Pious Trash: Modesty Veils for Females

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Easter People and the Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: Catholic Vote’s Presidential Election Mailer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic Vote needs to rethink their presentation materials.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Levity in Plague Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Devil and the Nun

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 7, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Fishy Fridays, History, Scandals, Sex

On the morning of August 11, 1676, a young nun named Maria was found on the floor of her cell.  Her face was smeared with ink.  Her hand held a sheet of paper covered with inscrutable glyphs.  She told the other nuns that the Devil appeared to her in the night and tried to turn her away from her faith. To persuade Maria, the Devil took over her facilities and wrote a letter with her hand.  The writing was not in Latin or any familiar language. It was a mysterious jumble of occult symbols and archaic letters.  No one was able to decipher the letter by the Devil. 

Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione was 15 years old when she entered the Benedictine convent in Palma di Montechiaro, Sicily. She was 31 at the time of the Devil’s visit.  Maria had a history of struggling against the Devil.  She would scream at him at night. In the convent’s chapel, she would shriek and lose consciousness.  She was convinced that Satan was trying to turn her towards evil.

In 2017, director Daniel Abate and a research team from the Ludum science center in Catania, Sicily cracked the code.  They used an algorithm found on the Deep Web. “We heard about the software,” Abate said, “which is used by intelligence services for coding breaking. We primed the software with ancient Greek, Arabic, the Runic alphabet and Latin to descramble some of the letter.”  The team was eventually able to translate 15 lines, which were certainly devilish for a nun to express:

“Humans are responsible for the creation of God.”

“This system works for no one.”

“God thinks he can free mortals.”

“Perhaps now, Styx is certain.”

“God and Jesus are dead weights.

“We speculated that Sister Maria created a new vocabulary using ancient alphabets that she may have known,” Abate said. “This is a precise alphabet, invented by the nun with great care by mixing symbols that she knew. We analyzed how the syllables and graphisms (or thoughts depicted as symbols) repeated in the letter in order to locate vowels, and we ended up with a refined decryption algorithm.”  Abate thought Sister Maria had a good command of languages, which allowed her to invent the code.  There is no information on what happened to her after the incident.

The letter was an elaborate hoax by Sister Maria. Why did she do it? How was she sure that she would not be found out? If she knew ancient alphabets, didn’t any of the other nuns at her convent know them as well? Abate believes the nun had schizophrenia, which made her imagine dialogues with the Devil.

Here’s my guess across 344 years:  She was frustrated, pent-up, tormented by sexual desires or guilt. She had some doubts about the faith, which bothered her.  Her small stage as a woman and as a nun bothered her. She was conflicted, she wanted attention, and she acted out her doubts and obsessions. The Devil was a good prop.  Once she started with the screams and convulsions, she had to keep it up.  She probably wanted to keep it up; the letter was a good finale.  She won her fight against Satan and became a heroine in the convent.

Sister Maria most likely heard about other demonic possessions and Satanic letters in other convents.  The 17th century was full of them, all featuring young nuns tempted by sex and heresy including Aix-en-Provence in 1611; Lille in 1613, Loudon in 1634 and Louviers in 1647. They are full of real and imagined seductions by priests and other nuns. I am surprised that no one has thought to do a full-blown historical and psychological study on these possessions, and their links with sex, female rebellion, and church politics.

 

 

 

 

Dumb and Nasty

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 28, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Fishy Fridays, Scandals

Paul E. Lubienecki, 62, an adjunct professor at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY was arrested on February 12, 2020, on two felony cyberstalking charges.  He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Agents from the FBI’s Buffalo, NY field office arrested Lubienecki in connection to a death threat made against 7 Eyewitness News investigative reporter Charlie Specht. Specht has won state and national awards for his investigations of the Diocese of Buffalo.  In the last six months Specht and his wife had received over 50 threatening calls from an unknown individual.

The voicemails began in August 2019, just as the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team reported on scandals at Christ the King Seminary, where multiple seminarians quit the seminary because of alleged abuse and corruption in the diocese. The messages referenced members of Specht’s family and urged Specht to stop his reporting on the diocese. “You’re still a bad Catholic and a horrible reporter,” one voicemail warned. “I hope to God I don’t see you walking around.”

