Posted in category "Celebrities"

Closeted in ’62: Sal Romano in Mad Men

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 9, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays

The hit HBO show “Mad Men”  features a closeted homosexual.  Salvatore Romano, the married  Italian American art director at Sterling Company,  has a crush on Ken Cosgrove, a young account executive at the agency climbing his way up the corporate ladder. mm-6

In the first show of the series,  “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” Sal replies to Dr. Guttman’s statement about smoking and  a death wish: “So we’re supposed to believe that people are living one way and secretly thinking the exact opposite? That’s ridiculous.” (Sound a little like the life a closeted person might lead?)

Sal married. His wife, Kitty, was a neighborhood girl in Baltimore, Sal’s hometown.  They moved to New York and live with his Italian-speaking mother in an  apartment in  Brooklyn or Queens.

In Season 1/Episode 8, “The Hobo Code,” Sal is the recipient of an overture from Elliot, a salesman from Belle Jolie. They met earlier in the day at a presentation of an ad campaign for Belle Jolie: “Mark Your Man.”   After work, Sal met Elliot for drinks at the bar in the Roosevelt Hotel.  They share a drink as Elliot rhapsodizes about the wonder of New York City. Before long, their conversation changes tone.  Elliot reaches across the table and drinks from Sal’s glass.  The sexual tension is obvious, but when Elliot asks if Sal would like to go see the view from his bedroom Sal declines, clearly embarrassed. “I know what I want to do,” he says. madmen7-sal

In Season 2/Episode 7, “The Gold Violin,” Sal’s orientation becomes a little clearer.  Ken Cosgrove, the man inspiring Sal’s smoldering longing, has written two unpublished novels and became the target of office jealousy when his short story, “Tapping a Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning,” was published in the Atlantic Monthly. But Sal seems to understand the creative, vulnerable, writerly side of Ken, and when Ken asks him to review one of his new stories, Sal invites Ken to dinner at his apartment.

When Ken arrives at Sal and Kitty’s apartment. Sal says he loved Ken’s story, “The Gold Violin” which was inspired by a violin Ken saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (“It was perfect in every way except it couldn’t make music,” says Ken.) Throughout dinner, Sal fastens on Ken’s every word, as if they are as delicious as his own cooking. (Needless to say he’s oblivious to his wife’s needs.) He’s especially thrilled when Ken lights his cigarette (some obvious symbolism).

After Ken leaves, Kitty breaks down in tears, saying Sal left her out of the conversation the entire night. “Do you even see me here?” she asks. “I am so sorry,” he replies. It wasn’t an intentional thing to hurt Kitty, because Sal really does care about her.

As he’s cleaning up, Sal discovers a lighter that Ken left behind. Sal lovingly puts it in his pocket.

The tension–and the torment–of homosexuals, especially married people, was the norm in 1962.   It is still very much the case today–a person who is sexually attracted or in love with a co-worker, a friend, a fellow student, a neighbor, a member of their religious community–but must refrain from saying or acting on their feelings, and can only communicate their interest  and  desire in very veiled ways. 207_salvator_kitty_ken

Ironically, the actor playing Sal Romano is a very out gay man, Bryan Batt.   He and his partner, Tom Cianfichi, have been together for more than 18 years.   They own a home decor and furnishing store, Hazelnut, in New Orleans.

As an openly gay man, Batt was asked how it was to perform as a closeted man during the ’60s. “He’s so much more reserved than I am: great posture, very calculating, always analyzing what’s going on around him because he has to fit in. The hardest thing about playing him is that I’m an open book and Sal is not…as a gay man it’s very interesting to play this character because people forget what people had to go through at that time.”

Being married is also a perfect cover entertaining clients or nights out with the boys from work. He can go to strip clubs and say, “No, I’m married,” so he’s not forced to participate in the hanky panky.

Batt also commented that people stop him on the street to ask when is Salvatore coming to come out.   “My response is, ‘To what?’  There was no real gay community back then. There’s been so many great strides made in just a short amount of time to have a vocal gay community.”

Were feelings more poignant when we were closeted?


Two New Catholics Have Something To Say

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 26, 2009 | Categories: Celebrities, Faith, Lesbians & Gays, Politics

Tony Blair has challenged the “entrenched” attitudes of the Pope on homosexuality, and argued it is time for him to “rethink” his views.

