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 Stonewallâ€”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: â€œIf only we didnâ€™t hate ourselves so muchâ€¦if only we could just not hate ourselves quite so very muchâ€¦”
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.
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?
I love dinosaurs. I love the Bible. Now, I can have them together at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Their motto is: “Prepare to Believe.”
The museum was developed by the Christian evangelical group, Answers in Genesis Ministry. The organization was founded by the Australian-born Reverend Ken Ham. He arrived in the U.S. in 1987.
The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s rivers.
The scenes remind me a lot of “The Flintstones,” a cartoon series I used to love to watch when I was growing up. Fred and Wilma Flintstone had a pet dinosaur named “Dino,” who barks and generally acts like a dog. A running gag involves Dino knocking down Fred out of excitement and licking him repeatedly.
If you were a kid during the 1960s and 70s, then you probably not only know the melody to the Flintstones song, but all the words as well.
Flintstones… Meet the Flintstones,
They’re a modern stoneage family.
From the town of Bedrock,
They’re a page right out of history.
Let’s ride with the family down the street.
Thru the courtesy of Fred’s two feet.
When you’re with the Flintstones,
have a yabba dabba doo time,
a dabba doo time,
we’ll have a gay old time.”
The museum, which is said to have cost $27 million, is privately funded through donations. The one-millionth visitor was announced on April 26, 2010, just over a month away from the museum’s three-year anniversary.
At Creation Museum, Earth and the universe are just over 6,000 years old, created in six days by God. The museum preaches “Same facts, different conclusions” and is unequivocal in viewing paleontological and geological data in light of a literal reading of the Bible.
In the creationist interpretation, the layers were laid down in one event — the worldwide flood when God wiped the land clean except for the creatures on Noah’s ark — and these dinosaurs died in 2348 B.C., the year of the flood.
“I like the fact the dinosaurs were in the ark,” Ham said. About 50 kinds of dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, the museum explains, but later went extinct for unknown reasons.
According to Ham, almost every ill of modern society can be traced to the widespread acceptance of evolution. In response, he started his Answers in Genesis (AIG) Ministry in 1994. Soon after coming to Kentucky, he was promoting his plans to build a “creation museum” with numerous dinosaur models. Reverend Ham rechristened dinosaurs as “Missionary Lizards” and claimed to have recruited them to fight the demons of evolution and historical geology.
“For a person to make the claim that humans and dinosaurs did not coexist, they would have to be able to see all history at exactly the same time, which would make that person omniscient and omnipresent, qualities of God. So, when someone says emphatically that humans and dinosaurs did not exist together in the past, that person is claiming to be a god, while calling God Himself a liar, or, at best, deceptive.”
Many of the displays were designed by Patrick Marsh, who had formerly worked for Universal Studios designing attractions such as Jaws and King Kong before becoming a born-again Christian and young Earth creationist.
Among its exhibits, the museum features life-size dinosaur models, over 80 of them animatronic (animated and motion-sensitive). Model dinosaurs are depicted in the Garden of Eden, many of them side-by-side with human figures. In one exhibit, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus are shown aboard a scale model of Noah’s ark.
Some of the exhibits show modern times and espouse the view that families and society are hurt by a world view which is not Biblically based. In one video, a male teenager is shown sitting at a computer looking at internet pornography and a female teenager speaks with Planned Parenthood about having an abortion.
John Haught, a research professor at Georgetown University who is an expert on science and religion, said it’s “not terribly surprising” that a museum would be created to support creationists’ arguments about the origins of life.
“It’s important for them to deny evolution because…if evolution happened, then there was no original perfection,” said Haught, a Roman Catholic who believes in evolution. “It’s absolutely essential for them that there be some fall. Otherwise the whole significance of Christianity gets lost.”
For his part, Haught doesn’t see much merit in the museum and expects it will cause an “impoverishment” of both theology and religion. “It’s hard for me to come up with a single reason why we should be doing this,” said Haught. “It’s theologically problematic for me, as well as scientifically problematic.”
