Pious Trash: The Reign of Hubris

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 23, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Pious Trash, Politics

The letter below appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 21, 2020.  It was in response to the article, “Trump Lashes Out with Distractions and Disinformation.”  The letter was reprinted in Yahoo News under the headline: “Letters to the Editor: Why America tolerates a lying, hydroxychloroquine-hawking president.”

To the editor: Kudos for an insightful report on how President Trump’s relentless disinformation campaigns serve him so well despite his administration’s chaotic malfeasance. The fact that such deceptive stratagems have not proved effective in many European democracies speaks volumes about our electorate.

Why might American voters be so singularly gullible? I suspect two primary reasons.

First, in recent decades, American educational outcomes have slipped markedly compared to those of our European counterparts.

Second, Europeans have become increasingly secular in contrast to the pervasiveness of religious affiliation among Americans. Consider how a willingness to take Trump on faith, especially among most evangelical Christians, keyed his 2016 election. 

The ever-darker cloud of disinformation hovers menacingly over our nation. As is said, democracy dies in darkness.”

Devra M., Santa Monica, CA

Who is responsible for the “slipped educational outcomes”?  It is parents, teachers, teachers’ unions, school administrators and school boards. Our education system’s schools and results reflect their values and priorities; and those of the secular elites who help shape finance, media and policy.

Who is responsible for Trump’s election as president in 2016? Evangelical Christians, or the secular elite that sipped their $8 lattes and cortados, checked their iPhones and shrugged off the dire and hopeless economic situation of many working-class Americans.  Feeling their contempt or indifference, they retaliated at the voting booth. 

What happens in the 2020 election and beyond depends on how the 30 million unemployed Americans, small businesses and others negatively impacted by this pandemic are treated by Americans working from the safety of home, ordering out, getting groceries delivered, and writing letters to the editor about Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: The REAL Rainbow Plague in Poland

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 16, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals, Sex

The 2019 Polish documentary on clerical sex abuse, “Tell No One” highlighted a problem:  Many of the priestly sex abusers and credibly accused child molesters are well-loved and respected national and local figures.  Some people are pushing for a total accounting; others stress individual forgiveness and resumption of public ministry.  Notable figures include –

-Father Henryk Janknowski, one of the founders of the Solidarity union. He had his statue removed in Gdansk.

– Father Eugeniusz Makulski, who oversaw the construction of Poland’s biggest basilica. He commissioned a statue of himself offering the building to St. Pope John Paul II.  I found his kneeling in front of the pope an apt pose, considering what he is. Makulski’s representations have been removed from the shrine. 

-Father Franciszka Cybula, personal chaplain to anti-Communist hero Lech Walesa.  Slawoj Leszek Glodz, Archbishop of Gdansk, lavished praise on Cybula and gave him a grandiose funeral.

– Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, a much-loved figure who helped lead Poland’s anti-Communist movement.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former archbishop of Krakow and papal envoy.  He was quietly recalled from the Dominican Republic in 2013. Wesolowski was accused of possessing child pornography and paying poor boys and teens for sex acts.  Luckily, he died of a “heart attack” before his canonical trial was about to begin.  Wesolowski was also wanted on sex abuse charges in Poland. It seemed to me he had quite a good clerical showing at his funeral. 

On August 1, 2019, Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow celebrated a Mass commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.  Archbishop J?draszewski said in his homily: “The red [communist] plague no longer walks on our earth, but a new neo-Marxist one that wants to conquer our souls, hearts, and minds has appeared. It is not a red, but a rainbow plague.”

Did he mean Poland’s pedophile and sex abuser priests, bishops and cardinals; or, was he referring only to Polish LGBT activists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Catholic Register Stumbles Over Archbishop Vigano’s Poison Pen

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 8, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, Dissent, Fishy Fridays, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics

I’m glad I’m not Jeanette DeMelo, editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Register.  Today will not be a good day in the office. Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin received a few demerits, too.  No holy card prize for best writer this week.

