Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Round-Up

Friends, here are just a few of the online articles I’ve recently come across and which I find to be particularly insightful, interesting, and/or inspiring. Enjoy!

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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.

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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.

Writes William:

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.

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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”

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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.

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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.”

Writes Besen:

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.

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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


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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.

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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.

Writes Mick:

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.

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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 . . .”

Writes LeonVest:

[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.

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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.

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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:
Spring 2009
(Australian) Summer 2009
Fall 2007
Spring 2007

Opening image: Jay Vollmar.


19 comments:

Jayden Cameron said...

Thanks for your reference to my mini-blog, Mystic Gay (so called because Blogger wouldn't let me choose "Gay Mystic".) Unfortunately, the gay friendly quotes I posted about Luciani have since been removed by Wikipedia - within the last week! I believe this was done due to the intervention of author of conservative blog 'On Pilgrimage' who describes himself as a JPI expert.

Terence Weldon said...

Michael, many thanks for your kind words once again about "Queering the Church". Give credit, though, where credit is due. The best of the lot has to be The Wild Reed, which was the inspiration that got me started and the model that keeps me inspired.

Without your extraordinary thematic archives, collection of links, and generous recommendations such as these today, I would have found the going much tougher. May you inspire still more to follow.

If I may be allowed a moment of shameless self-promotion, my book club you mention has expanded to take over a whole new site. There is much yet to be done, but I think the independent space, with room for separate posts for single books, offers much more potential.

See "Sergius & Bacchus Books" -URL outinchurch@blogspot.com

Michael J. Bayly said...

Ah, Terence, you're too kind - but, hey, I definitely appreciate such kindness!

And thanks too for the new link to your Book Club. I've added it to the text of this post.

Peace,

Michael

William D. Lindsey said...

I second what Terry says, Michael. Your energy for blogging, and the thoughtful and systematic way you keep doing it, keep me going. Thanks for linking to Bilgrimage in this posting. And for a wonderful smorgasbord of good reading in these dog days of summer, when many of us slow down and stop reading and thinking as much as we should.

Mark Andrews said...

"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. . . ."

What's interesting about this quote is that reflects the values of some people - gay, straight, decline to state. I don't think for a minute that this describes all those who call themselves gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or whatever.

To the extent that this value statement is held to be compatible with, and incorporated into, Christianity, is where I push back. This value statement tends towards treating people as an "it" and not a "thou," an object and not a subject. It is the cause of great grief.

William D. Lindsey said...

Mark, I'm not sure if you went on to read Dale Carpenter's critique of Peter Tatchell. If not, you should. He says flatly that, as a gay person, he does not share Tatchell's vision of sexual democracy in toto.

He says, in fact, "But they [i.e., those who espouse this vision of sexual democracy] do not deserve our uncritical acceptance of their values or goals."

I had thought that in juxtaposing these two visions of sexual ethics, Michael is implying that there's a valid debate and difference of opinion about these issues not only between gay and straight communities, but within the gay community itself.

It seems not quite fair or accurate to reduce "the" gay position to Tatchell's position, and then push back against that position as though it's the univocal gay position on sexual ethics.

I'd also note, in defense of Tatchell, that it's significant to read what he's saying in historical context. Though the ideas that the early Stonewall movement espoused may sound hopelessly utopian today, these were people fighting against a monolithic and draconian repression of gay people on the part of mainstream society.

In the period about which Tatchell is writing, people were routinely blackmailed, fired from jobs, had their lives destroyed, solely because they were gay. Gay people who gathered in hidden bars where they were causing no one any trouble at all could expect at any moment to have the bar raided and to be beaten up--with impunity.

When social attitudes and behavior are so extreme in one direction, it seems natural to me that reactions to them--especially in their initial, liberating stages--would be just as extreme in the other direction.

I don't endorse all that Tatchell seems to stand for in this passage. But the eradication of homophobia and misogyny? Seems like an entirely defensible goal to me.

I still wonder why the sexual liberation of gay person should be the cause of such great grief to some folks, and why it seems to portend, for some folks, the demise of all civilization and of the church itself.

Liam said...

