Posted in category "Lesbians & Gays"

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.

 

 

God Made

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 12, 2011 | Categories: Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Sacred Scripture, Saints

I read in my local diocesan paper that the Rev. John F. Harvey, the founder of Courage, died on December 27, 2010.   He was 92.   An Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 73 years, Father Harvey started Courage, a spiritual support group for homosexual men and women, in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York and served as its national director until his death.

I did not have any contact with Courage myself, so I can’t comment on them from a point of experience.   I did meet one or two ex-Courage members at Dignity/New York meetings in the early 1980s.   Like Dignity, Courage was 98% men. From talking to them briefly it seemed they tried to abstain from gay sex, but the continual messages they received that homosexuals are immoral and sick drove them away.

The Archdiocese of New York, under Terence Cardinal Cooke, issued “The Rights of Homosexuals vs. Parental Rights” on January 11, 1978. The gist of this document is…”Catholics maintain unequivocally that homosexual activity is immoral and patterns of life that encourage homosexuality are gravely wrong. Without encouraging unkindness towards homosexuals, the Catholic moral position strongly reinforces parents’ and their surrogates’ determination to keep all children in their formative years   free of any persons or influences that could draw them into homosexual practice.”

The sentiments behind that statement are the reason Courage has failed to attract most homosexual Catholics:   be ashamed of who you are. Your longing and desire is dirty, immoral, disgusting.   Hide it, or risk being expelled from the community. Stay in the closet.

Dignity in comparison was like a rush of fresh air:   God made you who you are, and loves you as you are. Little wonder gay and lesbian Catholics flocked to Dignity instead.

About two years ago, I received an email from a woman member of the Courage group meeting at St. John the Baptist Church on West 31st Street in New York.   She encouraged me to give up my lifestyle and come to the group’s meetings.   I can’t recall if I replied or not, but after another note or two she gave up trying to recruit me.

The experience recalled an admonishment my mother gave to me as a little girl:   “People who feel bad about something they’ve done want other people to do the same thing so they don’t feel alone and feel better about it.”   Although that bit of wisdom was intended to deter me from mischief, it came to mind reading the insistent note from the lady Courage member.

Timothy Kincaid of the gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin posited that Fr. Harvey may have contributed to the Catholic Church’s inching towards tolerance of lesbians and gays by making the distinction between “inclination” and “behavior.” However, he focused his life’s work on counseling homosexuals to make tremendous personal sacrifices in order to maintain the church’s unmoving rejection of homosexuality. Questioning the church’s stance never came into play.

On a page dedicated to remembrances of Fr. Harvey, men and women who claim to “suffer” from same-sex attraction post their thanks.   Here’s one woman’s plea:   “I love you and miss you so much though I never met you. You are one of my heroes.   Please intercede for all of those struggling with same sex attraction especially: J, J, T, L, S, H, S, S, E and M. Please intercede also for our country and all the countries of the world that they will see institutionalizing this behavior   through the acceptance of same-sex marriages hurts the individuals involved, children, the family, the society, nations and the world.   Help us understand and live and love chastity and purity.”

Timothy Kincaid said – “I have a certain amount of sympathy for those individuals who decide   that their religious convictions preclude them from engaging in any form of sexuality that is not within the confines of heterosexual marriage.   Each of us must be allowed the space to determine for ourselves what gives us meaning and happiness, and some may choose to prioritize their spirituality over their sexuality…So I am not opposed to ex-gay individuals or groups per se, provided they do not insist that others live according to their values, advocate for discrimination, or propagate lies.”

I agree with Mr. Kincaid. Well said.

I have personal respect for Catholic lesbians and gays who have made the decision to live chastely, but at the same time are out to themselves and others as a gay person.

One such person is Eve Tushnet; fervently Catholic, proudly gay and happily celibate.   She does not see herself as disordered; she does not struggle to be straight, but she insists that her religion forbids her a sex life. “The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants,” Ms. Tushnet wrote in a 2007 essay for Commonweal. While gay sex should not be criminalized, she said, gay men and lesbians should abstain. They might instead have passionate friendships, or sublimate their urges into other pursuits. “It turns out I happen to be very good at sublimating,” she says, while acknowledging that it is a lot to ask from others.

