Posted in category "Musings"

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey?

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 4, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Politics, Popes

Where is Fr. C. John McCloskey III? For roughly a decade, 1997-2005, the handsome, dashing, charming Opus Dei priest was storming the Beltway in his black soutane. 

A 1975 graduate of Columbia University, McCloskey was first drawn to Opus Dei when he was a teenager growing up near Washington, D.C.  During and after college he worked on Wall Street, leaving in his mid-20s to become a priest. Many of McCloskey’s bios note he is also an avid squash player.

Fr. McCloskey was high-profile, with TV commentator spots, prominent news media quotes, and a string of conversions of powerful men. He was groomed by Opus Dei to do exactly what he did so successfully–befriend Republican political and cultural elites; and articulate an orthodox Catholic point of view.  Then, pfft–nothing. Out of sight.

In the years since he left D.C., Fr. McCloskey, 64, has kept a much lower profile.  He’s still writing and doing pastoral ministry, but not on a secular stage.  McCloskey lives in Menlo Park, California, home of Facebook, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Partners, and many Fintech companies.  Perhaps Opus Dei and McCloskey have moved on to the new power elite?

However, the original mystery remains–what happened? Why would Opus Dei transfer Fr. McCloskey out of his Washington, D.C. powerhouse–the Catholic Information Center on K Street–and pack him off to obscurity in Chicago?  

Theory 1: Did he draw too much attention to himself by his high profile converts and media appearances?

Every article about Fr. McCloskey notes with pride his converts to Catholicism.  Most are from Jewish and Evangelical Christian backgrounds, with a sprinkling of Episcopalians.  “A lot of these men had been thinking about Catholicism before,” McCloskey explained, “and it wasn’t just me per se, but the fact a lot of very smart people–senators and judges–were looking for truth in their lives.  It helped quite a bit that many of these men were influenced by men at their level who were Catholics.  In a lot of cases, those friends referred them to me. Then the word got out that I was willing to instruct these sorts of people. It’s just like the brokerage business or any other business of sales,” said McCloskey.  “You get a reputation, you deal with one person and they mention you to another person and they mention you to another person…and all of a sudden you have a string of people.”

Here are the converts cited most:

.  Sam Brownback, former U.S. senator and governor of Kansas; and now United States Ambassador-at-Large for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,

. Robert Bork, judge and former U.S. Supreme Court nominee,

. Robert Novak, “Crossfire” co-host and columnist,

. Alfred Regnery, conservative book publisher. A revised and updated English edition of The Dictator Popea book highly critical of Pope Francis – was released both in hardcover and e-book formats by Regnery Publishing on April 23, 2018.

. Newt Gingrich, political consultant and former minority whip and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and former Republican presidential candidate.  His wife, Callista Gingrich, currently serves as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See,

. Lawrence Kudlow, economist and long-time CNBC commentator, now President Trump’s top economic policy advisor,

. Lewis Lehrman, financier and former New York gubernatorial candidate,

. Jeffrey Bell, political consultant and PR guru,

. Maj. General (Ret.) Josiah Bunting III, author, educator, former superintendent of Virginia Military Institute, and currently head of the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation,

. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, abortion doctor and one of the founders off the National Abortion Rights Action League,

. Mark Belnick, former Tyco International general counsel.

Two women are occasionally included in this distinguished group:

. Meghan Cox Gordon, children’s book critic for the Wall Street Journal and Mayflower descendant,

. Laura Ingraham, conservative TV and radio talk show host, author, and Fox News Channel contributor.

Theory 2: Did his emphasis on male friendship as an evangelization tool fall flat?  

In his 2007 book with Russell Shaw, Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion and the Crisis of Faith, Fr. McCoskey described his theory about American men–they lost the ability to maintain “virile” male friendships. They were victims of a “Friendship Deficit Syndrome.”  In another article, Friendship: The Key to Evangelization of Men, McCloskey described a group of Italian men at lunch in Rome, drinking “vino russo” and having a good time together. “I got the impression that this was not a singular event but rather one of frequent meetings of long-time close friends. For some reason it seemed strange to me, and at the same time appealing.”

McCloskey elaborated, “…in the U.S., men got together to watch sports on TV or in a bar, drank beer instead of wine, ate stacked sandwiches instead of pasta. “More often than not, they are enjoying not each other but the game.” “As things stand today, for many Catholic men “friendship” can mean a largely artificial tie, based on a common interest in beer, cars, sports, hunting, fishing, or even an unhealthy interest in the pursuit of young women. (In fact, I hesitate to use the word “friendship” to describe this relationship; would “acquaintance” be a better term?) A real male relationship is a deep and lasting bond that goes to the very core of what a man is or can be.”

McCloskey blames several things for the lack of male friendships: the loss of exclusively male clubs and schools, moving due to job changes, working women who want their husband’s help, leaving no time for men to socialize together; and finally, “gay culture.” “To complicate matters still further,” said McCloskey, “in today’s society many male relationships are openly homosexual, based on the use of each other as objects of pleasure. Many forms of public entertainment–films, television and the theater–have accepted homosexuality as normal, and begun to portray heterosexual males as fools who live under the sway of domineering women. One of the many unhappy side-effects of this open public perversion,” he goes on, “is the fact that when any small group of adult males is seen together, at least in some urban centers, they are assumed to be homosexual.”

