Monday, November 30, 2009

Out and About - November 2009


Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky,
how beautiful it is?
All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness
there is a poem, there is a song.
Every leaf is gone and it is waiting for the spring.
When the spring comes, it again fills the tree with
the music of many leaves,
which in due season fall and are blown away.
And this is the way of life.

– Krishnamurti

Above: On the evening of Tuesday, November 3, I hosted a “dinner and movie night” for my friends (from left) John, Rick, Brian, Jairo, and Bob. It was actually the first of two dinner and movie nights for this month! On November 3 we watched that perennial gay favorite, Auntie Mame.

And why is Auntie Mame a “gay favorite”? Well, I think the film’s camp sensibility is particularly appealing to many gay men. It’s a sensibility conveyed through over-the-top outfits, sets, and situations. (Hmm . . . Catholic High Mass, anyone?). And then there is Mame’s efforts to remain ever open, accepting, loving, and defiant in the face of individuals and societal forces that seek to restrict, censor, and pigeon-hole out of ignorance and prejudice. I think gay people can definitely relate to such efforts, to such resistance.

I appreciate Gary F. Taylor’s review of this classic film:

The Patrick Dennis novel was a runaway bestseller – and it was soon followed by a stage version starring Rosalind Russell, who was born to play the madcap Mame in this story of an eccentric, fast-living society woman of the 1920s who “inherits” her nephew when her brother died. Determined to “open doors” for her adoring nephew, Mame exposes him to everything from bootleg gin to oddball characters – all the while doing battle with her nephew’s ultra-conservative trustee, who is equally determined that the boy’s life remain free of “certain influences.”

This is a knockout show, and Rosalind Russell delivers a knockout performance in it – easily her finest comedy performance since 1939’s “The Women.” She is extremely well supported by the sadly under-acknowledged Coral Brown in the role of Vera Charles, an actress who passes out in Mame’s apartment with considerable regularity, and Forrest Tucker as the Southern gentleman who becomes her knight in shining honor; the supporting cast, which includes Fred Clark, Peggy Cass (particularly memorable as Agnes Gooch), Jan Handzlik, Roger Smith, and Joanna Barnes is equally flawless.

The infamous “production code” was still somewhat in force when “Auntie Mame” was filmed, and consequently several of the play’s most famous lines had to be re-written – but this scarcely gets in the way of Russell and company, and director DaCosta offers a brilliant compromise between the art of cinema and the “set piece” nature of the stage show. The production values are rich, the score is memorable, and everything about the show is a tremendous amount of fun; by the time it ends, you’ll wish that Auntie Mame was yours.

Indeed! (Although, truth be told, my friend Jairo wasn’t in the least bit enamored by the madcap comic style of the film!)

Above: Standing at left with (from left) Philip Lowe, Jr.; Dr. Simon Rosser; and CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey at the November 17 CPCSM event “Holding the Courage Apostolate Accountable: The Catholic Church, Homosexuality, and Reparative Therapy.”

For more about this event (and the brouhaha over a quote attributed to me in the Star Tribune article about it), see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Gay Catholics, the Courage Apostolate, and Reparative Therapy
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage
For the Record
My Response to Archbishop Flynn

Above: My friends Phil (right) and his parents Noelle and John, with whom I shared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner on the evening of November 26.

Left: Phil putting the finishing touches to the delicious dessert he made.

My meal with Phil and his parents was actually the second Thanksgiving dinner I enjoyed! On Thanksgiving eve I shared a great meal with my friends Ken and Carol; Paul, Carrie, and Cass; and Kathleen, Sue Ann, Tom, and Marianne at Ken and Carol’s home in Minneapolis.

Above: The inspirational Polly Mann at her 90th birthday celebration in Minneapolis on November 28, 2009.

Right: With friends Mary and Rita at Polly’s birthday party.

My dear friend Polly is a longtime justice and peace activist and co-founder of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – a non-profit organization dedicated to dismantling systems of militarism and global oppression, and one of the most active and influential justice and peace groups in the Midwest. Not surprisingly, she’s been described as a “relentless speaker of truth to power.”

For more images and commentary on Polly and her 90th birthday celebration, click here.

Above: My Christmas Tree, which I put up the night after Thanksgiving.

Above: The second “dinner and movie night” I hosted this month took place earlier this evening, November 30. From left: Freeman, John, Bob, and Brain.

We watched tonight the 1961 British film Victim, starring Dirk Bogarde. It’s notable in film history for being the first English language film to use the word “homosexual.”

Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video notes the following about Victim.

A landmark film for its bold, complex, and sophisticated treatment of homosexuality, this exceptional thriller was quite controversial in its day and was instrumental in changing the existing British law that made being a homosexual a criminal act. Bogarde stars as Melville Farr, a married homosexual barrister who risks his reputation by confronting a gang of blackmailers responsible for the death of his former lover (Peter EcEnery). Sylvia Syms is also remarkable in the role of Farr’s supportive wife. Bogarde, whose matinee idol reputation was shaken by the portrayal, always maintained that accepting the role of Melville Farr was “the wisest decision I ever made in my cinematic life.”

