Saturday, August 31, 2013

Out and About – Summer 2013

I suppose, strictly speaking, the wonderful time I spent in Pahá Sápa, which is the Lakota name for that part of North America also known as the Black Hills, did not actually occur in the summer but rather at the end of spring. Regardless, I consider my time there from June 7-13 as marking the beginning of summer for me this year.

I traveled to Pahá Sápa with my friends Kathleen, Joey and Will (pictured with me at left at Mount Rushmore).

Highlights of our time in the Black Hills included the White River Badlands, Custer State Park (above), and the opportunity to experience the places and landscapes associated with the Oglala Lakota warrior and mystic Tȟašúŋke Witkó ('His-Horse-Is-Crazy' or 'His-Horse-Is-Spirited,' generally known as Crazy Horse. (See, for example, here and here.)

I actually haven't finished my Wild Reed series documenting my time in the Black Hills. But to begin viewing the five installments of the series that I have posted, click here.

Above: Catholics celebrating marriage equality march in this year's Twin Cities Pride parade – June 30, 2013.

As in previous years the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) and its Catholics for Marriage Equality MN (C4ME-MN) initiative had a booth in Loring Park throughout the duration of the Twin Cities Pride festival (June 29-30). This year, given the recent advances in marriage equality at both the state and federal levels, we distributed colorful "Catholics Celebrating Marriage Equality!" stickers. These stickers proved to be very popular. We also invited those who visited our booth to complete a questionnaire so as to help us discern the future direction and focus of CPCSM.

For more images and commentary on the Catholic presence at this year's Twin Cities Pride celebrations, click here.

For images and commentary on "Worldwide Gay Pride 2013," click here.

Above: With State Senator Scott Dibble and State Senator Patricia Torres Ray at DignityUSA's 2013 National Convention in Minneapolis (July 4-7). All three of us were honored at the conference's opening ceremony for our "prophetic leadership in achieving marriage equality in Minnesota."

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Above: My friends Liana and Curtis, at whose July 5, 2013 wedding I officiated. Since it was the first time I've served as a wedding celebrant, I made sure to dress in a way that was as special as the occasion (left)!

Following is the transcript of my welcoming remarks.

On behalf of Liana and Curtis and their families, I welcome you to this very special and happy event. My name is Michael Bayly and I’ve been privileged to know Curtis and Liana for almost four years. I’m honored to have been asked to officiate at their wedding.

Each of us gathered this afternoon in this beautiful garden know Liana and Curtis in different ways. But no matter how we know them, whether as family or friends, one thing is very clear: we have before us a couple deeply committed to one another and to a future life together.

You only have to spend a short amount of time in Curtis and Liana's presence to recognize and experience the very best aspects of what it means to be in a relationship. Theirs is a relationship grounded in love, respect, and a deep sense of connection and shared purpose. They want to be together for the rest of their lives. Indeed, neither can imagine spending their life without the other.

Another sign of the goodness and vitality of their relationship is that it inspires. Here are some inspiring things about Curtis and Liana’s relationship that I’ve observed:

• First, Liana and Curtis know that being in relationship is like being on a journey – a journey full of both wonder and challenge. They’re committed to sharing this journey together.

• They know that listening and learning from one another’s ideas and interests will help keep their relationship growing strong.

• They are open to being pushed beyond their comfort zones and changed in ways that ensure a life together of ever-unfolding beauty and deepening commitment.

• They know that what they have together is precious, the best thing in their lives. They value each other and their relationship above all else and are committed to finding ever-new ways of being in love with one another.

As many of us would recognize, these are all signs of a good and healthy relationship – a relationship that we are formalizing today in this marriage ceremony. Your presence here today is your commitment to honor and support this marriage, the two people who embody it, and the many expressions of life and love that will grow from it. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your love and support.

Right: My friends John and Noelle, the happy parents of the bride.

Above: Noelle, Curtis, and Liana. They are laughing at a humorous story shared by Liana's dad, John, during his father-of-the-bride speech and toast (left).