After reading this article, which made a point to disparage traditional male pastimes of hunting, fishing, watching sports and chasing women–I tried to image my father’s reaction: “What would you expect from a priest?” he would have chuckled, with a twinkle in his ex-Marine, Irish eyes. As for people thinking he was a fairy because he was out with a couple of buddies, well, dad wouldn’t have taken that seriously. I would suggest that only closeted, self-loathing homosexuals would be anxious about being perceived as gay. It wouldn’t occur to my father or most heterosexuals to even think about it.

A goal of evangelical friendship is conversion. The use of friendship in a conversion process walks a very fine line between support and manipulation. Men who feel guilty about past acts; men in a mid-life crisis; the lost and lonely are especially vulnerable. Do most men feel they don’t spend enough time with other men? I don’t know. I value women-only activities, dinner parties and events but don’t associate them with my spiritual needs.  My social needs–yes, but I’m a lesbian.

Theory 3: His article fantasizing a U.S. religious civil war made people uneasy about him.

In 2000, Fr. McCloskey published a long essay in the Catholic World Report entitled “2030: Looking Backward.” It is a fictional piece in which his alter ego, Fr. Charles, a 77-year-old priest writes a January 1, 2030 letter to Fr. Joseph, a 25-year-old priest, reflecting on the recent breakup in the the United States and the emergence of the Regional States of North America.

In his essay, McCloskey foresees a smaller Catholic Church in the future. “…the Catholics we do have are better formed, practice their Faith in the traditional sense at a much higher level than ever, and are increasingly eager to share that Faith with their neighbors. Dissent has disappeared from the theological vocabulary.” In addition, hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Protestants convert to Catholicism.  

It sounds like the wishful thinking of a strident, thwarted, orthodox Catholic.  In 2000, in spite of the 21-year reign of doctrinaire Pope John Paul II, moderate and liberal Catholics kept a tenacious grip to their faith. American Catholicism continues to be messy, contentious and organic as different groups within the Church jockey with one another on what it means to be Catholic, and how best to live their faith between the Gospels, the Magisterium and American democratic ideals and culture.

The most controversial paragraph in the essay was the one where Fr. McCloskey appeared to encourage the breaking  apart of the union, and the development of Christian-governed states. As part of the reconstitution of the U.S., he appears to sanction the deaths of many thousands of people.

As he put it, “We finally received as a gift from God what had been missing from our ecclesial experience in these 250 years in North America–a strong persecution that was a true purification for our “sick society.” The tens of thousands of martyrs and confessors for the Faith in North America were indeed the “seed of the Church” as they were in pre-Edict of Milan Christianity. The final short and relatively bloodless conflict produced our Regional States of North America. The outcome was by no means an ideal solution but it does allow Christians to live in states that recognize natural law and divine Revelation, the right of free practice of religion, and laws on marriage, family, and life that recognize the primacy of our Faith.”

McCloskey acknowledged “A goodly number of faithful Catholic writers also found it dark and threatening, although I had intended it to be positive and optimistic.” Would the politicians, elected officials and other prominent people that McCloskey consorted with feel the same way? Probably not.  In the hands of secular media it could be framed as a fanatic’s call to sedition and violence.

Fr. McCloskey did make some accurate predictions in his essay, including the regional splits of “red states” and “blue states”; and the affinity between Evangelical Christians and ultra conservative Catholics on many political issues. This coalition supported Republican party candidates in exchange for their votes on abortion, homosexual civil rights protections, same-sex marriage, religious liberty/conscience rights and federal funding for their institutions.

He also articulated the struggle between Catholicism and secular society. There is an eerie parallel with McCloskey’s essay and the dystopian novel, Lord of the WorldThis obscure, apocalyptic book was written in 1907 by Monsignor Hugh Benson, an Anglican convert to Catholicism.  

It imagines a socialist, humanistic and technologically advanced world where religion has been rejected or suppressed.  It is a story about the Antichrist and End Times–the product of a struggle between a radically secular society and the one alternative to it–the Catholic Church. Most religious leaders have been co-opted by humanist ideals. Belief in God is replaced by belief in man. Only a small remnant of the Catholic faithful remain.  To a certain point of view, this is a chillingly accurate depiction of our present states.

What would Fr. McCloskey’s alter ego, Fr. Charles, say now if he could look back at what’s happened in the years since 2000?

What would he say about the sexual abuse holocaust that engulfed the global church and continues unabated to this day?  A month doesn’t go by without another cardinal, bishop, church official or priest getting dragged into court, or the court of public opinion. What are his thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became the first pope in almost 600 years to step down from the papacy.  What horror did Pope Benedict see that caused him to give up and quit? His resignation ended the reign of four decades of conservative popes, and their “reform of the reform” of Vatican II.  Springtime arrived, but it was for liberal and progressive Catholics… Could Fr. Charles ever have envisioned what would follow after Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis in 2013? In his wildest dreams, could he imagine a pope saying, “Who am I to judge?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love the Enemy in Your Pew

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 25, 2018 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Dissent, Faith, Musings, Politics

Love the Enemy in Your Pew has been part of my Lenten reflection since I first read it in the February 20, 2012 edition of America magazine. The article also  spurred me to organize a Lenten fish fry for my parish, where people of all opinions, backgrounds and political stripes could sit down together at a community meal.   