During an April 8, 2009 interview with the U.K.’s leading gay magazine, Attitude, the former Prime Minister said: “Organised religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changing circumstances.” tonyblair31

“You can either A: hold on to your core vote, basically, say ‘Look let’s not break out because if we break out we might lose what we’ve got, and at least we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s keep it.’ Or B: you say, “Let’s accept that the world is changing and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out.'”

Asked about the Pope’s stance, Mr. Blair blamed generational differences and said: “We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith.”

“There are many good and great things the Catholic Church does, and there are many fantastic things this Pope stands for, but I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic Church, particularly a well attended one, on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you’d be surprised how liberal-minded people were. The faith of ordinary Catholics is rarely found “in those types of entrenched attitudes,” he said.

Not all British Catholics applauded with his remarks.

On March 29, 2009, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, was received into the Catholic Church.   He has not said publicly why he converted, but his third wife, Callista Bisek, is Catholic.   Mr. Gingrich had been a Baptist.

But a comment he recently made may contain a hint: “Over the course of the last decade, attending the basilica…reading the literature, there was a peace in my soul and a sense of well-being in the Catholic church.”

Mr. Gingrich,   a   conservative Republican who has not run for elective office since he was forced out of Congress in 1999, has toyed with running for president in the past and is much-rumored to be considering a 2012 bid.   It is not clear how his Catholicism might affect his political future, but in a recent Twitter post Gingrich commented President Obama has “anti Catholic values.”  gingrich200

“It is sad to see,” he texted, “notre dame invite president obama to give the commencement address Since his policies are so anti catholic values”

Based on his sexual infidelities and multiple marriages, some U.S. Catholics question Rep. Gingrich’s self-promotion  as a spokesman for authentic  “Catholic values.”


Martina’s Closet

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 15, 2009 | Categories: Celebrities, Scandals

“There are a lot of skeletons in Martina’s closet. It is more like a storage facility full of them, and I know them all,” said Toni Layton, 50ish, who left her computer salesman husband, Jeffrey Lambert, for the nine-time Wimbleton champion in 2001. Layton claims she helped nurture and enrich Martina’s career during their time together and is seeking a substantial financial settlement.

Or else.

This long-time lover of Martina Navatilova is threatening to air the tennis great’s dirty laundry if she doesn’t receive a settlement to her liking based on their eight years together.   For the last twelve months she has attempted to negotiate a payment with no success.   She was offered $200,000 which she refuses to accept.

“The offer was an insult. Navratilova is using Florida’s failure to recognize gay marriage to her advantage. We are standing up for gay rights in this case,” said Layton’s attorney. “Toni Layton has the right to obtain a fair settlement the same as if she were the spouse in a traditional marriage.”

Martina seems to have a soft spot for married women: country club blondes, with pretty faces and chic figures a few years older than she is. She woos them, and they fall madly in love with a woman for the first time. After six or seven years the relationship has lost its zest and Martina is ready to move on.   But the woman who left her husband and family doesn’t see it that way.

In 1993 the live-in lover prior to Layton, Judy Nelson, wrote Love Match – Nelson vs. Navratilova –  a tell-all book about her seven-year relationship with Martina.   The Texan, now 63, left her husband for Martina after the two women were first introduced by Nelson’s 11-year-old son, who was a ball boy. In 1991 Nelson sued Martina for “palimony” and the case was settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum. love-match

Judy Nelson was apparently a “kept” woman, claiming she was paid $90,000 annually as Martina’s “maid” while accompanying her on the international tennis circuit. Unlike Nelson, Martina never paid Toni  Layton a wage.

Nelson chronicled her self-proclaimed victimization further in a second book about the relationship, Choices, published in 1996. Rita Mae Brown, another one of Martina’s exs, wrote the forward to Love Match, where she refers to Nelson as a woman “whose hair gets ruined by a ceiling fan.”

In true lesbian daisy chain fashion, everybody is linked by sex or love.   Martina left Rita Mae in 1981 to take up with Judy Nelson.   Rita Mae took up with Judy Nelson in 1992 after her breakup with Martina.   Rita Mae Brown wrote her own roman a clef about Martina in Sudden Death, a novel about a moody tennis star who cheats on her lover with a fan.

Poor Martina.   Three books by seething ex-lovers and it looks like a fourth will hit the shelves unless she coughs up big money.   I feel for her.   There is nothing on earth nastier and more vicious than a woman you want to leave but won’t let go.