Above: My friend Phil (Liana's brother) with his mother Noelle,
Nicole, Steven, and Kelly.

Above: Madeleine, Fred, and Jackie.

Right: Nicole and Phil.

Above: Eric, Noelle, and Nathanial.

Above: Liana's sister Alicia and her husband James, who were married
in June 2011 in the same St. Paul garden as Liana and Curtis!

Above: With my good friend and housemate Tim
at Liana and Curtis' wedding reception in Minneapolis.

On the evening of Tuesday, July 9, I had the honor of hosting an evening of conversation and camaraderie that brought together some very inspiring people. Special guests at this gathering were Sr. Jeannine Gramick (above, third from left) and Francis DeBernardo (right, center) from the national organization New Ways Ministry. In addition, there was a number of local Catholics who for many years and in a variety of ways have advocated for and ministered with LGBT Catholics and their families and friends. Many of those gathered had worked to defeat last year's proposed 'marriage amendment.'

For more about this special gathering, click here.

Above: At the Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis with friends and fellow CPCSM board members Lisa Vanderlinden, Mary Beckfeld, Cheryl Maloney, and Brent Vanderlinden.

Above: Friends Tim and Angela.

Left: With my friends Tim and Kathleen.

These photos were taken at Minneapolis' Memory Lanes and Flashback Cafe on Saturday, June 23, 2013.

Above: A lovely photo of my friends Eric and Nathanial by Minnehaha Creek in south Minneapolis – July 6, 2013. The couple were guests at my home, having traveled from Chicago to the Twin Cities for Liana and Curtis' wedding (see above). Regular readers might recall that in August 2012, when I traveled with friends John, Noelle, Curtis, Liana, and Phil to Chicago, we stayed with Nathanial.

Above: A photo that Nathanial took of me when he, Christopher and I enjoyed a walk along Minnehaha Creek on the morning of Saturday, July 6, 2013.

Above: I attended two weddings this summer (though only officiated at the first of these!). The second wedding I attended was of my friends Bob and John, who were married in Decorah, Iowa on Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Above: Friends Brian, Bob, Beth, and Cory – Decorah, Iowa, July 18, 2013.

Above: A charming photo of Bob and John opening their wedding gifts.

Above: With my friend Brian at Bob and John's wedding reception – July 18, 2013.

Right: Back in Minneapolis with friends Tim, Brett, Lisa, and Robin on the evening of July 31, just hours before civil marriage became legal for same-sex couples. We're pictured attending "Married at Midnight: Minnesota's Largest Wedding Reception," an event hosted by the Wilde Roast Cafe in Minneapolis.

For more images and commentary on this historic moment in Minnesota history, click here.

Above: My friend Joan, with whom I traveled to the Bayfield Peninsula and spent three very relaxing days in early August.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: Once again by Minnehaha Creek. Of course, it's not only the creek that I enjoy but also the Greenwood!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Spring 2013
Out and About – Winter-Spring 2013
The End of a Very Long Winter

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Welcome Return

Last week in Australia celebrated vocalist Wendy Matthews released The Welcome Fire, her first album of original material since 2001's sublime Beautiful View.

Though some are billing the new album as a "comeback," the truth is Wendy has never really been away. In the past twelve years she's released two exceptional albums of covers – Café Naturale (2004) and She (2008); recorded a duet with Australian country music star Adam Harvey; and steadily toured and performed across Australia, most recently with fellow ARIA Award-winning singer Margaret Urlich.

Still, The Welcome Fire and the buzz around its release has returned Wendy to a level of both visibility and acclaim not seen for quite some time. And that's definitely a good thing. As regular Wild Reed readers would know, I greatly appreciate and enjoy Wendy's music. Her recordings of "Standing Strong" and "Like the Sun" speak to me deeply and have become personal anthems for me. Yet more than this, Wendy Matthews is, without doubt, one of the great singers of our time. Plus she's just such a beautiful soul.

In announcing the release of The Welcome Fire, a media release from Sydney's Brass Monkey music venue noted the following.