On December 4, 2019, the day Specht reported on Bishop Malone’s resignation he received this message: “Oh, you must be so happy. You destroyed the Diocese of Buffalo and Bishop Malone. Oh, you must be so proud. You’re a piece of shit, you are really a piece of shit… You must be so proud of how you destroyed everything. I’m gonna destroy your career.”

On February 4, 2020, a few hours after the diocese announced the closure of Christ the King Specht gave a live report from the seminary.  Moments later, a caller left a voicemail. “You must be so happy the seminary’s closing. You’re a bad person.  I know where you live…I’m gonna find you.  I’m gonna kill you.”

Lubienecki had nothing to say as he left the courthouse after his arraignment. “Do you have anything to say about the cyberstalking charge?” asked 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley. “Why would you make a threat to somebody, especially to kill them. Isn’t that against the teaching of the catholic faith?” questioned Buckley.

Censor Librorum Notes:  No wonder the Church is a mess with a dumb-ass like that teaching ethics at a seminary.

 

 

Lent 2020 – To Be A Catholic

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 26, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Politics

“Catholicism is a religion of the head as well as the heart, and to be a Catholic is to commit to dogmas that distinguish our faith from others. Like most religions, it also requires a lifelong struggle to practice that faith day to day. The practice can be difficult. Today’s America is a consumer-driven society filled with endless distractions and temptations for people struggling to live by spiritual as well as material impulses.” – Mario Cuomo, Commonweal Magazine, 2002

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) was governor of New York from 1983-1994.

An Examen for Ash Wednesday.  Have a good Lent.

 

 

 

The Conundrum of Father Richard Ginder

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 20, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

So I turned to the Garden of Love.  That so many sweet flowers bore.  And I saw it was filled with graves,  And tombstones where flowers should be;  And priests with black gowns were walking their rounds,  And binding with briars my joys and desires.  William Blake (1737-1827)

“Binding with Briars—Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church,” a book by the Rev. Richard Ginder, was published in the United States by Prentice-Hall, Inc. in 1975.  It was seven years after the first Dignity convention in 1968 and six years after the Stonewall Riots.  In other words, very early in the period of gay and lesbian liberation in church and American society.  He begins his book by identifying himself: “I am a Roman Catholic priest.  My diocese is Pittsburgh. I am in good standing and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice every day.”  This statement, like much about Fr. Ginder, poses a conundrum.  It’s true.  But it’s also true that at that time he was on “sick leave” from pastoral assignments, and mid-point in a 10-year probation negotiated by the Pittsburgh Archdiocese. 

In 1969, after an intensive investigation, police raided his apartment in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and found photographs of teenage boys performing sex acts with Fr. Ginder and possibly other priests from the diocese.  The police also found his diaries, where Ginder detailed his and other clerics homosexual activities with young men over the previous three years.  Fifty-two charges were filed against him and he pleaded guilty to several. The Diocese interceded for Ginder and got him out of jail.

Fr. Ginder was among the priests identified in the now famous August 14, 2019 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sexually abusive clergy. While not a pedophile, Ginder certainly approached or had sex with high school and possibly junior high school-aged boys.

“Writing this book has forced me to rethink the whole subject of morality—rather, not to rethink it but for the first time in my life to think it all the way through,” he writes in the Forward. “I have been working on this book for twenty-five years: reading, taking notes analyzing my own inner experience and comparing it to that of others. The seed was planted in 1949 when I first realized my sexual identity.”

Why did Fr. Ginder write this book?  He must have known going public with his opinions was a permanent career-killer.

I think three things happened.  The new Gay Liberation movement inspired him to speak out. He saw people, especially young people, leaving the church in droves because the institution did not address their real-life concerns and questions. That bothered him, because he loved the church and the Catholic faith. Lastly, Ginder was a writer as well as a priest.  He wrote about other controversial subjects but was banned from doing so on homosexuality. The need to express himself blew up the blockade.

The evolution of the book surprised him.  “But once I started writing, I felt the book taking on a life of its own. It began to unfold and grow almost of itself as I thought through this whole matter of sexuality in its relationship to religion. I began the book a conservative and ended a liberal.”