Martina dedicated her fitness book, Shape Yourself, to Toni, calling her “someone pretty darn special.” “When I wanted to dedicate this book to her, she asked me not to do that, but instead to dedicate it to all those who inspire others, not just in words but in deeds because she would not be my inspiration if she had not been inspired by others.”

A friend said: “Toni is still heartbroken but is gradually getting over the split. Maybe she now wishes she had read Judy Nelson’s book before she got involved with Martina?” choices


Delia Smith’s Lenten Programme

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 22, 2009 | Categories: Celebrities, Faith

Wondering why English food was so awful in the 1960s set Delia Smith off on a quest to learn about it and educate people in how to cook their traditional dishes, a mission that, for the past 33 years, has made her Britain’s favorite cook.     Her first book was How to Cheat at Cooking (1971) and the following year she started writing a column in the Evening Standard. From the start, hers has been a practical and inspirational approach to cooking healthy, delicious food. delia-smith-no.jpg

Delia Smith, 67,  is also known for her spiritual books. Her first two religious books, A Feast for Lent and A Feast for Advent (both published in 1983), are readings and reflections for these seasons. In 1988 Delia took on the much larger challenge of   writing a full-length book on prayer, A Journey into God.

Faith has been part of Delia’s life from childhood. “My mother would put me to bed too early, when I could hear that all the other children were still up, so I was awake and bored. One night, she gave me a picture of Jesus with the children of the world, and taught me to say the Our Father. That is when I started with silence and stillness–there was this need in me even then for the spirit.” When she was 22, she became a Catholic after being taken to Mass by a friend.

Each day, as well as attending Mass, Delia carves out a half an hour in the morning and a half an hour in the late afternoon for absolute quiet. “We all have a need sometimes to be by ourselves and be still. I know that making that sort of commitment can be very difficult, so what I suggest is that you build it up gradually, over years. Start with 20 minutes a day. How do you know when 20 minutes has passed? The simplest way is a kitchen timer!”

Her new venture with Cafod (the official overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales), all started with an interview last year on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Her latest book, Delia’s How to Cheat on Cooking, had just come out and she was doing an interview to promote it.

“Answering one of their questions, I admitted I was confused about the ethics of food miles and planet warming and carbon emissions. I said that I had stopped buying vegetables that had travelled long distance, but then I had started worrying about what was happening to growers in places like Kenya if there was no longer any overseas markets for their produce.”

Her on-air confession that she didn’t have an answer to this dilemma made headlines in the national press, but also promoted a call to her office from Cafod, offering to guide her through their research on this sensitive issue. From that call a relationship blossomed. “Cafod contacted me,” Delia explains, “and said they had some scientists who were experts on the question of food miles, so I went  and spent a day at the Cafod offices and had a very productive time.”

This meeting led her to offer her services to the charity. Cafod came back with a suggestion that she lead their Lenten programme, which she accepted. “I wasn’t at all sure about it,” she admits. “There wasn’t going to be much space on the website to explain what I felt, and with anything having to do with religion you run the risk of being misunderstood. But you have to think what being is a Christian is all about. And if we think being misunderstood is bad, what is that next to what happened to Christ? If there is a reason why I have agreed to do this, it’s because he did it. He coped with ridicule and misunderstanding every day.”

The theme of her Lenten programme is not Kenyan beans, or even the development issues usually associated with Cafod and its work of supporting people in need around the globe. It is something more specifically spiritual and revealing of Delia’s own approach to faith.   On the charity’s website she is urging the benefits of making a daily commitment to stillness and silence. “Lent is the perfect time to make a commitment to spending serious one-to-one time in God’s presence,” she wrote in her introductory reflection.

“As I have got older I have become more aware of the simplicity of our faith,” comments Delia on her motivation for proposing this Lenten exercise. “If Jesus has said, ‘there’s only one thing needed,’ we cannot grow as Christians without incorporating that ‘one thing’ into our daily lives and take his words utterly seriously.”

“Throughout the gospels Jesus spends time alone, away from the pressures of life to be ‘with’ his Father. How can any of   his followers not understand their own need for this, faced with the challenges of life today?”

Delia quotes the example of Jesus’ visit to the sisters Martha and Mary. Martha (who sounds like a Delia type of person) is busy making supper and doing housework, while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, hanging on to his every word. But when Martha gets annoyed and tells her sister to help her, Jesus tells her to stop fussing. “You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed–indeed, only one.” That “one thing” Delia believes, is silence and in it, openness to God.