For more about Victim, see the previous Wild Reed post:
Dirk Bogarde (Part III)

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Private Dirk Bogarde, Part 2 [1/8] - Arena (

Above: Bob, John, Freeman and me - November 30, 2009.

Above: Phil.

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower, its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and it’s content.
– Lin Yutang

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
– Andrew Wyeth

Missing Comments

I recently discovered that there are missing comments from previous posts. Take for instance this post. It says at the bottom that there are four comments, when in fact there are only two - both from me addressing “Mark” whose comments are now missing!

Does anyone know what’s going on?

Could Mark have deleted his own comments? If so, why does it still say there are four comments?

If he didn’t delete them, who did? Are they gone forever?

If anyone can explain what’s going on it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thoughts of Waiting . . . and a Resolution

I appreciate the following Advent reflection by Sallie Latkovich, CSJ, taken from the Congregation of St. Joseph publication, Winter’s Wisdom: Advent 2009. For one thing, it renews my commitment to deepen my prayer life this Advent. And how does it do this? Simply by reminding me that God is indeed waiting for me to create sacred time and space whereby I can immerse myself in God’s loving and transforming presence.

One time that I do this is before retiring for the night. During this time I sit before my altar (pictured above) in my attic room. The icon that serves as the focal point of this sacred space is that of the Compassionate Christ (right) - his arms extended in loving welcome.

Often my prayer is one of silence, of simply letting go and allowing myself to be open to God’s presence within and around me. God waits for me, I know, to enter this sacred time and space. And I wait for the awareness of God’s eternal presence to rise up within me. I try to think of this experience as creating time and space to be with my Beloved. And, really, that’s what it is.

The challenge, I’ve discovered, is in establishing and maintaining the practice of creating that special time and space within which my Beloved and I can experience our shared, intimate, and sacred embrace. So many things distract and keep me away from such intentional practice, even though I know I’m better for it.

Strange as it may seem, it’s a bit like physical exercise. I often find myself putting off doing a work-out, even though I know I feel better once I get started into one.

So this Advent I’ve going to do my very best to develop and maintain both a renewed spiritual practice and a physical exercise routine! Yes, I’m going to get into both spiritual and physical shape!


The mention of Advent always stirs thoughts of waiting . . . waiting for Christmas. Theologians always speak of reflecting on the three ways of Christ’s coming: in history in Bethlehem, in the daily events of our lives, and the second coming in the future.

I’ve been thinking that we’ve got it all wrong. We need not wait for God. God is always present, always with us. That’s what the name Emmanuel means: God-with-us. And, that’s the primary truth we hear in the Scriptures. God created us, and calls us into relationship. God is indeed present with us, and especially in the person of Jesus the Christ.

No, this Advent I’ve come to see that it’s GOD who waits for US . . .

. . . waits for us to notice that we indeed created by God. We are born with unique gifts and qualities as well as deficiencies and lack of qualities. God only sees our goodness, and waits for us to notice too.

. . . waits for us to notice the myriad ways in which God is with us, always. We know the Creator in the beauty and amazing capacities of creation, both earth and human. We know the Creator when we experience love. We know the Creator when we cannot explain or understand mystery.

. . . waits for us to notice when we observe people acting in the image of God: in covenant with one another, both those known and unknown, both those alike and those very different.

. . . waits for us to notice the emptiness in our hearts that can only be filled by God’s own Self.

. . . in the season of Advent, as Christmas approaches, God waits for us to notice the wonder and innocence of little children. How God must long for us grownups to be more like them, without guile.

It is true that in Advent we wait; but really, it is God who waits for us. May we savor and revel in that reality.

- Sallie Latkovich, CSJ
Cleveland, OH

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent Thoughts
My Advent Prayer for the Church
Thomas Merton on “the Advent Mystery”
The Centered Life as an Advent Life
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred

Recommended Off-site Link:
Some Thoughts for the First Sunday of Advent - Colleen Colkoch-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, November 29, 2009).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

The Inspirational Polly Mann Turns 90

. . . and she’s still going strong!

Earlier this evening in Minneapolis I joined with over 200 others in celebrating the 90th birthday of Polly Mann.

Polly is a longtime justice and peace activist and co-founder of
Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – a non-profit organization dedicated to dismantling systems of militarism and global oppression, and one of the most active and influential justice and peace groups in the Midwest. She’s been described as a “relentless speaker of truth to power.”

Polly’s also a very dear friend of mine and a great inspiration in my own efforts in making a positive difference in both the church and the world. Thank you, Polly. . . and happy birthday!

Above: Pat and Sarah - toasting (and roasting) Polly.