It was written by Dr. Gerald Schlabach, a professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He is a Benedictine oblate, and deeply involved in the Bridgefolk movement for grassroots dialog between Mennonites and Catholics.

*****

“We Christians have struggled for centuries to understand how Jesus really expects us to love our enemies. (Bracket those vicious enemies who may actually be out to violently destroy us and ours.) To be ready for that kind of discipleship we must first learn to love our sisters and brothers in the Christian community itself. They are the ones close enough to stick in our craw.”

“So this Lent, listen to uncomfortable voices in your community. Listen without arguing back, for as long as it takes to really hear. Listen deliberately. Listen for the back story behind positions you may never agree with. Debate later.”

“Listening is the virtue this proposed Lenten discipline would inculcate if practiced throughout the year; it could become a lifelong habit. Especially in our era of culture wars, in which the blogosphere allows us to flame “enemies” we never meet face-to-face, nothing may affect us short of sitting down over coffee or on a park bench to listen face-to-face. ”

“Listen particularly to someone who represents all you think might be wrong with the church. A Catholic neighbor, for example, who is so impassioned with some ways of defending life that he or she seems to ignore other ways. Or an openly gay Catholic who continues to receive the Eucharist or an activist campaigning to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Listen to the fan of that dangerous neoconservative George Weigel, or the fan of that idealistic peacenik Jesuit John Dear; the parish liturgist who still includes those awful guitar-Mass ditties in the new Roman Mass or the patriarch in the next pew who glares when someone changes “his” to “God’s” for “the good of God’s holy Church.”

“Alas, Catholic culture makes it easy to leave Sunday Mass, week after week, without talking at all, much less inviting real conversations elsewhere in the week. But resolve to try conversation at least once, for Lent. Whoever your conversation partner is, ask to hear his or her back story. Resolve that while you may ask for clarification, you may not argue. Trust might begin to develop, though probably not in a first meeting.  If the other person reciprocates and asks for your back story, wonderful  Share your own story, but do not argue your position even then.”

“What if this encounter starts to soften your position? Yes, there is that risk. But this is Lent. Our Lord risked all, abandoning any self-defense other than the vindication of his Father. The cycle of the church year intends to teach us this: Resurrection is coming, but not without our dying to even the most righteous of causes, as we identify with the One who did so before us.”

 

 

Cardinal Law’s Fall from Grace

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 31, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Musings, Politics, Scandals

On December 20, 2017,  Bernard Cardinal Law passed away at the age of 86.  For the last 13 years he lived in Rome, a voluntary exile from the United States.  He will be buried in Rome as well.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and he stepped down on December 13, 2002 after being engulfed and overwhelmed by the sex abuse scandal he helped to create.

Although Thomas O’Connor, Boston College historian, remarked “There’s going to be a lot of good interred with his bones,” the more likely epitaph will be that penned by Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe: “Bernie Law … one of the greatest enablers of sexual abuse in the history of the world.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, VT, who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation, said in a statement on his death that like each one of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.” “While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

Sean Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, also published a statement on December 20th, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.  “As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences.”

But O’Malley also noted that Cardinal Law’s “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions,” including his early commitment to the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, and his work with the ecumenical and interfaith movement following Vatican II.  He was well known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved.

Journalist Mike Barnicle wrote about Cardinal Law in a NY Daily News column published on Sunday, December 15, 2002 — two days after his resignation.  The headline was “The tragedy of Law’s fall from grace.” I clipped out the article from the paper to keep; to remind me of the good and evil one person can do, our complexities of character and motivation, and the nightmare forms our justifications can sometimes become.

The article began – “There was a night in December almost exactly four years ago when the door to the hospital room opened and Bernard Cardinal Law walked in to visit a sick man lying in the bed. The priest barely knew the guy, just dropped by to talk for a few minutes, offer a simple blessing and then he was gone, like a doctor on his rounds.

The guy was surprised. He hadn’t really known the cardinal and thought of him as a rather aloof, somewhat cold figure. But Law was accompanied that evening by some warmth, a sense of humor and a capacity for conversation.

“He comes here a lot,” one of the nurses said. “Just shows up. Him and his driver. A lot of the time, late at night. He’s great with the homeless, the drunks, street people who hang around the emergency room to get out of the cold.”

How does a man who was arguably the single most important  member of the Catholic hierarchy in America, a guy who made his bones working for civil rights in the South during the violent ’60s, a priest who began his career speaking for the poor, slowly but surely tumble into such scandal that his life is now littered with subpoenas rather than psalms?  Is it arrogance? Isolation? The sin of pride? Blind ambition? 

