From one survivor to another. Thanks to Ruthie Gledhill at the Times for that link.
Everyone realizes by now that the reason some homosexuals want to become priests is because they feel a horrible sense of repression about their sexuality and because, well, because they want to play dress-up. Thanks to Anne Rice for leading me to this article, a review of The Pope Is Not Gay by Angelo Quattrocchi, translated by Romy Clark Giuliani. I especially like this quote by Colm Toibin:
When I listed the reasons homosexuals might be attracted to the Church and might want to become priests, I did not mention the most obvious one: you get to wear funny bright clothes; you get to dress up all the time in what are essentially women’s clothes. As part of the training to be an altar boy I had to learn, and still remember, what a priest puts on to say Mass: the amice, the alb, the girdle, the stole, the maniple and the chasuble. Watching them robing themselves was like watching Mary Queen of Scots getting ready for her execution.
Priests prance around in elaborately fashioned costumes. Bishops and cardinals have even more colourful vestments. This ‘overt behaviour’ on their part has to be examined carefully. Since it is part of the rule of the Church, part of the norm, it has to be emphasised that many of them do not dress up as a matter of choice. Indeed, the vestments in all their glory might make some of them wince. But others seem to enjoy it. Among those who seem to enjoy it is Ratzinger. Quattrocchi draws our attention to the amount of care, since his election, Ratzinger has taken with his accessories, wearing designer sunglasses, for example, or gold cufflinks, and different sorts of funny hats and a pair of red shoes from Prada that would take the eyes out of you. He has also been having fun with his robes. On Ash Wednesday 2006, for example, he wore a robe of ‘Valentino red’ – called after the fashion designer – with ‘showy gold embroidery’ and soon afterwards changed into a blue associated with another fashion designer, Renato Balestra. In March 2007, for a visit to the juvenile prison at Casal del Marno, he wore an extraordinary tea-rose-coloured costume.
I can see why they are attracted to it. Imagine having no care for how much things cost and you can wear all the crowns and jewels you want! Plus, as Toibon goes on to suggest, you have a really, really cute personal secretary. Who wouldn’t want that job? The new book looks absolutely fascinating. I just might have to get a copy.
Disclaimer: In no way am I disparaging homosexuals and/or people wanting to dress up. Who doesn’t want to dress up and be something else for a day or evening? I just wonder if their repression drives them to the Church as a possible outlet. God and being true to yourself do not mix.
Like the Kings and Queens of old who forced the poor and even not so poor to put them up on their visits to the countryside, the Pope expects people to shell out money and rearrange their entire lives for his visits. Sell off a painting or something. Better yet, get your own all male “household” in order first.
This weekend, I had every intention of going to church. After a lonnnnnng weekend of 4th of July activities, fried Walleye fish sandwiches and cheese fries (did I say I’ve been off my “heart healthy” diet?), and rearranging the bedroom, I was ready for a leisurely Sunday. Being both Catholic and Baptist (no it’s not redundant or an oxymoron) I intended to go to Mass on Saturday and Baptist worship on Sunday. Well, we got lazy and watched a movie on Saturday instead. Ooops. If I were more scrupulous, I’d write that down for confession next weekend, but I’ve outgrown the scrupulosity I had when I first became Catholic. Still, I felt a small twinge of guilt.
Yesterday my husband and I rearranged our bedroom. It’s a long room and rearranging is not easy. I can’t help very much either since I have a bad back. But I gave it a go and was aching all over by day’s end on Saturday. We also had gotten a new mattress last week (an ordinary Bemco) because I could no longer sleep on the $1500 mistake of a latex foam mattress we bought last year. I would arise every morning since we bought the thing with what felt like severe arthritis. I could barely move around. It was so odd. This mattress was always billed as great for your back. Uh-no!! But this morning, after a day of heavy lifting and an Aleve cocktail, I got up freshly feng shue-d and rested in our rearranged bedroom and new mattress and got ready for church. Sunday school is always first up for Baptists who only have one worship service on Sunday. In this church, Sunday school was at 9:00 a.m. so, off I went with my bible and lesson book. I got there just in time for pre-Sunday school announcements. I chit-chatted with the ladies for a while and then sat through a good 25 minutes of prayer requests, which is really nothing but the women sitting around trading stories about who was sick and who was sicker. I’m all for prayer concerns, but this was silly. It’s akin to gossip and playing catch-up for the week. After that we finally got to the lesson about hospitality or something. The “proof” text was Job 31. The American Baptist curriculum we use is ok, but it’s by no means in-depth bible study. Most of it is lecture in written form. Of recent years the curriculum is spouting “ermergent-ese.” You know what I mean; where every word discussing the “new church model” ends in “al:” missional, intentional, relational, etc. Ugh.