The idea of silent contemplation seems to be having something of a resurgence,  including the rising numbers of people called to a monastic lifestyle. Delia thinks that economic crisis may have something to do with it, in the sense that material plenty tends to equate with spiritual poverty, and vice versa. “I think there may be an opening to God right now because the pressures people are under with this recession.   They may be realising   that materialism can never make you happy in the end.”

Many advocates of silence insist on the need to go much further…to banish worldly thoughts and concerns and find an inner voice. Delia doesn’t agree. “My mind is still making up recipes when I’m silent,” she admits, “but that doesn’t matter. Sister Wendy (Beckett),  always tells me that God created our minds to think. We can’t just switch them on and off when we want to. You just have to trust in God that he will be the instigator. He will enable. That’s an important word. Enable. It is a kind of blind trust.”

Delia is contemplating writing more about religion. The attacks by atheists have irked her, in particularly what she sees as their “stupidity” in stating categorically that there isn’t a God. “Their behaviour always makes me think of two ants in a crack in the pavement in front of St Paul’s Cathedral. One asks the other ‘Do you believe in architecture?’ and the other says, ‘No, I don’t.'”


Nearer to God

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 18, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays

Commonweal‘s February 27, 2009 issue had a short piece entitled “The Perfect Sinner” by Harold Bordwell.   It was about Max Jacob, a French Jew born in Brittany, who was a painter, poet, novelist, playwright, and critic, who played an important role in the formative years of Cubism as well as in the new directions of modern poetry during the early 20th century. His poetry was made up of an amalgam of Jewish, Breton, Parisian and Roman Catholic elements.

Max Jacob alternated between a wildly bohemian lifestyle and periods of contemplation.   He converted to Catholicism in 1915, after experiencing a vision of Christ a few years earlier.   But his conversion did not save him from the Gestapo, who rounded him up and took him to Drancy internment camp.   He died there of pneumonia on March 5, 1944, two days before he was scheduled to be sent to Auschwitz.   He was 68. His body was eventually returned to his home of Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire near Orleans. max.jpg

Saint-Benoit was the site of a celebrated abbey church. Max Jacob first came to Saint-Benoit in 1921, and stayed there periodically until 1937, when he settled down permanently, living a quietly religious life–early daily Mass, evening prayer, and working as a church guide.

Max Jacob reminds me of David, a “man after God’s own heart.” Sensuous, a sinner, each man experienced periods of prayful contemplation and penitence. But in their full and vivid life each also held God in a loved and honored place.

Max Jacob chose Saint-Benoit to escape his disorderly and worldly life–he was homosexual, he took drugs, he liked to play the clown–and, as his biographer Beatrice Mousli notes, to be nearer to God and away from his temptations that he could never resist in Paris.

It was a very different life than his days in Paris, where his writings and gouache paintings led to friendships with Picasso, Jean Cocteau, anf Guillaume Apollinaire, among others.   There were rumors that Jacob was a male lover of Picasso. “Oh, Picasso was absolutely having sex with Max Jacob. And everyone knew!”, said John Richardson, Picasso’s biographer. Even Picasso’s mistress, Fernande Olivier, noted upon first meeting Jacob that the two men were “toujours ensemble.”

In his journals, novelist Julian Green remembers how Max Jacob used to haunt the Cafe Select by night, and then the next morning hurry down the boulevard to Notre-Dame-des-Champs to confess his sins, with the priests hiding behind the church columns but knowing that one of them would eventually have to listen to the same sins they all knew by heart.

Green calls Max Jacob the perfect sinner because he was truly sorry for his sins, which didn’t prevent him from starting all over the next day.


Flannery O’Connor’s Catholic Lesbian Friend

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 12, 2009 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Lesbians & Gays

Shortly after A Good Man is Hard to Find was published,  a discerning reader in Atlanta wrote to author Flannery O’Connor to tell her she realized that God was the main subject in the short story collection. “You are very kind to write to me and the measure of my appreciation must be to ask you to write to me again. I would like to know who this is who understands my stories,” O’Connor responded in a letter dated July 10, 1955. betty-hester.jpg

It was the first of 274 letters O’Connor sent to Elizabeth “Betty” Hester, sparking a friendship that would continue until the Flannery O’Connor’s death from lupus in 1964.