Similar to Eve Tushnet, I am fervently Catholic, proudly gay and happily married..to a wonderful woman.   I stopped struggling to be straight many years ago when I came out.   And I believe, with my whole heart, God made me who I am. I was not created to suffer through involuntary chastity.   Nor was I made to label and think of myself as “disordered.”

I take inspiration from Acts, Chapter 10, where Peter had a vision of the animals being lowered from the sky:

“The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.   The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”

Peter’s vision is the pivotal moment in the Acts of the Apostles: he is to be prepared to admit Gentiles, who were considered unclean like the animals of his vision, into the Christian community. Just as the Jewish Christians received the gift of the Spirit, so too do the Gentiles. “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.”

If  Peter could change, why not the Pope?  

 

The Reemergence of the Devil

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 31, 2010 | Categories: Faith, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Popes, Scandals

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. Don-Gabriele-Amorth

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.” pope-paul-vi-2

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.   noe95aq1

“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. windsweptHouse

“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?” NameOTRose

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. venerableJorge

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.”

 

Double Lives

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 29, 2010 | Categories: Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

Some gay Roman Catholic priests are sexually active, either with a boyfriend or paid or anonymous sex.

Many gay priests are celibate, or strive to be, but are forced to isolate their sexual orientation from their spirituality from their parishioners, diocesan officials and people who know them.

Both types of priests may be loved by the people they minister to and respected members of their community. But they cannot be found out to be gay – celibate or otherwise. The church pretends gay priests don’t exist. This leads them to double lives.

Fr. Kevin J. Gray, 64,the former pastor of Sacred Heart/Sagrado Corazon Church in Waterbury, Connecticut appeared to live humbly.   Parishioners thought he had cancer, and admired how he helped Latino immigrants in his largely poor parish. 070610SV03

But after a routine audit of the church’s finances turned up discrepancies, authorities began a criminal investigation that they say unraveled a secret double life of male escorts, strip clubs and lavish spending on the finest restaurants, luxury hotels and expensive clothing, financed with money stolen from the parish.   On July 6, 2010, Fr. Gray was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny.

“About a million,” Gray told authorities without hesitation when asked how much he took from the church account, according to his arrest affidavit.

“Up until this investigation he had an excellent reputation,” police Capt. Christopher Corbett said. “The life he was leading in New York City was much different than the life he was leading in Waterbury as a priest. He’s certainly an example of someone who was leading a double life.”

In an interview with Waterbury cops Gray said “he had grown to hate being a priest and was upset with the archdiocese for the assignments they had given him over the years,” the warrant said.

He was particularly angry about being transferred in 2001 to New Hartford while his mom was dying in New Haven, and said he began stealing from Sacred Heart in 2003 “because he felt that the church owed it to him.”

“Mr. Gray stated that he would order male escorts from Campus Escorts in New York,” the warrant said. “Mr. Gray stated that he is gay and has a problem with the church’s position on homosexuality.”

Two weeks later – another gay priest expose made international news – scenes of sex with strangers and then vesting for Mass a half hour later.

On July 23, 2010 the Italian weekly magazine, Panorama, published a shocking expose called “Le Notti Brave Dei Preti Gay” or “Wild Nights of Gay Priests.”   Investigative journalist Carmelo Abbate spent 20 days undercover posing as he boyfriend of a man who frequented gay clerical circles.   They secretly videotaped the sexual escapades of three Rome-based priests–two Italians and a Frenchman.

Abbate’s “date” even had sex with one of the priests to corroborate the story. “This is not about homosexuality,” Abbate, who is not gay, told Newsweek. “This is about private vices and public virtues. This is about serious hypocrisy in the Catholic Church.” gay priest 2

One of the three priests featured in the Panorama article, identified as “Carlo,” asserts that 98% of the priests he knows are gay, and that today’s church is divided between an “intransigent” wing, which Carlo said doesn’t want to face reality, and an “evangelical” wing accepting of homosexual priests.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, 70,   head of the Rome diocese, blasted the three priests in a public statement responding to the Panorama expose: “Priests who are living a double life have not understood what the Catholic priesthood is and should not have become priests. Know that no one forces them to remain priests, exploiting only the benefits. Consistency demands that they be discovered. We do not wish them ill, but we cannot accept that because of their behavior the honor of all the other priests is dragged through the mud.” ca2

“Before such facts,” the cardinal asserted, “we firmly adhere to what the Holy Father Benedict XVI has repeated several times in recent months: ‘the sins of priests’ call us all back to conversion of heart and life and to be vigilant so as not to ‘pollute the faith and Christian life, damaging the integrity of the Church, weakening her capacity of prophesy and testimony, tarnishing the beauty of her face.'”