Above: With my friends (from left) Mary and Rita.

Above: Polly with Tom and Pepperwolf. Tom maintains the informative website

Left: With another inspiring woman, Maryanne Hamilton.

As I note on my Faces of Resistance website, “Marianne’s activism began after World War II when she became president of the Minnesota chapter of the World Federalists. Her activism continued through the Vietnam War era, when she was an outspoken critic of the conflict. In the 1970s she was invited to the Paris Peace Talks as part of an antiwar delegation. In 1982, Marianne joined with Polly Mann and others to form WAMM. Marianne is particularly well known for her international activism, and received the 1999 International Citizen Award, granted jointly by Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

Like Polly, Marianne is a real inspiration to me. She’s positive and proactive and “makes the connections,” as we like to say in the progressive community. For instance, in 2002 Marianne observed that: “More and more people are now saying that social, military, and globalization issues are all one . . . My upbringing in Catholic schools taught me about the interconnectedness of humanity – that we can’t separate one from another. That’s my personal motivation. And it seems to motivate a lot of people.”

Above (from left): Deb, Marianne, Andrew (Polly’s grandson),
Brigid, and Sarah.


The following images and commentary are excerpted from my website Faces of Resistance: Images and Stories of Progressive Activism at the Turn of the Millennium (1997-2006).

Left: Marianne Hamilton, Polly Mann, and Lu Cossins on the occasion of their joint 80th birthday celebration - February 27, 2000. All three women have played significant roles in Women Against Military Madness (WAMM).

Right: Polly Mann, co-founder of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – May 1999.

“For many years I thought militarism itself was responsible for war,” noted Polly in October 1999. “But slowly, very slowly, I have come to realize that militarism is itself not responsible for war. It is the mechanism, the servant, of a larger force - a force that is the dominant religion of American society. This religion is touted in every possible way. Half of Sunday’s newspaper is devoted to it . . . It’s most obvious churches are the shopping malls. This force, this god, goes by many names – the most obvious is money. Another is consumerism . . . Another term often applied is the American lifestyle – a term which implies the ability to buy anything you have the money or the credit card capital for. The doctrines of this religion go by many names: ‘free trade,’ meaning unrestricted trade, ‘the market economy,’ and ‘corporate globalization.’”

In April 1999 I invited Polly to speak to a class I was teaching at the College of St. Catherine-Minneapolis, entitled Spirituality and Social Justice. Following are some of the students’ responses to Polly’s presentation:

“War is something Polly is familiar with. She is originally from Arkansas where she worked in an Army camp [during World War II]. She expressed sadness while telling us about the activities of the camp. She said it was very emotional to see the trains leave with the soldiers. They had to say goodbye to their loved ones. She said the worst [part] was when they returned home. Many [of the soldiers] were dead and the rest wounded. It did not seem to matter that they were heroes. [Polly] also told of the fighting techniques the men were taught. Bayonet practice was hard for her to watch because of its brutality. During this time she decided that she would speak out against war, but living in a small town [made it] difficult.”

“[In questioning and challenging militarism] Polly has had some negative experiences. She has been arrested because of protesting and [has been] put into jail. The WAMM office has received hate mail and threats. The positive side is how [her activism] effects the people around her. Personally, I think seeing her stand up makes me think I can do something like that with an issue I strongly believe in.”

“Polly was a wonderful speaker and I really admire her . . . I left class feeling very uplifted and charged. She has inspired me to speak out against topics like war and to fight for what is right. I have always wondered what difference will it make if I argue for this or that? I am only one person and nobody will listen to me. Polly proved to me that I am not the only one out there. All it takes is for one person to start the ball rolling.”

“At times it is hard for me to hold my head high and be proud to be an American. It’s hard to know that I’m the bully; I’m the biggest polluter of the world; I’m starving the children in [Iraq and] Third World countries; I’m covering up the military’s scandals. I’m doing all of these things because I’m not speaking out against them. My silence is my support, and it is wrong.”

Left: “I feel bad, but I’m not angry,” says Polly Mann of the events of 9/11. “I’m saddened, but I’m not angry because I understand that there’s a background to all of this. And also, I think of the 5,000 children who die every month in Iraq and I don’t see two inches in the newspaper about that. So, until every death is the same as a death of ours, we’re going to have trouble. Until we feel the equal pain for their loved ones that we do for the loved ones of Americans, we’re in trouble and we’re going to stay in trouble.”

Reflecting on the Bush administration’s war rhetoric and the strong support it seemingly has from the American people, Polly notes, “America is not a peace-loving country. It is a country filled with people who love their things more than they love their children. Our wealth has done us in.”

Recommended Off-site Links:
Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Matters of Sexuality, Has the Roman Catholic Clerical Leadership Lost Its Moral Authority?

Well, according to a scathing commentary by Wayne Besen (right) over at, the answer’s a definite YES - especially when it comes to defining healthy sexual relationships.