Beautifully evocative and superbly crafted, The Welcome Fire is an album filled with personal, poignant lyrics and reflective melodies. The album is undoubtedly contemporary in sound, yet the voice is unmistakably that of Wendy Matthews. The Welcome Fire not only re-establishes Wendy as one of Australia’s most influential and iconic voices and artists but also marks a new chapter in her career.

There are very few artists in Australia who can come close to Wendy Matthews and her stunning credentials; seven Arias, a massive 19 hit singles, and seven platinum-plus selling albums. Her career-defining album Lily sold over 500,000 copies and over 300,000 singles of her now signature song "The Day You Went Away" when released in the mid 1990s.

On her YouTube channel, Wendy has posted a series of "webisodes" in which she discusses each of The Welcome Fire's ten tracks. I particularly enjoy what she has to say about the songs "Amelia," Little Boy," and "It's Alright."

The opening track is the beautiful "Follow You Down," about which Wendy says:

[It's about] how we all have these things that we don't want to look at about ourselves. [It's also about] caring enough about someone to say, 'Look, if you want to turn around and look at the demons then I'll stand with you.'

I can't wait to hear the album in its entirety! You know, I called my parents in Australia and told them that I'd send them a cheque so that they could buy the album and send it to me. I know I could download it from i-tunes, but I like having the whole package – CD artwork, liner notes, an actual disc I can take places. Anyway, Mum said that there was no need for me to send money as they'd already decided to get the album for me as an early birthday present! How sweet is that? They actually once saw Wendy in concert. It was when she played Port Macquarie about five years ago. She'll be performing again soon in the Port Macquarie area, and Mum mentioned they might go see her again. Of course, I strongly encouraged them to do so! I definitely hope one day to see her in concert.

Anyway, I conclude this post by sharing, with added images and links, two recent articles about Wendy Matthews. First up is Australian music critic David P. Weber's review of The Welcome Fire.

With The Welcome Fire, Wendy Matthews has made an album which provides listening pleasure from beginning to end, where every song is a winner.

In terms of production, and approach, it’s in the vein of Emmylou HarrisWrecking Ball, if not as swampy. The album even starts off a bit country, with ‘Follow You Down’. The vibe is soon abandoned to make way for a more diverse palette over the course of the LP.

The vocal skills which Matthews deployed on the tearjerker monster ‘The Day You Went Away’ are brought to the fore on the piano-driven ‘Amelia’. Matthews’ performance on ‘Amelia’ could just be the best thing she’s ever done (the song bears no relationship to the one on Joni Mitchell’s Hejira). An understated arrangement allows the track to build to a stirring, spine-tingling climax. While Matthews is in no need of that travesty named Auto-Tune, her vocals are obviously weathered and tougher than what Australia lapped up with Lily all those years ago.

Feel Like Taking Your Man’ follows, with Matthews in the role of a woman doing precisely what the title alludes to. About this song, she’s said “The last thing women need to do is start turning on each other”, perhaps hopeful they don’t take the wrong message.

There’s a lovely refrain on ‘It Won’t Matter,’ and the bouncy Josh Pyke co-write ‘Everything I’ve Done Wrong’ is a hit waiting to happen. The piano is front and centre again on ‘Who I Am,’ an autobiographical song featuring images that are “tattooed” on her memory banks. The album closes with the hopeful and uplifting ‘It’s Alright,’ which is really a jam session played out.

The Welcome Fire should rejuvenate Matthews’ career. Readers and listeners could be forgiven putting her in the ‘where are they now’ file. She has released charting albums and performed live over the past ten years—it’s just that her visibility is often compared with the massively successful splash she made in the 1990s. In a period which has seen clever career relaunches for the likes of Russell Morris and Renée Geyer, the time seems ripe for Wendy Matthews.

Next, and finally, is Graeme Watson's Out in Perth's story on Wendy and her new album. In this article/interview Wendy explains the meaning of the album's cover image, a burning heart painted on her back. Of course, for Catholics reading this, this image needs no explanation. It's the Sacred Heart, the mystical symbol of love which, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, "stands not only for the love of Jesus for us, but also for the unifying meaning and force of that love as it unites and gives greater meaning to all our best hopes, aspirations and efforts."