The evolution of this blog post surprised me. I have mixed feelings about Fr. Ginder. I began by despising Ginder as a priestly predator, and ended up admiring him as a complex, prophetic, creative, and flawed man.  He never acknowledged any remorse for the teenage boys he used sexually, or the emotional and psychic damage at least some of them experienced. I wonder if that is who he was as a person, or as a member of a schizophrenic clerical culture where such behavior was widespread and tacitly accepted? There’s no way of knowing.

However, how many heterosexual men ogle, fantasize and bed, if they can, 16 and 17-year-old girls? Growing up female, we learn at an early age how to deflect male sexual interest. It’s just homophobia tinged with misogyny that males become hysterical over sexual interest by other males.

Since Ginder emphasizes his evolution, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to timeline his life, and overlay his writing, arrests, and sexual abuse accusations to see when they occurred and what he was doing at the time.

1914:  Charles Richard Ginder is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

June 11, 1940:   He was ordained a priest of the Pittsburgh Diocese at the age of 26 by Bishop Hugh Boyle.

8/1940 – 9/1942:   St. Gregory, Zelienople, PA and St. Mathias, Evans City, PA

9/1942 – 2/1946:   Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice (NFI)

Ginder was a Basselin Fellow and held a master’s degree in philosophy and a Licentiate in theology from The Catholic University of America.

2/1946 – 6/1950:  Saint Simon & Jude, Blairstown, PA.

1949 – Ginder discovers his homosexual identity when he was 35-nine years after his ordination. He regretted that over the next 25 years he was never permitted to express himself on the subject of homosexuality in either Our Sunday Visitor or The Priest. 

 In 2007, a 69-year-old male called the Pittsburgh Diocese to report he had been molested by Ginder in the late 1940s. He said that Ginder, who was assigned to a neighboring parish, would wait outside his school to offer him rides. He did not provide specific details.  After a few occasions, he no longer accepted rides from Ginder. He stated that the abuse he had suffered caused his marriage to fail; that he had feelings of guilt, and that he had attempted suicide.

 Late 1940s – Early 1960s:  Fr. Ginder was a widely read priest-columnist. His byline appeared in such prominent Catholic publications as Our Sunday Visitor where he wrote the controversial syndicated column “Right or Wrong.” At that time OSV was the most widely circulated Catholic periodical in the world with close to a million subscribers.  He founded and edited for 11 years My Daily Visitor for shut ins.  He also founded and edited The Priest, a journal for Catholic clergy which he edited for 24 years and The Catholic Choirmaster which he edited for 13 years. Ginder was also an accomplished organist and composer of sacred music. “I have written altogether one hundred twenty-four pamphlets with a total sale of twenty-six million copies. I have spoken and my musical compositions have been performed on all four of the major radio networks and on CBS-TV.” 

6/1950 – 12/1953:  St. George, Pittsburgh, PA (South Side)

12/1953 – 6/1959:  St. Joseph, Pittsburgh, PA (North Side)

12/1954 – 7/1962:  Censor Librorum for the Diocese of Pittsburgh

A male residing in Seattle, WA contacted the Pittsburgh Diocese on a number of occasions. He never provided details of his abuse but threatened to sue the Diocese. The male was advised in 1999 that the records pertaining to Father Charles R. Ginder were destroyed as Ginder had died in 1984. The male subsequently sent a letter wherein he stated that he was taken to New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA by Ginder. He estimated the trips occurred between 1958 and 1961. He said details would be provided in a book he planned to write. The male also advised that he was abused by another priest in Pittsburgh who now lived in Florida. He refused to name the other priest, however, in order to maintain “the element of surprise.”

 Fr. Ginder described himself as an open-minded conservative. His article on “Leftism in the Church” appeared in the March 27, 1960 edition of Our Sunday Visitor: “Right now in America, relativism is what might be called the ‘established’ system of thought. It is supported by the moneyed classes, the secular universities, even—insofar as that is possible—by the Government: which means that it has lavish rewards to confer on its own disciples…Confronted with such a situation, we Catholics can either convert them or join them. But if we join them, we will no longer be Catholic. We have to convert them, for by God’s own definition we are “the salt of the earth.”