Yesterday, May 7, 2020, the Register published “Appeal for the Church and the World.” Read the letter here. Drafted by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the letter claimed that the coronavirus pandemic has been exaggerated to foster widespread social panic and undercut freedom, as a preparation for the establishment of a one-world government.  It is a religious freedom screed along the lines of “Easter People” – a petition released a month ago by Dr. Janet Smith, ex-Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor.

Vigano’s letter was published by several EWTN-owned media companies, including the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency (CNA). Campaign Life Coalition, an ultra-conservative Canadian organization, also published the letter on their website, LifeSiteNews.

Listed right after Archbishop Vigano as a major signatory was Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.  Cardinal Sarah denied signing the letter.  “I share on a personal basis some of the questions or concerns raised with regard to restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” he tweeted on his Twitter account, “but I have not signed this petition.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, told Catholic News Agency in a May 7 email that he “did not sign off on this letter.”

DeMelo said that Archbishop Vigano had vouched for the authenticity of Cardinal Sarah’s signature.  “The Register contacted Archbishop Vigano the principal author, and asked him specifically about the authenticity of the signature of Cardinal Sarah and he said: “I can confirm 100% that Cardinal Sarah signed it,” DeMelo told CNA.

Either Archbishop Vigano or Cardinal Sarah are lying.  Which one?

It is safe to say the Register won’t be publishing any more letters from Archbishop Vigano and his minions anytime soon without independently verifying every statement and name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LGBTQIA+ Time to Get the “L” Out?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 30, 2020 | Categories: History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Sex

I have seen the abbreviation “LGBTQIA+” and had no idea what all the letters meant.  I googled it and found that it is: “A common abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Ally community.”  Is it time to get the “L” out, as some lesbians have suggested?  I’m starting to think so.

What sparked this post was a Covid-19 article on Yahoo – “I am Worried About A Backslide in LGBTQIA+ Rights.” I thought it was a little whiny, self-centered and full of assumptions that all gay/lesbian people will agree with the writer’s fretting and values. I don’t. I want my female pronouns, thank you. I want my lesbian identity.

Our identity politics designation now encompasses splinter groups I personally have no interest in or connection with at all. Pansexual? Intersexed? Genderqueer? Who are these people? How was our movement for dignity, respect and rights hijacked?  How could most lesbian and gay individuals relate to someone who describes themself as “Asexual?”  The whole reason we endured pain, humiliation, rejection and violence was to have sex with the woman or man we desired who was a member of our own sex.

Many trans women are frustrated and angry with lesbians who refuse to have sex with them.  There’s the trans woman with fire engine red lipstick complaining “cis” lesbians don’t respond to her OK Cupid ad! Then there’s trans professor bicycle champ who bitches about sex and sports. The trans woman porn star who coined the term “cotton ceiling,” is miffed that lesbians are happy to have coffee dates but not a roll in the hay. Most lesbians are not interested in dicks—either on a man or woman.  Is that a big surprise?  Anyway, shouldn’t a woman’s choice of whom she wants to sleep with take priority over ideology?

I thought this gay man summed up the situation the best:

“I am a gay man, which means I am attracted to other men, meaning adult human males. This precludes women and females who identify as men. And you know what? That’s okay. I’ve fought since I was 15-years-old — when I first came out — to live this truth. My existence as a gay man matters. Lesbians’ existence matters. And this notion that we can overcome “genital preferences” is homophobic and erases our identities, as homosexual people. It doesn’t just echo the far-right conversion therapies so many of us have fought decades to end, it actively embraces these beliefs, as it implies we could become heterosexual if we just opened our minds and overcame our “preferences” for members of the same sex.”

What do you think?  Should lesbians be forced to sleep with men because that’s what the Church and Society want?  Should lesbians be shamed into sleeping with trans women because that’s what some transgender advocates want?

