Posted in category "History"
For many Catholics, the Devil and hell have faded from sight. The only time we ever hear of Satan is when he is referred to during baptismal vows, Gospel readings of his encounters with Jesus, or during old reruns of The Exorcist or The Omen on TV.
So U.S. Catholic commentators and ordinary folk were surprised a few months ago when Pope Benedict referred to the Devil as instigating the media exposure of priestly sexual abuse.
He said the “new radiance of the priesthood,” which he saw emerging from the Year for Priests, would not be pleasing to the “enemy” who “would have preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light–particularly the abuse of the little ones…”
“All evil is due to the intervention of the Devil, including pedophilia,” confirmed Fr. Gabriele Amorth, 85, an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome. Fr. Amorth is the author of An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories. A third book, Memorie Di Un Esorcista was published this year.
The sex abuse crisis engulfing Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican, he said, was the work of Satan who had even “infiltrated the Vatican corridors.” Fr. Amorth emphatically stated: “Legions of demons have lodged there.” “The majority of those in the Vatican do good work, but Pope Paul VI talked about the ‘smoke of Satan’ infiltrating the Vatican as long ago as 1972.”
He claimed another example of satanic behavior was the Vatican “cover-up” over the deaths in 1998 of Alois Estermann, the commander of the Swiss Guard, his wife and Corporal Cedric Tornay, a Swiss Guard, who were all found shot dead. “They covered up everything immediately,” he said. “Here one sees the rot.” (Read my post on the murders here.)
Fr. Amorth asserted that “Lust, success and power are the three great passions on which the Devil insists.”
The exorcist has claimed in his books and interviews that Vatican clergy are involved in Satanic sects. “There are priests, monsignors and also cardinals!” The exorcist claims he got his information from “those who have been able to relate it to me because they had a way of knowing directly. And it’s something ‘confessed’ most times by the very demon under obedience during the exorcisms.”
Father Jose Antonio Fortea Cucurull, another well-known demonologist and exorcist, said that Fr. Armoth had “gone beyond the evidence” in claiming that Satan had infiltrated the Vatican corridors. “Cardinals might be better or worse, but all have upright intentions and seek the glory of God,” he said. Some Vatican officials were more pious than others, “but from there to affirm that some cardinals are members of Satanic sects is an unacceptable distance.”
Sex, power, politics and the Devil have been around the Catholic Church for centuries. Two examples that quickly come to mind are the case of Cardinal Richelieu and Fr. Urbain Grandier as described in The Devils of Loudun; and the burning of (Saint) Joan of Arc with the connivance of Bishop Pierre Cauchon.
More recently, the Devil at work in the Church was raised by a pope. In his homily given on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, 1972, Pope Paul VI made a famous remark that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the house of God.”
The full text of the homily was not reproduced in the Vatican collection of Paul VI’s teachings (Insegnamenti di Paulo VI Vol. X, 1972). Instead, what’s included is a narrative summary of the homily, with occasional direct quotations attributed to him.
Since we don’t have the pope’s words in context, but someone’s retelling of them, it makes it unclear exactly what the pope meant, adding a layer of ambiguity and mystery. But what was Pope Paul VI intending to warn us about when he said “the smoke of Satan has entered the house of God”?
There are a lot of theories.
-A number of ultra traditionalists believed the Second Vatican Council and liturgical reforms that followed it were the work of the Devil.
– The blogger, Jimmy Atkin, in a very interesting and well written post, posits that Pope Paul VI was responding to the cultural crisis of the 1960s and 70s and its impact on the Church. Read it here.
– Virgilio Cardinal Noe, 86, Master of Liturgical Ceremonies during the Pontificates of Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, disclosed in an interview with Petrus, his inside information on the comment.
“You from Petrus, have gotten a real scoop here, because I am in a position to reveal, for the first time, what Paul VI desired to denounce with that statement. Here it is: Papa Montini, for Satan, meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly (mal celebrando) Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dry straw in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. So, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.”
Now we know the Pope hated guitar Masses, too…
Cardinal Noe had the reputation for being a big fussy and exacting stickler for ceremony. This may have influenced how he interpreted a private or public comment from Paul VI combined with his own distaste for modern Masses.
-The most delicious theory is that there are actual Satanists in the Vatican! In his novel, The Windswept House – A Vatican Novel (1996), author Fr. Malachi Martin vividly described a ceremony called “The Enthronement of the Fallen Angel Lucifer” supposedly held in St. Paul’s Chapel in the Vatican, but linked to concurrent satanic rites here in the U.S. on June 29, 1963, barely a week after the election of Paul VI. In the novel, before he dies, a pope leaves a secret account of the situation on his desk for the next occupant of the throne of Peter, a thinly-disguised John Paul II.
On pages 492-93 of “The Windswept House” Fr. Martin went another step to link gay and lesbian religious to Satanists during the reign of Paul VI.
“Suddenly it became unarguable that now during this papacy, the Roman Catholic organization carried a permanent presence of clerics who worshipped Satan and liked it; of bishops and priests who sodomized boys and each other; of nuns who performed the “Black Rites” of Wicca and lived in lesbian relationships…every day, including Sundays and Holy Days, acts of heresy and blasphemy and outrage and indifference were committed and permitted at holy Altars by men who had been called to be priests. Sacrilegious actions and rites were not only performed at Christ’s Altars, but had the connivance or at least the tacit permission of certain Cardinals, archbishops…”
In a June 9, 1997 article in The John Birch Society publication, New American, Martin confirmed that the ceremony did indeed occur as he had described it in the book. “Oh yes, it is true; very much so,” the magazine reported he said. “But the only way I could put that down into print is in novelistic form.”
Well, how could Fr. Malachi Martin be so sure it had occurred unless he had been there himself?
Through all these tendrils of smoke I see ugly lines of slander and innuendo developing: it is the devil who is responsible for dissent, discord and abuse. Secular culture, gay priests and women religious are its willing servants. They and the cardinals and bishops who support them are suspect of being Satanists or in league with them.
In 1995 Princeton University professor and noted theologian, Dr. Elaine Pagels, wrote “The Origin of Satan.” This book argues that the figure of Satan became a way for orthodox Christians to demonize their religious opponents, namely, other Christian sects and Jews. She traces the development of Satan in the Jewish community from a sort of roving agent acting on God’s behalf–always obstructing but not always evil–to an increasingly evil force identified more and more with intimate enemies, members of one’s own community with whom one is in conflict.
The reemergence of the Devil is timely for a certain segment of Catholics: clerics who want to absolve themselves for the root causes of the sex abuse crisis and their cover-up; people who never agreed with the changes initiated by Vatican II; the fractionalizing of Catholics over issues of sexuality, the nature of sin, clerical authority, roles of the laity, worship, and the increasing visibility of gay people and their families in society and the church. Surely Satan is behind all that?
In the novel, “The Name of the Rose”, Brother William of Baskerville, a former inquisitor, tries to explain to the abbot why there is a need in his monastic community for a supernatural explanation for a murder and undercurrent of fear: “Who am I to express judgements on the plots of the Evil One, especially,” he added, and seemed to want to insist on this reason, “in cases where those who had initiated the inquisition, the bishop, the city magistrates, and the whole populace, perhaps the accused themselves, truly wanted to feel the presence of the Devil? There, perhaps was the only real proof of the presence of the Devil was the intensity with which everyone at that moment desired to know he was at work…”
“Are you telling me, then,” the abbot said in a worried tone, “that in many trials the Devil does not act only within the guilty one but perhaps and above all in the judges?”
After multiple killings, several attempts to murder Brother William, and a slew of witchcraft and heresy accusations, the monastery is destroyed by fire. In an attempt to trap William and his novice, Adso of Melk, Venerable Jorge de Burgos knocked over a candle to put the room in darkness. Instead, the candle ignited a blaze which consumed the entire library and many of the monks.
William had discovered Jorge, the ancient librarian, had poisoned the pages of a book by Aristotle he deemed too dangerous to read. This poison killed any monk turning its pages. William deduces that the library is kept hidden because such advanced knowledge, coming from pagan philosophers, is difficult to reconcile with Christianity.
As they watched the library tower burn (and Venerable Jorge along with it) Brother William explained to his novice that unlike church teaching, the Devil is not merely a tempter of forbidden sensuality and knowledge: “They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit; faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt.”
Can’t you see few people–right now–that fit that description?…The Glenn Becks of the world, Pastor John Hagee, ex-Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Fr. C. John McCloskey of Opus Dei..We see their images in print, on blogs, on TV and sometimes–in the mirror.
There are defenses against Satan and his works. The usual antidote to pride is its opposite–humility–but one that springs from a willingness and effort to accommodate different kinds of people and stay together in bonds of prayer and friendship.
Adso observed: “We are fragile creatures, I said to myself; even among these learned and devout monks the Evil One spreads petty envies, forments subtle hostilities, but all these are as smoke then dispersed by the strong wind of faith, the moment all gather in the name of the Father, and Christ descends into their midst.”
On March 16, 2010 the Holy See announced that Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Newman on September 19, 2010. The location for the Mass hasn’t been decided yet, but the site of the former MG Rover factory is now the â€œpreferred venueâ€ for Benedict XVIâ€™s beatification of Cardinal Newman. It is easier for security, and is closer to the place where Cardinal Newman will be venerated: Birmingham Oratory. One of the concelebrants of the Mass is sure to be the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminister and head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
In preparation for his beatification, in October 2008 authorities opened Cardinal Newman’s grave to exhume and rebury his body. Gay rights activists protested the separation of Newman from his longtime companion with whom he shared his burial place. The idea of Catholic pilgrims going to the gravesite of two men to venerate one of them as a “Blessed” was too uncomfortable for church authorities to tolerate.
In a queer coincidence on the eve of Newman’s beatification, Birmingham Oratory experienced an upheaval over a relationship between the provost of the Oratory and a young man. Their relationship appeared to echo Cardinal Newman’s relationship with a priest, Fr. Ambrose St John a century before.
At the heart of the conflict are the allegations surrounding a close but chaste friendship between the former Provost of Birmingham Oratory, Fr. Paul Chavasse, and a young man. Fr. Chavasse had also served as Actor for the Cause of Newman’s canonization. He has been replaced in both positions by the Very Rev. Richard Duffield.
“Around 2 1/2 years ago, in the autumn of 2007, Fr. Chavasse began to form an intense but physically chaste friendship with a young man, then aged 20, which the Fathers of Birmingham Oratory regarded as imprudent,” an Oratory spokesman said. The young man had been rejected as a candidate for the priesthood, and Fr. Chavasse had complained on his behalf. Fr. Chavasse assured skeptical members of the community that he was not sexually involved with anyone, but these men continued to confront Fr. Chavasse and informed Rome of their concerns and suspicions.
Fr. Felix Seldon was appointed to conduct an “apostolic visitation” of the Birmingham Oratory. Here is the upshot:
– Fr. Paul Chavasse “willingly” resigned as Provost of the Oratory and also as Actor for the Cause of Newman’s canonization in December 2010 – less than a year before Newman’s beatification. He was directed to leave for a long retreat, or a fund raising trip to America–depending on which news story you read. Anyway, he’s vanished.
– The three members of the Birmingham Oratory that complained the loudest about Fr. Chavasse–Fr. Philip Cleevely, Fr. Dermont Fenlon and Br. Lewis Berry have been ordered “to spend time in prayer for an indefinite period” in religious houses hundreds of miles apart. No date was given for their return to the Birmingham Oratory.
An Oratory spokesman downplayed the homosexual allegations of the conflict. He explained there had been disagreements in the community how best to approach the beautification of their founder, Cardinal Newman. Fr. Fenlon, Fr. Cleevely and Br. Lewis were described on one blog as “known upholders of tradition and conservative Catholic values.” They have publicly opposed an interpretation of Cardinal Newman as a patron of conscientious dissent. As a theologian, Cardinal Newman played an important role in developing the modern formulation of the primacy of conscience, which is of fundamental importantance to gay and lesbian Catholics who reject in good conscience the standard teaching on sexuality.
The three men have also publicly protested the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales lack of vigorous opposition to sex education and relationships policy in schools put in place by the British government. Archbishop Vincent Nichols is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He previously served as Archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009.
Bishops of any stripe don’t appreciate publicity-seeking troublemakers. With the halogen glare that will accompany the pope’s visit in September, I’m not surprised all four men were sent packing to distant monasteries.
Questions about Cardinal Newman’s sexuality revived when he was exhumed in 2008.
Newman, a founder and member of the Birmingham Oratory, was buried in the small cemetery at Rednal near the Oratory County house. At his request, he was buried with Fr. Ambrose St John.