Well, after the bell was rung for church (literally a little bell like those kept on hotel concierge desks), I started to go into the sanctuary with everyone else, but I fell back. I just couldn’t sit through another bland, Baptist worship service where the same hymns were sung and the same sermons preached. I felt a longing for something deeper, something more true; something to connect with that great Undercurrent of Life. It was communion Sunday (the first Sunday of the month) and I couldn’t face that either. Little bits of bread and little cups of grape juice passed around the pews did not in any way signify to me the deepest mysteries of the Eucharist. I felt that to take it would be a betrayal somehow. So, I packed up my gear (purse, book bag, bag of lettuce from Helen’s garden) and left while everyone filed into the sanctuary. I drove home and found my husband cleaning out the garage. There was a light summer breeze blowing through the trees and after dropping my bags on the kitchen chair, I headed out to our patio with a book. I opened up Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas, the character of this series of Koontz’s, sees dead people. These dead people usually want him to solve their murders. In this novel, Odd is taking a long-needed retreat in a monastery in the mountains of California after having prevented a larger massacre at a shopping mall. His purpose is to retreat from his ordinary duties to the dead and heal his own soul. As I read partway into the chapter, I found this:
The world beyond this mountain retreat was largely barbarian, a condition it had been striving toward for perhaps a century and a half. A once glorious civilization was now only a pretense; a mask allowing barbarians to commit ever greater cruelties in the name of virtues that a truly civilized world would have recognized as evils. Having fled that barbaric disorder I was reluctant to admit that no place was safe, no retreat beyond the reach of anarchy… (page 64-65)
That’s how I feel most of the time right now. I feel that barbarians have been allowed to take charge of the hen-house and our only hope is a “chicken-run.” Many people, I’m sure, feel this way nowadays. Each thinks they are right in feeling this way and want to blame others, but regardless of who is “right” or who should be blamed, I feel as if the world has hurtled toward some barbarism much faster than anticipated and that words no longer mean the same things any longer. We’ve come to a war of ideas and dogmas. It’s the era of Big Brother speak in which the signifiers no longer signify long held beliefs but are being used against the definers of traditions in ways that bring confusion and anarchy. I also feel today, that I had learned far more sitting in my breezeway reading fiction than I could have listening to one sermon in a long line of spiritless sermons.
My retreat lately feels just like Odd Thomas’ retreat. It’s a falling back; a regrouping. It is a choice to choose non-action in a world that does nothing but mindlessly act merely because it feels good to our self-esteem to act. At what point is our character development more important than activism for activism’s sake? I wonder if anyone really knows why they argue endlessly for the beliefs that they do? I wonder what is solid and real and what is mere show and bluster; bread and circuses? I am also beginning to think that I’m an unfortunate product of my time (70s), my education (university) and my lack or conscience formation. I can soak up vast amounts of knowledge and “education” but I cannot honestly come up with a consistent ethic of my own. I have simply bought into the empty rhetoric of poststructuralism where there are no norms and where consistency is lacking. I had given up trying. I fall back on the argument that there is no use trying because there is no foundation on which to base concrete beliefs.
Increasingly, in my self imposed exile from belief, I’ve found that despite what Emerson said about consistency, there is a deep, deep truth to foundational thinking. Emerson did not say that consistency was the problem; foolish consistency was. We are living in an age, I think, of foolish consistency. One of the books that set me permanently on the road to Roman Catholicism is John A. Hardon’s The Catholic Catechism. It is beautifully written and far easier to read than the modern Catechism the church put out in recent years. Hardon writes at the beginning of the book about the age in which we live,
The world in which one lives keeps asking for evidence, it wants to be shown that what the believer believes is not mere illusion but objectively true. This same world protests that all human knowledge is unstable, that what people know today others will know better and more accurately tomorrow. So the man of faith must defend himself against the charge of dogmatism, as though what he believes now has always been true and will remain essentially unchanged in a universe whose only apparent constant is change. It would be tempting to try to respond immediately to both levels of criticism in our day. More effective is to look at ourselves and ask what too many Christians have taken for granted: What do we believe, and why? This will lead us into pastures that few Catholics, who may be severely orthodox, have ever visited. We are discovering that orthodoxy is no guarantee of perseverance and still less of living up to what the faith demands. Self knowledge as believers will deepen our loyalty and help evoke generosity, and in the process the commonplace objections will also be satisfactorily answered. (pages 29-30)
I suppose Hardon is saying that in discovering the reasons for our own belief we will answer the questions of our age. Ours is a time of surface thinking and surface solutions. We want change for change’s sake as if we are going to come up with anything new. There is nothing new under the sun, yet no one born form the 60s onward wants to believe that. Our churches, especially Protestant ones, are not asking us to deeply examine our beliefs. They are only asking us to enforce a prideful dogmatism and certainty about doctrine. They are only asking us to accept change just as the world wants to accept change. There is no substance in it. We are not asked to examine, test, and practice. I’m tired of wasting time on ineffective methods or theories that are merely the pet projects of mega-pastors and gospel shills. I want to get to the kernel, the very heart of ethics, the tried and true, the deep foundations, not just learn to spout what others have said because it sounds pleasant. I feel like I’m close to discovering something…. I’m still striving for I’m not sure what, but I’ll let you know if I get there.