 

 

The Sorrow and Reconciliation of Father Marco Bisceglia

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 26, 2020 | Categories: Bishops, Dissent, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays

“Hell is not intended for homosexuals, but to those who marginalize them, insult them, mock them, push them to despair and suicide.” – Fr. Marco Bisceglia, May 11, 1975. 

One of the earliest, bravest, gay Catholic activists was Fr. Marco Bisceglia. He deserves to be honored and remembered.

In 1975 Fr. Marco Bisceglia was the first Roman Catholic priest to marry two gay men. They were not a couple, but two journalists from a conservative publication looking to entrap him. Bishop Giuseppe Vairo, head of the Diocese of Venosa in southern Italy, suspended him a divinis, banning him from exercising his priesthood. The bishop had previously removed Fr. Bisceglia as pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Lavello. The bishop objected to the 50-year-old priest’s organizing and politicizing worker strikes and economic struggles. Bisceglia countered, saying the institutional church contains a “profound contradiction.” This contradiction, he says, is between a church based on an alliance with the rich and powerful and “the real message of the Gospel.” At the time of the suspension Bisceglia was not sexually active, or even out to himself. 

Marco Bisceglia traced his homosexual awareness to a dream he had when he was fifteen: “my beautiful and pure sex, love and pleasure a grace.” When he awoke, he said, “I understood that the dream was reality and reality a nightmare.” Bisceglia went into the seminary because he was convinced that he had a religious vocation. “I think that trajectory is very typical in Italy,” said a friend of Bisceglia. “A boy who prefers reading to football; a boy who doesn’t feel attracted to girls and who doesn’t understand the nature of his desires; a boy who doesn’t want to admit his thwarted desires to his family and his mother; all of that led young Italian homosexuals quite naturally to seminaries. But what was fundamental in Marco Bisceglia was that he was not a hypocrite. For several decades, while he remained in the Church, he did not experience gay life. It was only afterwards that he lived out his homosexuality with the excess of the newly converted.”

Bisceglia’s activism shifted from labor to gay rights in 1980, with the murder of a gay male couple in Giarre, a town on the east coast of Sicily. On October 31, 1980, a 25-year-old man, Giorgio Agatino Giammona, and a 15-year-old youth, Antonio Galatola, were found dead, together, each with a gunshot wound to the head. The investigations led to 12-year-old Francesco Messina as the murderer. He was Galatola’s nephew. The couple was killed by Messina on behalf of their families and with the couple’s consent.  They believed they could not live without being constantly harassed and threatened, so they chose to end their lives.

Their deaths sparked the formation of Italy’s first and largest national gay group – Arcigay (Associazione LGBTI italiana) in Palermo in December 1980. Marco Biscelgia was one of the prominent founders and activists. The group became known throughout Italy for its campaign for civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. But by the time Arcigay became a nationally established organization in Bologna in 1985, Bisceglia had drifted away and traces of him were lost.

After Bisceglia came out as a gay man in 1980 he made up for his lost, chaste years.  He also lived with two men; Nichi Vendola, another labor activist, and Dadi, a youth from Algeria who had immigrated to Italy.  Vendola recalled a conversation he had with Biscelgia where Biscelgia bitterly regretted becoming a priest. Instead, he said, he should have spent the time becoming aware and living out his homosexuality.  Vendola recalls “He re-read himself, that is, this faith and priesthood, as the result of a neurosis, of the attempt to conceal his homosexuality.” Vendola argued with him, telling him his that priesthood was an important part of him. “I told him,” Vendola said, “don’t throw Jesus into that shadow core.”  Bisceglia disappeared completely shortly after that conversation. He was HIV positive. Vendola, a communist and devout Roman Catholic, became an elected representative, then leader of the southern Italian region of Apulia. 

In the early 1990s, Msgr. Luigi Di Liegro, a popular and controversial priest who was head of the Caritas for the diocese of Rome made a call to Fr. Paolo Bosetti pastor of the suburban parish of San Cleto in Rome. He asked him to accept a priest who has the “heavy burden” of AIDS. “What should we do?” asked the pastor. “Just do him good” replied Monsignor Di Liegro.