Betty Hester,  “an agnostic obsessed with  God,”was  shy, a flirt, and  a chain-smoker with a menagerie of cats who cared for a widowed aunt named Clyde. Although she never published any of her stories, Hester shared her writing with O’Connor. Hester wrote book reviews for the diocesan newspaper, The Bulletin,  as did O’Connor.

The early letters center on the two women’s faith. In the course of their correspondence, Hester converted to Catholicism, asking O’Connor to be her sponsor. Flannery tried to help Hester in her understanding of the Catholic faith in hopes of giving Betty some spiritual comfort; but shortly after her baptism, Hester decided to leave the church.   That disturbed O’Connor more than Hester’s admission she  was a lesbian.   flannery.gif

After much intense correspondence and several visits, Betty insisted on telling Flannery her “history of horror” before the friendship went any further.    At 13, Betty had watched her mother commit suicide.  The neighbors, believing she was “playacting,” did not intervene. Betty also told O’Connor that she had  served in the Air Force in Germany, but was dishonorably discharged for “sexual indiscretion” with a woman.

O’Connor responded to Hester’s revelations with this frank  and  nonjudgemental note: “Compared to what you have experienced in the way of radical misery, I have never had anything to bear in my life but minor irritations…If in any sense my knowing your burden can make your burden lighter, then I am doubly glad I know it.   You were right to tell me, but I’m glad you didn’t tell me until I knew you well. Where you are wrong is in saying that you are the history of horror. The meaning of redemption is precisely that we do not have to be our history, and nothing is plainer to me than that you are not your history.”

Hester and O’Connor remained friends and corresponded until O’Connor’s death. It is through the correspondence with Hester published in The Habit of Being  that scholars are able to get a clear view of O’Connor’s thoughts on writing and her Catholic faith. habit-of-being-2.jpg

In 1998 Hester committed suicide with a hollow-nose bullet aimed at her skull.   She died after eating a late afternoon Christmas dinner and playfully mocking her friend, William Sessions, “for taking the Church seriously.”   She was 76.


The True Significance of the Fr. Maciel Story

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 5, 2009 | Categories: Accountability, Celebrities, Politics, Scandals

My post, New Fr. Marical Maciel Degollado Sex Scandal, prompted a few comments. One came from Greg Krehbiel, who writes the blog,  Crowhill Weblog.  Mr. Krehbiel wrote, “I don’t think people have yet come to grasp with the real significance of this story. If a manifest fraud like Maciel was able to deceive so many devout, serious people (including the pope!) what does that imply?”

Mr. Krehbiel included a link to his excellent article on Google, “The True Significance of the Fr. Maciel Story.”   Some key excerpts:

“Those of us who believed the accusations against Fr. Maciel were scolded and lectured in stern tones from on high, with brows furrowed in anger and the accusing finger wagging. We were told that Fr. Maciel was being persecuted by people who hated the church, but he, saintly fellow, was taking it all in stride, bearing it like Jesus, glad to be a martyr and take his part in the sufferings of Christ.”chismylijeco-m.jpg

“Specifically, what does this story tell us about movements, leaders, followers, charlatans, con artists and enablers of various sorts, and how does that affect our reckoning of the history of the church and the evidences of Christianity? How were so many people, including Pope John Paul II, fooled by this guy?”

“This is not an idle question for Christians, for although it’s certainly true that Fr. Maciel’s sins say nothing directly about the truth of Christianity, they have indirect but important implications for Christian apologetic and epistemology, and I think these implications haven’t been seriously addressed.”

An article to read next to Mr. Krehbiel’s is the  late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s defense of Fr. Maciel, “Feathers of Scandal”  which was published by First Things in March 2002.

Fr. Neuhaus’ withering reflection was inspired by the fallout from  a 1997 story in the Hartford Courant, a Connecticut newspaper, that was reprinted in the National Catholic Reporter, “a left-wing tabloid,” Fr. Neuhaus called it.   Read the NCR article here.   It is about the testimony of several  of the men who claimed Fr. Maciel sexually abused them as seminarians, and how the Vatican put a protective wall around the Legionaires founder, refusing to investigate any of their charges.

The Hartford Courant story had been coauthored Gerald Renner,  formerly the religion writer for the paper, and Jason Berry, a freelance writer in New Orleans, the author of the  books  Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children  (1992) and Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (1996).