People periodically project onto Albino Luciani, it seems. If you've read Illustrissimi, you instead get a sense of someone very traditional in his thoughts on sex and gender.

His pastoral experience apparently gave him sympathy to to parents with large families on the question of artificial birth control, but in that he was not alone and the the only indication is that he would have considered the use of birth control in extremis to be a lesser degree of sin, not necessarily unsinful. Nevertheless, once Humanae Vitae was issued, he showed no indication of reversing it. People reading a gay-friendly theology into this lovely man are probably engaged in wishful thinking.

He was devoted to the poor in an old-fashioned way, but above all else he appears as someone who questioned much of what modernity champions.

Read Illustrissimi: you will not find the Missing Liberal Hope for Pope in it.

William D. Lindsey said...

Liam, I'm confused.

You seem to be implying that Mystic Gay is "projecting" in what it has to say about John Paul I. You say he was "very traditional" in his thinking about sexual morality and gender.

So are you denying that he said, “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.”

And are you suggesting he did not say those words in remarks he made to a gathering of cardinals discussing the question of how the church should relate to gay believers?

Jayden Cameron said...

Wikipedia has now restored the gay friendly quotes from Luciani in an expanded section entitled Moral Theology of JPI, with requests for supporting citations, making it clear that the quotes came from Lucien Gregoire's disputed book Murder in the Vatican. I must confess that I did not check the sources carefully, because I also feel Gregoire's book is unreliable, too many bizarre fabrications. However, gay clerical friends of mine in Rome at the time of Luciani's election assured me that the "little man from Venice" was gay and had even gotten into a bit of trouble for making openly sympathetic comments about homosexuals. I realize this is not evidence, only hearsay and innuendo. And is it even important so many years after the fact? Only in the sense that it highlights how difficult it is to find clear, concrete evidence of positive affirmations about gay people throughout church history. And one gentle reminder to Liam: Pope John XXIII was also considered something of a doctrinal reactionary upon his election, but he was a good and open man who listened and I believe Luciani was the same.

William D. Lindsey said...

Jayden, thank you for providing very helpful information that answers the question I asked Liam.

You're right, the quotations attributed to Cardinal Luciani appear in two books by Lucien Gregoire--"White Light Dark Night" and "Murder in the Vatican."

Both are available right now, by the way, at Google's book section, in limited preview--in case readers want to look at them and try to evaluate what they have to say. The copy of "Murder in the Vatican" available at Google shows Gregoire footnoting the passage in question.

Unfortunately, the "limited preview" copy does not include the footnote. In the Wikipedia entry about John Paul I's moral theology, I see the following citation attached to the quote: L'Osservatore Romano, March 29, 1978 . I do not know if that is Gregoire's source, and would be interested to know.

It strikes me as very interesting that there seems to have been a concerted effort in some church circles to obliterate even the memory of John Paul I, and to block access to documents and statements that appear to cast him in a light those circles do not wish to permit.

That censorship attempt only makes me want to know more about him.

Liam said...

Gentlemen

I lost track of this conversation in recent days.

I am saying that quote which is attributed to Cardinal Luciani as well as context is not supported by reliable evidence as best I can see from here.

I ask in return if either of you have read Illustrissimi and Luciani's homilies or remarks about the family and the relationship of the sexes? He appears to be not only not very liberal, but almost pre-modern at times (for example, his comments about the need for modesty in women, while not directly censorious in the manner of Chrysostom, would certainly raise many eyebrows if they were uttered in our more liberal Catholic churches).

So far, what I see looks more like wishful thinking than firm evidence.

Liam said...

Oh, I just came upon the following:

http://subcreators.com/blog/2009/08/15/will-the-real-pope-john-paul-i-please-stand-up/

The reason I was initially struck by what was attributed to Luciani in this thread was because I re-read Illustrissimi last fall as I was recalling the 30th anniversary of his death. He was elected (and died) in my senior year of high school, and I remember the new edition of the book that was rushed into the market that fall, and got a copy.

Anyway, as I re-read the book, there was detail in it that had not struck me when I was 18.

If, for example, you look at his letter to St Luke, you will see homosexuality referred to along with pathologies and sins, and not in a kindly light.