6/1959 – 2/1961:  St. Mary, New Castle, PA

In 2013, an adult male reported that he was befriended by Ginder following the death of his brother in 1960. He stated that they often made trips from New Castle to Pittsburgh and had dinner together. The male recalled that on one occasion; he fell asleep in the front seat of the car following dinner with Ginder. He woke to find Ginder putting his hand up his pant leg, touching his thigh. When he asked what he was doing, Ginder explained that he was checking to see if the boy was cold. After this incident, he did not accompany Ginder anywhere else.

 12/1961 – 8/1962:  School Sisters of St. Francis, Bellevue, PA

7/1962 – 7/1963:  Health related leave of absence

8/1963 – 5/1964:  Our Lady of Mercy Academy (NFI)

5/1964 – 6/1964:  St. Januarius, Pittsburgh, PA

5/1964 – 6/1964:  St. John the Baptist, Pittsburgh, PA

6/1964 – 1/1967:  Sick Leave

1/1967 -?         :   St. John the Baptist, Baden, PA

In 2002, a 50-year-old male living in New Jersey reported that he had been abused by Ginder when he was between the ages of 15 and 17. He stated that he and a boy from Denmark would gather at the residence of the Bishop on many occasions. He stated that they would drink alcohol with Ginder and ‘sexual activity would occur there.’ According to the male, the sexual activity occurred with Ginder and the Bishop was aware of it. The male further stated that he lived with Ginder on Murray Avenue for a short time. He stated that the relationship with Ginder and others was ‘out of control.” He described Ginder as a ‘physically abusive monster.’”

 See my recent post on Pittsburgh’s Bishop Wright: “Lip Service: John Cardinal Wright Gives Himself a Celibacy Dispensation.”  Pittsburgh must have been a congenial posting if you were a sexually active homosexual priest in the 1960s.

1969:  Fr. Ginder’s apartment is raided by police.  They discover photos of Ginder and others in homosexual sex acts.  The Diocese negotiates Ginder’s release from jail and he is put on ten years’ probation.

1969:  Bishop John Wright is promoted or “kicked upstairs” to a Vatican appointment.

1970-1984:  Sick Leave.  Ginder lives in church facilities under psychiatric care.  For a time he lived in a Vincentian facility in McCandless, PA.

1975:  Ginder’s semi-autobiographic book, “Binding with Briars—Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church,” is published.

The book argued against Catholic positions on birth control, divorce, premarital sex and homosexuality.  Ginder also clearly came out against abortion, pedophilia, and legalizing homosexual relationships— “…the analogy with matrimony is all wrong. For one thing, it reeks of sacrilege, blasphemy, and bad taste.”

In the book Ginder addressed the nastiness and hostility of some religious people to homosexuals:  “The latent gay is sexually attracted by others of the same sex, but he refuses to admit it to himself and in fighting the tendency he often overreacts by lashing out at overt gays and harassing them as best he can.”  Ginder quoted Winston Leyland, a “priestly dropout” and editor of the Bay area publication, Gay Sunshine, who estimated that 40% of Catholic clergy was gay.

Ginder did touch briefly on Dignity, a newly formed organization for gay and lesbian Catholics.  He was mildly supportive. I think Ginder was less enthusiastic than he might have been, because he believed so strongly that gay people needed to stay in the Church, not go off or segregate themselves in other groups. In Chapter 13, “The Other Love,” he writes: “Now surely this book, especially this present chapter, has given the gay arguments and principles enough to form his conscience on gay sex and still receive the sacraments—so, Mr. and Ms. Gay, spread the word: Gays can be just as good Catholics as the rest and still have their sex. Don’t let them quit the Church, for their own good and ours—because, you see, we need their help in forming a consensus. We need them on the team.”

Fr. Ginder also offers a solution to gay and lesbian Catholics trying to keep the faith: “Keep trying to develop a personal religion, an immediate relationship with our Lord,” he says.  “Use the Church for the Holy Sacrifice, the sacraments, inspiration, and moral instruction; but keep your life centered on Christ. What matters is His, not the churchmen’s opinion of you.  Keep deepening your fundamental option with an intense and unshakeable loyalty to our Lord.”

As a Catholic lesbian who continues to identity herself as such 40 years after coming out, Fr. Ginder’s advice on how to remain in the church is true:  follow your conscience and keep your eyes on Christ.

 In 1975, Ginder was asked if he was sorry about his homosexual activities.  I don’t approve of it but sometimes you’re weak,” he said.