Here’s what Fr. Neuhaus had to say in   Fr. Maciel’s defense:

“I am not neutral about the Legionaries. I have spent time with Fr. Maciel, and he impresses me as a man who combined uncomplicated faith, gentle kindness, military self-discipline, and a relentless determination to do what he believes God has called him to do. They are qualities one would expect of someone who at age twenty-0ne in Mexico vowed to do something great for Christ and his Church, and has been allowed to do it. In the language of the tradition, they are qualities associated with holiness; in his case a virile holiness of tenacious resolve that has been refined in the fires of frequent opposition and misunderstanding.”

“Nonetheless, because I care about the Legion, and because I was outraged by what I suspected as a gross injustice, I decided to go through endless pages of testimony, counter-testimony, legal documents, and other materials related to the Berry/Renner attack on Fr. Maciel.   It was not an edifying experience. For Berry/Renner, it is worth noting, the case of Fr. Maciel is not all that important in itself, but it serves another purpose. ‘To many,’ they write in the recent NCR article, ‘the case against Maciel is important because it tests the Vatican’s resolve to pursue charges related to sexual misconduct at the highest levels of the Church.’ The ‘many’ includes, first of all, Berry and Renner. That is clearly the reason for the latest re-raking of the muck of their 1997 article. They report nothing substantially new in the allegations themselves; the only new thing is that the Vatican has again considered the charges and found them without merit. A cardinal in whom I have unbounded confidence and who has been involved in the case tells me that the charges are ‘pure invention, without the slightest foundation.'”

It counts as evidence that Fr. Maciel unqualifiedly and totally denies the charges. It counts as evidence that priests in the Legion whom I know very well and who, over many years, have a detailed knowledge of Fr. Maciel and the Legion say that the charges are diametrically opposed to everything they know for certain. It counts as evidence that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and others who have looked into the matter say that the charges are completely without merit. It counts as evidence that Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly is aware of the charges, has strongly, consistently, and publicly praised Fr. Maciel and the Legion. Much of what we know we take on trust. I trust these people. The suggestion that they are either deliberately deceiving or duped is totally implausible.” (My emphasis) maciel.jpg

A last  point from Mr. Krehbiel’s article: “Christianity was spread by personal testimony. There was no Wall Street Journal or–God forbid–New York Times to verify the information. People believed the Christian testimony because they respected the lifestyle of the people they heard it from.

This is an important equation that lies at the root and foundation of Christianity–i.e., the fact that you live a decent life makes me want to believe what you say about God.”


Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 20, 2008 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Humor

Justin Green is a comic artist who grew up  in suburban  Illinois  in the 1950s and early ’60s.  He is best known for his 1972 autobiographical comic,  Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. binky-brown.jpg

Green was the typical Catholic boy: hormones firing away to produce a continual barrage of random  impure thoughts.   But most of the nuns who taught during those decades  were steeped in Jansenism – a rigid, puritanical Catholicsm with a heavy emphasis on the body as the source of sin, depravity  and a  shortcut to the pains of hell.  “Homo thoughts about Christ!! I better do some penance,” Binky chokes.

Green’s Catholicism was also influenced by his then undiagosed  obsessive-complusive disorder.  

Binky begins to develop an elaborate system of obsessions based on the fear that he will contaminate religious sites with his sexual thoughts. These “rays”  come from  his  fingers, feet and of course, his penis.  He takes extreme care to make sure a ray never crossed the path of a church,   or intersected with anything sacred, especially statutes of Mary.

Green equated Catholicism with scrupulosity – a neurotic obsession about committing sin. At the time he drew the book Green did not know about his obsessive-complusive disorder and described his condition as neurosis, which he blamed largely on his Catholic upbringing.

 But time has softened Green’s stance a little.

“I no longer consider myself to be a warrior against the church,” he said. “Here in Sacramento we have a very liberal church. They offered a weekly program for lapsed, embittered Catholics. I attended out of curiousity. I needed to thoroughly understand the dogma that I had rejected; I wanted my latest material to have a ring of authenticity.”

“From the lively discussions, I progressed to an experimental look at the Mass. The church is in transition. Like Surrealism, there is no ultimate version (though the far right of the church claims utter and inviolable orthodoxy, as always). There is too much baggage in the organization for me to return, though somewhere along the way I lost my righteous anger.”

“I came to see how the church provides a need that is very real and good for a lot of peoples’ lives. Jesus is not the sexual bogeyman. Many repressive doctrines have been grafted onto his teachings.”