Next up for Answers in Genesis – “Ark Encounters,” a $150 million Noah’s ark theme park. Among other attractions the park will feature a 500-foot wooden ark complete with live animals. The developers are Christian conservatives who want state government to help subsidize the ark park with as much as $37.5 million in tourism development incentives.
So far, Ark Encounters has the blessing of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who said he was elected to help create jobs, not debate religious beliefs. Some other residents, who don’t subscribe to the bumper sticker theology of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” disagree, so the minute the tax subsidies are requested the court battle is expected to begin.
See Creation Museum here.
See Ark Encounter here. I hope no one looking for Ark Encounter accidentally types Ark Encounters.
A landmark shift in the Catholic church’s hardline position on the use of condoms was published on November 23, 2010.
The pontiff makes the condom comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, Peter Seewald, in “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” In the interview, which took place in July 2010, the pope made clear that he didn’t consider condom use a “moral solution” to fighting the spread of infection, citing statements that put abstinence first.
But, the pope added: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.”
In his statement on condom use the Pope Benedict infused morality with common sense–use protection to prevent the spread of the disease. Protecting your partner from a deadly and fatal disease is more important than the notion of being “open to life” during the sex act.
Benedict’s statement will save lives, prevent suffering, and help to make the Church relevant in Africa, Europe and North America; where for too long fantastical church statements took priority over the lived experience–and common sense–of ordinary Catholics.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told a news conference on November 23, 2010 that he conveyed the media’s “perplexity” directly to the pope, asking whether or not it made a difference if the prostitute in question was male or female. He said the pope said his reasoning applied to both sexes.
“The point is to take a step towards responsibility, to take into consideration the risk of the life of the person with whom you have relations whether it’s a man, woman or transsexual,” Father Lombardi said.
Pope Benedict’s decision to articulate his views on condoms to a journalist, rather than formulating a doctrinal document, may be an unusual attempt to stir debate. But it was also a way for the Pope to speak directly to Catholics, health care professionals, and media with his comments being subject to “interpretation” from the Curia and their conservative Catholic allies.
As early as 1988 then Cardinal Ratzinger tried to speed up the process to get rid of sexually abusive and pedophile priests. Ratzinger complained that church law made it exceedingly difficult to remove abusers if they didn’t request to be laicized voluntarily. He asked to get around the problem by finding “a quicker and simpler procedure” than a cumbersome church trial. He was turned down on the grounds that the priests’ ability to defend themselves would be compromised.
Given that, and the ensuing holocaust of sexual abuse revelations he has had to deal with as pope, I am not at all surprised by Pope Benedict’s decision to speak to a journalist rather than formulating a doctrinal document. The pope made “only small corrections” to the text, Mr. Seewald writes in a preface to the book.
Though Pope Benedict did not endorse the general use of condoms, or change official church teaching –which still strongly opposes contraceptives — his words ricocheted around the globe, greeted with anger and dismay from some conservative Catholics and enthusiasm from clerics and health workers in Africa, where the AIDS problem is the worst.
“We’re in a new world,” said the Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and a physician at the Center for H.I.V/AIDS Care and Research at Boston Medical Center. The pope is “implicitly” saying, he said, “that you cannot anymore raise the objection that any use of the condom is an intrinsic evil.”
It took the pope to say what he did to change the debate on the issue of condoms. In 1987, the U.S. bishops’ conference issued the statement, “The Many Faces of AIDS,” that stressed limiting sex to marriage as the best protection against the virus, but said public education “could include accurate information about prophylactic devices” to prevent transmission. The document was criticized at the time by conservatives and some Vatican officials.
Catholic conservatives who believed Catholic teaching against contraception to be inviolable were reeling over Pope Benedict’s remarks. ”This is really shaking things up big time,” said Dr. John M. Haas, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, who serves on the governing council of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.
Dr. Haas, a moral theologian, said he had seen an embargoed copy of a new book in which the pope conceded there might be extreme cases in which there were grounds for the use of condoms. “I told the publisher, ‘Don’t publish this: it’s going to create such a mess,’”he added.