Living in the rectory with other priests, Marco Bisceglia decided he wanted to be able to celebrate Mass again.  With the encouragement of Fr. Bosetti, he addressed a petition to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The answer came a few months later: the a divinis suspension was cancelled. Bisceglia wrote to his sister, Anita, with the news: “Dear Anita, when you receive this letter I will already be reintegrated into the presbyterial service. I am fully aware of my unworthiness; how firmly I am confident in the forgiveness of God and in his purifying and regenerating action.  I hope I can, with your help, repair my past mistakes and misleadings. I address you with a sincerely pacified soul and with the desire for a profound reconciliation and mutual understanding, despite the diversity of life choices.”

What were his “past mistakes and misleadings?”  Bisceglia never said. He returned to the priesthood in 1996 but he never repudiated his gay rights work.  When Nichi Vendola heard Bisceglia had fallen ill with AIDS he asked to see him, but Bisceglia refused. He erected a wall “between what had been and what he intended to be” and wanted to be nothing but a man “who reflects and prays and thinks and prays and lives and prays.”

Father Marco Bisceglia celebrated his “first” Mass in the Sanctuary of Loreto in the Marche region.  A delegation from the priest’s home diocese and local church arrived, led by Bishop Vincenzo Cozzi.  During the service Bisceglia recited a prayer he had composed on the merciful tenderness of God.  In writing those verses, perhaps he thought of what he had confided to Nichi Vendola, when he said he feared he had done everything wrong and reduced his life to a pile of rubble. “With that same rubble,” he said, “you have thus rebuilt your Sanctuary.”

Father Bisceglia died on July 22, 2001. It was a day of violent protest by leftist groups over the G8 summit meeting in Genoa.  Hundreds of people were injured and arrested.  Bisceglia was buried in the priests’ cemetery in Lavello. Bishop Giuseppe Vairo died three days later.

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Modesty Veils for Females

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 18, 2020 | Categories: Faith, History, Humor, Pious Trash

Rules were a big thing growing up Catholic in the 1950s and 60s. Rules had to be followed, no matter how silly or irrational they were. The Church’s insistence on silly rules – missing one Sunday Mass would condemn a good person to Hell forever – did more to undermine Catholicism’s credibility than the conflagration of the 60s. Silly rules ultimately sapped believability.

An example of a silly rule is that females must have their heads covered in church. Going to church on Sunday was fine since I always had a chapel veil or bonnet; but going to church during the week presented a problem since I went to public school. I did not have a veil with me when I went to catechism class on Wednesdays. The sisters remedied that by requiring all girls without a veil to wear a tissue on their heads when we went into the church. The sisters handed out tissues as we entered the vestibule. We walked into the sanctuary with one hand on our heads to hold the tissue in place. I spent the lesson trying to keep the tissue on my head as we knelt or stood up. The drafts in the church didn’t make it easy. Obviously, the pastor and the nuns did not consider the impression that this exercise would make…what was important was that we followed the rule.

My revelation at age 10: having to wear a tissue on my head was stupid. It was my first step down the road of disbelief of other rules, including birth control, salvation limited to Catholic humans, chastity, and the secondary status of females in the Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Easter People and the Coronavirus

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 11, 2020 | Categories: Dissent, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics

At the beginning of April, a group of conservative Catholics began circulating an online petition called, “We Are an Easter People” demanding all U.S. bishops to “do everything you can to make possible some form of public Mass, especially the Easter liturgy, and then encourage pastors to conduct it” and to “demand that civil authorities recognize religious services as essential services.”

The author of the petition is Dr. Janet Smith, former professor of moral theology at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  Asked whether her use of the term “Easter People” meant she would like to see Mass on Easter Sunday, Dr. Smith said, “That is a beginning. Get the altars constructed in the parking lots or fields. Get the technology up and running that will broadcast the Mass. Is there any reason not to continue to offer Mass?” 