Religious commentator, Bryan Cones, managing editor and blogger for the popular magazine, U.S. Catholic, commented: “On this matter, the church’s real problem is the closet. I must agree with the Vicar of Rome that it would be helpful for gay priests to come out–so that we could thank them for their faithful service, especially as they have been unjustly tarred with ‘causing’   sex abuse. Unfortunately, our church leadership at this time is not creating the kind of open and safe space that would allow for such honesty.”

Antagonism to gay men in the priesthood has simmered in the church for centuries.   It has been heightened in recent years by some conservative bishops who lay the blame for the sexual abuse crisis on a “homosexual subculture” in the priesthood.

Life in religious communities has long held appeal to gay men and lesbians. Throughout the history of the church, homosexual men and women have found the priesthood and religious life both a refuge and a fulfilling way of life. As Richard John Neuhaus noted (First Things, June-July 2002): “It would seem more than likely that, in centuries past, some priests who have been canonized as saints would meet today’s criteria as having a ‘homosexual orientation.'”

In a January 28, 2005 article in Commonweal, “A Gay Priest Speaks Out,” frankly addressed how the Church’s strict code of silence leads to priests – celibate and not – living double lives.

“Bishops and religious superiors,” he said, “have forbidden many priests from speaking, writing or preaching about their homosexuality. Gay priests like myself are caught in a double bind.   If we speak the truth and freely discuss our existence in the church, and more important, our experience of leading fulfilling lives as celibate men, we will be censured or removed from ministry. If we remain silent, though, we guarantee that the positive example of the celibate gay priest will remain hidden. Voiceless, the gay priest cannot defend himself within the church. Stereotyped, he cannot escape the suspicions of society at large.”

“To take one example,” he said,   “I have often wanted to remind my parishioners that media coverage of the sexual abuse crisis portraying all gay priests as abusers was inaccurate and unjust. But I could not offer convincing arguments or testimony without admitting I knew gay priests or happened to be one myself.”

“If the Incarnation shows us anything, it is the God loves us in our humanity, even in our weakness, as St. Paul says–especially in our weakness. We all have a need to see ourselves as loved by God as we are, even in those parts of ourselves that embarrass or sadden us.   Perhaps we think ourselves too plain, too unintelligent, too untalented, or too unsuccessful to warrant God’s love. But God’s love is always far greater than we can imagine, and embraces our entire selves.”

“In my own life, one of the most profound experiences of God’s love when, after many years, I finally accepted that I would not change myself into a straight man: I was gay and that was simply the way God had created me.   Encountering God’s love as I am was a transforming experience, one that I have wanted to share with parishioners not as an example of any personal sexual liberation, but as a sign of God’s infinite and always surprising, understanding.”

“I have long hoped to testify before my parish to this foundational experience of God’s love in my life, but I am of course forbidden to do so. And when a minister of the Word cannot publicly proclaim the freedom that the Word brings to his own life, it is a real loss for a community of faith.”

 

A Week of Disorientation

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 16, 2010 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Scandals

This week, moderate and liberal Catholics are putting their heads in their hands wondering why we continue.

The Vatican made an announcement that priests who sexually abuse minors, view child pornography, or sexually abuse mentally disabled adults, along with those who ordain women or women who attempt to be ordained, will now be included among the list of “delicta gravioria,” or the most serious crimes against church law.

The ordination of women is now classified as a “crime against the sacraments,” which includes any action that defiles or desecrates the Eucharist. men

At a Vatican briefing this week, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, denied that the Vatican equates women’s ordination with the sexual abuse of children. An illicit ordination, Scicluna clarified, is a “”sacramental” crime, while abuse is a “moral” crime.