Singer Wendy Matthews is back with a new album The Welcome Fire. It’s a collection of adult contemporary songs that are filled with influences including gospel, country and rock. It’s possibly the best work of the acclaimed singer’s career.

Matthew’s life story is compelling. The singer grew up in Canada but left home at 16 to travel the world busking. In the late 1970s she was in Los Angeles gaining work as a backup singer. There she met lots of Australian musicians, including Glenn Shorrock, the lead singer of The Little River Band, who in 1983 persuaded her to come to Australia on a tour. Matthews decided to stay and quickly became an in demand singer working with bands like The Models and The Rockmelons.

Matthews joined the band Absent Friends, a band made up of musicians from many other bands, including members of The Models and INXS. She sang lead vocals on their cover of the Eddie Floyd song ‘I Don’t Wanna Be With Nobody But You.’ The song is one of many featuring Matthews that became a staple of Australian radio airplay.

Through the 1990s Matthews released a series of bestselling albums, scoring hits with ‘The Day You Went Away,’ ‘Let’s Kiss Like Angels Do,’ ‘A Woman’s Gotta Have It’ and many other tunes. As the new millennium dawned Matthews made a major life change, giving up city living for a ten hectare property on the New South Wales north coast. Stories of her building a traditional tipi and a mud brick house have become part of her narrative.

As we chat on the phone I note that she makes country living seem very appealing, and ask if she misses the city. Matthews breaks out in a loud laugh, and in her still clearly Canadian accent says,

“God, yes! No, I absolutely adore my trips into town and I stay with friends in Double Bay in this just incredible house, which I really enjoy. It’s just a complete dichotomy, that one.

“The reality is that it’s damn hard. I had all these incredible romantic notions, but, good Lord, it's pretty sort of ‘life in the raw’ to be honest.”

On her new album Matthews has written songs with a range of top songwriters including Megan Washington and her producer John Castle, Brisbane based singer songwriter Mark Sholtez, Gina Jeffreys' producer and husband Rod McCormack, US singer-songwriter Kim Richey, and Australian singer-songwriter Josh Pyke. Matthews puts the credit for these interesting combinations squarely at the feet of her publisher.

“I have the luxury this time of having met a couple of people, and having a wonderfully proactive publisher which is pretty rare in this country,” said Matthews, “Maree Hamblion would just ring up and say, ‘Look, I’m thinking maybe you and so-and-so would get along well. I’ll set up a day.’ So I would get on a plane or in a car in my own time and meet up with this or that person. She was hugely instrumental in that.”

The album marks the first time Matthews has been involved in writing every song on her record. She acknowledges her growing confidence as a songwriter and independent artist.

“The last album I put out was on my own little label and that was more just an exercise in trying to feel great about owning every aspect of what I do and learning the whole other side of it, which I’m not naturally interested in.”

“I just really wanted to get a general overview on the whole thing. Forming my own little label and putting out a record was a huge exercise for me. But it was just a long time coming. I’ve got journals and journals of little bits and pieces, poems and rhythms and melodies. It was a long time coming just putting it all together.”

Matthews is quick to agree that she doesn’t have a great deal of ambition, preferring to take time to allow things to naturally develop.

“Oh, God, no. No, I’m not ambitious in the traditional sense, not by any stretch. I think I’m just a little too existential for that kind of thing. I find it kind of hilarious. It’s just not for me. I’ve never been a fighter to get to the front, to be the artist. As corny as it sounds, I’ve just always really enjoyed singing, I don’t care whether it’s up the back or in the front, all that crap is just an illusion. The only thing I have found, which is wonderful, is that the closer you are to the front; somehow you have a little more power to be able to do what you’d like to do.”

