Let me get this show on the road by saying that I consider Terence Weldon’s Queering the Church to be one of the best gay Catholic blogsites around.
In a recent post, Terence argues that “in the older history of the church, it is not gay priests and bishops that are new, or gay marriage, but the opposition to them.” He cites, for example, St Paulinus of Nola, of whom he writes:
Paulinus was noted as both bishop and poet: his poetic “epistles” to his friend Faustinus are noted in the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia. What the CE does not remind us, is that Pulinus and Faustinus were lovers, and the “epistles” were frankly homoerotic verse, which may be read today in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. Church history for its first twelve centuries at least is littered with further stories of male and female clergy, some canonized or popularly recognised as saints, with clear homosexual orientations. Some of these, as clergy, probably lived celibate lives. Many clearly did not.
In this same post, Terence further explores the reality of both gay saints and same-sex unions in church history.
Another recent post by Terence that I particularly recommend is one that focuses on the “Intimate Dance of Sexuality and Spirituality.” Also, Terence’s new site Sergius and Bacchus Books: Gay and Lesbian Religious Books is definitely well worth investigating.
Another essential gay Catholic blogsite is undoubtedly William Lindsey’s Bilgrimage. A recent post by William that I particularly appreciate is one in which he writes about the decision by the British Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers) to perform same-sex marriages within Quaker communities.
The decision of Friends to perform same-sex marriages is deeply rooted in traditional Quaker theology, which is informed by founder George Fox’s teaching that there is something of God in everyone in the world, an inner light that links each human being to God. From their beginnings as a religious movement, Quakers have emphasized the obligation of all believers to respect and look for that spark of God within others — Friend and non-Friend alike, Christian and non-Christian alike, believer and non-believer alike.
The decision of the British Friends to perform same-sex marriages rests on the discernment of this religious body that God chooses to marry people of the same sex, and those attuned to God’s will ought not to stand in the way of that divine choice, but to celebrate it. This decision is, in other words, an outgrowth of the Quaker belief that God lives within each human being, and one of our most fundamental religious obligations is to find and witness to that divine presence in others.
William’s recent posts on the ongoing healthcare debate in the U.S. (see here and here) are also well worth reading.
Jayden Cameron’s Mystic Gay is a relatively new gay Catholic blogsite, one that has Pope John Paul I (the “smiling Pope”) as its patron saint. In one of a number of posts, Cameron offers support to the contention that John Paul I was remarkably gay friendly.
During his time as Patriarch of Venice, [Albino Luciani (later Pope John Paul I)] became particularly outspoken on issues of sexuality, and controversially advocated greater tolerance and acceptance in the Church for gay men and women.
. . . Before his death Pope Paul VI even permitted Luciani to address the Vatican cardinals on the possibility the Church might encourage homosexuals to enter into long-term loving relationships. This received a poor reception, but in conclusion he stated that, “The day is not far off when we will have to answer to these people who through the years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose human dignity has been offended, their identity denied and their liberty oppressed. What is more we will have to answer to the God who created them”
Here’s an interesting exchange of differing perspectives that caught my attention: In marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, veteran British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell shared in The Guardian newspaper his experiences in the Gay Liberation Front.
Our vision was a new sexual democracy, without homophobia and misogyny. Erotic shame and guilt would be banished, together with socially enforced monogamy and male and female gender roles. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone – queer and straight. Our message was “innovate, don’t assimilate.” GLF never called for equality. The demand was liberation. We wanted to change society, not conform to it. . . .
In the 40 years since Stonewall and GLF, there has been a massive retreat from that radical vision. Most LGBT people no longer question the values, laws and institutions of society. They are content to settle for equal rights within the status quo. On the age of consent, the LGBT movement accepted equality at 16, ignoring the criminalisation of younger gay and straight people. Don’t the under-16s have sexual human rights too? Equality has not helped them. All they got was equal injustice.
Whereas GLF saw marriage and the family as a patriarchal prison for women, gay people and children, today the LGBT movement uncritically champions same-sex marriage and families. It has embraced traditional heterosexual aspirations lock stock and barrel. How ironic. While straight couples are deserting marriage, same-sexers are rushing to embrace it: witness the current legal fight in California for the right to marry. Are queers the new conservatives, the 21st-century suburbanites?
Here’s Dale Carpenter’s response to Tatchell – a response first published over at the Independent Gay Forum.