Last week, days before Law sat down with the Pope and resigned as leader of the Boston Archdiocese, whatever future he may have had within the church was mortally wounded by the artillery of conscience.  The volleys came in the form of 58 of his own priests who signed a letter urging him to step down and get out of town.  It was more powerful than any editorial clamoring for his resignation.  Now, control and contain–the creed of corporate Catholicism in America–is reeling.  The faithful are taking back the store.

Still, it is astounding to consider what has happened and what might happen yet.

Law, Rockville Centre, L. I., Bishop William Murphy, Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily and many other men who spent most of their lives spreading a gospel of truth and morality actively engaged in a decades-long coverup of priests who preyed on the helpless and the young and then paid out millions in hush money. They have made it possible for every Catholic bashing bigot in the country to find both a voice and an audience. They have made it nearly impossible for parents to lecture their children on the need to attend Mass, go to confession, pay attention to a homily.

In Boston, the cardinal was like a fugitive, running from the secular law, barely able to appear at a cathedral without attracting angry protesters, fleeing his home for Rome to meet with other old men who seem to want to blame this scandal on American culture.

In New York, Edward Cardinal Egan is practically invisible and mute, his voice silenced by the burden of his own bureaucratic mistakes. What went wrong with these guys? Did they ever listen to the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, who spoke out about the problem of child-molesting priests nearly 20 years ago?

Law did an awful lot of good in his life. His tragedy, though, is that when it mattered most, he lied. He lied to his strongest supporters, lay people, who urged him to come clean with every problem priest still on the books. He lied to the people in his diocese when he repeatedly across the years told them that his priest had been removed or that priest would not be allowed to work around children. He lied to other pastors around the country when he would write letters that read like great college recommendations on behalf of men he knew to be sodomists of the young and vulnerable.  Maybe he was lying to himself, too.

Now, in the wake of his departure, he leaves the Catholic Church in this country looking like a religious version of the San Andreas fault.  The fissure between the faithful and the hierarchy–the Pope in Rome and a whole lot of bishops here–is obvious. The shadowy outline of a separate and distinct American Catholic Church is no longer impossible to see. There will be people in parish after parish seeking equal time after each sermon they hear that they feel is foolish and delivered by some remote priest, automatically obedient to an authority that has been compromised and shamed by scandal that could have been avoided if just one man in a red hat had realized there is a huge difference between human weakness–a mistake–and a felony.

Law is history now, in more ways than one. He has been weakened, battered, defeated and made old by his own blindness and inaction.

He looks and behaves a lot differently today than he did that long ago night in December 1998 when he was full of humor, even humility, and took the time to bless a sick man in a hospital bed. I remember him well from that evening because I was the guy he took the time to bless.”

 

Catholic Values in Higher Education

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 24, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Musings, Popes, Social Justice

In an October 17, 2017 audience with students from the “Institution des Chartreux” in Lyon, France Pope Francis reminds them of their need to keep their moral formation at the heart of their drive to professional success and fulfillment.

“You are engaged in a course of study that prepares you to enter the great schools of commerce that, when the moment comes, will enable you to exercise a profession in the world of international finance. I am glad to know that your academic formation includes a strong human, philosophical and spiritual dimension, and for this I thank God. Indeed, it is essential that, from now and in your future professional life, you learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery in which money traps those who worship it. And it is also important that you are able to acquire today the strength and the courage not to obey blindly the invisible hand of the market. Therefore, I encourage you to draw benefits from your time studying to train yourselves to be promoters and defenders of a growth in equality, artisans of a just and fitting administration of our common home, namely the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 204; 206).”

“Here in Rome you experience a form of immersion in the history that has so strongly marked the rise of the European nations. Admiring what the genius of men and the hopes they have cultivated have been capable of realising, you too must take care to leave your imprint on history. Indeed, you have the capacity of deciding your future! I wish to repeat it: you have the capacity of deciding your future. Therefore I urge you to become responsible for this world and the life of every man. Never forget that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound, and diminishes your very dignity” (Catechesis, 20 September 2017). And, even though this world expects you to head towards success, give yourselves the means and the time to journey the paths of fraternity, to build bridges between men rather than walls, to add your stone to the edification of a more just and humane society.”

Every pope in the last century has touched on this ethic, including Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.  However, I don’t think has been stated as often, and as strongly, as Pope Francis.  Pope Leo XIII laid the foundation of modern Catholic social teaching with Rerum Novarum – an encyclical on capital and labor.  It was published on May 15, 1891.

Earlier this week, I had an exchange with a good friend about the values in my college formation:

“Mary, When I attended Trinity, the values were academic rigor, service to society and others, and our Catholic faith as the foundation for professional and community life. We were encouraged to make an impact, to contribute. I have lived Trinity’s values all my life. Are those the same values now at Trinity?” (Note – I entered Trinity College in Washington, DC in September 1970 and graduated in May 1974.) 

Trinity was founded in 1897, so I’m sure the teaching of Rerum Novarum had an impact on the new college’s moral and ethical mission.