Smith didn’t want to put anyone at risk, but she observed that if we expect people to work in supermarkets, we can expect a priest to celebrate a Mass. “We can stay in our cars,” she said, “and he stays at the altar.”  “We know many of our priests are eager to attend to those with Covid-19 and are willing to put their lives at risk. We admire their willingness to suffer and possibly to experience martyrdom.”

Dr. Smith notes that there are times when the state can impose restrictions, and one of those times is when there is danger in personal interaction. “But,” she added: “…we need to start with the right principle. Religion is an essential service – It is not just like a sporting event or concert that entertains us, that we can take or leave. The purpose of life is to be in a right relationship with the Lord. The sacraments are essentials means of sustaining that relationship. Unfortunately, whereas the founders of this country believed religious practice to be essential to the well-being of a nation and thus deserving of protection, too many in our culture think religion to be a pathetic superstition that does more harm than good. Such people are thrilled at any opportunity to wean religious believers from their practices.”

Ah, there it is, the crux of the matter.  The image of the State telling Catholic conservatives what they can and cannot do, however it may affect other people. The Eucharist is central to their practice of Catholicism, both as a prize for the pure and a sanction against other believers who don’t share all their moral priorities. Is the essence of Catholicism only the assembly for the Eucharist, or Christ’s two commandments: to love God with your whole heart and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

On April 5, 2020 The Wall Street Journal published “As Coronavirus Halts Masses, Conservative Catholics Push Back.”  The comments by the Catholic subscribers were insightful and sometimes unintentionally hilarious:

“As seems to be often the case, conservative Catholics are espousing the “me first” doctrine spread by the U.S. president. One would expect Christians who love their neighbors as themselves would be doing everything they can to limit the spread of the virus. At present, in the absence of effective therapy or vaccine, it would seem right to steer clear of any gathering where one could pick up the infection and then carry it out to others.” – Jeffrey N.

“I attended just such an outside service a week ago. It was extremely well managed, with people spaced 6 feet minimum outside, hand sanitizer before approaching a gloved priest who used a tong to drop the host in the outstretched hand.  Very dignified, and much safer than my earlier trip to the grocery store (in mask and gloves).  No one came within six feet of each other. Very quiet, reverent and prayerful atmosphere. If you have no direct experience of this, I suggest you keep your opinion to yourself.”  – Lisa A

“As the son of a devout, 93-year-old Catholic woman, I’m curious why some of these “conservative” Catholic voices are trying to rush my mom’s meeting with Jesus.” – Mike B.

“Public Mass pose a very significant risk of spreading the virus, so I agree with the shutdown here in Mpls/St. Paul. Even with seating everyone far apart during the service, in distributing Communion the Eucharistic Minister touches every person’s hand when he/she hands out the Host. The Host you receive has essentially been touched by everyone’s hand in front of you. Maybe there are creative ways around this to make it safer; I would be open to it. But if not done safely, this could be a disaster. – Monica M.

“What nonsense!” Have you ever attended mass before, the ministers just drop the host in the hands there is no physical contact, unless you choose to drink from the cup or shake hands.  By your logic, you should not be touching anything at the grocery store or even the pharmacy as God knows who touched it before you. Also, you should not be touching the credit card machine with your credit card because God kows who swiped or inserted their card and germs there right before you! Bottom line, is that those who never let a crisis go to waste have put material needs like Costo and CVS before God. They and you will be answerable to the Almighty Judge for such poor judgement.” – Jacque D

“When I go to the grocery store and swipe my credit card I don’t immediately put my credit card or my hand in my mouth. I wash my hands first. That is the difference. And there is no “dropping” the communion in one’s hand. If so, there would be many more communions that fall all over the floor during Mass.”  – Monica M.