The finished album is a powerful piece of work. An album that you can easily play many times in a row without wanting to skip through a single track. Each individual song is a solo work of art. Discussing the album's powerful cover image, a burning heart painted on the singer’s back, Matthews shares the inspiration for the design.

“I had this dream of these Milagros, which are folk charms from Mexico, and they’re very kitsch. You tag them on to crosses, mainly just old wooden crosses, and they're blessings. You can bless your ears, your dog, your donkey, your house, and your car. But the big mother load of them all, the big boss of the all, is the flaming heart.

“I was racking my brains for the cover thinking, 'Well, big bonfire . . . fire, hmm.' Then I thought, 'No hold on, these Milagros, which I’ve got all over my house, are exactly what I want to say in a very subtle way and it's a welcome return to inspiration and whatever fire might mean to anybody.' So I thought, ‘I’m going to put a huge whopping silver Milagros on my back!’”

Related Off-site Link:
Matthews Pushes Herself on Latest Album – Caris Bizzaca (Australian Associated Press via 7 News, August 27, 2013).

For more of Wendy Matthews at The Wild Reed, see:
Wendy Matthews
Beautiful View
Nobody But You
Standing Strong
Like the Sun

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Some "Mackalicious" Moments

During the past couple of months I've been very much appreciating and enjoying comments left at Terry Nelson's Abbey Roads by an individual who goes by the name of "Mack Malone."

I should say that, like me, Terry focuses a lot on gay issues. His perspective as a Catholic on these issues, however, is very different than mine. (See, for example, this previous Wild Reed post.) Terry's posts often generate lively and entertaining discussion. I must admit I find many of the comments left by some of his regular followers and supporters to be morbidly fascinating – like a terrible car wreck you know you shouldn't look at but to which you're nevertheless drawn! And if we stay for a moment with this imagery, then Mack Malone's comments are, from my perspective, like the calm and welcomed presence of a first responder!

Mack's comments are informed, reasonable, often very entertaining, and firmly grounded in his lived experience as a gay Catholic man raising a family with the man he loves. I've decided to share some of Mack's comments in a post at The Wild Reed as I don't like thinking of them languishing in the comments section of Terry's blog. They need a wider audience. In fact, I'm secretly hoping that Mack starts his own blog. Now that would really be something!

Two quick things: First, I've taken the liberty of making some minor grammatical edits and spelling corrections as my inner writer/editor just couldn't help making me not do so! Second, about this post's title: In one exchange on Terry's blog, a regular commenter named "Jericho" declared in response to something Mack said: "I chose to fight on as a Catholic, and not as a mackolic." To which Mack responded, "'Mackolic'...hmmm, I like that . . . though I like 'Mackalicious' best!"

Here, then, are some Mackalicious moments! . . .


I start with a comment Mack wrote in response to Terry's June 20 post "'The Gay Men's Version of a Lifelong Commitment Doesn't Necessarily Include Forsaking All Others'."

Your argument is that gay marriage can't be marriage because those nasty pervs are all out there getting their groove on outside their relationship. Well, if that is your argument, that invalidates a great many heterosexual marriages. You're also doing what the writer you quoted accuses the gay marriage movement of doing: cherry picking. Only this time you are picking at the opposite end of the spectrum: promiscuous gays. But going back to my thought, there are a hell of a lot of cheating, open relationships and swinging going on in the straight married community, yet that does not invalidate marriage for straight people. Why should it for gay people? And really, San Francisco State University has a study cited to support this? Why not just ask the University of Sodom and Gomorrah for their take on it, I am sure it would be as skewed. There are a great many solid, gay relationships right out here in good old Middle-of-Americaville, just as there are in SF, New York, L.A. everywhere that don't get the press (cause we're boring). Is that to say that, realistically, monogamy isn't harder in gay then in straight? Absolutely not, for one thing you are dealing with two men (I don't think lesbians have the same issues, hence they are never referred to when citing 'the gays are all sex fiends' trope) who have male sex drives, that is a reality. Gay relationships also don't have the familial and community support that straight people have in keeping their marriage strong and, if one of the other cheats, keeping the marriage together. But that doesn't mean that monogamy isn't the goal for gays who want to be married just like straights.