“It has been hard for me to disentangle which are uniquely my own misconceptions and which are inherent in the institution,” he goes on. “According to the latest findings of behavior psychology, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder would exist even if Iwere never exposed to Christianity. OCD gave me a unique vantage point, though; if I was able to address symbolic content that is hidden to most people, then the behavior disorder was a gift.”

As an older artist, Green has to some extent made his peace. He feels the church is not the same monlith it was in the 1950s. Voicing his concern that Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is a “sin of youth”–and his concern as a parent that some child might get a copy of it–he nevertheless says, “I hope to retain the quality of the voice, because it was done out of internal necessity.”


Conservative vs. Ultra Conservative

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 25, 2008 | Categories: Celebrities, Humor

Every so often, Catholic conservatives take a breather from liberals  to beat each other up.   When that happens, it usually provides some great vaudevillian slapstick comedy.   Here’s a recent instance:

On October 22, 2008, the Long Island, NY newspaper, Newsday, reported an uproar at the ultra conservative parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park.   The new pastor has cancelled a few parish traditions that have some  parishioners steaming.

Our Lady of Lourdes has been described as “a sanctuary from the ravages of the Spirit of  Vatican II.”  

For 32 years, the Rev. Robert E. Mason, 77,   celebrated a children’s Mass that attracted a loyal following among some families at the parish.   He also heard confession on  Saturday night.

Fr. Mason retired earlier this year. He was replaced as pastor in June 2008 by Msgr. James Lisante, the telegenic conservative commenator at Fox News. Earlier this year, Msgr. Lisante attracted attention by endorsing Sen. John McCain and leading a prayer for his election.

Lisante’s first clash with his new parishioners came in early in the summer  when–without official permission–he brought in a priest from the Northern Mariana Islands in the South Pacific  who had worked with him every summer since 2000 at his former parish, St. Thomas the Apostle in Hempstead.

Who knows that happened, but the priest,  Rev. Matthew Blockley,  was sent packing back to the Mariana Islands by Bishop William Murphy in July.

Next, Msgr. Lisante cancelled  Father Mason’s  Mass and confessions.   He also rescheduled his Sunday Latin Mass to 1:30 pm from the  morning time. When some parishioners complained Lisante  said they were overreacting.

“I’m livid. I’m appalled,” huffed Chris Layer, 42, of North Massapequa. She called the Mass cancellation “a blatantly   vindictive move” intended to silence those critical of Msgr. Lisante.

The the funniest part of the story was Msgr. Lisante’s choice for new music director at this  ultra conservative, Latin-Mass-go-to-confession, type of parish….Peter Rapanaro, the director of the Off-Broadway  play, “My Big Gay Italian Wedding.”  

Lisante insisted that Rapanaro had “met with Bishop Murphy and assured the bishop of his fidelity to the Catholic Church on every issue of sexual ethics.” mybiggay1_nigelteare.jpg

Whether the critics have been mollified remains to be seen…


The Yankee Cathedral

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 23, 2008 | Categories: Celebrities, Humor

Baseball stadiums are like cathedrals.

Storied, full of memorable events, they are also the scene of private moments of anguish and fierce joy. The interiors–the smells, the sounds, the surroundings–are immediately recognizable and familiar.   You have your favorite place to sit. yankee-stadium.jpeg

There are as many people praying, beseeching, pleading, bargaining, smugly satisfied or silently willing a miracle  as you’d find in any pew. Most of all, it is a place of community–solidarity and belonging.

One of the grandest baseball cathedrals of all–Yankee Stadium–played its last game this past Sunday.   A number of New York City celebrities, some Yankee fans, some not, were asked to comment on its closing.

Pete Hamill, an author and Brooklyn Dodgers fan, had this to say:

First visit: “In 1948. When Babe Ruth died. I was 13 and like all good Brooklynites, I hated the Yankees. My younger brother Tom and I traveled all the way to El Bronx, where the Babe was being waked in the Rotunda. We had a nearly theological debate before going, since it was like visiting another church. An act of betrayal. Almost as bad as turning Episcopalian.” pete_hamill.jpg

“But we convinced ourselves that since the Babe had been with the Dodgers as a coach for a season in the 1930s, we would mourn Babe the Dodger. And so we did. We kept our purity by saying a prayer at the coffin, glancing into the green patch of th imperious park, and refusing to enter.”

“The Jesuits later explained to me that I was exhibiting what purists called ‘an elastic conscience.'”