And in light of the damning
findings of the latest report to come out of Ireland on the clergy sex abuse scandal, I think Besen is absolutely correct when he says that the clerical leadership of the church has “lost its right to discuss . . . issues [related to sexual morality] and expect thinking people to keep a straight face. . . . The bishops and archbishops have zero credibility to even discuss my healthy [gay] relationship.”

Besen’s commentary made me think of the meaning and purpose of authority and, in particular, Carter Heyward’s insightful thoughts on “genuine authority.” Writes Heyward:

Genuinely creative authority, sacred at its root, is in our hands. It moves us more fully into our bodyselves-in-relation. It touches and often frightens us as it calls us forth to become more fully who we are already: interdependent and mutual participants in this journey we call life.

The word “authority” comes from the Latin verb augere, which means to cause to grow, to augment that which already is. Deriving from augere, the Latin auctor (author) means one who creates or brings into being. Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles defines authority as “that which (or those whom) one has reason to trust.”

In this spirit, I offer a definition of authority as that which calls into being “something” that is already and, for that reason, can be trusted. The reason we can trust the authority of the story or resource or person is that it does not impose an extraneous set of expectations upon us but rather evokes “something” we already know, or have, or are. We need authority precisely for the purpose of helping us discover, recover, empower, and encourage ourselves and one another.

This experience of authority as organic and encouraging to who we are at our best is the antithesis of the more prevalent notions – and experiences – of authority as “force,” “coercion,” or “violence.” In the dominant culture, the imposition of will and judgment by those with power-over has become synonymous with authority. But, as social philosopher Hannah Arendt taught, if it’s coercive, it’s not authority: not real authority, not that which touches us in our souls, the foundational “place” within us in which we meet one another and find ourselves at home.

Force serves always to diminish. That is the purpose of violence. People who have to make us do something through rules, punishment, threats, or intimidation may exercise force in our lives, but they hold no real authority for us. Because authority is that which (or those whom) we can trust to help us become more, not less, ourselves.

Hmm . . . it seems to me that throughout its history, the clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has mistaken force and coercion for authority. Anyway, I invite you to keep Heyward’s thoughts on authority in mind as you read Besen’s commentary, reprinted in its entirety below.


Catholic Church Has Zero “Moral Authority”
to Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

By Wayne Besen
November 27, 2009

Next time a Roman Catholic cleric tries to degrade loving same-sex relationships, stop him mid-sentence and say:

“The Roman Catholic Church has no moral authority to oppose loving gay relationships.”

Keep repeating this until the hypocrite walks away, head bowed in shame.

As far as I know, there has never been a huge, multi-decade scandal of gay activists molesting children. No GLBT community centers raided and shuttered. No billion dollar lawsuits against gay bars for abusing children.

Sure, one can always find a rotten apple, but the GLBT barrel – for the most-part – is stocked with the organic, red, shiny, healthy variety.

The same cannot be said of the Roman Catholic Church.

According to a new report released today that was ordered by Ireland’s government, Catholic leaders in Dublin, in collusion with the police, spent decades protecting and covering up the illegal, sinful behavior of pedophile priests.

What went on – for decades – was so incredibly sick and downright evil, that it borders on satanic. Dublin’s current Archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, said he felt deep shame and sorrow for how previous archbishops handled the child abuse.

Today’s 720-page report focused on why church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese did not tell police about a single abuse complaint against a priest until 1995. Yet, there had been at been at least 100 parish priests who had sexually molested children since 1940. Those files had remained locked in the Dublin archbishop’s private vault.

The investigators also uncovered a paper trail documenting the church’s clandestine insurance policy, taken out in 1987, to cover potential lawsuits. Dublin church leaders publicly denied the existence of the problem for a decade afterward but since the mid-1990s have paid out more than $15 million in settlements.

The report cited documents showing how church officials learned about some cases only when Catholic police received complaints from children or their parents, but handed the investigation back to church leaders so they could engage in cover-ups.

It is hard to believe, but this high level of pious pathology, ethical corruption and sin occurred under the “leadership” of THREE Dublin archbishops: John Charles McQuaid (1940-72), Dermot Ryan (1972-84) and Kevin McNamara (1985-87).

The commission found that these moral luminaries eschewed public scandals by shuffling the abusers from parish to parish and overseas to U.S. churches – where no doubt a few of these heinous hypocrites are still loudly opposing the freedom to marry for gay couples.

Seriously, I refuse to hear lectures on wholesome values and the meaning of family from anyone affiliated with a church that engaged in such shocking and outrageous behavior. The Catholic Church has, indeed, lost its right to discuss such issues and expect thinking people to keep a straight face.

Just to reiterate, the bishops and archbishops have zero credibility to even discuss my healthy relationship. At least my boyfriend isn’t an altar boy.

My advice to these priests is to take their condemnation of my relationship and lock it in a private vault in the Archdiocese, along with the secret records of rampant child abuse.