Luciani's rhetorical approach is not the direct censoriousness of a German or American, but the more elliptical approach of an Italian story teller. I am not saying he was a die-hard homophobe in the manner of Falwell or RObertson (or Phelps). But based on the tenor of his widely disseminated writings, the seemingly homophile gesture attributed him appears to be quite out of place, and therefore likely to be spurious and untrustworthy. Then again, this gentle man after his death has attracted a good deal of spurious and untrustworthy testimony.

Jayden Cameron said...

Thank you, Liam, for your comments, and thank you, William, as well - with an added note of appreciation for your great blog. Where do you people (Bilgrimage, Wild Reed, Queering the Church, Enlightened Catholicism) find the time! It's really an extraordinary service to us all.
Yes to Liam, it's beginning to seem increasingly unlikely the disputed quotes are authentic. I've just finished going through Lucien Gregoire's very strange little book, The Revolutionary Life of JP (part of his two volume, Murder in the Vatican). No time to go into this in depth here. some of it is charming, much of it is preposterous, and some of it is so wild it undermines the credibility of the whole work. I would like to think some of the anecdotes are authentic (Luciani jogging in a red "T" shirt with the face of Minnie Mouse), but at this point it's impossible to say. Someone needs to sit down with this man and pin him down (He must be in his eighties.) I've been following the blog you linked (On Pilgrimage) quite closely for some time. The author seems to be well informed, but he does have a very strong personal agenda (however, let we who are without sin....). On a more personal note, I attended the installation Mass of JPI in the company of several gay friends, all priests. We stood right up against the wooden barriers that separated the seating area. This moment was the occasion of one of the great graces of my life, a formative experience that had to do with my own vocation as a Gay Catholic man. Because of it's intimate nature, I'll spare you the details, but I felt a vital connection between my own growing sense of gay identity and the man now being installed as Petrus. Now nothing is more unreliable as mystical experience (as concrete evidence of anything), or prone to personal interpretation and projection. I simply offer this story for what it's worth. The experience seemed to contain the premonition or warning that at some time in the future I would be called to 'move beyond' the formal priesthood of the Church (I was not yet ordained), that my gay identity would be the cause, that I was to remain at peace because there would be a confirmatory sign . At dinner this evening, because I had been so moved by the experience, I related the relevant parts of it to three close gay priestly friends. They all rushed to assure me that Luciani was known to be gay and had made some open comments among colleagues to that effect. There was no suggestion he was not celibate, it seemed beyond question he was faithful to his vows. What was not mentioned was some secret spectacular meeting of Luciani with the curial cardinals about accepting gay unions within the church. And we all know how Romans love to talk! But that a sensitive, gentle gay man within the ministry would make conventional statements about homosexuality in a published work, while expressing more open, more tentative comments privately as part of a process of personal exploration, does that not sound familiar to us all? It perfectly describes my Jesuit novice master in the 70's, who came out to us all in the 80's. None of this is evidence, but it is certainly a plausible scenario. To end this already long reply, less than ten years later I began a Masters in Divinity with the Jesuits in Berkeley. It was at this time that Cardinal Ratzinger issued his now infamous "Open Letter on Homosexuality." The moment I heard of it, I knew this was the sign I had been waiting for. Other gay persons could remain within the formal ministry, I could not. I respected their sense of calling to remain "within the belly of the beast" and "fight the good fight", but I was being called to a different kind of priesthood. It was an extraordinary gift of freedom and I've been so grateful ever since. I attribute this grace, however irrationally, to the mysterious intercession of Papa Luciani.

Liam said...

I would simply advise that what you sensed as a signal grace should not be interpreted in any way about Luciani but solely about you.

One of the great dangers of private revelation - and one of the wise reasons the Church casts a gimlet eye at it at first glance - is that a communication intended for the recipient rapidly distorts and loses accuracy when one attempts to translate it to anyone else.

For example, a mystical visionary may be granted a vision that employs sensory references that resonate with the memory of that person - the visionary would be risking a deep mistake by absolutizing those references as objective reality.