Women’s Ordination Conference Executive Director Erin Saiz Hanna commented: “The Vatican’s decision (to) list women’s ordination in the same category as pedophiles and rapists is appalling, offensive, and a wake-up call for Catholics around the world. The new canonical declaration which names women’s ordination as a serious crime against the Roman Catholic Church is medieval at best. The idea that a woman seeking to spread the message of God somehow “defiles” the Eucharist reveals an antiquated, backwards Church that still views women as “unclean” and unholy.”

This same week, Zenit, the Vatican news agency, announced Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, 74, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, has been asked by the Pope to govern the congregation in his name “during the time necessary to complete the path of renewal.” VelasioDePaolis

With a strong background in law and finance, Archbishop De Paolis essentially serves as chief auditor for the Vatican.   The Legion’s estimated assets are valued at $33 billion.

The news agency noted that Archbishop De Paolis visited the Legion’s headquarters in Rome on Saturday, presenting its superiors with the papal letter naming him delegate, and handing them a personal letter in which he expressed his own thoughts and recommendations for the Legionaries.

Zenti went on to add: “The Legion of Christ is being guided by the Church in a renewal, following the discovery that its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, fathered children and was guilty of other crimes.”

That has to place first as the wryest, drollest, understatement of the year.

Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado raped and sexually abused underage seminarians and priests; kept mistresses on two continents; fathered at least three children; raped his sons; lied, cheated and stole his order’s money to support an illicit lifestyle.   He was aided and abetted by senior members of the Legion.   The organization was maintained by secrecy and deceit.

Maciel’s key supporters in the Vatican, who provided him with a protective shield, included Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state from 1991 to 2006; Cardinal Eduardo Martinez, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Stanislaw Dzwisz, the Polish secretary of late Pope John Paul II.

Fr. Maciel’s biggest enabler was Pope John Paul II himself.   Maciel brought in money and men to the priesthood; and that balanced the account as far as the pope was concerned.

Ponder this for a minute…..senior members of the Vatican hierarchy protected a serial molester and rapist, a priest that had several children with two different women—because this man had created an organizational structure that attracted seminarians and espoused traditional values and practices.

At the same time, they have set into place the most savage penalties for bishops and women who want to become priests, and refuse to consider the issue of priestly celibacy.

In the Zenit article Archbishop De Paolis said it is understandable that some Legionaries are “going through difficult moments, that some have already thought of a different path.” He cautioned that the “vocation is something too serious to be able to make a decision about it in a moment of disorientation.”

“Let’s be patient,” he said.

“Your vocation, like your congregation, is in your hands, is entrusted to your responsibility,” the prelate stated. “The Church accompanies you; the Lord is merciful and generous: He gives his Spirit without measure. His grace goes before you, it accompanies you, and it brings you to the goal.”

And so begins the fumigation of the Legionnaires of Christ. Fumigate2

“Disorientation” is a good word to describe the actions of the Vatican and the state of my mind.

The faith received a good smack this week.

 

The Case of the Chorister and the Closeted Crook

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 27, 2010 | Categories: Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

“At what time does he have to be back in the seminary?”

It might be an innocent question, except for the fact the man asking it is a Papal Gentleman, Angelo Balducci, and the man he’s talking to is his pimp, Vatican chorister, Thomas Ehiem.

In addition to his escort service, Ehiem, 29, a professional chorister born in Nigeria, was a member of Cappella Giulla. This choir is used in St. Peter’s for Mass and other ceremonies which do not involve the pope.   balducci 3

The silver-haired Balducci, 63,   was arrested on February 10, 2010, suspected of involvement in widespread corruption in the awarding of public works contracts by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency. He is alleged to have steered public works contracts towards favored bidders.   A well known and powerful local figure, Balducci is married with two children.

A Papal Gentleman since 1995, Balducci has long worked closely with the Holy See on behalf of the Italian state. He has overseen the logistical and infrastructural requirements of events such as Holy Year in 2000, the canonizations of Padre Pio and Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva in 2002, and the beautification of Mother Teresa in 2003.