Next is Mack's response to Terry's July 7 post "Mass Chat: So, Is the Church Guilty of a 'Pastoral Failure Toward Homosexuals'?"

Terry, I have to say you are confusing me with [your current] post about gays who seem to alienate themselves, when just a few days ago you posted about gays who appear to be "normal" and how strange that is. Which is it? It seems that your problem is with gays, period – [regardless of whether] they go hide in a corner and wear a hair shirt or walk down the street with their partner.

[You write:] "Part of the experience of gay culture is the desire, the image, that one is unique or special – set apart, different from other mere mortals or muggles." Wow, I really can't speak to that as I have never felt that way or seen that. While granted I have never been a part of "gay culture," did I grow up in a bubble? Anyway, I think we are all unique and special creations of God. I have never felt alienated or different or set apart and I still don't. If someone doesn't like me because of who I love that is their problem not mine, and I have always felt welcome at Church and the parish [I have attended] since I was a kid, I went to Catholic grade and high school, was an altar boy, played football in high school. I need to be more contemplative and thankful to God for the graces I had and be more open and patient with people who have had different experiences. I need to pray on that.

[You ask:] What do "gay Catholics want?" Well, first of all I only say I am a gay Catholic on a blog like this to let people know where I am coming from. In "real," life I am a Catholic who just happens to be gay, just like I just happen to have blue eyes and be right-handed. It's part of me but it's not the whole ME. So in that I totally agree with church teaching, and in that I would think that church should supply support and encouragement to all its parishioners based on their needs, not their sexuality. If someone is depressed, unhappy, dealing with an an addiction problem based on sexuality or not, the church should minster to them. I don't think there should be a special "gay" program as their should not be a special "straight" program. I have always felt welcomed and loved by the Church but that may be because they accept me as an individual, not with a label on my head.

Following is Mack's response to Terry's July 19 post, "I Just Found Out".

As a whole I think all of us want what is best for our friends and family, so that is why it is hard to imagine people being anti-"civil" gay marriage.

I could flip [Terry's] argument around and say that an anti-gay marriage person is being greedy by keeping the benefits to themselves. Actually, it is worse than that as no benefits are lost to them. Were women jealous of men when they wanted the right to vote? Is a woman who does the same job as me greedy when she wants to be paid the same as me?

Wanting to be treated fairly is not about envy. Wanting full access to benefits is not about greed.

[Terry's phrase] "playing marriage" is once again a fun little snarky phrase, but how does one "play at being married"? Not to be snarky myself but hit me back in 20 years after living with and loving someone else besides yourself; seeing their strengths and flaws but still loving them; dealing with their issues but still loving them; being the one to sometimes have to carry the person but still loving them and then come talk to me about "playing at marriage." Deal with kids, aging parents, families, finances, how to load the dishwasher and [then] talk to me about "playing at marriage."

Next is Mack's initial response to Terry's July 5 post, "Two Minneapolis Women Married One Another at St. Stephen's in 2001?"

I don't see condemnation from Terry, but I do see a lot of confusion. Church teaching tells us one thing, but with [his] own eyes [he] see[s] something else. No one has explained how intrinsically evil acts can be produced by a nice couple who love each other and their kid and who are, in fact, contributing to the community. ([Here's a] fact that same-sex marriage opponents never seem to acknowledge: stable marriages and relationships help a community stay stable.) Other people of good Catholic faith, such as the family [Terry mentions], know that [and] support gay marriage. They see it, and more and more people are seeing it by knowing people like the [gay] couple [Terry] see[s] walking their dog.