The president of “Les Femmes – The Women of Truth,”an independent media apostolate of orthodox Roman Catholic laity in the Diocese of Arlington, VA weighed in on the pope’s condom kerfuffle: “Certainly, a gay prostitute is not using a condom for birth control so that is simply irrelevant,” she said. “On the other hand, homosexual sex is unnatural, degrading, and morally sinful. Can using a condom out of concern for transmitting AIDS make it less sinful? I think I understand the point that it might signal an awakening sense in the sinner of concern for the partner in sin; but what kind of concern is it when one is in the act of buggery? What times we live in! I’d rather debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. At least the thought of dancing angels in lovely.”
Lisa Sowle Cahill, a professor of theology at Boston College, said the pope’s new openness about condoms was significant even if it did not change church teaching. “I see it as a shift in attention, so that the politics of AIDS is larger on the radar screen than the politics of contraception, and to me that is a needed and appropriate shift,” she said. She added that the church had held firm against the use of condoms even to prevent AIDS because the birth control issue took so much precedence politically.
Dr. Haas could barely contenance Father Lombardi’s comments that broadened the debate to include women. “I don’t think it’s a clarification; it’s a muddying of the waters,” he said. “My opinion is that the pope purposely chose a male prostitute to avoid that particular debate.” And if Benedict was in fact opening that debate? – “I think the pope’s wrong,” Dr. Haas flatly stated.
“This is a game-changer,” declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor. “By acknowledging that condoms help to prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the Pope completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms,” Martin said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said he asked Pope Benedict why he agreed to the Seewald interview. The pope’s answer was that “obviously it wasn’t just to respond to Seewald’s questions, but because he thought that speaking to people today in a language that was simple, colloquial, on many questions that people pose would be a service he could render.”
“There is a type of magisterium found in official documents that are written, studied and rewritten; there is the magisterium in the homilies and catechesis of the pope; and then there is the communication of Pope Benedict in a colloquial, direct way” found in “Light of the World,” Father Lombardi said.
Former communist and socialist countries are now turning to religious tourism to bring in believers and their money.
Bulgarian archaeologists and clerics say they have unearthed bones belonging to St. John the Baptist. The remains â€“ small fragments of a skull, bones from a jaw and an arm, and a tooth â€“ were discovered embedded in an altar in the ruins of the ancient monastery.
The remains were discovered in July 2010 during the excavation of a fourth-century monastery on St. Ivan Island off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. They were in a sealed reliquary buried next to a tiny urn. A Greek inscription on the stone casque contains a reference to June 24 â€“ the date on which John the Baptist is believed to have been born.
“We found the relics of St John the Baptist – exactly what the archaeologists had expected,” said Bozhidar Dimitrov, Bulgaria’s minister without portfolio and a former director of the country’s National History Museum, who was present when the stone urn was opened.
Officials of this recession-torn country think the proported relics will give a big boost to tourism, drawing believers from neighboring Orthodox Christian countries to this nearby resort town.
“I’m not religious but these relics are in the premier league,” said Simeon Djankov, Bulgaria’s finance minister and an avowed atheist. “The revenue potential for Bulgaria is clear.”
News of the find, meanwhile, is already drawing visitors. At the local church of St. George in Sozopol, where the presumed relics are now on temporary display in a silver chest donated by Bulgaria’s prime minister, hundreds of faithful line up for a chance to view the bones, saying prayers and making the sign of the cross.
The church attendance at daily Mass has rocketed from about 100 to more than 3,000. Church officials say they are now selling more votive candles in a day than they used to sell in a year, and have ordered another two tons of them to meet projected demand.
The bones now make Bulgaria a member of the club of nations that say they are home to pieces of John the Baptist, who was beheaded on the orders of King Herod. Ancient tradition has held that his severed head was entombed in Herod’s palace.
Over time, body parts believed to be his have spread across Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. A church in Calcutta, India, claims to house part of a hand.
The cathedral in Aachen, Germany, says it has the cloth used to wrap John the Baptist’s head after his decapitation. The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the former seat of the Ottoman emperors, also claims to hold parts of one of his arms and his head.