At the request of the Vatican, the British government gave permission for the cardinal’s remains to be transferred from Rednal into a sarcophagus that will stand between the marble columns opposite the Holy Souls’ Altar in Birmingham Oratory Church. The Vatican is understood to have made the request so that Roman Catholic pilgrims could come and pray at Newman’s tomb. It is not traditional for veneration to occur at shared tombs.
Responding to recent insinuations in the British press that Cardinal John Henry Newman was gay and was an intellectual forefather of today’s dissenters from Catholic teaching, Fr. Ian Ker, the author of the “definitive” biography of Newman, called the claims that the cardinal was gay are “absolute rubbish.” He says there is “irrefutable evidence of Newman’s heterosexuality.”
This evidence rests in the “sacrifice” to a life of celibacy to which Newman felt he had been called at age 15. “A modern reader should not need to be reminded that in 19th century England homosexuality was illegal and generally considered to be immoral,” wrote Fr. Ker. “The only ‘sacrifice’ that Newman could possibly been referring to was that of marriage,” he said.
In a article entitled “John Henry Newman and the sacrifice of celibacy,” published in L’Osservatore Romano on September 3, 2009, Fr. Ker comments that “the decision to exhume the body of Venerable John Henry Newman has provoked reactions, in particular on the part of the homosexual lobby.” According to Ker, this “protest” carries the idea that “Newman wanted to be buried with his friend because he had some kind of bond with him or something more than just a simple friendship.”
When Fr. Ambrose St John, who was 14 years his junior, died in 1875, Newman compared his own grief to that of a husband’s for a wife. “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or wife’s, but I feel it is difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone’s sorrow greater, than mine.”
Newman wrote in his diary about Fr. St John’s love for him: “From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.” He later added: “As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last…he was my earthly light.”
The cardinal repeated on three occasions his desire to be buried with his friend, including shortly before his death in 1890. “I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John’s grave – and I give this as my last, my imperative will,” he wrote, later adding: “This I confirm and insist on.”
The two men had a joint memorial stone that is inscribed with the words he had chosen: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth.”)
British gay rights activist Mr. Peter Tatchell observed: “It is impossible to know whether or not the relationship between Newman and St John involved sexual relations. Equally, it is impossible to know that it did not.”
“To be fair and to err on the side of caution, given both men’s rather orthodox religious beliefs,they probably did not have a sexual relationship. It is likely that they had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does not, however, alter a person’s orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate hteir gayness into spiritual and artistic pursuits, and into strong, intense platonic same-sex relationships, which is probably what Newman and St John did.”
“But many of these platonic relationships were, in fact, expressions of latent homosexuality which never fund physical expression because the men concerned lived in a homophobic culture where they either had no conception of the possiblity of same-sex love or, for religious reasons, dared ot express this love sexually.”
“Ker’s article is full of bald assertions that Newman was heterosexual, but it offers no proof or evidence. It dismisses the possibility that the Cardinal could have had a relationship with St John and even condemns the plausible suggestion that he might have been gay and celibate.”
The history of the Catholic Church is littered with popes, cardinals, bishops and priests who were secretly gay. Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, about one-quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship?”
The sexuality of Newman has long been a subject for conjucture. Charles Kingsley’s famous attack on Newman for his dishonesty, insincerity and sexual ambiguity. Kingsley compared Rome’s Catholic descendants as treacherous and effeminate and the pagan Germanic people or their English Protestant descendants as honest, trustworthy, and physically strong defenders of truth. When in 1864 Kingsley asserted that “truth, for its own sake had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy . . . [and] Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not to be; that cunning is the weapon which Heaven has given to the saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world which marries and is given in marriage,” Newman roared back with his seminal work Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
John Henry Newman’s first steps toward Roman Catholicism came from his participation, study and writings as part of the Oxford Movement. This religious movement began 1833 by Anglican clergymen at Oxford University to renew the Church of England by reviving certain Roman Catholic doctrines and rituals. This attempt to stir the Established Church into new life arose among a group of spiritual leaders in Oriel College, Oxford. Prominent among them were John Henry Newman Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude died in 1836 at the age of 33. Newman, 35 years old at the time, was profoundly moved by his death.
The idea that the Oxford Movement contained a significant stream of homoeroticism was popularized by Sir Geoffrey Faber in the book Oxford Apostles – A Character Study of the Oxford Movement, published in 1933. One commentator declared, “Of the mutually feminine attachment which bound Newman and Froude together, there is no need to say more.”
In his journal of the late 1820s Froude records his struggle against “vile affections” and, referring to an unnamed undergraduate private pupil, cautions himself “above all (to) watch and pray against being led out of the way by the fascination of his society.”
Newman’s poems of the 1830s echo similar themes (“A Blight”), but also use well-known Biblical male pairs to make suggestive homosexual statements (“David and Jonathan” and especially “James and John,” with its reference to a state where “man may one with man remain.”
To his elegiac poem, “Separation of Friends,” Newman added these final lines after the death of Froude in February 1836:
“Ah! dearest, with a word he could dispel
All questioning, and raise
Our hearts to rapture, whispering all was well,
And turning prayer to praise.
And other secrets too he could declare,
By patterns all divine,
His earthly creed retouching here and there,
And deepening every line.
Dearest! he longs to speak as I to know,
And yet we both refrain:
It were not good; a little doubt below,
And all will soon be plain.”
“But isn’t it about time,” said one commenter on a British news site, “that the Church stopped all this hypocritical nonsense and admit that the man they are about to beatify was gay, and that he was in loved with Fr Ambrose St John to the extent where they even wanted to get buried together. They may well have lived chaste lives and suppressed their sexuality successfully, but you cannot get around the content of the letters passing between the two of them.”
“And instead of branding Newman as ‘intrinsically disordered’, and effectively saying that he should never have been a priest, let alone a Cardinal, as the current regime would have to say, they should celebrate the life of a wonderful thinker, a truly gifted writer, and a man who was not ashamed to express his love for another man while at the same time observing a celibate life.”
“I can’t believe the irrational and inhuman knots this hierarchy ties itself up in.”
These two books provide interesting reading on Cardinal Newman’s sexuality and careful expression: in The Friend (2003) the late historian Alan Bray presented major research on the relationship between Newman and St John, sifting thorugh the Cardinal’s diary, letters and notes. Secret Selves: Confession and Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography (2009) by Oliver Buckton argues that literary “secrecy”–the very act of holding back information in a novel or memoir–was a primary and provocative indicator of Victorian homosexuality. One of the works he examines in his book is Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
A great deal more can be said by quite consciously saying much less.
My first Nihil Obstat post about Cardinal Newman – “Keep it Secret” – can be found here.
Jesuit priest Bob Carter’s obituary appeared in the New York Times on March 15, 2010. He was 82 when he died. I hadn’t heard about him in years, even through grapevine gossip from old Dignity friends.
Probably the last time I saw him was in the early ’90s at a Dignity event. I was part of a panel for Dignity New York’s 20th or 25th anniversary. They invited all the “outlaws” and other colorful characters from the past to bring their remembrances. Andy Humm was there and a member of the panel with me. I remember I sat next to John McNeill. I dressed up. It was probably the first and only time I was in a skirt at Dignity.
Bob Carter must have been on the panel, too. He was very much in the same mold as McNeill. He was a strong voice for gays in the Church, but “gay” meant “gay men.” McNeill didn’t have much use for women, and neither did Bob Carter.
McNeill had, as I recall, had one tiny section dedicated to the issues facing lesbians in the Catholic church in his famous and seminal book, The Church and the Homosexual. McNeill said, “I don’t know very much about lesbians, so I can’t write about them.” Unfortunately, he didn’t try to learn either. Mainly, I think, because women weren’t part of his life and he wasn’t particularly interested in them or struggles relevant to them, namely inclusive language and priesthood.
A lot had changed since those heady and turbulent days of the ’80s. Many Dignity members from that time had died from AIDS. Dignity had changed a lot of its language and attitudes to be more inclusive and welcoming of lesbian Catholics. Being thrown out of St. Francis Xavier Church had an impact. Not being able to congregate in a Catholic church with other priests, ex-seminarians and gay Catholic men helped to torpedo the homophile aspect of Dignity and bring them out into the wider world of outsiders. Once that happened it became a friendlier place to women, although it’s still mostly men. However, that’s not Dignity’s fault. By the late ’80s and 1990s most Catholic lesbians had given up on organized religion as too sexist and homophobic.
The Times obituary was a very good article on Carter and there is little I can add to it. You can read it here.
A picture of him marching in a gay pride day parade in full Roman collar with three other priests was used in the obituary. I would guess that photo was taken in 1981 or 1982. I remember it well — I was marching with them as part of Dignity New York. Besides Bob Carter and Fr. McNeill, Fr. Bernie Lynch marched in his collar, and another priest from Dignity who I recognize, but can’t member his name. I recall that he was a nice guy.
I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly brave it was for those four men to march at the head of the Dignity chapter in full Roman collars. It was a deliberate statement: we are Catholic priests. We are ministering to and members of an organization dedicated to full inclusion of gays in the Church. That active clergy expressed solidarity with gay and lesbian Catholics (just as Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Bob Nugent did with New Ways Ministry), gave heart to a generation of gay Catholic activists, their families and friends, and lent a certain credibility and sanction to efforts to change the church.
I will always remember that march, and the applause and roars of approval as the Dignity banner was proudly carried down Fifth Avenue to the Village. The four priests and Dignity group were applauded the entire line of the march. We applauded back at demonstrations of support.
Bob, (it was never Father Bob) saw no contradiction in being Christian and homosexual: “Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”
That statement was vintage Bob Carter: the bravery and the homophile self-centeredness. That is what the men Bob Carter ministered to in the ’70s and ’80 wanted more than anything–a church that would accept them totally for who they were. For the most part, they were faithful, devout, traditionalist Catholics in every way – except for the fact that they were gay.
So I applaud Bob Carter for the work he did. I just wish he would have taken his gay activism up a notch to address the injustices lesbian Catholics had to face – the lack of access to power, and the lack of visibility in liturgical language.
As a Dignity New York board member, Bob Carter approved women speaking from the pulpit, so long as their sermons were called “non-homilies.” The homily was only reserved for priests. Gay or not.
On the night of Monday, May 4, 1998, Swiss Guard Lance Corporate Cedric Tornay, 23, killed Lt. Col. Alois Estermann, 43, and his Venezuelan wife, Gladys Meza Romero, 49. After they were dead, Tornay knelt, put his service revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
The Vatican handled the autopsy and investigation of the crime by itself, without asking for help from Italian officials. They considered the case clear-cut. “It was a fit of madness in a person with very peculiar psychological characteristics,” papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the day after the killings. “That is the only hypothesis,” a Vatican official confirmed. “There is no reason to advance any alternative.”
Estermann and his wife were given a splendid funeral, concelebrated by 16 cardinals and 30 bishops. Before the service, Pope John Paul II made a point of praying at all three caskets, which were displayed, side by side, for viewing. Tornay was given a separate funeral in a chapel in the small church of St. Anne’s.
Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano said the Requiem Mass for Col. Estermann and his wife at St. Peter’s Basillica, a rare honor for laymen. In his homily Cardinal Sodano said, “In times like these we feel above all the need to be silent.” The Estermanns had been married 16 years. They did not have any children.
The official explanation of their deaths didn’t make sense to people who knew Cedric Tornay. A flurry of articles and books followed the murders.
Bugie di sangue di Vatican (Blood Lies in the Vatican) by the “Disciples of Truth” was printed by a tiny publisher in Milan. It was reputed to have been written by a group of disaffected priests inside the Vatican. They claimed that Estermann was the victim of a struggle for control of the Swiss Guard – which had been in charge of papal security for the past five centuries – between the secretive, traditionalist Catholic movement Opus Dei and a masonic power faction ensconced in the Curia. Estermann and his wife were members of Opus Dei. The director of the Holy See press office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, is a member as well.
John Follain, a British investigative journalist and Sunday Times correspondent for Italy and the Vatican authored City of Secrets: The Truth behind the murders at the Vatican. It was published in 2003 by William Morrow & Co. He followed several threads in trying to establish a motive for the murder. One of them was a homosexual love affair gone sour.
One source Follain met and interviewed was Italian writer and art historian, professor Massimo Lacchei. In his 1999 book, Verbum Dei, Verbum Gay (God’s Word, Gay Word) Lacchei offers ten short stories about homosexuality in the ranks of Catholic clergy. The book would have passed generally unnoticed had Lacchei not called a press conference to announce that the two Swiss guard officers in the chapter “Mass in a Private Chapel” were in fact Estermann and Tornay. In the book they appeared as “Major Jorg” and “Lieutenant Kaspar.” “This is not fiction, they (the stories) are based on real encounters” Lacchei told reporters.