Especially as a graduate of a Catholic college, I was dismayed to see niche morality on display in the National Catholic Register’s (a national newspaper) 2017 Catholic Identity College Guide.  The paper sent ten questions to the 197 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities to ostensibly verify Catholic identity.  Of that number, 34 returned the questionnaires with the correct answers.  You can get the flavor of the survey in a few of the questions:

  • “Did the president make the public “Profession of Faith” and take the “Oath of Fidelity”?
  • “Did all Catholic theology professors take the “Oath of Fidelity”
  • “Do you exclude advocates of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning or advocates of the redefinition of marriage as commencement speakers and/or recipients of honorary degrees?”
  • “Do you exclude sponsoring campus groups and clubs that are not in line with Catholic teaching (examples: abortion and LGBT-related clubs)? If allowed, please explain.”
  • “Do you prohibit coed dorms?”

No mention of advocates of the death penalty? No mention of barring executives from companies who have endorsed or looked the other way on shoddy or criminal financial practices? Notorious polluters?  Why, I wonder?  Aren’t these “Life” issues?

I think it is good and needed to encourage Catholic identify in education and especially young people.  Young people want to talk about what’s important or troubling them, and they want other people to hear what they have to say.  We need to listen, and to encourage the exercise of their conscience, which will be their moral compass for the rest of their life–especially if they go into business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye and Hello

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 12, 2017 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Musings

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.

 

Medjugorje: Hard to Believe

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 5, 2014 | Categories: Bishops, Faith, History, Humor, Musings, Scandals, Weirdos

Our Lady of Medjugorje gives a message to the world on the 25th of every month. gospa-painting-medjugorje

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.  medjugorje teens 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. visionary 2

“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.  Ashtar Sheran 14 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). Visions of Mary; The search for Miriam of Nazareth

 

The Book of Matt

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 9, 2014 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Politics, Scandals

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.  Book-of-Matt

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.”  stephen-jimenez_200

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Homosexual News

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 25, 2013 | Categories: Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Popes, Scandals

The Orwellian obsession of  some right-wing Catholics with same-sex marriage, abortion, and glorification of the hierarchy is about to take a punch to the gut. AnimalFarm1

The papal election of Francis, not John Paul III or Benedict XVII, has brought an immediate cultural change. The pomp and pageantry–the red shoes, the billowing magenta capes–are being replaced by a renewed emphasis on social justice for the poor, mercy and humility. Taking a cue from their new boss, some cardinals have already started to dress down.

If he hasn’t already, the new pope will soon have a crack at the secret 300-page dossier delivered to Pope Benedict on December 17, 2013. Benedict had appointed three cardinals–Julian Herranz, Joseph Tomko and Salvatore De Georgi to investigate the leak of confidential Vatican documents in the scandal known as “Vatileaks Affair.”

Some claim this report pushed Pope Benedict into resigning. It may have been the last straw, if he admitted to himself he was too old, too frail and too entrenched to deal with the mess and scandal it described.  The report was sealed, and put in a safe for his successor.

A story in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, claimed according to the report one fraction within the Vatican bureaucracy was “united by sexual orientation.” These powerful men formed a network of alliances, controlled careers, and were subject to blackmail over their sexual activities by the Mafia and other organized crime groups.

The threat of exposure has to be one key reason why the Vatican Bank never cleaned up. There are too many compromised individuals in the Vatican bureaucracy and elsewhere who would be ruined if their secret homosexuality or financial dealings came to light. Other corrupt members of the Curia, not homosexual, may have been happy to trade favors for friends, family and potential political allies.

What will happen if the pope decides to put the Vatican’s money in a commercial bank, and close down the Institute for Works of Religion?

I bet a few surprise names will join Cardinal Keith O’Brien in the news.  CardinalO'Brien

Cardinal O’Brien, who had a reputation for being anti-gay, was outed by his boyfriend and some seminarians he had sexually pressured just prior to the papal conclave.  In the past, Cardinal O’Brien has referred to  homosexuality as a “moral degradation.” He also labeled gay marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and that same-sex partnerships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved.”

What was Cardinal O’Brien thinking when he was coming on to or in bed with another man?… That whatever strictures are out there didn’t apply to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Dollar Bill

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 8, 2011 | Categories: Celebrities, Faith, Musings, Saints, Social Justice

Fr. Maurice Chase died on November 20, 2011 at his Los Angeles home of cancer.   He was 92.   Fr. Chase started his life as a “society priest” and ended it on Skid Row.   “I love it,” he said. “God has given me the happiest part of my life at the end.”

Nearly every Sunday morning, Thanksgiving and Christmas for almost three decades, the man they called Father Dollar Bill, Father Dollar or just D.B. for Dollar Bill showed up on a Skid Row sidewalk. Clad in a Notre Dame hat and a red sweater over his clerical collar, Father Dollar Bill would hand out crisp, new one dollar bills along with a handshake and a  blessing. Father Dollar Bill was a hugely popular figure on Skid Row.   Hundreds would gather each week to await his arrival, in a line that sometimes stretched for blocks. “He was just a glorious man,” said Beverly Taylor, who lived on Skid Row for decades. “He was just always there.”

Father Maurice Chase didn’t mind what name the destitute, penniless, homeless  and addicts called him.   He didn’t care how they spent the money. Nor was he bothered by criticism by other Skid Row service providers–that he was a self-promoting publicity hound whose cash assistance had little impact on the people who gathered to receive his dollar, handshake, blessing or hug.