Finally, I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not an attack on the millions of Catholics who are good people and oppose the handling of these child abuse cases. There are also many Catholics who support equality for all people, including a gay couples’ right to marry. This is not meant for the wonderful, charitable people who have clothed the naked, cared for the sick and fed the hungry.

However, the church hierarchy has surrendered its high ground on moral issues and must work to regain the respectability and trust it has clearly lost. Considering the behavior it has practiced, it certainly has no right to preach to those of us who have obeyed the law.


Interestingly, a priest in Ireland has recently expressed the same sentiments as Besen.

Writing in the November 28 Irish Times, George Jackson reports the following:

A prominent priest in the diocese of Derry has said the Catholic Church in Ireland no longer had any standing, credibility or moral authority following the disclosures in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Fr Michael Canny, spokesman for the Derry Diocese, said he would probably spend the rest of his life as a priest trying to rebuild trust and confidence in the Catholic Church as a result of the inquiry’s finding that the church routinely covered up clerical sex abuse of children.

Describing the abuse as depraved and incomprehensible, he said the reputation of the Catholic Church was “in tatters”, and said people were rightly angry.

“There is no good in saying other than the truth. The church at this state has no credibility, no standing and no moral authority. The issue is now one of trust, and that is why it will take the rest of my lifetime as a priest to build up that trust again, because the trust and confidence in the church has been broken on a fundamental level.

“I must admit I am angry at the way the abuse was handled. I feel betrayed and let down to a terrible extreme,” he continued.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Abuse: Why Did the Vatican Remain Quiet? - John Cooney, Shane Phelan and Lesley-Anne Henry (The Independent, November 27, 2009).
Experts: Catholic Bishops Covered Up Dublin Priests’ Abuse, Shunned Law for Decades - Shawn Pogatchnit (Associated Press, November 26, 2009).
Commission Finds Church Covered Up Church Sex Abuse - Patsy McGarry (Irish Times, November 26, 2009).
Clerical Abuse: The Dublin Cover-Up - Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, November 23, 2009).
In Dublin, a “Perversion of Power” - Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia, November 26, 2009).
Vatican Told Bishops to Cover-Up Sex Abuse - Antony Barnett (The Guardian, August 17, 2003).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Report: Homosexuality No Factor in Abusive Priests
Weakland, the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal, and Homophobia
Rome Falling

Friday, November 27, 2009

Boys of Summer

I thought I knew what love was,
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let ’em go, but . . .

I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
I see you walkin’ real slow
And you’re smilin’ at everyone
I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

There are certain songs I hope never to hear when around others. Why? Because they have the strong potential to move me to tears.

Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” (1984) is one of these songs.

Musically, it’s incredibly haunting. Lyrically, it bleeds desire, loss, and regret. Visually, the music video that accompanies this song is quite forlorn. And yet despite all of this, “The Boys of Summer” is a hauntingly beautiful declaration of unending love.

Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I’m drivin’ by your house
Though I know you’re not home

But I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got your hair combed back
And your sunglasses on, baby
I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I never will forget those nights

I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy
Remember how I made you scream
Now I don’t understand
What happened to our love
But, babe, I’m gonna get you back
I’m gonna show you what I’m made of

I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
I see you walkin’ real slow
And you’re smilin’ at everyone
I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Out on the road today
I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said
”Don’t look back, you can never look back”
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let ’em go, but

I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got the top pulled down
And the radio on, baby
I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I can see you
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that hair slicked back
And those wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you
My love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

“The Boys of Summer” was a worldwide hit. It peaked at number 5 on the U.S. pop singles chart and topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. It was also a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. Apparently, when it was re-released in the UK in 1998, it again reached #12. I can also recall it being a big hit in Australia during my college years. Henley, incidentally, won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song, which is ranked #416 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

About the song’s accompanying video, Wikipedia notes:

The music video to “The Boys of Summer” is a French New Wave-influenced piece directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Shot in black-and-white, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life (as a young boy, a young adult and middle-aged), in each case reminiscing about a past relationship. This is shown during the line “A little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back” at which point, each of the three people look back in turn. The young boy in the video (played by a seven year old Josh Paul) resembles Henley to the extent that he also is a left-handed drummer. The cutaways of the “boys” jumping in the air appear to have been influenced by the 1938 film Olympia. Interspersed with these scenes are segments of Henley miming the words of the song while driving in a convertible. At its conclusion, the video uses the post-modern conceit of exposing its own workings, as with a wry expression Henley drives the car away from a rear projection screen.