There’s hardly ever been a more succinct statement of the way the gay civil rights movement has changed – I would say matured – over the past 40 years. Stripped of the pejoratives, Tatchell’s essay accurately describes the main differences. Witness the struggle to serve in the military, to join the Boy Scouts, and most of all, to marry. This is a way of saying, Yes, many of us do accept the fundamental values, laws, and institutions of our society. Equality of rights and obligations within those institutions is ennobling, not mindless. We doubt that all innovation is good. We’re not trying to abolish “gender” or monogamy. There is an appropriate age threshold for sexual consent. We think “assimilation” is just a patronizing way to describe living our lives without conforming to your romantic notions of queerness. Sexual freedom? Anybody with an apartment key has that.
And yes, we want marriage. Marriage is not a “patriarchal prison” for our partners and children. It is freedom from a queer prison of perpetual grievance and mythologized otherness. It is getting off the tiger’s back of adolescence and accepting responsibilities for families and communities.
Tatchell and his generation of radical liberationists deserve our eternal gratitude for their courage and their success. Tatchell himself has been fearless in his pursuit of, whether he would say so or not, equality for gays and lesbians. The liberationists who gave us Stonewall hastened us down a path (already begun long before them) that has brought us to the edge of unprecedented respect and acceptance.
But they do not deserve our uncritical acceptance of their values or goals. We are their children but we’ve grown up and moved out of the house. They do not own the movement, they do not censor its messages or license its membership, and they are not gatekeepers of its future.
In the wake of the American Psychological Association’s repudiation of “reparative therapy,” Wayne Besen (of TruthWinsOut.org) has an excellent post in which he explores “Celibacy as Therapy.”
It is true that in extreme cases, a lifetime of celibacy may lead to a happier existence than coming out of the closet. These rare people, unfortunately, are often so damaged by fundamentalism that they are unable to express their sexuality in healthy ways. Indeed, they are stricken by excessive guilt if they enjoy any form of pleasure that is not sanctioned by their church.
In such instances of irreparable damage to victims of faith-based oppression, celibacy may work (sort of) as a last ditch effort to help these people find a small measure of peace. There are also individuals with low sex drives who may not have an inordinate amount of trouble conforming to onerous religious strictures.
However, celibacy is not a serious option for healthy individuals with normal desires. If a therapist tells a teenager that he or she will have to live the next 50 or so years sexually frustrated and without the possibility of love, you are not going to convince me that this is in the best psychological interest of that conflicted youth.
. . . Everyone deserves the chance to love and be loved – and conservative therapists will have an increasingly difficult time telling gay clients that they are exceptions to this rule. By calling for more accountability among anti-gay therapists and demanding they be truthful and adhere to modern science, the APA has made a worthy contribution with its report.
Meanwhile, over at the excellent Far from Rome, Prickliest Pear is currently writing a series of concise descriptions of the various stages of faith identified by James W. Fowler. It’s a great resource that Prickliest Pear is creating, and, to date, these are the installments of his series:
Stages of Faith: Introduction
Infancy and Undifferentiated Faith
Stage 1: Intuitive-Projective Faith
Stage 2: Mythic-Literal Faith
Stage 3: Synthetic-Conventional Faith
Stage 4: Individuative-Reflective Faith
The August 7, 2009, issue of the National Catholic Reporter has an informative article on Call to Action’s new executive director, Jim FitzGerald.
Here’s what the 38-year-old FitzGerald has to say about the current state of American Catholicism.
What’s missing in our church is the freedom to talk without fear about issues like abortion or gay marriage or stem cell research. That’s what I love about Call to Action: everyone’s at the table. It’s easy to be in conversation with people who think like you. But if we only do that, we miss out on something that could be very positive for Catholicism.
My friend Mick has an informative and insightful post on his blog about Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the recent portrait of her by Shepard Fairey.
Shepard has done her proud with his apt iconography that captures the “rays of hope” that she has always embodied, as well as the subtle implication of strength. The dove emblem in the necklace is a standard peace symbol, but birds in Burma also mean freedom fighting. The pro-democracy movement adopted the peacock as a symbol, an age-old metaphor for strength and resistance in Burma. Daw Suu is rarely captured smiling (mostly contemplative profiles), so I’m glad Shepard chose an uplifting patina and included the flowers she always wears. A slight woman with yellow flowers in her hair has been taking on the armed-to-the-teeth Tatmadaw (army) for 20 years with the only power she has to wield — a commitment to shared ideals.
Also worth checking out is Mick’s post, Southern Exposure, in which he notes: “When it comes to our southern neighbors, a centuries’ old status quo of U.S. corporate exploitation and military intervention continues unabated.”