And will also say that the habit of closeted, semi-closeted and even openly gay people to project gayness onto elite persons (whether of beauty, celebrity, political power, or ecclesiastical authority) is so conventional as to require a very very high discount factor. One should generally take the "I'm from Missouri" approach to such innuendo, especially in the hothouse environment you describe.

Luciani's writings against various aspects of the sexual revolution pretty consistent and are not at all of the dutiful towing-the-line type but appear to come from the integrity of man who saw that the limits of the promises of modernity and that the promises of the pre-modern way were undersold, as it were. That's my sense of his worldview from reading him. His apparent generosity of heart flowed from the liberation from the burdens of modernity. It's a tough thing to pull off gracefully. And his tenure was short enough that we did not see it put to test at length. But I think it's time to bury the myth that has grown up around him. Just because something could be so doesn't mean it was so; increasing numbers of people labor under a delusion about that problem of epistemology, and there is no good in it whatsoever.

Any authentic liberation in Christ has to start from a position of objective truth, because he is Truth. One cannot find authentic liberation in a lie, however inspiring it may be.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Liam,

I'm curious, what exactly is the "lie" you seem to speak about with such certainty in this particular case?

Peace,

Michael

Liam said...

Actually, that comment was about lies in general, not in particular (and not Jayden's personal reflection as such). It flowed from my general point about people building ersatz history from the "it's true, if it could have been so" school of thought that afflicts much of the nation, not just left but right. (The debate on health care being an object lesson on this at the moment.)

If one is going to apply historical criticism and other scholarly tools to Scripture and magisterial writings, one should be at least as skeptical about statements and perspectives that are attributed to people without strong documentary evidence and that are in deep tension with the documentary evidence.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for that clarification, Liam.

Peace,

Michael

Jayden Cameron said...

Wise words of caution, Liam, they are appreciated. And I do apologize if my previous reflection was a bit overbearing. I may have failed to appreciate how it would come across to someone not acquainted with me. Of course I discussed the experience thoroughly with my spiritual director at the time. I was simply offering some insight into why I feel such a deep personal connection with JPI. 31 years on the experience remains as mysterious and elusive as ever, and - as I mentioned early - as an experience it offers no concrete evidence of anything whatsoever. The priestly friends who took such good care of me 31 years ago - sober, responsible men not given to gay tittle-tattle or campy gossip. I remain in contact with one of them to this day and his views on this issue are provocative and challenging. I certainly agree that the many myths associated with this good man, Luciani, need to be dispelled, but I believe the work of serious, responsible scholarship in this regard has only just begun. I need to run. I'm a full time teacher in Prague and classes are now underway this week!. Blessings on all you great bloggers!
Jayden

Jayden Cameron said...

An interesting dialogue on the alleged quotes from Joseph S. O'Leary's homepage.
(http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog)
Since I'm new to this whole blogger experience, I don't know if I'm breaking protocol by copying comments from one blog and posting them in another. If so, please advise.



Unfortunately there are no citations to validate these 2 statements that JPI is credited with making.

Posted by: Jim McCrea | August 17, 2009 at 07:19 AM

I have added the reference to Lucien Gregoire, who unfortunately is a conspiracy theorist. The alleged statements are not incompatible with the general tenor of Luciani's approach. In those years some were developing a climate of toleration toward gay couples similar to that which Paul VI urged in the case of contraception (letter to Cardinal O'Boyle), notably Jan Visser, co-author of Persona Humana; this was blown away by John Paul II and his Theology of the Body, etc.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | August 17, 2009 at 07:19 PM

Thank you Spirit for this interesting insight into what might have been in the Roman Catholic Church. The fact of homosexuality being what it is, it is not impossible for a thinking Pope to have posited the problems of the non-acceptability of an authentic approach to matters of a sexual nature.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith | August 18, 2009 at 11:34 AM

Yes, the "non-acceptability" -- Rome's eternal "non possumus" -- has to do with a pathology of infallibility that always brings the sad Galileo episode to mind. Luciani in the alleged quotes is expressing simple common sense, but this is as shocking in some Roman circles as was in 1600 the idea of the earth going round the sun. Eppur si muove...

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | August 18, 2009 at 04:06 PM