The Gentlemen of His Holiness, or Papal Gentlemen, are ceremonial ushers of the Papal household. In the words of a 1968 ordinance, they are expected to “distinguish themselves for the good of souls and the glory of the name of the Lord.”

Ehiem said he had been introduced to Balducci more than ten years ago.   He claims: “He asked me if I could procure other men for him. He told me he was married and that I had to do it in great secrecy.”

At was during the time he was investigated for corruption that wiretaps revealed his sexual activities.

Phone taps of the last two years reveal that Balducci regularly contacted two men, Thomas Ehiem and Lorenzo   Renzi, to ask them to set up “appointments” for him.

Balducci is recorded describing the precise physical details of the men he wanted: the man’s height, weight, skin color, and several availability.

In one wiretap from December 2009, Renzi is heard explaining the rules: “You’ll get up to 2,000 euros…Do not touch his balls. You need the money. Put on some music, take out the (inaudible), swallow the Viagra, and adelante!”

In 72 pages of transcribed wiretaps, Ehiem tells Balducci about one possible candidate:   “I saw your call when I was in the Vatican, because I was doing rehearsals…in the choir…in St. Peter’s…. Angelo..I’ll say no more. Two meters (6 -foot-7) 97 kilos (250 lb.), 33 years-old and completely active (top).

The transcripts record that during five months in 2008, Ehiem procured for Balducci at least ten contacts, including “Two black Cuban lads, a former male model from Naples, and a rugby player from Rome.

Balducci’s escorts came from many different backgrounds, some being illegal immigrants who badly needed money.

Others were seminary students in Rome.

In January 2010, the Carabinieri recorded an exchange in which Balducci and Ehiem discuss a seminarian. Balducci is said to have asked: “Listen, have you spoken with the seminarian by any chance?” Ehiem says he is “probably at Mass or something.”

On January 11th Ehiem calls again to recommend “a colleague or friend” of the seminarian because the latter is unavailable. He says the colleague is “better, taller, a bit taller than you.” Later Ehiem asks: “Can I send (him) around straight away?”

He asks where Balducci is.   Balducci tells him: “Up at the seminary…where the cardinal lives.” Ehiem replies: “He could get there within half an hour…the time it takes to catch a taxi and get there.”

I wonder if Angelo Balducci ever met Enrico Luizi, a Papal Gentleman who was murdured by a hustler in 1998.

That story can be found here.

 

Cardinal Newman: The Questions Continue

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 20, 2010 | Categories: Faith, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Saints, Scandals

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 “preferred venue” for Benedict XVI’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. paul chavasse

“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.” newman 1

“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. hurrell

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.

 

George Rekers’ Luggage and Handler

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 17, 2010 | Categories: Accountability, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

Co-founder of the ultra conservative Family Research Council (with James Dobson), and board member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH),   for decades Dr. George Alan Rekers was a prominent anti-gay activist.

So he did what any straight, family-oriented Baptist minister would do when they are looking for someone to carry the luggage on a ten-day European excursion. He went to rentboy.com and hired a prostitute.

On April 13, 2010 Miami New Times reporters took a photo of Dr. Rekers and a young man, “Lucien,” as they arrived at Miami International Airlines on Iberian Airlines flight 6123.   Rekers was caught pushing an overloaded luggage cart. Reached by the New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. “I had surgery,” Rekers said, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” The Miami paper was quick to note that “medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart” through the airport. rent boy

It would be impossible to stumble upon the rentboy.com hompage, which features well-muscled young men and youths rubbing each others crotches, and not figure out what the site means by “rent boy.”

The pictures of Lucien (real name: Jo-Vanni Roman)   on his rentboy.com profile showed a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his “smooth, sweet tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut). He describes himself as “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything”–“as long as you ask.” His “Tastes/Specialties/Fetishes include: Vanilla, Leather, Anal, Oral, Shaving, Spanking, Role Playing, Kissing, Toys, Feet. His “Talents” offer “Modeling, Go-Go Dancing, Stripping, Massage, Travel Companion, Tour Guide, Interpreter.”

Undoubtedly that part is where Reker spotted his experience as a “Travel Assistant.” RekerHookerGeo

“In all honesty, I did go on the trip with him, Roman told reporters. “He was setting me up as a companion. In all honesty, he’s a very kind family-values man.” The young male escort was paid $75 a day plus expenses to travel with Rekers in April to London and Madrid.