“I thought the Roman Catholic church was pro-life?” – Jim M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Catholic Vote’s Presidential Election Mailer

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 3, 2020 | Categories: Faith, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics, Popes, Scandals

I received this mailer from Catholic Vote.  I’m sure they got my name from my subscription to the National Catholic Register.  I am a pro-life voter–not just a pro-birth voter.  Catholic Vote started out as a Pope Benedict fan club.  They have now evolved into some kind of conservative Catholic PAC.

When presented with such a stark choice for candidates it’s very easy to pick:  NANCY PELOSI, and the fundamental Catholic values and upbringing she represents.

How on earth, as a faithful Catholic, could I vote for what Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II represent:

Donald Trump – A coarse, nasty, misogynist, pathological liar.

Ronald Reagan – The man who destroyed the American working class by opening the floodgates to globalization and corporate maximization of profits vs. giving people at home a decent living wage.

Pope John Paul II – Ignored or protected priestly predators and their enablers while thousands of innocent children, teens and seminarians were raped and sexually abused. Under his watch the Vatican bank was a den of thieves washing dirty money and funding luxurious lifestyles for corrupt prelates. And don’t forget–he never met a military dictatorship he didn’t prefer over poor peasants and indigenous peoples.

Catholic Vote needs to rethink their presentation materials.

 

 

 

 

Looking Back 35 Years: Barbara Grier, Catholic Lesbians, and the Lesbian Nuns Book

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 29, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

In 1985 the book, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, was published by Naiad Press. It was an explosive best-seller, thanks to the Boston Archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard Law, who complained about a local television interview with the book’s two editors. The archdiocese described the program as “an affront to the sensitivity of Roman Catholics.” The station cancelled the segment, and sales soared.  “This is crazy,” Barbara Grier, a founder of Naiad Press told The New York Times, scrambling to fill orders for the book, “I’m a mouse giving birth to an elephant.” The editors, Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan, did have a successful appearance on the Phil Donohue show in April 1985 and went on a national tour for the book.  Naiad Press went through four printings of the book, and eventually sold the mass distribution and paperback rights to Warner Books in 1986. Lesbian Nuns eventually sold several hundred thousand copies. 

Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence included stories by 42 former nuns and women religious, and nine women still in religious life.  Most used pseudonyms.  All of them wrote about either discovering or acting on their lesbian identity while still in religious life.  While there were very few detailed descriptions of sex and seduction, Naiad’s marketing promised to reveal what really goes on behind convent doors, breaking the silence “about erotic love between women in religious life.” While the lesbian religious in the book had affairs or relationships with other sisters, they also fell in love or lust with lay women, married and single.  Often the love affair or sexual relationship was the cause of them leaving the convent: it was too hard to maintain a lover relationship and live a religious life.  Sometimes the relationships continued but often they did not. I met and knew several of the contributors:

Nancy Manahan, one of the co-editors, worked with the Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) to solicit contributors to the book.  She also did a workshop on the book at our 1986 conference. I found Nancy to be a lovely, gracious, caring person.

Susan Weaver was an elegant, elderly woman. We got together several times during my visits to my parents home in Vermont. She made me a beautiful Christmas ornament that I put on my tree every year in memory of her.

Pat O’Donnell was a Dominican sister working at Picture Rocks Retreat house in Tucson, Arizona.  She lost her job as the result of her coming out in the book.  Pat continued to live and work in Tucson doing spiritual direction.

“Kate Quigley” lived in Montreal and had a long-term relationship with a married woman. The woman’s husband was aware of it. The three of them would go away on vacation together.

Charlotte Doclar worked with Sr. Jeannine Gramick at New Ways Ministry to outreach to lesbian nuns.  I met her at a retreat for Catholic lesbians in 1981. Charlotte was friendly, jocular and good-natured. Her story is on the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.

Dianne Weyers entered her community when she was 14.  She left when she was in her late 30s or early 40s with a mysterious back ailment no doctor was able to diagnose but had a crippling effect on her.  Since she could not sit upright for long, I typed her manuscript for the book.  She felt very unwanted and persecuted by her community, particularly one sadistic superior. I never quite knew what to make of her.