1976:  One year after the publication of “Binding with Briars,” Bishop Vincent M. Leonard, Wright’s successor, stripped Ginder of his priestly facilities.

1978:  Ginder was arrested in the Southside of Pittsburgh and convicted of sodomizing two 16-year-old boys and sentenced up to four years in prison. There was also a report that he attempted suicide.

1980:  Fr. Ginder lived at the One Hundred Acres Trappist Monastery in New Hampshire, not far from Boston, MA.

In 2011, an adult male reported sexual abuse through the Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire. He stated that in 1980, when he was approximately 15 or 16 years old, he attended an overnight retreat at Hundred Acres in New Boston. Another man, possibly a priest, attempted to assault him in his room. When he screamed loudly, Ginder came into the room. Ginder then offered to drive him home. During the car ride, Ginder pulled over by a river. He then fondled the young man on top of his clothes. The young man got out of the vehicle before it went any further and took a bus home.

 June 7, 1984:  Killed in a car accident. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published his obituary on Wednesday, June 13, 1984. The headline reads: “Priest touched by scandal is quietly buried in city.” 

“The Rev. Richard Ginder, once one of the most influential priests in the Catholic Church in the United States, was quietly buried here Monday.  Father Ginder, 70, removed from his priestly duties in the Pittsburgh diocese in 1976 following a sex scandal and a controversial book, was killed Thursday in a car accident in New Hampshire. At the time he was driving from his brother’s funeral. His brother, the Rev. Edwin S. Ginder, was a priest in Fort Tobacco, MD. Father Ginder’s funeral, was at St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon, PA.  Its pastor, Monsignor Charles Owen Rice, called Father Ginder – prominent editor, author and columnist – “the Andrew Greeley of his day.”

In the Forward to the book he acknowledges, “My opinions may have to travel underground in the Church until popular sentiment is ready to accept them.” That shift of opinion occurred 40 years after the publishing of the book.  It was made possible by the loss of respect and moral authority of the Church for how it handled clerical sexual abuse. Ginder was a part of that chain of abuse, shuffled around from parish to parish, his behavior tolerated and covered up with “sick leave” stays in various institutions and places.  Once the church ceased to protect him, the civil authorities were able to reach him for punishment.

Fr. Ginder did not acknowledge himself as a gay man in his writing, although he may have done so with other gay clergy.  What he did do in “Binding with Briars” was to assert that gay sex—sodomy– is normal to gay people and stated that the Church was out of touch with the sexual morality and lives of many of the faithful, gay and straight. This stance was leading to the marginalization of the Church and the loss of believers.  This loss was very painful to Ginder, and he wanted to stop the hemorrhaging.

“For several years I was the official censor of books for the Diocese of Pittsburgh,” he wrote. “It is with prayer and no little trepidation that I submit my analysis, hoping that it may bring some degree of comfort, however slight, to the reader.  All my life has been a preparation for the writing of this book.”

I wish I had known of Fr. Ginder’s book many years ago.  It would have been a great help to me in negotiating the agonies of faith and desire.  It would have been a great comfort, and is still a comfort today.  Thank you, Fr. Ginder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pious Trash: President Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast Appearance

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 7, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Faith, Humor, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

The National Prayer Breakfast is a Washington, DC tradition that stretches back to 1953, when president Dwight Eisenhower established it at the suggestion of evangelist Billy Graham.  It is a bi-partisan event with political, business and civic leaders coming together to pray.  Many members of Congress normally attend.

Yesterday’s breakfast had a different vibe.  President Trump used the podium to attack supporters of his impeachment drive.  “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said.  He scolded his opponents by saying impeachment supporters “know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”  He added, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” He went on, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘ I pray for you’ when you know that is not so.”  The last jab was directed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has previously said she prays for him. 

Pelosi responded in a news conference after the event.  She told reporters it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to criticize people for looking to their faith as a basis for their decisions–“especially at a prayer breakfast.”  “I pray hard for him because he’s so off the track of our constitution, our values, our country,” she said. “He really needs our prayers.”

I’m not sure all the prayers in the world will help our dysfunctional Congress, and the nasty, pathological liar we have for a president.  President Trump is Roy Cohn resurrected.