The story is an account, spiced up with a couple of lewd ancedotes, of an all-male party Lacchei attended in 1997 at the home of an elderly and important Roman politician. The most eagerly awaited guests were two officers of the Swiss Guard. The story opens with the guests waiting expectantly for the two officers. They arrive, Mass is celebrated, and then, over a meal, the others sit in rapt attention as they relate the story of their relationship.
Lacchei said he had no proof that the two Swiss Guards were lovers, but their presence at the gay brunch–and their behavior there–certainy made him think so. “They were so intimate and friendly for a subordinate and a captain,” he said. Lacchei told Follain of a second, chance meeting with Tornay in April 1998, a month before his death. Lacchei had been out walking his dog on the Via della Conciliazione, the avenue leading to St. Peter’s, when he saw Tornay and invited him home. Tornay confided that Estermann had betrayed him. He saw Estermann in an embrace with another guard in the changing rooms of the barracks. “I can forgive, but never forget” Tornay said.
A former Vatican employee told Follain a story about a homosexual chaplain of the Swiss Guard. The chaplain had several affairs with members of the corps. Whenever his advances were rebuffed, he would dress himself in civilian clothes and go to Roma Termini Station to find male prostitutes. “The ex-employee told me,” Follain related, “that a Swiss Guard plucked up his courage and complained about him to the elderly, wheelchair-bound Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, who has been the pope’s closest friend ever since they studied at the seminary together. ‘We will do nothing,” Deskur muttered. ‘The chaplain is digging his own grave.'” The chaplain later died of AIDS.
As Tornay and Estermann’s relationship deteriorated, Estermann began to persecute Tornay. Estermann’s refusal to grant Cedric Tornay the Benemeriti medal for three-years service–a routine award– may have sparked the killings. Hurt and fustrated, there was no where Tornay could go to unburden or be heard. He could not discuss his relationship with Estermann. Officially, homosexuals do not exist in the Swiss Guard. “I had no choice but to hid my homosexuality,” said an ex-guardsman named Steiner. “I soon realized that the only way to survive as a homosexual in the heart of the Church was to keep it invisible.”
Tall and thin, with a short-cropped sandy beard, Steiner did not return to Switzerland after his service but stayed in Rome and opened up a flower shop. “Some people choose to live in the Vatican because for them it is like living in a giant, protective cocoon,” he said. “But for many people life in the Vatican is just a big pretense, because the truth is that under all those cassocks and the robes there are individuals who want to live normal lives, who have desires that are absolutely normal–including sexual ones.”
Vatican spokesman Vavarro-Valls took pains to deny rumors of a sexual motive for the killings. Navarro, who said he had known the Estermanns well, insisted: “”They were a model couple. The fact that they didn’t have children wasn’t important, because they dedicated their time to charity work.”
Others disagreed. “The relationship could not be other than one of a homosexual nature,” Ida Magli, a prominent anthropologist, told the Roman daily Il Messaggero. “”The Holy See wanted to close a case in a hurry, perhaps out of a need to hide a sad, worrisome truth.”
The January edition of the Magnificat included the story of St. Reinold, religious and marytr (980 c.) He died at the hands of stone masons and later came to be venerated as their patron saint.
There are various versions of his life and martyrdom. St. Reinhold may have been a monk, a knight, a pilgrim–or all three. He may be a fabrication of several different people, stories and legends. Even his murder may have several explanations.
Version I: Reinold was a Benedictine monk of the monastery of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne, Germany. He was entrusted with the duty of overseeing the construction work to complete the abbey.
Reinold was murdered by the stone masons working on the building. They beat him to death with their hammers and threw his body into a pool of water near the Rhine river.
In one telling, Reinold is killed due to his “over-strenuous diligence,” which incurred the hostility and bitter resentment of the stone masons. In a second account, he was murdered by stone masons who were annoyed that Reinold worked harder and with more skill then they did.
Reinold’s fellow monks were unable to find his body until its whereabouts were made known in a private revelation to an infirm poor woman. His body was taken to the abbey and buried with honor.
Version II: St. Reinold was drawn from the story of Renaud, the youngest son of Duke Aymon of France. He was supposedly a descendant of the sister of Charlemagne, and the 4th son mentioned in William Caxton’s romantic poem, Romance of the Foure Sonnes of Aymon.
The four sons of Duke Aymon are Renaud, Richard, Alard and Guiscard, and their cousin is the sorcerer, Maugis. Maugis was raised by the enchantress Oriande la Fee. He won the magical horse Bayard–who could understand human speech–and the sword Froberge which he later gave to Renaud.
The oldest extant version of the story of Renaud de Montauban and his cousin, Magris, was the anonymous Old French chanson de geste Quatre Fils Aymon which dates from the late 12th c.
In the tale, Renaud and his three brothers were sons of Aymon of Dordone. They flee from the court of Charlemagne after Renaud kills another of Charlemagne’s nephews in a brawl over a chess game. Renaud kills the man by battering him with a chess board. A long war follows, during which Renaud and his brothers remain faithful to the Christian chivalric code.
The four brothers are pardoned on the condition Renaud go to the Holy Land on crusade (or on a pilgrimage), and their magical horse Bayard, who could expand his size to carry all four brothers, be surrendered to Charlemagne.
Charlemagne orders Bayard to be drowned by chaining it to a stone and throwing it in the river Meuse, but the horse escapes and lives forever more in the Ardennes forests.
After further adventures soldiering in the Holy Land, Renaud returns home. On his return he abandons his home and gives himself up to religion. He eventually makes his way to Cologne and enters the monastery of St. Pantaleon, where be works as a mason on the Church of St. Peter. He is murdered by jealous fellow masons. His body is miraculously saved from the river and magically makes its way home to his brothers in a cart.
In art, St. Reinold is depicted with armor, reflecting the tradition that he had been a soldier before entering monastic life. He is also shown as a Benedictine monk with a stone mason’s hammer; as a monk being killed by stone masons, and as a dead monk being thrown in water.
Besides his identity, I have three other mysteries to solve: 1) why was he murdered; 2) why was he named a saint; and strangest of all, 3) Why he was named a patron saint of the group of people who killed him?