Beginning in the 1980s, Father Chase gave out untold numbers of bills, about $3,000 each week. Almost all of them were ones, although to some he would offer larger notes, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. On holidays the total he handed out could rise to $15,000.

Some social service workers critcized Fr. Chase’s brand of charity, saying it had little impact. “I think his desire to bring people love was true, and can certainly be modeled by the rest of us,” said the Rev. Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission. “But the last thing people on the street need is cash. A lot of people took the money and spent it in unhealthy ways.” People who waited in line for a donation often told Fr. Chase how they planned to spend the money.   Many bought hamburgers, ice cream and other treats they couldn’t get at the shelters.

Fr. Chase acknowledge that in a neighborhood where drug abuse and untreated mental illness were common, a single dollar could not get someone off the street. But the money, he said, was not the point. He said what mattered was letting people know they weren’t invisible and that they were loved by God. “I’m out here to tell people  I love them and God loves them,”  he said. While he wasn’t afraid of potential trouble,  a L.A. police officer quietly stood by in case of any problems.

“Maury Chase planted his feet right on the sidewalk, the last place on earth where  the poorest of the poor live,” said Alice Callaghan, founder of the Skid Row advocacy center Las Famillas del Pueblo. “He didn’t attempt to single out the undeserving poor from the deserving poor. I’m sure he handed out money to thieves. But it wasn’t the dollar that mattered. It was the gift of human love.”

Fr. Chase began every trip to Skid Row with a prayer about serving the poor: “When you have done it to the least of men, you have done it to me.” Then he prepared the stacks of new dollar bills he had withdrawn from the bank earlier. “Everything is so dirty on Skid Row. I want to give them something new and fresh.” Fr. Chase said he always made sure to look each person in the eye. “By my looking into their eyes, I’m saying you have dignity, you’re a human being, you are made in the image and likeness of God.”

Fr. Maury Chase began his street ministry when he was a fund raising assistant to the president of Loyola Marymount   University.   His job was to persuade potential donors to write checks to the university. Through his friendship with actress Irene Dunne, he   hit the Los Angeles party circuit and became known as “the society priest.” He was frequently mentioned in social columns. He provided photos and information to the editors at the Los Angeles Times to help the paper prepare its society columns.

He came up with his Skid Row charity after contemplating the instructions of Loyola Marymount’s president, Father Donald P. Merrifield, who hired him in 1985. Fr. Merrifield told him, “I’m sending you out among the rich and famous.   You better have a balance in your life.”

So, after every society event, Fr. Chase would send letters to potential donors he’d meet, telling them how wonderful the party was. Then he pointed out that many people were less fortunate and needed their help.   He often received letters back that included a check for the priest’s Skid Row ministry. After awhile, he began soliciting donations from wealthy benefactors including Bob & Dolores  Hope, Frank  Sinatra, Merv Griffin, Vin Scully, Bob Newhart, Jackie Autry, Rick Caruso  and many others.

At a Thanksgiving dinner on Skid Row put on by the Los Angeles Mission word spread  that Father Dollar Bill had died. “Dollar Man is dead,” called out Wendell Harrison, 54, to the other diners.

James Rory, 60, told a reporter his interactions with Fr. Chase had helped him to  try to get off the street. “He’s definitely going to be missed,” Mr. Rory added. “Not because of the dollar. Because of what he offered me spiritually.”

 

Iconic Images from My Youth

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 11, 2011 | Categories: Celebrities, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Musings, Scandals

The  NY Post headline screamed, “‘Tango’ Sex Bomb Dies.” A little blurb appeared underneath: “Maria Schneider, the French actress who was Marlon Brando’s young co-star in the steamy 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris,” has died, her talent agency said. She was 58.” Maria Schneider died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A quiet funeral was held at Eglise Saint-Roch on February 10, 2011. Among friends in attendance were director Bertrand Blier, actresses Claudia Cardinale, Andrea Ferreol and Christine Boisson, writer Jean-Henri Servat, and  actor Alain Delon.   Maria’s partner, Pia,  spoke at the memorial. “Ciao Bella, Ciao Maria,” she said, saluting her for bravery in the long illness that took her life. Pia and Maria had been together since 1980.  Maria’s ashes were to be taken form Pere Lachaise crematorium to later be scattered at La Roche de Vierge in Biarritz.

Born in 1952, the daughter of French actor Daniel Gelin and Romanian-born Marie-Christine Schneider, who ran a bookstore in Paris, Schneider began her career in the movie “Les Femmes” in 1969, and continued to star in French films until 2008 when she retired for health reasons. It is for her role in the movie “Last Tango in Paris” that she is remembered.   This role defined her in a way she never wanted.

“I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol,” revealed Schneider in 2007. “I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown.

In the film, Schneider plays Jeanne, a girl engaged to an annoying filmmaker, Tom, who goes to view an apartment in Paris. There she chances upon Paul (Marlon Brando), an American expatriate whose wife has committed suicide. They start a passionate affair.   Paul insists they don’t even reveal their names.