And that is the thing that scares people: we are no longer hiding in alleys or parks or dark bars (well, some of us do but so do straight people) or even marching in parades but living our lives, having homes in the suburbs, walking our dogs, taking care of our children and family, going to work, and, yes, helping to stabilize neighborhoods and communities just like committed couples everywhere. We have lived in our home for over eight years so our neighborhood kids have grown up seeing two guys being "normal," and now their perceptions have change and won't go back, despite what people might tell them, even the Church, as they have seen it with their own eyes. And this scares people and it scares the Church leaders. They aren't controlling this anymore or driving the narrative for people, even for a lot of Catholics. Funny that the world can be changed by two quiet women walking their dogs and no amount of hysterical name-calling of "evil" from old men can change that.

As for Fr. Giertych, I would respond to him much like he would respond to me, "with love by telling him the truth." With all due respect (and I mean that, the man is a good intelligent man) I would ask him to leave the confines of the Vatican, and a library, and go out in the world and see things. Close the books full of theo-babble. (Is it no wonder that so many Church leaders are lawyers, the way they bend things to fit their outcomes despite the reality of it.) I would also question him and ask him if it might be his "pride" that is keeping him from seeing something the Holy Spirit might be trying to say to him, to leave behind his cultural and psychological "baggage" and listen and see. (His argument lost me as soon as he pulled out the red herring of the "gay cabal," which is spreading evil through money and power.) He should go talk to [the gay-supportive] Catholic family [he mentions] and ask they why they believe [what they do]. He should talk to the two women in the article, your neighbors, and see if he can see any "evil," there.

And Terry, you . . . shouldn't be sad [by the changes you're seeing in society around the acceptance of gay people and relationships]. How can anyone be sad to see good, happy people living their lives?

Later Mack offers a second response to Terry:

I feel sad that your faith beliefs are preventing you from finding a great guy and living a full life. But that's MY life and I don't think that one size fits all. I also don't think you should live a life that is against your faith beliefs or your conscience. You seem such a wonderful, gentle soul that I feel sorrow for you not to have a partner in life (which you may have in a non-sexual way, though I could never understand how that works), but that is the Jewish mother in me who thinks everyone should be with someone nice. Once again, I don't presume to fit you into a box, just as I don't want to be. Far from being ridiculously overwrought, hyper-dramatic and strident "intrinsically evil," my relationship has made me a better person, more kind, more patient, more giving. And there I do feel the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. (I do find it presumptive of you to say that I or someone else don't [experience this peace and joy].) I think that you could indeed make someone else's life better by bringing your gentleness and compassion to their life.

And while there are many people who are bigoted, fundies, zealots and/or insane, and who are anti-gay or anti-same-sex marriage, I don't label someone as such just because they have those beliefs – until they open their mouths and give me evidence that they are. There is a growing body of science that says that there is a biological reason for homosexuality (and no, I am not saying a "gay gene"), so I would mostly call those people ignorant.

Look at your neighbors walking down the street with their dog, and you truly can say you don't see the Holy Spirit in that?

Still later, Mack responds to two other commenters, "Doughboy" and "Thomas Tucker":

Doughboy: I have not communicated with you at all, but, since you address me, [let me say that] I am not being judgmental at all. I am telling Terry he seems to be a great guy and he can have it all – love with a living, breathing person and his faith. I am sorry if that doesn't jibe with your experience. [I'm sorry too] that it is not what Terry wants at this point in his life, but I am letting him know it is out there. Granted from the little I know [about you Doughboy], it seems you were a little party queen and you got burned by the lifestyle. It happens to a lot of people but not to me or to a lot of people I know . . . sorry. You could have been gay or straight with that. Time to say that it was not your sexuality but maybe YOU that made the mistakes. (God always wants us to, in the words of that realty show, "own it.") It's not all OUR story so don't conflate your experiences and mistakes with the rest of the "gay Catholics" out there or with gay people in general.

Thomas Tucker: I didn't say I was a better person for living in a same-sex relationship. I said I was a better person because of the person I am in a same-sex relationship with. Freaky that you would equate that with a extramarital affair and how that can make you a better person. . . . Honest relationships, gay or straight, make you pull your head out of your rear end and think of someone else. God wants us to be better persons and sometimes that means loving another person, protecting another person, shielding him or her and their kids and their family and taking care of the people that need taking care of. THAT is his plan. Sometimes God just asks you to be a MAN, step up to the plate, and deal with it.