The presence of the relics of St. John the Baptist hasn’t translated into a tourist bonanza in any of these other resting places. Still, people in Bulgaria remain hopeful.
There are some encouraging signs. Milenna Dimitrova, who has been selling fresh berries, figs and jams for 20 years from a stall near the church, says business has been so brisk that she doesn’t have time to go hereself. “The season was awful before–this is clearly a gift from God,” she said.
In August 2004, Roger C. Davidson walked into Datalink Computer Services in Mount Kisco, NY looking for help with his virus-plagued computer.
A pianist, Mr. Davidson, 58, is the founder and president of the Society for Universal Sacred Music, a nonprofit that brings together musicians from various faiths for festivals. He produced Raul Jaurenaâ€™s â€œTe Amo Tango,â€ which earned a Latin Grammy for Best Tango Album in 2007.
He is also a very wealthy oil heir. Davidson is the great-grandson and the great-grandnephew of the two brothers who founded Schlumberger Ltd. , a Houston-based oilfield services company that posted revenue of about $22.7 billion last year.
Mr. Davidson fretted that the music he had composed and saved on the computer could be lost. The owner of the shop, Vickram Bedi, 36, confirmed there was a virus on Mr. Davidson’s computer. Mr. Bedi told him it was so virulent that it also damaged Datalink’s computers.
Mr. Bedi told Mr. Davidson that he had tracked the source of the virus to a remote village in the Honduras. Mr. Bedi’s uncle–a military officer in India–had flown to the Honduras in a military aircraft and seized the hard drive.
Mr. Bedi’s uncle had learned that Polish priests tied to Opus Dei were targeting Mr. Davidson for assassination. The Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Bedi told Mr. Davidson, were working with him to prevent the priests from infiltrating the United States government.
In addition to the thousands of dollars charged to secure Mr. Davidson’s computer, Mr. Bedi and his girlfriend, Helga Invarsdottir, 39, an Icelandic national, charged his American Express card $160,000 every month for bogus security and other services to provide 24-hour covert protection for Mr. Davidson and his family.
The scam could have netted anywhere from $6 to $20 million over a six-year period. Investigators are still sorting out accounts and evidence. Mr. Bedi had stashed $150,000 under his bed.
It is believed a relative of Mr. Davidson alerted police to the scam. (or blackmail? payoffs?)
In a jailhouse interview last week, Vickram Bedi told The Journal News that his accuser, Roger Davidson, gave him a fortune to shield Davidson from the fallout of importing $400 million from his family’s European tax shelter. Said Bedi, “Roger’s story is not accurate.”
“He was scared that there were e-mails in his computer and he wanted to see if the viruses had infected these e-mails and whether they had been broadcasted over the Internet,” Bedi said. “The e-mails were communications between his family members and their lawyers … basically detailing how the money had left the United States originally … and how the family planned to move the money back under the guise of an inheritance.”
The computer had “various viruses,” Bedi said, and Davidson believed the U.S. and French governments had planted them to seize evidence that could help them recover the unpaid taxes.
According to Bedi, Davidson also suspected the Roman Catholic order Opus Dei was “after him” because his uncle had joined the group and was seeking to punish his own family for not paying their taxes.
“He believed his uncle was trying to expose this fraud and hired high-tech hackers to complete this course,” Bedi said.
Davidson sought to hire Datalink to retrieve the information and protect him, Bedi said.
Davidson even made Bedi a trustee of a $60 million family trust meant to benefit Davidson and his children, according to legal papers.
“I never asked to be appointed trustee. This was done at his own behest because he liked us. We were keeping him calm,” Bedi said.
Bedi also received a $10.9 million contract, according to authorities. Bedi said this was a “gift” from Davidson, who he said also gave his girlfriend $1.8 million.
“He gave us this gift because we recovered his 30 years of music on his computer,” Bedi said. “Roger was generous with us.”
Upon giving those gifts, Bedi said, Davidson told him the IRS or French government would come after his family and that “at least he had done something good with this money.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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 â€œ”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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.