Here are my two versions:
Story 1: Brother Reinold is two people: pious in prayer and a mean, overbearing, and cruel overseer. Hatred and resentment build up among the stone masons he supervises. He oversteps his bounds one day, striking, kicking or punishing someone he bullies to push them to work harder. The man or his friend strikes back in self defense or in a fury. The others finish the job and try to get rid of the body. A local poor woman knows where the body was disposed, and tells the monks the place came to her in a dream from God. The monks find the body and attribute it to divine revelation. They don’t pursue the killers because they know Reinold was a creep and they need their abbey completed. Over the years, long after all the murderers and monks are dead, Brother Reinhold becomes a patron saint of stone masons because he was associated with them, and his *martyrdom* came at their hands.
Story 2: A former warrior named Renaud shows up at the Monastery of St. Pantaleon in Cologne after soldiering in the Holy Land. They can’t pronounce his French name and it comes out sounding like “Reinold.” He comes from an aristocratic family, a descendant of the legendary Charlemagne, and cousin to a famous sorcerer. He makes sure everybody knows it, and the fact he has given it all up to follow a monastic life. He is tough, skilled and hard, and drives himself and everyone around him with a religious zeal. Newly devout, Renaud hectors the other half-pagan stone masons about their lives and picks fights with them. One day, they turn on him in a group and kill him. The body is never found, although local legend has it returning to France in a magical cart–derived, no doubt, from his stories about his horse, Bayard.
Could there have been a darker meaning behind his death? Some historical evidence points to a Christian-Pagan clash or ritual: according to the book, The Ciphers of the Monks by David A. King, German stone mason’s marks (Steinmetzzeichen) were often based on the runes. They chiseled these marks into the stones, especially the foundation stone, as their signature. I can see how that would fill a zealous Christian with horror and anger–an affront to the consecration of the building.
Two hundred years earlier another Benedictine, St. Boniface, was bludgeoned and hacked to death for insulting the gods.
Medieval people also used “foundation sacrifices” or burials to ensure the stability of a building–castle, bridge and sometimes, churches. They also had a tradition of sacrificing people to placate the spirits of a place. The sacrificed person, in turn, became its protector. Often these were children, sometimes adults, who were entombed alive within the structure. In other sacrifices a dead person was thrown into a pool of water as a votive offering. Could this been what happened to Reinold?
If a monk-mason named Reinold ever existed, and whatever the reasons were behind his death, ultimately the church profited by his romantic and legendary associations. Over time he became “St. Reinold,” martyred for the faith by fellow stone masons jealous of his example.
In one of those delicious ironies the Catholic Church is so famous for, he becomes their patron saint and protector.
I did notice that mason’s hammers bear a strong resemblance to Mjollnir, the hammer of Thor. Just a coincidence, or a subtle clue to his killers?
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.”
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.
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.”
Thumbing through my copy of Magnificat in church last week, I came upon the story of Saint Ethelfleda. Her tale breathes a warm, oddball humanity–in contrast to the usual Magnificat fare of sanctity, torture and grim death for aspiring saints.
Saint Ethelfleda is someone I can relate to: swims naked, prays outdoors, entertains generously, and inspires young people.
Here are her miracles of renown, and those of her teenage admirer – who went on to surpass her in weird tales.
Saint Ethelfleda (c.930 – Feast Day – October 23) was a member of the Anglo-Saxon nobility. Following the death of her husband, she spent the rest of her life as abbess of Romsey. Her devotional acts included chanting psalms while standing naked in the cold water of the River Test.
One day, as Ethelfleda was preparing for a visit from her kinsman, King Athelstan, the royal chamberlain arrived in advance to see if she had the provisions necessary to host the king and his large retinue. Upon being informed by the chamberlain that she lacked an adequate supply of ale, Ethefleda answered, “My patroness, the Virgin Mother, will send me an abundance of ale.” She thereupon withdrew to an oratory of the Blessed Virgin, where she ardently prayed for heavenly intervention.
When on the next day the king and his men arrived after attending Mass, Ethelfleda’s modest barrel of ale supplied all they wanted without running dry.
Her legend also tells that she spent time with the king and queen at court, where Ethelfleda’s habit–for “ascetic reasons” –of bathing in the nude at night was the occasion of the queen’s nervous illness, brought on by the queen’s “indiscreet curiosity” when she followed her to see where she went. The queen was afterward cured by the abbess’ intercession.
The Magnificat story ended by saying the elderly Ethelfleda was frequently visited by a teenage boy who drew inspiration from her example. The youth was the future abbot of Glastonbury and archbishop of Canterbury – Saint Dunstan.
Saint Dunstan (909?-May 19, 988, Feast Day – May 19) was born near Glastonbury and lived for a time in the household of Saint Ethelfleda’s kinsman, King Athelstan. The dreamy young man became a great favorite of the king, his relatives and other members of the court became jealous and envious. They accused Dunstan of studying heathen literature and black magic, and prevailed upon the king to order him to leave the court.
As he was departing Dunstan was attacked. According to various accounts, he was beaten and thrown in a duck pond or cesspool, where his enemies pushed him face down in the muck.
He fled to Winchester and entered the service of Bishop Aelfheah the Bald, who endeavored to persuade him to become a monk. Dunstan was doubtful about whether or not he had the vocation to celibate life, but an outbreak of tumors all over his body–probably from blood-poisoning caused by the treatment to which he had been subjected, changed his mind.
He made his profession at the hands of St. Aelfheah (“Elf-high”) and returned to live the life of a hermit at Glastonbury, working on his forge and playing his harp. Here the Devil is supposed to have appeared to tempt him, and Dunstan seized him with his blacksmith tongs and made him promise never to enter a house with a horseshoe over the doorway.
Dunstan also worked as a silversmith and in the scriptorium while he was living at Glastonbury. Dunstan drew his own self-portrait in the small, kneeling monk beside Christ in the Glastonbury Classbook. The inscription reads: “I ask you, merciful Christ, to watch over me, Dunstan. May you not permit the Taenarian storms to swallow me.”
Did Saint Dunstan delve into occult practices in his youth? Perhaps. It has been speculated that his famous fight with the Devil was in fact a battle with his own desire to fully resume his former practices and studies.
The sketch in his own hand showing Dunstan holding the hem of Christ’s garment; and his petition for Christ’s aid to save him from the underworld–or Hell–may be more illuminating than we realize about his inner and outer life.