And be sure to check out Mick’s commentary on C Street: GOP Illuminati, in which he concludes:
Turns out the crazy-haired old guys at the lefty bookstore were right; key politicians (current and former, presumably all Republican) are covert operatives of a secret religious sect intent upon securing dominance. The Family could make the Illuminati seem like arcane alchemists with limited goals; the Masons are quaint by comparison. I guess this takes the pressure off the papacy, Jews, and homosexuals as the puppetmasters covertly running our government, according to the conservative canon. What a clever distraction tactic to hide the real secret society within the religious fanatic movement who condemn others for being them. “The Man,” we now know, is a Republican zealot and lives in a humble red-brick building in a leafy Washington neighborhood. Talk about a Manchurian Candidate.
In an article at CommonDreams.org, Sandy LeonVest contends that the town hall meetings being held across the country by Democrats to revive President Obama’s “gasping healthcare plan” have “opened a door that Americans from all corners of the political spectrum hoped would stay closed . . .”
[Anti-racist activist and writer] Tim Wise believes that what differentiates Obama from any of the other big spenders who have occupied the White House is “principally one thing – his color.” And, says Wise, “it is his color that makes the bandying about of the ‘socialist’ label especially effective and dangerous. Indeed, I would suggest that at the present moment, socialism is little more than racist code for the longstanding white fear that black folks will steal from them, and covet everything they have . . . the current round of red-baiting is based on implicit (and perhaps even explicit) appeals to white racial resentment . . . Unless this is understood, left-progressive responses to the tactic will likely fall flat. After all, pointing out the absurdity of calling Obama a socialist, given his real policy agenda, will mean little if the people issuing the charge were never using the term in the literal sense, but rather, as a symbol for something else entirely.”
Americans would do well to consider Wise’s words carefully as the health care fiasco all but consumes the first African American president. Properly managed by the left, conservatives’ tactics could just backfire – big time. Assuming no one gets gunned down in coming months - and that's assuming a lot - it just might turn out to be a good thing that the right and their talk show poison-pushers have managed, by exploiting the simmering anger at the party base, to change the subject.
Despite the ongoing denial seemingly from every corner of the political spectrum, America's history, as it turns out, still demands to be reckoned with. For better or worse, the ‘healthcare debate’ has unmasked the darkest corners and least explored aspects of American culture. And, shameful as they are, we will have to deal with them.
To read LeonVest’s commentary in its entirety, click here.
In the August 14 issue of Lavender, Carisa Sibbet looks at the growing market for male/male (M/M) romance novels. These novels, I was surprised to learn, are written by straight women for straight women.
One example cited is False Colors by Alex Beecroft. Set in the 1700s, Beecroft’s novel tells the story of a lieutenant of the British navy who falls in love with his new captain.
Sibbet, in attempting to understand why straight women write and read M/M romance novels, suggests that:
If one man is sexy, two men just make it even sexier. You have heard that many men enjoy the idea of two women being together. Well, surprisingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly – a large number of women enjoy the thought of two men together. Another reason is that M/M relationships do not have the same gender stereotypes as straight relationships. There can be much more to these characters, and they don’t need to fit into typical female and males roles. The story really can go anywhere, with no social or expected boundaries – enticing to both the writer and the reader.
To read Sibbet’s article in its entirety, click here.
And finally, perhaps you may remember seeing images of swimmer Ricky Berens’ bare butt recently in the news. As you may recall, these images were captured after Berens’ swimsuit ripped just seconds before he dived into the water during last month’s World Swimming Championships in Rome. In an insightful commentary in the August 2 Washington Post, Robin Givhan writes:
The rear end of a championship swimmer is a magnificent example of how glorious the human body can be. In an era when so many of this country’s backsides have gone wide, flat and flabby from too much couch-sitting and cupcake-eating, the Berens buttocks were a visual rebuke of Americans’ deep-fried bad habits.
Givhan also makes some interesting (and eloquent) observations on the sport of swimming:
The beauty of swimming . . . is that it’s the rare sport that celebrates the body as both classically beautiful – muscular, balanced, elegant – and powerful. . . . Unlike so many other sports – aside from, say, track – swimming speaks to the capacity of the human body for pure physical excellence. Pads, gloves and helmets aren’t necessary because the sport isn’t about how much assault the body can endure – not in the manner of a football player or a boxer. Physical suffering, as dealt by a competitor, isn’t a subtext to the sport. And there aren’t all sorts of required accouterments, so that in some ways the success of the athlete is really based on his ability to finesse a racket, a ball, a bike or a bat.
. . . There is an elegance and a simplicity to the sport that honors the human body in full – not just one part of it – and what it can do all the way into old age without fancy gadgets or elaborate costuming.
Hmm . . . makes you want to hit the pool and do some laps, doesn’t it? (Or maybe just read Givhan’s commentary, “The Human Form: Too Much to Bare?” in its entirety.)
See also the previous Wild Reed round-ups:
(Australian) Summer 2009
Opening image: Jay Vollmar.