There is ample opportunity throughout the movie  to see Schneider’s  luscious body, but the scene everyone remembers is when Brando puts Schneider face down on the apartment floor, lubricates her with butter and anally rapes her. “That scene wasn’t in the script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea,” she said. “Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,” but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears…I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

Maria Schneider provided frank interviews in the wake of Tango’s controversy, claiming she had slept with 50 men and 20 women, that she was “bisexual completely,” and that she was a user of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

In fact, bouts of mental instability, drug addiction and even a suicide attempt, prevented Schneider from moving ahead professionally.   She also refused to let herself be typecast as a young sexpot ready to get naked on camera. “Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s for art,” she would later tell the Daily Mail.

In 1975, when Schneider was 23,  she  walked off the set of Rene Clement’s La Baby Sitter and signed herself into a Roman psychiatric hospital. Not for treatment, but simply to be with her inseparable companion of the past two years, American photographer,  Joan (“Joey”) Townsend, 28, the daughter of ex-president of Avis, Robert Townsend, who also wrote the best-selling book, Up the Organization.

She later told film critic, Roger Ebert, that hers had been a gesture of support to a friend who was locked up at the facility. Townsend had been picked up at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, babbling irrationally. On learning that her lover had been taken to a psychiatric hospital, Maria rushed to join her. “They locked her up, and so I had to do it out of loyalty,” Schneider explained.   Paparazzi snapped them in various embraces.

One of these photos appeared in People. Sitting in a dingy airport in Alaska, waiting for the weather to break to depart, I was idly thumbing through the magazine when I flipped to the page with the photo of Schneider and Townsend looking out the window of the hospital.   Townsend looked wild-eyed and distraught. Schneider had her head next to Townsend’s, and  her arm was  around her protectively.  Her tousled, curly black hair was a contrast to Townsend’s blonde.   I didn’t want people to see me staring, but I couldn’t stop looking at  the photo. I pretended to keep reading, but kept going back to that page.   I can’t remember what was written, except that Townsend was her lover, and that Schneider had ruined her prospects as an actress by going to her.

I did something I never do–I  surreptitiously tore the page out of the magazine and stuffed it in my backpack.

I had obviously seen pictures of other lesbians by then, but nothing made a positive impact until that photo of Schneider holding her lover close and standing by her.

The 1970s were turbulent years for Schneider, marked by drugs and a suicide attempt. “I was lucky–I lost many friends to drugs–but I met someone in 1980 who helped me stop. I call this person my angel and we’ve been together ever since.   I don’t say if it’s a man or woman.   That’s my secret garden. I like to keep it a mystery. Garbo had the right idea.”

A month after the Schneider obituary appeared the documentary “Making the Boys” was released in New York City. That film was the other gay icon of my youth.  Directed and produced by Crayton Robey, “Making the Boys”tells the story of the meteoric impact of “The Boys in the Band,” both the play and the 1970 William Friedkin film. Mart Crowley, the playwright and screen writer, was foundering in Hollywood before he “wrote what he knew” and became a voice for many gay men. The documentary paints a vivid portrait of the era when the closet was the norm. Footage of a CBS report on homosexuality shows Mike Wallace announcing that Americans consider homosexuality “more harmful to society than adultery, abortion or prostitution.”

“I felt Mart had been undervalued,” Robey said wistfully. “His play is a classic–a masterpiece. The revolution of the “Boys” has such a great history in terms of theater and in terms of visibility of homosexuals in mainstream culture, and the mainstream press introducing it to the masses and starting a conversation. His story should really come forward a bit.”

Mart Crowley was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1935.   His early life was deeply rooted in the Catholic Church; he attended a Catholic high school, and went from there to The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, graduating in 1957.

He eventually landed a very coveted film job as a production assistant.   He worked on such classics as “The Fugitive Kind” and “Butterfield 8” before becoming director Elia Kazan’s assistant on “Splendor in the Grass.” That’s when he met Natalie Wood, the film’s star, who became a close friend. She encouraged Crowley and introduced him to people who helped “Boys in the Band” come to fruition.

First staged on April 14, 1968 at the off-Broadway Theater Four, “Boys” played more than 1,000 performances before heading off to Los Angeles, where it won a Drama Critic’s Award in 1969, and then to London.   The film was released in 1970.

Themes include coming out issues, passing for straight, the unrequited love for a straight friend, the man who leaves his wife when he finally accepts the truth about himself, and the “Christ, I was drunk last night” syndrome.

“The Boys in the Band” is set in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where a surprise birthday  party is being held for a mutual friend.  The host, Michael, is a Catholic with a major drinking and self-image  problem.   He is in psychoanalysis–to change or come to terms with himself. Other characters include Harold, the birthday boy, who is increasingly morose   about the loss of his youth. One of his presents is “Cowboy,” a hunky but not  very bright hustler. Donald, a friend, house guest and occasional bed partner  of Michael is also conflicted about his homosexuality.   He left the city  to  spurn the homosexual “lifestyle.” Larry and Hank are a couple with  monogamy issues.   Larry, a fashion photographer,  tricks constantly, and Hank is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife.   Bernard is an an  African-American who still pines for the wealthy white boy in the house where  his mother worked as a maid. Emory is a flamboyant queen.