The “heathen literature” Saint Dunstan studied when he was younger may have been some Irish manuscripts describing druid practices and beliefs that survived Saint Patrick’s efforts at destroying all of them. His early education was received from Irish monks at Glastonbury. Dunstan obviously had access to manuscripts by Ovid or other ancient Greeks with his reference to “Taenarian storms” – Taenarius or Taenarus is the path or gateway to the underworld or Hades.
At least one person thought St. Dunstan might have practiced or dabbled in magic: William Godwin (1756-1836) , who included him in his book, Lives Of The Necromancers: Or An Account Of The Most Eminent Persons In Successive Ages, Who Have Claimed For Themselves, Or To Whom Has Been Imputed By Others, The Exercise Of Magical Power. The book was published in 1834. The other necromancer of ancient Britain Godwin cited was Merlin.
Goodwin asserted that at least one of Saint Dunstan’s “miracles” was really magic. As the story goes Eadmund, a young king of 18, sought the advice of Dunstan, but the jealousy of the courtiers was aroused and he was driven from court.
“For, a few days later, the king rode out to hunt the stag in Mendip Forest. He became separated from his attendants and followed a stag at great speed in the direction of the Cheddar cliffs. The stag rushed blindly over the precipice and was followed by the hounds. Eadmund endeavoured vainly to stop his horse; then, seeing death to be imminent, he remembered his harsh treatment of St. Dunstan and promised to make amends if his life was spared. At that moment his horse was stopped on the very edge of the cliff. Giving thanks to God, he returned forthwith to his palace, called for St. Dunstan and bade him follow, then rode straight to Glastonbury. Entering the church, the king first knelt in prayer before the altar, then, taking St. Dunstan by the hand, he gave him the kiss of peace, led him to the abbot’s throne and, seating him thereon, promised him all assistance in restoring Divine worship and regular observance.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
At that time Dunstan was 19 or 20 years old. He became the Keeper of the Treasure and the chief adviser to the king. When his royal friend was stabbed in May 946 by the outlaw Leof, the abbot buried him in the abbey.
It sounds like a spell Merlin would have concocted to change the king’s heart.
A counselor to successive kings, Dunstan continued to have potentially fatal run-ins with them. On the day of his coronation in 956, newly crowned King Eadwig left his banquet to join two women in bed–the king’s foster-mother, and her daughter, Aelfgifu. Dunstan followed in a fury and dragged the startled king back to the hall and his knights. The episode, no surprise, led to Dunstan’s exile and flight for his life.
Besides the number of times he was thrown out of court and then restored, Dunstan’s life was notable for the number of visions of angels and demons, including a warning by angels that he would die within three days. He did.
“..for all his life this unique and marvellous man had revelation of things distant in space and in time, and his happy spirit, full of the artist, metal-worker, lover of tunes and gay, lived on the edge of this world; the good and the evil of the unseen supported and attracted him as they do such few as are placed on the outposts of humanity.” (Hilaire Belloc, History of England)
For the last several months I have been contemplating observing the Sabbath as a day without “servile” work: answering email, mapping out projects, running errands, getting a head start on the week–stuff I do every Sunday.
Beginning tomorrow, the Sabbath–Sunday– will be spent relaxing: nothing planned, nothing scheduled–just enjoying the day as it unfolds.
I have been very hesitant to make a commitment to a “work-less” Sunday. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about not being busy, organizing the day with a list of things to do and accomplish.
But the racing around didn’t make me feel better–it made me feel less.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to ask a fellow blogger, Benny the Bridgebuilder from Bulls, if he knew where I could get a copy of Cardinal Suenens remarks on stress and leisure.
Benny very kindly send me a pdf of the article How to Relax, which appeared on page 25 of the final commemorative issue of The Word, published December 2008. The original article by Cardinal Suenens appeared in the August 1965 edition.
Here are some excerpts I found especially relevant to my situation. It was almost as if Cardinal Suenens took some time to sit down and talk to me about my life:
“Modern life is lived at high tension; its pace is intense and nerves get frayed. Whatever it costs, we must learn how to stop, when we need to, and draw a quiet breath. Many solve the problems of necessary recreation by taking more holidays. This is a step forward. But we must still learn how to relax, how to avoid being unbalanced by amusements, how to measure how this rhythm of fatigue and repose in the required mixture.”
“In order to acquire this art, we must learn particularly how to take advantage of the little opportunities life has to offer and become children at heart again. We must not live at such an intensive, hustling pace that we no longer have time to – have time. To be relaxed makes one accessible to others.”
“We must learn, or re-learn, to have time. Our Lord himself did not want His Apostles to live in a state of perpetual tension. He urged them to “come away into a quiet place” – “rest a little”, He said to them on days after they had finished their apostolic missions. In the wilderness and in solitude, He revealed to them the best of Himself and His message.”
“We stand in need of rest – in the ordinary sense of the word, and also rest in God. We must find a place for Him in the bustle of the day; a place for private prayer, for slow and mediative reading. We need this ‘oxygen.’ It is one of our vital necessities.”
“We need to get our breath back. That is why the Church is so insistent on Sunday being kept as a holy day; a day for public worship, certainly, but also a day of rest.”
“We must detach ourselves from our work, but only in order to attach ourselves more firmly to the one thing needful. We must stop, like the Alpine climber who has reached a high peak, to take breath for a moment, admire the view, fill our lungs with fresh air and go on to the next peak.”
“Sunday is the day to halt so that we can resume our march with a firmer tread. Do not let us neglect to fix our gaze on the sky until we can see the stars there. We make much better headway here on earth when we have a sense of direction and move forward with a firm step on solid ground. Looking at the heavens is the form of relaxation we can least dispense with if we want to keep things in their perspective and make the world a better place to live.”
Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens (1904-1996) served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, Belgium, from 1961-1979. He was made a cardinal in 1962. Suenens was a leading voice at the Second Vatican Council.
In May 1969 he offered a passionate critique of the Roman Curia during an interview with Informations Catholiques Internationales. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, a high official at the Vatican, demanded he retract his remarks. Suenens refused.
Ten years later, Cardinal Suenens reflected on the event and said, “There are times when loyalty demands more than keeping in step with an old piece of music. As far as I am concerned loyalty is a different kind of love. And this demands that we accept responsibility for the whole and serve the Church with as much courage and candor as possible.”
– Benny, thank you so much for sending me the article. It really helped me.
Lesbian and gay saints have contributed in their individual ways to the life of the Church. Two examples are Saint Alcuin, who openly professed his emotional and sexual passion for several brother monks; and Saint Bridget of Ireland, who deeply loved the young nun, Darlughdach, who slept with her and sometimes functioned as her ambassador.