“Sister Maria Nuscera” was a very vivacious lesbian religious in the Midwest. She fell in love and had an affair with a parishioner.

Margaret “Peg” Cruikshank was not one of the lesbian nuns but was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the book.  Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan, the book’s co-editors, had previously published their own stories as lesbian religious in The Lesbian Path. Peg edited that book and introduced the pair in June 1981. She suggested to Barbara Grier that Manahan and Curb edit a book about lesbian nuns.

The nun on the cover of the book with the “come hither” look was Jean O’Leary, who left the convent and went on to become a co-director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 

The Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL), was a group founded in the early 1980s to promote Catholic lesbian visibility and community.  Beginning in 1982, the group had advertised and promoted the Lesbian Nuns book project to its members and readers, many of whom were lesbian religious and ex-nuns.  CCL’s newsletter editor at that time, a wonderful woman named Pat, knew of Barbara Grier through the Daughters of Bilitis. DOB or Daughters was the first lesbian rights organization in the United States. Pat had been one of the editors of its newsletter, The Ladder.  She described Grier as an aggressive, single-minded butch.

The unthinkable happened shortly after the publication of Lesbian Nuns.  Barbara Grier, working to maximize income and visibility, offered excerpts of the book to gay and women’s publications like Philadelphia Gay News and Ms. Magazine. She also offered excerpts to Forum magazine; a men’s soft-core porn magazine published by Penthouse. The lead headline in the June 1985 Forum blared in capital letters:  SEX LIVES OF LESBIAN NUNS. The lesbian nun stories that Forum bought included “They Shall Not Touch, Even in Jest,” “Finding My Way” and “South American Lawyer in the Cloister.”

Grier justified the decision by stating it would help the book reach a wider audience. She claimed that many women, some of them closeted lesbians, read their male family members’ copies of the magazine. An estimated 15% of Forum readers were female.  In an interview with WomaNews, she expressed surprise about the outrage her Forum sale generated— “I had no idea anyone would object.”  Even if you are a huge Barbara Grier fan, these two assumptions are hard to accept.

Since CCL had helped to solicit contributors to the book, personally, and through our conferences and newsletter, the organization sent a letter to Barbara Grier protesting the sale of the stories to Forum.  We did get a letter back from her a few weeks later.  The letter is now lost, but I remember what she wrote. The tone was matter of fact, no apology. She sold the rights to Forum to try to reach as many lesbians as possible.  I don’t know if the tiny sliver of lesbian Forum readers would even be interested in the book, but the ensuing controversy certainly helped sales and attracted new customers to Naiad Press.  Lesbian Nuns was their greatest publicity tool and best-selling book ever.

Naiad Press was founded in 1973 by Barbara Grier, her partner, Donna McBride, and another couple, Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford. The business began with $2,000 provided by Marchant, their first author. She wrote under the pen name, Sarah Aldridge. Over the years Naiad published over 500 books on unconditionally lesbian themes.  Mostly romance novels, they included erotica, mysteries and science fiction. Naiad also reprinted some of the most important lesbian pulp novels of the 1940s and ‘50s, including the Beebo Brinker Chronicles by Ann Bannon. Their authors included Jane Rule, Katherine V. Forrest, Claire McNab, Lee Lynch and Karin Kallmaker.  Cartoonist Alison Bechdel used to lampoon Naiad books by giving them bar code covers. Grier told Bechdel when she met her that she always loved seeing Naiad jokes in her comic strip. The founders fiercely disagreed over the Forum sale and it precipitated a split a few years later.

In 1973, no bookstores would take lesbian themed books, so Naiad started as a mail order business. Its initial list of 3800 names was the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), membership list that Grier purloined when the organization folded in 1970.  Grier used it to keep publishing The Ladder, DOB’s newsletter, for another two years until funding ran out. Many DOB activists felt Grier stole the list, but she defended her action as necessary for the magazine’s continued existence: “DOB was falling apart—we wanted The Ladder to survive.”