The video won the Video of the Year at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards (leading Henley to comment at the Awards the following year that he had won for “riding around in the back of a pickup”). It also won that year’s awards for Best Direction, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. The Best Direction award was presented to Mondino by Henley’s then-former Eagles bandmate Glenn Frey.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Empty Beach
Shards of Summer

Musical artists previously featured at The Wild Reed:
Propeller Heads and Shirley Bassey, Stephen Gately, Nat King Cole, Enrique Iglesias, Helen Reddy, Australian Crawl, PJ and Duncan, Cass Elliot, The Church, Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, Wall of Voodoo, Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, Pink Floyd, Kate Ceberano, Judith Durham, Wendy Matthews, Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1927, Mavis Staples, Maxwell, Joan Baez, Dave Stewart & Friends, Tee Set, Darren Hayes, Suede, Wet, Wet, Wet, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Cruel Sea, Shirley Bassey, Loretta Lynn & Jack White, Maria Callas, Foo Fighters, Rosanne Cash, Jenny Morris, Scissor Sisters, Kate Bush, Rufus Wainwright, and Dusty Springfield.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Response to Archbishop Flynn

A version* of the following letter was published in today’s Star Tribune.


Catholic Church and Gays

There was a time when they worked together

Retired Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn takes both myself and the Star Tribune to task for “statements and actions attributed” to him in the Nov. 17 article “Gays reject church’s attempts to ‘cure’ them.”

Flynn labels as “pure fabrication” the claim attributed to me that he personally approached the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) in the late-1990s and requested that it be a resource for the archdiocese. I regret such a claim was printed but nevertheless maintain I was misquoted.

I believe what I said was that throughout the 1980s and ’90s CPCSM, an independent grassroots coalition, worked with various parishes and archdiocesan agencies and was approached in 1995 by the archdiocesan Education Administration Office – then called Catholic Education and Formation Ministries (CEFM) – to share its experience and expertise in ministry with gay people in designing and implementing a Safe Schools Initiative for Catholic high schools. A need for competent and compassionate ministry with gay youth in Catholic high schools had been identified by school administrators and brought to the attention of the head of CEFM. Archbishop Flynn was aware that CEFM had approached and was working with CPCSM. This collaboration took place in the mid-late 1990s.

I empathize with Archbishop Flynn’s annoyance at having statements wrongly attributed to him, but I am also disappointed that he did not take this as an opportunity to set the record straight and acknowledge that there was a time when the archdiocese, although not the Archbishop himself, collaborated with CPCSM.

Michael Bayly
Executive Coordinator, CPCSM

* I actually submitted two versions of the same letter to the Star Tribune. One was slightly longer and more detailed (see above) than the other. Perhaps not surprisingly, the paper chose to print the shorter version (which can be viewed here).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
For the Record

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For the Record

One of the most disappointing aspects of Retired Archbishop Harry Flynn’s letter in yesterday’s Star Tribune was its complete denial of the shared history of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). I sense from this that at any official level within the archdiocese, even the idea of any type of past collaboration between the two entities is to be either dismissed or ignored.

Flynn, therefore, is understandable peeved by the claim that he personally approached CPCSM in the late-1990s and invited the group to serve as a resource for the archdiocese. He did not.

I, in turn, am peeved that the November 17 Star Tribune
article that contained this claim attributed it to me as executive coordinator of CPCSM.

Of course, it’s a waste of time arguing about this particular point. I am sure that I made no such claim during my interview with the writer of the article, and apparently the archbishop is sure that I did – seemingly as part of some nefarious gay agenda aimed at manipulating the media.

By focusing solely on this claim, however, attention is diverted from two important realities. The first is that the Courage apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church supports and relies on the pseudo-science of NARTH – an organization that endorses “reparative therapy” for gay people. This type of therapy has been discredited by all mainstream professional mental health and medical associations. This was actually the primary focus of the Star Tribune article of November 17.

The second important fact that is rather conveniently ignored is that the archdiocese, albeit in a limited capacity, did indeed work with CPCSM in the 1990s during Flynn’s tenure. I can only surmise that this is of deep embarrassment to both Flynn and the current leadership of the archdiocese. This current leadership, headed by Archbishop John Nienstedt, would have it that no official leader within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis ever “supported, endorsed or recognized CPCSM.” That assertion has been challenged previously at The Wild Reed, leading to the conclusion that the chancery’s public articulation of such a dismissive stance (along with its promotion of pseudo-science) is a relatively recent development within the local church.

As I’ve said before: history matters - if for no other reason than to remind us that things can and do change. It also serves to give us hope. The Church’s understanding of complex issues (such as homosexuality) and reform organizations (such as CPCSM) is never as rigid, absolute and/or negative as some would have us believe. The pendulum swings – and will one day swing back to a more enlightened and open stance on such important matters. (And, of course, the pendulum doesn’t just swing, it advances and arcs towards justice. Accordingly, I have no doubt that we’ll one day witness an official Roman Catholic stance on homosexuality far and beyond any we’ve witnessed to date in terms of openness to the experiences and insights of gay people.)

Following then, for the record, is the history of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis’ collaboration with CPCSM. This history is excerpted from the preface of the book I edited, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective (2007).