Alan, a surprise guest, was Michael’s roommate at Georgetown. He calls Michael from a pay phone, upset, teary, and asks to see him.   He was anxious to tell him something.   What that something is we never find out.   It could be his sadness about deciding to leave his wife.   It could also be that he is questioning his own sexuality.   Michael has kept in touch with another friend from Georgetown, Justin, who told him that he and Alan were deeply in love until Alan couldn’t take it, dumped Justin and married a woman. Michael is convinced that is what Alan was crying about on the phone.

Mart Crowley admits that his plays are autobiographical.   In his introduction to “3 Plays by Mart Crowley,” he refers to “The Boys in the Band” and says, “There was never a real birthday party attended by nine actual men…However, just before I began to write the play, I had…attended a party for a friend’s birthday and it gave me the idea of how to frame what had already been on my mind…All of the characters are based on either people I either knew well or are amalgrams of several I’d known to varying degrees, plus a large order of myself thrown in the mix.”

Michael: Forgive him father, for he know not what he do.

Harold: Michael, you don’t know what side of the fence you’re on. Say something pro-religion, you’re against it. Deny god, you’re against that. One might say youhave some problem in that area. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. You hang on to that great insurance policy called the Church.

Michael: That’s right, I believe in God. And if it turns out there isn’t one, okay, nothing’s lost. But if it turns out there is, I’m covered.   I’m one of those truly rotten Catholics who gets drunk, sins all night, and then goes to mass then next morning.

Michael is the character with whom Crowley most strongly identifies. The witty, self-deprecating,  and cynical Michael has also been the focus of detractors of the play. His most famous line, “You show me a happy homosexual, and I’ll show you a gay corpse,” has been used to indict Crowley for promoting self-loathing and negative stereotypes.

Crowley has strongly defended his play.   The play’s “self-deprecating humor was born out of a low self esteem, if you will, from a sense of what the times told you about yourself.”  The movie came out as gay liberation was just getting going, and any kind of negative sterotyping was not welcome.  “But that’s an awful standard to hold to art,” he said. “The curtain can’t just go up on two happy people in rocking chairs saying ‘I love you,’ and the other one saying, ‘No, I love you more,’ and then the curtain coming down! Very positive images are not what dramatic fare is all about.”

“The Boys in the Band” is an honest, funny, gripping, perceptive, and powerful portrait of gay life before Stonewall—one that in many ways remains as true today as it was 43 years ago.   “Some things don’t change,” said Crowley. “Not ever.   I mean, coming out is hard, even today. Growing old is hard.”

I saw the “Boys in the Band” when I was a freshman at Trinity College, an all-women’s college right next door to Catholic University. I believe the screen was at Catholic University(!), but perhaps it was at a theater close by. I remember I waited all week to see it.   I felt a rolling succession of emotions watching the film-most of all–and intense curiosity and a delicious fear of discovery. While I was dating guys at Georgetown, I was also aware my strongest feelings were around a friend at Trinity.   What did this mean?   On some level I probably knew, and went to see the movie to help me pierce through the walls I set up between who I was, and who I was expected to be.   As the feelings got stronger, so did the sense of denial.   I did not come out until well after college, two years after my marriage ended, and I was living independently. Like Hank,   I finally decided to stop living as a straight person.

The line in the film that resonated the most as I watch the film was Harold’s good-bye to Michael at the end of the party:   “You’re a sad and pathetic man. You’re a homosexual and you don’t want to be, but there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all the prayers to your god, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you’ve got left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you’ll always be homosexual as well. Always Michael. Always. Until the day you die.”

These words chilled me.   I was terrified.    I had homosexual longings.  I wanted to explore them, but I was afraid. I also knew that no matter how many boys I dated, or when I got married, or whatever life I lived, these feelings were a part of me and never go away. When the lights went on I left. I didn’t mention the movie to any of my friends.

In the end, Donald and Michael are left in the living room.   Hank and Larry are  making love in the bedroom, so Michael can’t go to bed. Donald starts to leave, but Michael breaks down and begs him to stay.  Michael wants to walk to clear his head of all the booze he  drank.  Donald tells him he’s going to finish the brandy but he’ll be back next week.   Michael heads out into the night.   “…there’s a midnight mass at St. Malachy’s that all the show people go to.   I think I’ll walk over there and catch it.” Donald raises his glass and says, “Well, pray for me.”

In the closing scene Michael laments: “If only we didn’t hate ourselves so much…if only we could just not hate ourselves quite so very much…”

How could we grow up and not  have avoided the miasma of anti-homosexual rhetoric, and the brutality and self-hatred that provoked?  Family, friends, church, society,   media and the arts were the endless source of queer jokes, put-downs and threats. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto reminds us, “Gays were not portrayed in movies generally, unless they were horrible victims or horrible perpetrators of crimes.” Being homosexual in that horrible environment was a terrible fate.

“The Boys in the Band” and Maria Schneider changed how I looked at homosexuals–and ultimately  myself. They offered me the first opportunity to see people struggling in their  attraction to a  friend;  who were bonded together in their same-sex attraction,  who made a life for themselves as best they could, and took the world on for love.