational sex–as long as it doesn’t involve foreplay with other areas of the body.

A Newsweek article on the Dalai Lama entitled “Lama to the Globe” stated that, “Although he has affirmed the dignity and rights of gays and lesbians, he has condemned homosexual acts as contrary to Buddhist ethics.”

Sound familiar? Pope Benedict XVI expresses the same kind of   “support” for gay people.

When respected lesbian educator and Claremont College professor Lourdes Arguelles asked the Dalai Lama when and where the Buddha gave teachings on inappropriate organs to use during sex, the Dalai Lama honestly replied, “I don’t know.”

The Catholic church is covered, since all sex outside marriage is a sin.   Period.   However, what does it say about oral sex for couples married in the faith?

I googled “catholic church teaching on oral sex” and found this little gem: “The Morality of Oral Sex Within Marriage.”

Here’s an excerpt:   “Naturally, one would first look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a definitive answer to the question. (After all, it seems to talk about everything else Catholics should and should not do…) The Catechism does not speak of oral sex by name, but it talks about offenses against chastity and names lust and masturbation as two of these offenses. The Catechism states that lust “is [a] disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”

“..the Church clearly teaches that oral sex is wrong when a couple chooses to separate the act from sexual intercourse and merely achieve orgasm(s). However, what happens when a married couple wishes to use oral sex as a means of foreplay? This is where language and wording becomes tricky… for would this action be called oral sex, or oral stimulation? In the case of foreplay before sexual intercourse, the act is more properly called oral stimulation. By engaging in this activity, the couple wishes to promote orgasm during the intercourse that follows.

So, this puts Catholics united in sacramental marriage one step ahead of Buddhists when it comes to oral sex.   It’s “morally acceptable” so long as its a warm up to intercourse… without birth control, of course. Buddhists are OK on birth control, but no fooling around with the wrong “holes.”

 

The Catholic DNA of Frank McCourt

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 29, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Dissent, Faith, Humor

Frank McCourt, a former New York City schoolteacher who turned his miserable childhood in Limerick, Ireland, into a phenomenally popular, Pulitzer prize -winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes, died on Sunday, July 19, 2009. He was 78 and lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Conn. 14frankmccourt

“When I look back on my childhood,” McCourt said in Angela’s Ashes, “I wonder how I survived it at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: The happy childhood is hardly worth   your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

The book’s hilarious and irreverent chapter on Mr. McCourt’s preparation for First Communion is reminicent of pre-Vatican II lessons on both sides of the pond.

“He tells us we have to know the catechism backwards and forwards,” Mr. McCourt writes. “We have to know the Ten Commandments, Divine and Moral, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Deadly Sins. We have to know by heart all the prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Confiteor, the Apostles’ Creed, the Act of Contrition, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary…He tells us we’re hopeless, the worst class he’s ever had for First Communion, but as sure as God made little apples he’ll make Catholics of us, he’ll beat the idler out of us and Sanctifying Grace into us.”

The day for First Communion finally arrives.   He’s late to church.

“We ran to the church. My mother panted along behind with Michael in her arms. We arrived at the church just in time to see the last of the boys leaving the altar rail where the priest stood with the chalice and the host, glaring at me. Then he placed on my tongue the wafer, the body and blood of Jesus. At last, at last.”

“It’ s on my tongue. I draw it back.”

“It stuck.”

“I had God glued to the roof of my mouth.   I could hear the master’s voice. Don’t let that host touch your teeth for it you bite God in two you’ll roast in hell for eternity.”

“I tried to get God down with my tongue but the priest hissed at me, Stop that clucking and get back to your seat.”

“God was good. He melted and I swallowed Him and now, at last, I was a member of the True Church, an official sinner.”

In fact, Frank McCourt ended up to be one of the Church’s principal public antagonists. He delighted in delivering bawdy riffs against what he saw as the church’s hypocrisy, cruelty and joylessness. “I was so angry for so long, I could hardly have a conversation without getting into an argument,” he once said.