I spent a lot of time and energy researching and writing this important history, and, as you’ll see, it’s a detailed and complex history – one that does not readily lend itself to easy and convenient sound bites. I find it unthinkable that I would betray such a history with the type of simplistic and false claim that was attributed to me in the Star Tribune’s article of November 17. I do indeed have my faults, but I do not consider flippancy and sloppiness to be among them.


First Steps

Like any initiative that seeks to identify the presence of God in human life, the genesis of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective can be traced to a very real and dynamic human reality and thus a distinct social and cultural milieu.

In the early-to-mid 1990s there was in the Twin Cities area much talk and publicity around two public school programs – Out for Equity in St. Paul, and Out 4 Good in Minneapolis. Both programs sought to address the needs and concerns of LGBT students within their respective school districts. Both were also created and sustained in response to an increasing number of public high school students who were either “coming out” – that is, openly stating that they were bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender – or openly exploring questions related to sexual identity and/or orientation.

The Safe Staff framework and model that was developed and used in the Out for Equity program was particularly instrumental in what would transpire in Catholic education in the Twin Cities. This model would be adapted, expanded, and implemented in the efforts to create safe school climates for LGBT youth in Catholic schools.

The presence of District 202 in Minneapolis also needs to be acknowledged. It was established in 1993 as the first and only permanent space in Minnesota by and for LGBT youth. District 202 is a unique community brought into being through the vision and proactive efforts of LGBT youth themselves.

In the midst of such topical and – for some – controversial developments, many within the Catholic high school setting began to talk openly of issues related to sexual orientation and youth. Was the phenomenon of an increasing number of students “coming out” in public schools an anomaly? Or was it a wake-up call to the presence of an invisible minority population within their own school communities? What was the authentic Catholic response to such a population? How would such a response impact the wider school community?

In raising and discussing such questions, an informal network of teachers, administrators, school counselors, parents, students, alums, and others began to take shape. Such conversations also brought to light the reality that an increasing number of teachers, counselors, and administrators were being confronted by students in Catholic schools who either identified as LGBT or were struggling with sexual identity/orientation issues. The need for a genuine educational and pastoral response to such students was duly recognized, as was the need to bring the reality of sexual orientation out of the silence and out of the shadows. Yet many within the Catholic educational system felt inadequately prepared to meet such challenges.

A Unique Coalition Responds to the Challenge

In 1995, after being approached by teachers, counselors, and administrators requesting training and information regarding the Church’s ministry to LGBT persons, the Catholic secondary school presidents of Minneapolis and St. Paul turned to the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese for guidance. Through the auspices of the Catholic Education and Formation Ministries (CEFM) of the archdiocese, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) was invited to share its long experience and expertise in ministry with LGBT people with both the CEFM and those schools requesting information and training.

CPCSM itself was founded in 1980 and is a grassroots, nonprofit, independent coalition based in the Twin Cities. The group comprises parents, teachers, Catholic school students and alumni, pastoral ministers, and human services professionals – all of various sexual orientations. Much of CPCSM’s ministry throughout the 1980s and early 1990s was focused on educational and advocacy activities aimed at encouraging parishes to be welcoming and supportive places for LGBT people.

CPCSM’s ministry has always been inspired by a zeal for inclusive justice and a passion for embracing diversity – especially as it relates to issues of sexual orientation and identity. The group firmly believes that members of sexual minorities, by virtue of their struggle to maintain a sense of personal integrity and authenticity, have unique gifts to offer the Church and society. Accordingly, like numerous progressive Catholic organizations and communities, CPCSM operates with the understanding that one’s sexuality can and must be affirmed as a gift and as an essential element to be integrated holistically into one’s faith life. Reflecting this, CPCSM’s Mission Statement reads as follows: “We pledge to create just and safe environments within the Catholic Church and society in which the dignity and integrity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons and their families are recognized and affirmed.”

Resonating with the theological and pastoral underpinnings of this statement and committed to the ultimate goal of such a mission, the secondary school presidents chose to continue in dialogue with both CPCSM and CEFM. A series of diocesan-wide workshops resulted – planned and implemented with input from CPCSM. These workshops were open to all interested persons and were aimed at providing a general introduction to LGBT concerns within the context of Catholic education.

This period of dialogue was followed in October 1996 by a call from the secondary school presidents for the establishment of an Archdiocesan Study Group on Pastoral Care and Sexual Identity Issues. This group, comprising representatives from each of the involved schools as well as representatives from both CEFM and CPCSM, worked to identify and prioritize the needs of LGBT students and to determine the most appropriate and effective strategies and resources to address these needs. The most fundamental need recognized was for comprehensive training to enable Catholic educators to deal with LGBT youth in a pastorally sensitive and nonjudgmental manner.