There are also gay icons–the handsome youth, Saint Sebastian, and Saint Joan, a woman who dressed herself in men’s clothing, became a warrior, and defied the gender role and expectations of her time.
Of course, there is also Saint Peter Damien with his fixation on gay male sex. He is the epitome of a self-hating homosexual who persecutes others of his kind in order to avoid detection, and punish the objects of his own desire.
Here are two clues to help identify gay and lesbian saints: 1) did they enter religious life partially to avoid marriage; and 2) does part of their story involve a special “friend” they had in religious life?
Today’s lesson: Saint Galla of Rome.
In his Dialogues, Pope Saint Gregory the Great speaks of a holy woman of Rome named Galla, who had been married for less than a year when her husband died. Refusing to remarry, the young widow resolved to devote the rest of her life to God. To protect her beauty againt men’s attention, it is said she disguised herself as a man and God gave her a beard.(!)
Joining with a community of women living near St. Peter’s Basilica, caring for the poor and sick, this wealthy and pious woman founded a convent and a hospital. She is reputed to have once healed a young deaf and mute girl by blessing some water, and having the girl drink from it.
As she lay stricken with breast cancer, Galla kept two candles burning each night at the foot of her bed, for Gregory explains, “She hated darkness, being a friend of light, physical as well as spiritual light.”
It was between these two candles that one night the Apostle Saint Peter appeared in a vision to Galla. The dying woman asked him: “Have my sins been forgiven?” Smiling, Peter nodded yes and answered, “They are forgiven. Come.”
But Saint Galla now requested, “I beg you to let Sister Benedicta come with me.” Peter told her, “Sister Benedicta will follow you in thirty days.” Three days later, Galla died, and a month later, Benedicta.
Rest together in peace.
Death: c. 550 A.D.
Feast Day: October 5
I spent part of Friday afternoon poking around in an old marine salvage store in town. Along with time-crusted anchors, portholes sporting blistered paint, antique lanterns and knives, and leather bracelets sailors used to wear when they mended sails, the store has a selection of old books. That’s where I head first.
A title caught my eye, “The Wreck on the Half-Moon Reef.” It was written by Hugh Edwards, the Australian diver who found the wreck in 1966. The book was published in 1970.
I pulled it off the shelf and opened it to read the jacket. The book was the account of the wreck of the 38-gun Dutch East Indiaman Zeewyk in 1727 on the savage reefs around the Abrolhos Islands. “The lookout thought that the surf on the Half-Moon Reef was ‘moonlight.’ The result was a quick death for some, a slow death for others, and the torture and execution of two youths for the ‘stupid sin’ of sodomy.”
It’s rare a nautical history includes a full chapter describing a sodomy trial and execution. I bought the book.
Chapter 12, The Stupid Sin, begins: “The two sodomy-accused boys were doomed from the moment that the eager informants burst into the officers’ tent with the news.” The youths, it seems that they were not older than their mid to late teens at the most, had been accused of a homosexual act. The “stupid sin” as the Dutch called it.
One of the officers, Adriaan van der Grafee, kept a journal during the voyage and recorded their trial and punishment.
“December 1st, 1727: At eight o’clock in the morning the Petty Officers enter our tent and ask to see the Skipper, and inform him that two hands named Adriaen Spoor from St. Maertensdyck, and Pieter Engels, from Ghent, both boys, were found yesterday committing together the abominable sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The boys were spotted by several others having sex in broad daylight, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon according to the account.
The white-faced boys were brought to the officers’ tent, “But they were not willing to make a confession. Wherefore we placed burning fuses between all their fingers. But being obstinate they would no more confess. So upon due consideration we resolved with the entire Council and consent of the Common Hands, to place these men apart on one of the northernmost islands.”
Marooning, death by exposure or drowning. That is what the verdict meant.
The youths were rowed across to one of the tiny cays at the north-eastern corner of the island group, about eleven miles away from the wrecked Half-Moon, and set on separate islands. The boat, with an official party of two petty officers, a boatswain and six unnamed seaman, then put about and left them to die.
The place they were left is known today as the Mangrove Islands. Hugh Edwards describes them: “Mere nodules of coral slates and spikey bushes raised four feet above the surrounding reefs. There is no water on them. No food, Deep channels run between islets and if they youths could not swim they would have been prisoners, each on his own rock until they died from sun and thirst, or went mad with despair and flung themselves in the water. In any event, death must have overtaken them within a day or two.”
Van der Graeff does not record in his diary whether the two boys were left any provisions when they were tumbled ashore, nor does he mention any conversation or pleas for mercy.
“In the case of the boys,” Edwards opined, “emphasis was placed, on sentencing them, in the brazen nature of unnatural sexual intercourse in broad daylight. Perhaps it was the flagrant nature of the indiscretion that enraged their shipmates.”
Despite the harsh punishments of the time, homosexual relations aboard ships were well-known.
Edwards notes that Engels previously appeared to be the object of bullying and persecution by some Zeewyk crewmen. He says, “it is interesting to note the modern psychological belief that those who are most condemnatory of sexual deviation are often those who sense the desire for such deviation in themselves.”
Whether out of shame or conscience, the incident is never mentioned again in van der Graeff’s journal, and the islands where the youths were marooned were not noted on the maps.
Edwards describes a sad postscript to the event: “More than a century later, in 1844, one of the party who had gone to the Abrolhos from the recently established Swan River colony to survey for guano and a fishing industry, laid his groundsheet down in darkness on the Mangrove Islands, and after a wretchedly uncomfortable night got up gumbling in the morning to find he had slept on a human skeleton. It may have been the pathetic remains of Adriaen Spoor or Pieter Engels.”
After I finished the chapter I closed the book and thought of those poor boys. How horrible to imagine them left to die, alone, on a barren ledge of rock. Each knew he was going to die, and had several days to think about it, and how they had been abandoned without mercy or pity.
The author, probably unintentionally, had several rich metaphors in his story: two youths, punished for their audacity in having sex in the daylight; each consigned to an island to die alone. Some of their tormentors and judges were men who, while expressing fear of the Lord’s punishment on their society for the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, really wanted the lads dead and gone to kill their fears of homosexual desire and possibly cover their own involvement.
The best, though was the Dutch expression of homosexual sex as “the stupid sin.” It is a stupid sin. It is stupid, how much time is spent on it, obsessing about it, to the point of murder.