Peter Quinn, the novelist and a  practicing Catholic, wrote in an email that his friend was neither “contemptuous of believers in general nor Catholics in particular. On a trip we took together in 1998, he went to Mass with me on the Sunday morning that we landed. He respected the fact that I had reached my own peace with the Catholic Church. ‘It’s a good thing,’ he once told me, ‘that you’re raising your kids in the Catholic faith. At least they’ll have a map to follow or throw away. In either case, they’ll know where they are.'”

Mr. McCourt felt it was impossible to fully divorce himself from the church. So when he stood before Pope John Paul II in 2002, accompanying a delegation of 40 mayors from around the world, the little Irish Catholic boy in him took over.   He knelt, took the pope’s hand, and kissed his ring.

“I got up and he’s looking at me with his dazzling blue Polish eyes and extraordinary complexion,” Mr. McCourt told the Commonwealth Club of California, “I had a feeling he knew. He knew what a fraud and phony I was. Then I walked away. And I have to admit, as turbulent as my relationship with the church has been (although they don’t know and they don’t care), I was walking on water practically. I was walking on air.”

 

Oscar Wilde’s Vatican Embrace

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 24, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Faith, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

Oscar Wilde, whose torrid affair with Lord Alfred Douglas scandalized Britain in the 19th century has won an endorsement from the Vatican. wildebest

In a review of a new study, The Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Italian writer Paolo Gulisano, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said that Wilde was much more than “an aesthete and a lover of the ephemeral.”

“What a surprise!” La Repubblica said. “A homosexual icon has been accepted by the Vatican.” Orazio La Rocca, a Vatican watcher, described the book as a bombshell.

The paper added that Wilde was often celebrated by “the gay world” as an example of an artist persecuted because of his homosexuality. But he was also “a man who behind a mask of amorality asked himself what was just and what was mistaken, what was true and what was false.”

Two years ago, some of Wilde’s best known aphorism were included in a book of witticisms for Christians collated by the Vatican’s head of protocol, Father Leonardo Sapienza. The book includes: “I can resist everything except temptation”, and “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

Hardly orthodox Catholic teaching.

Father Sapienza said that he had   devoted the lion’s share of Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity to Wilde because he was a “writer who lived perilously and somewhat scandalously but who has left us with some razor-sharp maxims with a moral.”

Father Sapienza said that he wanted to “stimulate a reawakening in certain Catholic circles.” “Our role,” said Fr. Sapienza, “is to be a thorn in the flesh, to move people’s consciences and to tackle what today is the No. 1 enemy of religion–indifference.”

Wilde married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons, but in 1891 he began a relationship with  the much younger Lord Alfred Douglas. oscar

In April 1895, Wilde sued Douglas’ father, the Marquis of Queensberry, for libel, after the Marquis had accused him of being a sodomite. Wilde lost, and after salacious details of his private life were revealed during the trial, was arrested and tried for gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years of hard labor in Reading Gaol. bosie

The way for Wilde’s rehabilitation by the Vatican was paved six years ago by Jesuit theologian, Father Antonio Spadaro. On the centenary of Wilde’s death, he raised eyebrows by praising the “understanding of God’s love” that followed Wilde’s imprisonment in Reading.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 to a Protestant family but became attracted to Catholicism at Oxford.   In 1877 he made the journey to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Pius IX, but declared: “To go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great Gods: Money and Ambition.”

During his time in prison he read the works of St. Augustine, Dante and Newman. When he was released in 1897, with his reputation destroyed and in frail health, he moved to Paris.   He was received into the Catholic Church shortly before he died, three years later.

L’Osservatore Romano described the writer’s conversion as a “long and difficult path”…”a path which led him to convert to Catholicism, a religion which, as he remarked in one of his more acute and paradoxical aphorisms, was “for saints and sinners alone–for respectable people, the  Anglican Church will do.”