Grier got her start at DOB in 1957 as a book reviewer.  Her reviews were written under the pseudonym Gene Damon. She wanted to “nourish all lesbians with books.” In 1968 she became editor of The Ladder.  The magazine increased from 25 to more than 40 pages and tripled in subscriptions.  She removed the word “Lesbian” from the front cover in order to reach more women. Her makeover was successful but not without conflict.  She increased coverage of feminist news, but some DOB members wanted the focus to remain exclusively lesbian. In the late 1960s, the Daughters of Bilitis finally broke under the stresses and conflicts surrounding the political vs. the social aspects of the group; and whether to align with male-dominated gay rights groups, or lesbian separatist feminists. Grier was in the latter camp. The founders of DOB, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, leaned more toward acceptance and assimilation. 

I skimmed my copy Lesbian Nuns a few months ago, and it spurred me to reflect on what I thought about Barbara Grier now, 35 years after I helped draft CCL’s protest letter to her.  I also revisited my 2011 post on Grier, written shortly after she died.

In 1985, I thought Grier was a crud. How could a lesbian publisher sell personal, and often sad and painful coming out stories to a men’s sex magazine? Her goal–to reach as many lesbians as possible- was enough to override every other consideration and objection.

In 2020, my view of Grier is more nuanced. In order to become a successful publisher of lesbian literature in a homophobic world, she needed to be single-minded, relentless and ambitious to endure and prevail. She was a hard worker, tough, and totally dedicated to her ideal of lesbian visibility. “Her goal in publishing,” said Donna McBride, “was to make lesbians happy about themselves.” Books that made lesbians feel secure in their sexual identities were the best. Grier succeeded, and made the world a better place for lesbians.  They could see themselves and their lives in books at last. 

Grier was also blunt, nasty, calculating, and operated with flexible ethics—think of the Forum sale and the DOB membership list theft.  I wonder if she had the idea of starting a book company when she took the list.  I bet she did.

As lesbians and gay men continue to integrate into ordinary life and communities, workplaces, parishes, television shows and elected offices, this quote from Grier in 1968 flashes a warning:  “When we have amalgamated and homogenized and pasteurized ourselves thoroughly, we can become one of the shapeless, formless, meaningless, ‘walk alike, talk alike, think alike’ things that now live in this country—and then who will write our poetry, our novels of intensity, who will burn a futile fire, howl at the moon aimlessly?”

 

 

 

 

 

Levity in Plague Time

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 20, 2020 | Categories: Bishops, Fishy Fridays, Humor, Pious Trash

As of March 17, 2020, 147 of the 177 U.S. dioceses suspended Masses to help stop new Coronavirus infections.  This included the small Diocese of Tyler, Texas, population 105,000. 

A week before, on March 11, 2020, Bishop Strickland tweeted his followers: “I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple Eucharistic Procession around your Church sometime before the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ’s healing hand on the Coronavirus & and that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ.”

There was no report in any Catholic publications of additional Eucharistic Processions to help stop the Coronavirus and transform queens into rugged Marlboro men.

I counted eight people in a picture of Bishop Strickland’s procession – nine if you want to include the presence of the Lord Jesus. If this ritual made each of them feel better, good, but the group looked sad.

The funniest Catholic response so far to the Coronavirus is Father Andrea Vena, the parish priest of Bibione, a town near Venice, Italy.  Fr. Vena loaded a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on his little truck, and drives around town to bless streets, houses and people.  When he was stopped by the Carabinieri he barked, “I’m working!!” “Like Jesus,” he told a reporter, “I went out of the temple of God to go among the people.” 

The priest uses his aspergillum to spray holy water on people…. probably not a smart move since the virus is spread by contact of moist droplets infected by the virus.

One man watching a video of Fr. Vena commented: “You are a perfect example of why many non-Catholic Christians think all Catholics are loons. To all non-Catholic Christians reading here, we are not all loons. As you can see, some Catholics definitely are.