Safe Staff Training

In response to the findings of the Archdiocesan Study Group on Pastoral Care and Sexual Identity Issues, CPCSM spearheaded the Safe Schools Initiative – an initiative already underway in an informal capacity at a number of Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. From 1997 to 1999, the Safe Schools Initiative involved members of CPCSM planning and facilitating fourteen four-session sequences of comprehensive training at seven archdiocesan high schools – resulting in 275 faculty and staff being trained as “safe staff.” Throughout, the training program was adapted, refined, and open to ongoing evaluation by both trainers and trainees.

A crucial component of the Safe Schools Initiative involved supporting faculty in understanding the range of Catholic teaching pertaining to both human sexuality and social justice. The training also involved ways of promoting such teaching in the classroom in pastorally sensitive, nonjudgmental ways.

Some of the topics covered by the Safe Schools Initiative included” LGBT Youth: Stages of Coming Out,” “Safe Staff: Definitions, Qualities, Roles and Responsibilities,” “Your Classroom,” Adapting School Policies,” “Supporting Each Other as Safe Staff,” “School Climate and Reducing Homophobia,” “Guidelines for Responding to Youth,” and Knowing and Developing Resources.” In some cases, the topics addressed had never before been considered as “training exercise” material, for example, “Pastoral Care Situations Vis-a-vis Church Teaching” and “Professional Relationship and Boundary Issues.”

The Safe Schools Initiative employed a range of both didactic and experiential strategies – role-play and practice scenarios, formal presentations, videos, and question and comments sessions. Each training session began with a LGBT-focused prayer and/or reflection. Some of these prayers, along with the numerous strategies, exercises, and resources, are included in Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, as have reflections and insights from teachers, administrators, parents, and students whose lives have been positively and powerfully impacted by the Safe Schools Initiative. The inclusion of such material ensures that Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective not only serves as a valuable educational resource, but as a historical record and faith testimony of the many and varied individuals and communities involved.

It is also important to acknowledge the effects that the Safe Schools Initiative has had on other areas of school life. The training forum was the impetus for diversity initiatives on racism and classism that were subsequently implemented in some Catholic high schools. Partly as a result of the positive ends achieved by the Safe School Initiative, a groundbreaking 1998 meeting of Catholic high school boards recognized and highlighted the importance of LGBT students and the issues that confront them.

One further result of the Safe Schools Initiative is that it has empowered individual teachers and students to develop and implement initiatives of their own. Within particular Catholic high schools, for instance, editorial collectives promoting greater representation of LGBT issues in school newspapers and expanded and updated LGBT media resources are now operative.


Not all consider the concept of safe staff training as one that should be integrated into our Catholic schools. In the mid-1990s, for instance, local conservatives formed a specific organization to undermine the Safe Schools Initiative. This group and others view such an initiative as “invading school curriculum” with “teachings contrary to Church teaching.” Sadly, such groups fail to recognize or acknowledge the pastoral and social justice grounding of safe staff training. Instead, such training is seen to be “instructing administrators, teachers, librarians and counselors [in] how to promote the GLBT agenda” (letter to the editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 19, 2003). This “agenda,” however, is never actually spelt out by such conservative groups who seem unresponsive to the movement of the Spirit in and through the lives of those whose experiences take them beyond what has been narrowly defined as orthodox. Regardless, this vocal minority had had a chilling effect on safe staff training initiatives within many schools, and has effectively halted CPCSM representatives from being active participants in any training that does take place.

Yet such a pastoral initiative is not dependent on any outside organization. Many of the schools originally involved in the Safe Schools Initiative have continued and expanded the initiative – with yesterday’s first wave of trainees becoming today’s trainers of their peers.

The Journey Continues

CPCSM firmly believes that the need for greater awareness and education regarding the issue of LGBT youth and Catholic education – a need clearly demonstrated and responded to within the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese – is, in fact, a nationwide need. The compilation of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective was the first phase toward sharing nationwide CPCSM’s wealth of strategies and resources that have been proven to be genuinely innovative, pastoral, and empowering for educators, parents, and students.

CPCSM’s work relating to the vision of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective has ensured that the organization has received national recognition. In 1999, CPCSM was awarded the Mission Award for Non-Profit Advocacy by the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits. Also, in July 2000, CEFM received the prestigious 2000 SPICE (selected Programs for Improving Catholic Education0 Award from the National Catholic Education Association for integrating the social teachings of the Church into Catholic education. This award was given, in large part, as a result of the groundbreaking safe staff training model put into place by CPCSM while working with CEFM.

The word about Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective is definitely out, and has engendered much interest and enthusiasm. Furthermore, as we continue our ministry with and for the LGBT community, CPCSM continues to hear stories of people’s high school experiences and what a positive difference a resource like Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective would have had on their lives at that time and beyond.

Clearly, the time for Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective has arrived.


NOTE: For reviews of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective, click here, here, and here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
History Matters
How Times Have Changed
Gay Catholics, the Courage Apostolate, and Reparative Therapy
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM)