Posted in category "History"
Many years ago, back in the mid-1980s, I used to talk to a young wife about her distress and heartache. She was my age, early 30s, married to an Army captain and they had three young children. She was also involved in a passionate relationship with another woman. She needed someone outside her situation to talk to, to unburden with, and to be a friend. I ended up that person. We never met, and probably spoke together five or six times over a period of months.
She loved her children dearly, and also loved her husband. But the woman she was with fired her heart and soul and desire in a way her husband couldn’t match. She was deeply in love with her, and very torn. She wanted to be with her lover, but did not want to leave her children. It was tearing her apart, since the gravitational pull to her lover was so strong.
Since those were the days before texting and email, on every call we would make arrangements for the next call.
One day, I called at the appointed time, and instead of my friend a woman who introduced herself as her mother answered the phone. I was stunned.
The woman told me that her daughter had decided, in hopes of saving her marriage, to make a clean break. She and her family had moved to Italy. She asked her mother to keep the call, to let me know what happened, and to thank me for the time we had spent on the phone trying to sort things through. Her mother added that she wanted to thank me for helping her daughter, and the support the daughter felt from our calls.
I told the mother that I wished my friend all the best, and that I hoped–sincerely–that everything would work out for her. And then we hung up.
I have wondered from time to time over the last 30+ years what became of my friend. I went through several different scenarios in my head, but never could get a sense of the final outcome. My guess is she stayed with her husband, and tried to put her lover out of her mind as much as possible. Her children should be grown up now, and she’s probably a grandmother several times over.
But I am also sure she kept her lover in a very private place in her heart.
When I saw Sal Bardo’s video “Great Escape” I immediately thought of her. Did her story have a happy ending, or only played over and over again in her imagination?
See the video here.
On September 25, 2014, Pope Francis removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, 69, head of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay. He took the action to preserve the “unity” of both the bishops and the faithful” and “under the weight of serious pastoral concerns,” said the Vatican in a statement.
Bishop Livieres, a member of Opus Dei, repeatedly feuded with the other bishops in Paraguay over seminarian formation, liberation theology and pastoral tone.
He was appointed to the diocese by St. John Paul II in 2004 with a mandate, communicated to him by the papal nuncio at the time, to oppose Paraguayan bishops’ “monolithic” support for liberation theology. He said Pope Benedict XVI personally told him in 2008 that liberation theology was “the problem in all of Latin America.”
But Pope Benedict “had a very different orientation from the present pontificate,” the bishop said. “This is a pontificate opposed to the previous pontificate.”
Soon after he was installed, Bishop Livieres opened his own diocesan seminary in Ciudad del Este, marked by a more orthodox style then the main seminary in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion.
The man he appointed as his Vicar General, a position often responsible for the oversight of clerical sexual abuse, is the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity. Fr. Urrutigoity has been accused multiple times of sexual abuse of high school boys and seminarians in the guise of spiritual direction.
Fr. Urrutigoity has an interesting story of his own that mixes ultra orthodoxy with homo-erotic overtones and encounters. He began his clerical career in the schismatic Society of St. Pius X.
In 2002, Urrutigoity was accused of sexual abuse of young men in a highly publicized lawsuit in the diocese of Scranton, PA. He and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations that they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy, a high school for boys operated by the Priestly Fraternity for St. Peter, an order devoted to the Latin Mass. The diocese reached a $400,000 plus settlement in the case in 2006. St. Gregory’s Academy closed in 2012.
A statement on the Diocese of Scanton, PA website describes Fr. Urrutigoity as a “serious threat to young people” and says that Bishop Timlin’s immediate successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, cautioned Bishop Livieres against accepting Fr. Urrutigoity as an active priest.
“Bishop Martino…carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese,” the statement reads.
When the archbishop of Asuncion, Eustaquio Cuquejo Verga, asked Bishop Livieres to investigate Fr. Urrutigoity, Livieres fired back publicly saying, “I think Cuquejo is a homosexual” to Paraguayan TV station La Tele.
In July 2014, Pope Francis sent a cardinal and an archbishop to investigate the Ciudad del Este diocese. They were looking into accusations of embezzlement in the management of the diocese’s finances, severing ties with other bishops, and protecting and promoting Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity in the face of numerous warnings by other dioceses.
Shortly after the July 21-26 visit, the Vatican ordered Fr. Urrutigoity be removed from ministry, and severely restricted the activities of Bishop Livieres, including removing his authority to ordain priests.
Although the Vatican did not specify Bishop Livieres’ financial irregularities, he was allegedly accused of using funds destined for needy and abandoned children, single pregnant women, and women subject to domestic violence, to cover phone, gas and other expenses at the seminaries he opened.
Fr. Ciro Benedettni, deputy head of the Vatican press office, said issues surrounding Fr. Urrutigoity were part of the reason for the removal of Bishop Livieres, but the main motive was to put a stop to the infighting among Paraguayan bishops over the training of priests and the mismanagement of seminaries set up by Bishop Livieres.
The downfall of Bishop Livieres has several similarities to the case of Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO diocese:
-Both bishops are members of Opus Dei.
-Both were outspoken promoters of Catholic orthodoxy.
-Both protected priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Either something doesn’t add up morally, or priestly sexual peccadilloes count for much less than doctrinaire correctness to Catholic tradition.
“Purgatory Begins for Bishop Finn”
“The Curious Case of Carlos Urrutigoity”
“Rogue Priest, formerly of the Diocese of Scanton, Living the Good Life in Paraguay”
In the summer of 1206, St. Francis went into the small chapel of San Damiano near Assisi to pray. As he knelt before the crucifix, he heard Jesus’ invitation: “Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.” “Yes!” said Francis, “This is what I want; this is what I long for with all my heart.”
800 years later, the first Pope Francis took up the same challenge–to rebuild a Church that was in almost total disgrace, disarray, and irrelevant. The message of the Gospels had become lost to dogmatic meanness and nit-picking.
Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church by noted journalist and former Jesuit Robert Blair Kaiser, offers insights on the pope’s “Jesuit DNA.” It is this DNA that impels him with a “holy boldness” to push the boundaries to make the world a better place, and rebuild the Church to a house of mercy and humanity.
The Jesuit DNA includes several things: a striving for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam); but especially to go to the edges, the margins, to learn, understand and serve. After Vatican II, the author relates that most Jesuits call salvation “being all we can be in this life” and not simply to get to heaven, but to make a difference in the lives of other people.
Pope Francis’ emphasis on humanity vs. rules and regulations is changing the culture of judgement (abortion, same-sex marriage, doctrinaire fixation (“are you pure enough to call yourself ‘Catholic?’) to a culture of mercy and mission. He wants to be fully engaged with people, and is leading the Church to do likewise. He starts by calling himself a sinner who has made many mistakes (when was the last time we heard a cardinal, bishop, or priest do that?) and reminds us that Christ came to us so that we might know life more fully.
The author framed this motivation wonderfully by describing his own experience as a teacher and coach at Saint Ignatius Prep, a high school for boys in San Francisco, CA: “I was trying to show them that their religion, fully lived, was something that would make them more human, happier individuals, with a humanity and happiness that would bring joy to those around them. I wanted to destroy the image of religion as something that made people less human, less joyful, less real.”
The author doesn’t back away from the warts. He examines Pope Francis’ time as provincial of the Argentine Jesuits and as archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has come under criticism for both periods because of his lack of support for liberation theology, and for not standing up to the military junta that caused the death or disappearance of over 20,000 people.
The pope did not shy away from his record, but doesn’t go into specifics. He explains the Lord leads to a growth of knowledge through his faults and sins, and also that he made decisions alone and in the midst of an interior crisis. If experience leads to a conversion of heart, who are we to judge?
Robert Kaiser also raises the pope’s, Church’s, and Jesuits’ poor records and lack of engagement with women–half the Church. My good friend, theologian Dr. Mary E. Hunt, challenges the pope on this issue: “It is intellectually embarrassing to hear a man who is so conversant with music, literature and poetry have such a palty vocabulary when it comes to women. Thus far, Francis has not had any public conversation with a woman church leader of any sort. The continued oppression of U.S. women religious, officially approved by him, is a negative sign as well.”
The author thinks Dr. Hunt is mistaken, but I agree with her. The pope needs to address the impact of our closed, male-oriented institution on the poorest of the poor–Catholic women. Women continue to wait for meaningful action from Pope Francis. His Jesuit DNA won’t help us there–Jesuits have little to do with women’s issues or women as a group.
One surprise in the book for me was the suggestion that 46-year-old Jorge Bergoglio had been in love. In March 1986 he went to Frankfurt, Germany for two years to pursue a doctorate. In 1987 his provincial ordered him back to Argentina, his thesis only half finished. He was put on severe restrictions for correspondence and communication. This kind of discipline is only warranted if the man has told superiors he has fallen in love, or if a fellow Jesuit found out he is having a love affair.
Would love and separation make a person more emphathetic to its effects in other people’s lives? I think so. Perhaps this period in the pope’s life has led him to emphasize mercy, forgiveness and the human vs. ideological. Pope Francis has described himself as a sinner who has made hundreds of mistakes. It sounds like it’s true–not some stock piety.
About half the book is devoted to Pope Francis, the remainder is parables about fellow Jesuits and former Jesuits who illustrate the best of “Jesuit DNA.” Like Marines–once a Marine, always a Marine, Jesuits forever identify themselves as brothers, and retain their values, friendships and network for a lifetime.
The men profiled include Fr. Marie Joseph Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist and humanist; Fr. George Dunne, writer and social justice crusader; Bill Cain, playwright and screen writer; Fr. John Baumann, co-founder of PICO (Pacific Institute of Community Organizing); Governor Jerry Brown of California, John Dear, peace activist; and, of course, Inigo Lopez de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. There is a lot to inspire all of us in their generous lives.
When Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis people and pundits wondered what it would mean to have a Jesuit pope? How does he think? What is important to him? What can we expect?
On the way back to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro Pope Francis addressed this question by reporter Caroline Pigozzi from Paris Match:
“Good evening, Holy Father. I would like to know if you, since you’ve been Pope, still feel yourself a Jesuit?”
Pope Francis: “I feel myself a Jesuit in my spirituality, in the spirituality of the Exercises, spirituality, the one I have in my heart. But I feel so much like this that in three days I’ll go to celebrate with Jesuits the feast of Saint Ignatius: I will say the morning Mass. I haven’t changed my spirituality, no. Francis, Franciscan, no. I feel myself a Jesuit and I think like a Jesuit. Not hypocritically, but I think as a Jesuit. Thank you.”
My Rating: ***** Read this book if you are the type of person who likes to know the “why” behind people and events.
Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the Church and the World.Published by Rowman and Littlefield, 2014. Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and fine booksellers everywhere.
Author: Robert Blair Kaiser is an American author and journalist, best known for his writings on the Catholic Church. A former Jesuit, Kaiser left the Society of Jesus three years before his ordination to pursue a career in journalism. He served as an award-winning religion reporter for The New York Times, CBS News, Newsweek and Time. Throughout the Second Vatican Council, Kaiser was Time magazine’s reporter in Rome and the preeminent reporter on the Council in the English-speaking world. For his work on the Council, Kaiser won the Overseas Press Club Award for best foreign reporting on foreign affairs. He is the author of sixteen other books, including A Church in Search of Itself.
Our Lady of Medjugorje gives a message to the world on the 25th of every month.
The Virgin Mary’s Message on January 25th 2014 “Dear children! Pray, pray, pray for the radiance of your prayer to have an influence on those whom you meet. Put the Sacred Scripture in a visible place in your families and read it, so that the words of peace may begin to flow through your hearts. I am praying with you and for you, little children, that from day to day you may become still more open to God’s will. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
“Is the Blessed Mother this insipid?” was my first thought after reading the above message. I combed the message archives to see if I could find another message to resonate. Nothing – everything was equally banal and sugary.
In 2010 a commission was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to evaluate the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje. The commission was directed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and held its final meeting on January 17, 2014. It sent its report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will now make a recommendation to Pope Francis. The pope will announce his final verdict on the matter at some time after that. (Although he may have tipped his hand during a homily last fall.)
The apparitions that began in 1981 are said to continue regularly to this day (33 years later), attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually. Although many conversions have been witnessed in Medjugorje and countless people helped in their faith, the authenticity of the apparitions remains highly contentious.
The bishops of the Mostar-Duvno diocese, Pavo Zanic (1980-1993) and Patko Pevic (1993- ) judged it to be a fraud. “The Madonna, they say,” stated Bishop Zanic, “started to appear on the Podbrdo of Mountain Crnica, but when the militia forbade going there, she came into homes, into forests, fields, vineyards and tobacco fields; she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the church steeple, on the roads, on the way to Cerno, in a car, on buses, in classrooms…” So far, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the visionaries over 12,000 times.
Medjugorje (med-you-gor-yeh) was an obscure tobacco-farming village in communist Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) for much of its history, but on a scorching hot June 23, 1981, everything changed. Five teenagers and a child–Vicka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic and Ivan Dragicevic, all 16 Ivanka Ivankovic, 15 and ten-year-old Jakov Colo–burst through the doors of the parish church and told the priest they had seen the Virgin Mary. They explained they had been playing on a steep hill when they saw a woman wearing a long, flowing dress and a veil, beckoning them to her. Their first reaction was that they were seeing a ghost, but when they asked who see was, the woman described herself as “the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the “Queen of Peace.”
They returned to the hillside every evening where the Virgin Mary appeared at 6:40 PM–the same time they saw the first apparition. The visionaries–Vicka, Mirjana, Mirija, Ivan, Ivanka and Jakov, claim that “Gospa,” the Croatian word for “Our Lady,” has been giving them each ten secrets concerning the future of the world. These secrets are said to include miracles and worldwide events that will be sent by God to convert humanity. The daily apparitions stopped for Mirjana, Ivanka and Jakov after they had received all ten secrets. However, Ivan, Marija and Vicka still see the Virgin Mary every day.
“Every apparition starts with three flashes to warn us she is coming,” said the visionary Vicka. “It’s just the same as talking to a real person, except it feels different because you exclude yourself from everything, as though you are not on Earth any more.” “At Christmas time,” she goes on, “the Virgin Mary holds the newborn baby Jesus in her arms and you can see his little feet and hands moving. She keeps covering him with her veil–but it’s not an image, I can reach out and touch them. I can touch them as though they are real human beings.”
While the bishops of Mostar were not supportive of the Medjugore apparitions, the late Pope John Paul II may have strongly believed in them. In a private conversation with visionary Mirjana (Dragicevic) Soldo the Pope said: “If I were not Pope I would already be in Medjugorje confessing.”(1987). According to the testimony of the visionaries, on May 13, 1982, the day of the assassination attempt on the Pope, Our Lady said, “His enemies tried to kill him, but I have protected him.”
The Virgin Mary also mentioned the Pope’s visit to Croatia in her August 25, 1994 message: “Dear Children! Today I am united with you in prayer in a special way, praying for the gift of the presence of my most beloved son in your home country. Pray, little children, for the health of my most beloved son, who suffers, and whom I have chosen for these times.”
After Pope John Paul’s death, the visionary Ivan saw him during an apparition with Our Lady. He appeared young and joyful.
Out of the tens of thousands of apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported throughout history, only 295 have been formally investigated and just 12 have ever been authenticated, the most recent being the apparitions of Our Lady of Laus in France, approved in 2008.
Although miracles have been recorded at most Marian apparition sites of the past, miracles are a daily occurrence in Medjugorje. A bronze statue representing the Risen Christ began seeping a watery substance. Pilgrims have reported being able to look at the sun without hurting their eyes and seeing many different things: the Host spinning in the center of the sun, the sun spinning and dancing all around, it moving closer and farther away from them, different figures around the sun, such as hearts and crosses.
One month after the beginning of the apparitions, Bishop Zanic of Mostar went to Medjugorje to question the visionaries. “I asked each of them to take an oath on the cross and demanded that they speak the truth. The first one was Mirjana Dragicevic: ‘We went to look for our sheep when at once..’ ” The associate pastor interrupted and told me that they actually went out to smoke, which they hid from their parents. “Wait a minute, Mirjana, you’re under oath. Did you go out to look for your sheep?” She put here hand over her mouth. “Forgive me, we went out to smoke,” she said. She then showed me the watch on which the “miracle” occurred because the hands of the watch had gone haywire. I took the watch to a watch expert, who said that the watch had certainly fallen and become disordered.”
During taped interviews later on, Mirjana spoke of the miracle of the watch and that initially they had gone out to search for their sheep. Seer Vicka Ivankovic kept a diary of the apparitions, including the story of the bloody handkerchief incident.
“Word spread around that there was a certain taxi driver who came across a man who was bloody all over. This man gave the taxi driver a blo0died handkerchief and he told him to “throw this in the river.” The driver went on and then he came across a woman in black. She stopped him and asked him to give her a handkerchief. He gave her his own, but she said: “not that one but the bloody handkerchief.” He gave her the handkerchief she wanted and she then said: “If you had thrown it in the river, the end of the world would have occurred now.” Vicka then wrote in her diary that they asked Our Lady if this event was true, and she said that it was, and along with this, “that man covered in blood was my son Jesus, and I (Our Lady) was that woman in black.”
“What kind of theology is this?” said Bishop Zanic. “From this it appears that Jesus wants to destroy the world if a handkerchief is thrown into a river and that it’s Our Lady who will save the world!”
One of the main advisers to the Medjugorje visionaries was the Rev. Tomislav Vlasic OFM. He presented himself to Pope John Paul II in a May 13, 1984 letter: “I am Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, the one, according to Divine Providence, who guides the seers of Medjugorje.”The Virgin Mary even mentioned him in a message: “Thank Tomislav very much. He is guiding you so well”
On September 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI authorized “severe cautionary and disciplinary measures” against Fr. Vlasic. He was laicized in 2009.
The ex-spiritual director of the Medjugorje visionaries has his own interesting story. In 1976 Fr. Vlasic had an affair with a Franciscan nun, Sr. Rufina. When she became pregnant, Vlasic sent her to Germany and urged her to keep his paternity a secret. She gave birth to their son in 1997. Her letters to Vlasic fell into the hands of her landlord, who sent them to a friend of his, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger eventually become Pope Benedict XVI.
In 1981, Fr. Vlasic went to Rome to participate in an international meeting of the Charismatic movement. There he was told by Sr. Briege McKenna, in an alleged prophecy, that he would become the center of a great movement with the help of the Virgin Mary. When reports of the Marian apparitions emerged from the village of Medjugorje, Fr. Vlasic hurried there to be with the visionaries–the moment had arrived.
Fr. Vlasic eventually left Medjugorje to go to Parma in northern Italy with German laywoman Agnes Heupel. In 1987 they founded, with the help of visionary Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, a mixed-sex community inspired by the apparitions at Medjugorje. Its name was “Queen of Peace, Totally Yours – through Mary to Jesus.” In 1988 Marija lived at the community for a few months and had her daily apparitions there. She reported that Our Lady seemingly approved Vlasic’s plans and activities with his community by the words of Our Lady: “This is God’s plan.” The same year the bishop of Parma, Benito Cocchi, obviously unimpressed, ordered the community to close, and Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti retracted her statement and support in a letter.
In 2002, an Italian woman named Stefania Caterina became vice-president of the “Queen of Peace” movement founded by Fr. Vlasic. She is better known as an author, mystic and seer. She writes about her experiences and messages from extra-terrestrial entities in the book, Bey0nd the Great Barrier, published in 2008. Her first experiences began in 1984, with “Ashtar Sheran from the planet Alpha Centuri” commander of an interplanetary powerful fleet, and then his wife, Kalna; the priest-king Aris, and others. Stefania Caterina claims that her experiences “occur through inner locutions and visions, during which I was given explanations by the Lord himself, or his instruments, first of all S. Archangel Raphael.” The Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles John and Paul, St. Michael the Archangel, souls in Purgatory and “people of other planets” are also in communication.
In February 2012, Stefania Caterina and Tomislav Vlasic announced on a video conference that they are part of a group called “Central Nucleus” formed by 49 beings chosen by God throughout the universe. The Central Nucleus is composed of seven great Archangels, and 18 sisters and 18 brothers of the universe,. Not all of these beings are from the Earth, and although some are deceased, they are not “dead.”
The Central Nucleus was actually announced by Saint Michael the Archangel to Stefania Caterina on September 10, 2010. Not surprisingly, St. Michael referred to the events in Medjugorje: “With the apparitions of Medjugorje, a time started in which God no longer allows for his plan to be slowed down, as unfortunately happened over the centuries. You must know, in fact, that God’s plan to recapitulate all things in Christ was to start already with the apostles, in order to transform all of humanity. This did not happen. Thus, God permitted his people to mature slowly by means of many trials and persecutions.”
“For the time in which you are living now, God has provided a powerful instrument, capable of operating in these times to encourage the renewal of God’s people and facilitate the realization of the plan of salvation.”
“We are talking about a nucleus that can be called “Central Nucleus” in the midst of God’s people which is gradually aggregating and will aggregate to itself other nuclei that are being formed everywhere in the universe. In this Central Nucleus the priesthood of the archangels and the universal communion are fully operating.”
There is no word on how the Central Nucleus is progressing in Italy or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the Medjugorje road show has been stopped cold in the United States.
In November 2013 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, unsettled devotees of the pilgrimage destination when he sent an instruction to all U.S. bishops warning against allowing “seer” Ivan Dragicevic to go on a speaking tour of the country.
For years, the Medjugorje visionaries have made public appearances at churches, announcing in advance that “apparitions” will take place. Archbishop Muller called for an end to church sponsorship of these events.
In an October letter to the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio in Washington, conveyed a message from Archbishop Muller: “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings,conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”
In his message Archbishop Vigano reminded the bishops that the CDF is currently investigating the reported apparitions at Medjugorje. Until the pope renders a final judgement, the CDF has accepted for acceptance of a statement issued in 1991 by the bishops of what was once Yugoslavia, who said: “On the basis of research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”
Although Archbishop Vigano’s letter to the U.S. bishops was not made public, the message spread quickly, including a copy of the letter which wound up on Google. It also had an immediate impact: Ivan Dragicevic, one of the “seers” was scheduled to appear at two New England parishes in late October; both events were cancelled.
The decision on Medjugorje now rests with Pope Francis. He may have given us an inkling of his opinion in the “fervorino” (informal homily) at his daily Mass on November 14, 2013. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was cautioning people against excessive curiosity about the future and contrasting it with the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit. Curiosity, the Pope continued, impels us to want to feel that the Lord is here or rather there, or leads us to say: “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady.” And the Pope commented, “But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone! And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”
Such responses to these situations, he affirmed, “distance us from the Gospel, from the Holy Spirit, from peace and wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention; it comes by wisdom.”
The Censor Librorum has two questions on the Medjugorje phenomena:
1) Whose purpose did Medjgorje serve?
2) Would Pope Francis and the late Pope John Paul II have made the same decision about Medjugorje? (I think not.)
My personal opinion – while I believe that Medjugorje has helped many pilgrims to feel they are loved and cared for by Our Lady (and that is a good thing); nevertheless, people seem to have forgotten that most mystical experiences should be suspect as a ruse from Satan for the vain. Simple prayer is always to be preferred, even if ecstasy is more fun (and proftable).
Veteran journalist Stephen Jimenez unearthed a sleazy story in his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” An investigative journalist, he spent 11 years researching his story, and had access to formerly sealed court documents.
Matthew Shepard is a gay icon and martyr, allegedly murdered by two men for his sexual orientation. The grisly murder happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. Shepard, 21, was a college student, and he was killed by two men he met in a bar. He was pistol-whipped with the barrel of a .357 magnum. Then the two men hung him, barely alive, on a fence, in a pose resembling a crucifixion.
Matthew Shepard died of exposure and his wounds six days later, a victim of homophobia. Or was he? Here’s an unsettling element: one of the murders, Aaron McKinney, a bisexual hustler, had sex with Shepard weeks before the murder.
Shepard certainly could have been beaten and killed by a man in a homophobic rage…but he may also have been killed in a sex-for-drugs exchange gone badly. His death might not be a hate crime after all, but a drug dealer casualty. In the book Jimenez claims Matthew Shepard was a crystal meth addict, and was killed by McKinney, another dealer and trick strung out on meth and in desperate need of money.
The “gay panic” defense of Aaron McKinney, the killer, was a made-up story in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.
Jimenez was asked why he dug up the story: “As a gay man,” he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” “To understand who Matthew Shepard really was,” said Jimenz, “to alter our perception of him as a martyr and an icon, is not going to be damaging to gay rights.”
I agree, and commend Stephen Jimenez coming forward with his story. The real conversation about Matthew Shepard should be about young gay men (and women) who do drugs, and why drug and alcohol use is still so embedded in gay culture. That could save some lives.
I stumbled on the name of Tanchelm thumbing through my copy of Magnificat. He was featured prominently in a story about St. Evermod, a bishop who died in 1178. Evermod was inspired to devote his life to God after hearing a sermon given by Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order. Evermod became a priest of Norbert’s order and was chosen to accompany him on a jorney to Antwerp to counter the followers of Tanchelm, an itinerant preacher who had been murdered a decade before by a priest.
“The city was at the time in a state of ferment due to the heretical preaching of Tanchelm,” the Magnificat huffed, “a man of depraved morals who attacked the hierarchy and the church’s teaching on the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.”
Evermod remained in Antwerp to combat Tanchelm’s “propaganda.” His apostolic zeal earned him an eventual sainthood, as it did St. Norbert, who is often pictured with a foot on Tanchelm holding a monstrance. Tanchelm’s heresy were his attacks on the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Who was Tanchelm that he made two bishops saints in their attempts to overcome his preaching?
Tanchelm was born around 1070. He might have been Flemish, but was probably a native of the Netherlands. He traveled to France, Germany and Rome. Most of what we know about him came from those opposed to him, for Tanchelm did not leave behind any writing that has survived. Tanchelm began preaching during a time of agitation and pontifical reform, with furious arguments and political maneuvering over clerical marriages and sexual liaisons, simony, and canonical investiture by feudal authorities. He was active in a wave of church reform that started in the High Middle Ages and culminated in the Reformation 400 years later.
Tanchelm was supposed to have been a monk, perhaps a notary or officer from the circle of Count Robert II of Flanders (1092-1111), famous from his crusading days as “Robert of Jerusalem.” The exact relationship between the count and Tanchelm is not clear. Both Count Robert II and his overlord, Louis VI of France. were interested in weakening the ecclesiastical power of the Holy Roman Emperor in the low countries. The power of the emperor rested to a large extent on the support of the bishops, especially Cambrai, Cologne and Utrecht.
In 1111 Count Robert II dispatched Tanchelm and the priest, Everwacher, to Rome to persuade Pope Pascal II to incorporate Zeeland into a French diocese. Frederick I, archbishop of Cologne, caught wind of the plot and intervened. The pope rejected the petition, and Talchem and Everwacher returned home.
After his return from Rome Tanchelm began his ministry. There is no direct knowledge of his motivations, but some authors have speculated that while he was in Rome he absorbed the principals of the Gregorian Reforms, initiated by Pope Gregory VII, circa 1050-1080, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy.
Gregory VII attacked the practice of simony – the purchase of church offices. This precipitated the investiture controversy; kings were selling clerical and church offices at great personal gain. In 1074 Gregory VII published an encyclical absolving the people from obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. In 1075, he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues.
Dressed in his monk’s habit, Tanchelm began to preach. Many people came to hear him, and his following grew. People were drawn to him by his compelling personality and oratory. He began preaching in 1112 in the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of northern France and western Germany).
It was in Antwerp that he made his deepest mark. The spark that set him off was the “concubinage” of a priest named Hilduin with his niece. He stepped into a vacuum of spiritual leadership: people were disgusted with with the morals of their spiritual guides and were drawn to Tanchelm’s criticism of the established church. It was also a time of the first stirrings of social discontent against the feudal privileges of nobles and clergy.
Tanchlem rejected obedience to bishops and priests. He preached against the payment of tithes. Some sources say Tanchelm told people to reject the sacraments, saying they were better named pollutions than sacraments. In another version, he said the virtue of the sacraments depended on the virtue of the minister, and that polluted priests could only administer polluted sacraments. The chapter of Utrecht also reported with horror that Tanchelm had said that “the churches of God are to be considered whorehouses.” It is more likely what Tanchelm really said is that the priests were so impure they turned churches into brothels.
The prime source of information on Tanchelm is a May 16, 1112 letter from the clergy of Utrecht to Archbishop Frederick of Cologne telling him to take Tanchelm into custody and not release him for any reason. He was briefly put under arrest in Cologne in 1113/1114, but released in spite of protests by the cathedral clergy of Utrecht.
The hierarchy of Utrecht circulated many tales about Tanchlem to support their denouncements:
-He dressed in golden clothes, with strands of gold curled in his hair
-Claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and conducted a ceremony in which he “married” the Virgin Mary
-His followers venerated him, and drank his bath water as a blessing or sacrament
-His inner group was a guild of 12 men lead by his blacksmith friend, Manasses. Probably chosen as a bodyguard, they were known as “the Apostles.” Added to this number was a woman named “Blessed Virgin” with whom the Apostles had intercourse as kind of a confirmation ceremony. The Apostles carried his regalia and sword in procession.
-Tanchelm deflowered young girls in the presence of their mothers
-Men offered up their wives and children to Tanchelm’s lust.
To what degree the above accusations have some basis in truth-or are total fabrications–is unknown. It seems clear that Tanchelm was a very charismatic man, and encouraged his personality cult.
In 1115 he was bludgeoned or stabbed to death by a priest during a river trip. One scholar has implicated the Archbishop of Utrecht in his murder.
Tanchelm doesn’t have an exact contemporary in our age, even if the societal unrest, currents of church reform, the involvement of church hierarchy in politics, the attempts by secular rulers to use bishops in their schemes, all have an echo in our era.
St Norbert arrived at Antwerp eight years after Tanchelm’s death to evangelize the city away from his followers. Apparently, he did not censure, judge or condemn when he addressed people, which probably contributed to the success of his mission. “Brothers, do not be surprised and so not be afraid,” he preached. “Unwittingly, you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortless lean toward perdition.”
Norbert of Xanten is portrayed as a reformer of the clergy and siding with reformist popes over lay investiture. But his ministry started on a political track opposite Tanchelm’s.
His father, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was related to the imperial house of Germany. Norbert was a secular canon at St. Victor’s Collegiate Church in Xanten and was ordained subdeacon without making an effort to live the clerical life. Somewhere between 1108 and 1109 he became chaplain at the court of Archbishop Frederick of Cologne and already in 1110 he was a chaplain at the court of Emperor Henry V. He accompanied the emperor to Rome in 1111.
In the spring of 1115, while riding to the village of Freden, he was thrown from his horse during a sudden thunderstorm. This event gave Norbert the impetus to change his way of life. He gave up his chaplaincy at the court and dedicated himself to meditation and living a life of poverty. Feeling he was called to priesthood, he presented himself to the Bishop of Cologne, from whom he received Holy Orders.
Norbert would have to have heard 0f, and perhaps even met, Tanchelm in Rome or while he was being held in custody by his patron, Federick, Archbishop of Cologne.
It is interesting to speculate what the men might have said to each other.
Barbara Grier, a founder and publisher of Naiad Press, a much-thumbed lesbian pulp fiction publisher, died of cancer on November 10, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. She was 78. Her death was announced by her long-time partner (in work and life), Donna McBride.
Founded in 1973, and with a mailing list purloined from the Daughters of Bilitis, Grier went on to publish over 500 books with unconditionally lesbian themes–romance, erotica, poetry, science fiction and self-help. If you wanted to read a book with lesbian sex, you bought one of the Naiad titles. Like real life, sometimes the sex was great, sometimes not-so-great. The stand-out best book of lesbian awakening, desire, seduction and sex is Katherine V. Forrest’s 1983 novel, “Curious Wine.” Buy it.
The availability of these novels–with lust and sex and a happy ending–was a tremendous service to lesbians everywhere. In lesbian fiction in the 1940s, 50s and 60s the heroine dallied with a female lover but ended up with a man. Barbara Grier flipped this formula around: the women flirted with men or a heterosexual lifestyle, but came to their senses and ended up with a woman.
Many of these early lesbian novels were straight men’s pornographic fantasies: a little girl-on-girl action to get things warmed up, but a man finishes up. Lesbians had to be content with reading to the middle of the book.
Besides an appreciation of some of her romance novels, my acquaintence with Barbara Grier and Naiad Press came through the 1985 smash hit, “Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence.” In 1984 I was asked by Nancy Manahan, one of the editor/authors, if she could solicit stories from the ex-nuns and sisters who were members of CCL – the Conference for Catholic Lesbians. A number of CCL members ended up in the book, including two of the women who were presented as currently belonging to a religious community. One of them still is…although she published her story using her grandmother’s name not her own.
Nancy Manahan did a workshop at the 1986 CCL national conference where she talked about the book and the process of pulling it together. As I remember her, she was soft-spoken, thoughtful, and earnest. She wrote in the forward of the book that its intent was to break the silence about “erotic love between women in religious life.”
The book resonated with a large swathe of Catholic lesbians, especially former women religious, who left their communities because their lesbianism was not compatible with either their vows, or the forced invisibility of homosexuals in the Catholic Church. The spiritual community they experienced in religious life was missed, and it left an ache in some that was never healed.
There is an interplay between sexuality and spirituality in Catholicism especially, with its emphasis on sensuality and the body. Think of the suggestive pose of St. Sebastian, and the orgasmic rapture of St. Theresa of Avila. Even Christ hanging on the cross often has his loincloth positioned in a pretty erotic angle. How can anyone avoid the subtle message of these images or even avoid making them an object of desire?
When a local TV station in Boston promoted an interview with Manahan and her co-editor, Rosemary Curb, archdiocesan officials complained, saying the broadcast would be “an affront to the sensitivity of Roman Catholics.” The station cancelled the program, but the ensuing uproar sent sales of the book soaring. “This is crazy,” Grier told the New York Times , scrambling to fill new orders for the book, which eventually sold several hundred thousand copies. “I’m a mouse giving birth to an elephant!”
A year or two later, a controversy ensured when Barbara Grier sold the rights to some of the lesbian nun stories to Penthouse Forum, a male prono magazine. The CCL board sent an angry letter to Grier saying it was a betrayal, selling these women’s stories for the titillation of male readers. Nancy Manahan and Rosemary Curb protested, too, but to no avail–Naiad Press owned the book.
I can’t remember if Grier replied to us–I think she didn’t bother–but the story goes she did it because she felt she could reach new women readers through Penthouse.
My sense is she did it for the money and publicity it would bring to Naiad Press. She had her mainstream hit, and she wanted to ride it for all it was worth. After all, she labored for many years on the margins with a shoestring budget.
The tremendous irony of the whole thing is that Barbara Grier, who spent a lifetime working hard to publish lesbian literature, had her greatest notoriety from providing lesbian sex thrills to men.
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 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.
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.