I just watched this disturbing documentary by Amy Berg and, frankly, it pretty much convinces me to never set foot in a Catholic Church again. It’s not because the people are not faithful, because they are, seemingly in spite of abuse perpetrated against them physically and spiritually, they are faithful. But it’s because the hierarchy is corrupt beyond redemption in my eyes and is specifically DESIGNED–they would say (and did in the film) by “God”–to cover up their own crimes. Lay people are there to obey and never question, according to priests and Rome. Priests are God to them, making lay people doubly succeptible to these crimes and priests doubly reprehensible. What child or parent can say no when “God’s representative” so manipulates your family and wants to stick his hand down your 9 year old’s pants?
On principle, no organization should be supported that hides pedophiles. NONE. No organization should get away with producing such psychologically stunted individuals as many, many catholic priests are proving to be. Wake up people. Priests are not God! There is absolutely NO EXCUSE. If you think you have one, think again, watch the movie, talk to survivors, educate yourself. La cosa nostra catholique, however, still lives.
Interview with Amy Berg.
More here on priest abuse and survivors.
I think all this goes for Protestant “ministers” as well.
(Note: Out of respect for victims and their families, all comments that blame victims will be deleted)
All the hullabaloo about whether Mother Teresa believed or not, misses the point that all believers, if they are completely honest, feel this way many, many times. There are vast swaths of time in our lives when our perception of God or God “himself” (sic) is indeed absent. SOMA has a good take on it;
It’ll be interesting to see how the faithful respond to these bombshells. A big chunk of Christendom insists that ethics and morality are impossible without belief in God. If there’s no God, why be good? But Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith suggests what any life-loving agnostic or atheist knows: If there’s no God, why not be good? You don’t need the right metaphysics to minister to the poor, sick, and orphaned, or to reap the spiritual rewards that come from helping others. And as Mother Teresa also shows, you don’t even need belief in God to be fast-tracked to sainthood.
I agree. But, I’m not sure about the sainthood part. Protestants believe all the faithful are saints, not just a select few. But SOMA is right. You indeed do not have to believe in God to minister to anyone. In fact, those who feel God the least, but feel deeply this loss of Divine Presence, are the ones that are the most Christlike. The ones who claim to know God the most are the least Christlike. This is the paradox of true vs. made-up religion.
I find in reading books about Catholic “saints” that this is a common sentiment, especially among the women. I’ve read Bernadette’s (Song of Bernadette subject) biography, Sr. Faustina’s diary, and now Mother Teresa and all the women were frightened of not being in the presence of God many times. I find this disturbing. Bernadette especially died unsure of her salvation. In fact, she had horrible visions of hell at her death. This is the one thing about Catholicism that I find is not in keeping with the christian scriptures at all, this constant fear of hell. (Arminian vs. Calvin debates discouraged at this point!) If anything can be learned about the biblical writers, especially Paul, it’s that they were assured of their seeing God at death (Rom. 8:38-39; Phil 1:6) Or, maybe only the men were assured and the women were not; women being the worriers that they are. Perhaps it’s a gender thing. But then, we will never know what biblical women thought now will we?
Wildhunt Blog has a good article on traditional religions and their coming together to form a set of “conversion rules” so that religions won’t step on the toes of other religions when fighting over the souls of those in other countries. In fact, Jason writes,
One should also consider the fact that a growing number of Christian groups are discussing (and implementing) a “re-evangelization” of Europe and America. This isn’t merely a struggle against secularism, but against modern Paganism and other new religious movements. Will these guidelines apply to those in the West as well as the East?
This “re-evangelization” idea is a gross violation of personal freedom. If religion and its purveyors truly respected the individual’s ability to reason for herself and the inherent right to believe in whatever she wanted to believe in without categorizing her spiritual choice as “wrong,” these “rules” wouldn’t be necessary. They would be moot points. In fact, to protect the individual’s right to learn and choose for himself, I believe every country should protect its citizenry by formulating its own set of “no evangelizing” rules and refrain from calling itself a “Christian” nation or a “Muslim” nation or even a “Hindu” nation if the majority of its citizens object. In other words, I think evangelization should be outlawed, categorized as a crime against individual intellectual autonomy, and I also think missionaries should be taxed as merchants selling a product. Radical? Perhaps, but someone has to protect the individual’s right NOT to be evangelized if they don’t want to be. Especially in need of protecting are those who don’t have access to other means of informing themselves, such as those in third world or the poorest countries. How else can they compare what certain missionaries with an agenda tell them to reality?
Of course all of this is predicated on the Utopian notion that religion does not already have a stranglehold on a country or that said country is a democracy where its citizens are allowed to vote and choose its representatives and where citizens are free to dissent from popular opinion without being thrown in jail. Hey, I can dream can’t I?