Roman, 20, would give nude massages to Rekers, 61, every day during their trip. Rekers allegedly named his favorite maneuver the “long stroke”–a complicated caress “across the penis, thigh…and his anus over the butt checks. Rekers liked to be rubbed down there,” he said. He was “rock hard.” Rekers was “very gay for me” Roman said.

“Down there”… I thought only Catholic girls said “down there.”

Lucien/Jo-Vanni is the same age as a son that Rekers adopted more than four years ago, which might not be relevant were it not for Rekers vigorous opposition to adoptions by gays. Rekers testified in favor of nasty homosexual adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida.

On his blog, ProfessorGeorge.com–right near the lame luggage excuse–there’s a post labeled:   “Should homosexuals be allowed to adopt children?” This leads to a page full of outright falsehoods, including:

“Large research studies consistently report that a majority of homosexually-behaving adults have a a life-time incidence of one or more psychiatric disorders, while a majority of heterosexually-behaving adults do not suffer a psychiatric disorder…So my professional conclusion that homosexually behaving adults should not be allowed to adopt children is based on research and logic.”

“While he keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people,” said Wayne Besen, a gay rights advocate and executive director of Truth Wins Out, which investigates the anti-gay movement. “His work is ubiquitously cited by lobby groups that work to deny equality to LGBT Americans. Rekers has caused a great deal of harm to gay and lesbian individuals.”

While Rekers continues to maintain the Lucien/Jo-Vanni was brought along primarily for the purpose of carrying his luggage, he’s now also explains that he found the lad on rentboy.com because he wanted to have someone’s mortal soul, like Jesus did.

Rekers had a Facebook exchange with the gay blogger Joe. My. God. in which he posted this beautiful sentiment:

“I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as ‘gay.’ My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”

“Mark 2:16-17 reads, “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Upon hearing this Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ In fact, in a dialogue with hypocritical religious leaders, Jesus even stated to them, ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.'”

“Like John the Baptist and Jesus, I have a loving Christian ministry to homosexuals and prostitutes in which I share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (see I Corinthians 6:8-11.)”

“Contrary to false gossip, innuendo, and slander about me, I do not in any way “hate” homosexuals, but I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them, as I did with the young man called ‘Lucien’ in the news story.”

“1) It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and 2) the most important decision one can make is to establish   a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins.”

“If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called ‘Lucien,’ you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”

Joe. My. God responded: “Oh, well that explains EVERYTHING! Dr. Rekers is curing homosexuals ONE BY ONE by hiring them on MALE PROSTITUTION websites! Glory! Praise His Name!”

The Gay Moralist blogger, John Corvino, commented on Reker’s situation in a more serious, personal note:   “I was once a closeted homosexual conservative myself, and I came close to entering the Catholic priesthood. I often wonder whether, had my life gone slightly differently–different influences, different opportunities, different choices–I’d be missing truths that seem obvious to me now.”

“I even wonder whether I might have acted out sexually in inappropriately ways–hiring male prostitutes privately while railing against homosexuality publically, or htting on college seminary students (not children) in my priestly care. While I’m no longer a believer, the phrase ‘There but for the grace of God’ still resonates with me.”

Dr. Rekers posted this final message on his blog:   “I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false media reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.” – George A. Rekers, Ph.D.

When queried about Reker’s resignation,   spokesman David C. Pruden said   that NARTH never pressured Rekers to resign from the organization, where he served on the board and the scientific advisory committee. “We didn’t need to,” he said. “(Rekers) very graciously suggested it from almost the first press report.”

“Without judging anyone else, let me say that I do know that if being stupid or even a hypocrite eliminated someone from public involvement, almost all of us who were honest would have to live alone in a cave somewhere,” Pruden added. “I know I would.”

TV comedy shows jumped all over Dr. Rekers’s spring vacation revelations.   Among the most hilarious are Colbert Report’s “Alpha Dog of the Week – George Rekers;” and The  Rachael Maddox Show.

 

Bob Carter of Dignity

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 21, 2010 | Categories: Dissent, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays

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. bob carter

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.