Following is part of one of Mack's responses to Terry's July 30 post, "For Your Consideration: On the Effect of the Pope's Words ... and What Cardinal Dolan Said."

Thom just said that Pope Francis was using a compassionate, and I will add (and this is rare for a Church leader), realistic tone (which in a church steeped in centuries of being anything but commonsensical, is the true breakthrough for me). And it is driving some people CRAZY that he would spend a second being compassionate to one of the flock, which says more about them and their personal issues then it does Francis or the "homosexualists," as Father "Can You Give Me Money So I Can take a FABULOUS trip to Rome" Z would call us. That's it, and the fact that people would be so thrilled to hear a small thing like that, while other people are FREAKED the hell out, tells you a lot about the current state of the Church, and might tip you off to why "homosexualists" (I cant help it, it's so stupid I LOVE that word, what an idiot Father Z is) do become radicalized. If one kind word from the Pope sends their fellow pew sitters in a frenzy, they really know that they truly are NOT welcome and the "enemy" is a fellow Catholic.

It is sad, but I see so many Catholics on the blogs that use their faith as a way to vent their anger, frustration, and just plain rage. I thought last night I had to take a break from the blogs as it is making me think my fellow Catholics are all angry, self righteous, hypocritical prigs, some of whom need to step away from the computer and seek therapy for their very deep psychological problems . . . (no one here, but boy are they out there. One in particular is a SCARY woman). But I have to remember the compassion and love of our leader, and fellow Catholics in "real life," to renew my spirit.

Many of us who identify as "gay" (or "homosexualists", if you will, I like it, its sounds like a career and something you need an advanced degree for) do so not because we identify by our sexuality, but because society needs labels to help place us all. Simple as that. I like guys and I am a guy, so I am gay, same-sex attracted, whatever the hell you want to call it. And I think that was Francis' point, whatever you call it it is the same thing, and Francis doesn't play games. By using "gay," he takes away the entire political label and takes it back to what it is. He is not afraid of the word, nor is he giving it more power, it is what it is. Compassionate and commonsensical, refreshing from a Pope or any church leader, most of whom usually talk in circles so much they would make lawyers and politicians proud.

Following is Mack's response to "Jericho" in Terry's August 9 post, "Drink Vodka to Support the Russian Olympics."

Studies are studies and they can all be accused of being skewed no matter what. The "majority," of reputable research says:

• Pedophilia is defined as an adult having "recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children."

• Pedophilia is almost exclusively found in men, and the great majority of these men identify as heterosexual.

• Even among people who sexually abuse children of their same gender, most are attracted to adults of the opposite gender .

• Sexual orientation, whether heterosexual or homosexual, describes attractions to and sexual behavior with consenting adults. Sexual behavior directed at children is a disorder or a crime, and does not constitute a sexual orientation.

We can go through a million studies and you can cherry pick the ones to suit your argument, but the bulk of the studies show the above. You can say they were politically influenced . . . and a million other things but there it is: the bulk of reputable research.

I know you have professed your background and interest in various sordid activities, and I am glad that you have hopefully found comfort and love and, most of all, restraint in the Church. However, like recovering alcoholics and smokers, you have no clue that healthy people can do certain things that you take to an unhealthy, obsessive compulsive extreme. Because you're gay and can't turn porn off, or have a drink, or have a respectful, healthy adult relationship with a man or a woman, you think that everyone else has the same problem with control or restraint. . . .

And finally, here is Mack's response to comments made by both "Jericho" and me to Terry's August 14, 2013 post.

Poor Terry . . . sweet, gentle guy celebrating his faith and trying to drop a teaching moment or two but his classroom is full of rowdy boys rolling around and hitting each other (with someone like Nan coming in and trying to make a polite point among the din). If only we all had the calm and grace of our host. I wish that I was a bit more like him.

I will impose on our host one more time to make one last point to Jericho and on the topic of what gay Catholics would like out of their Church.

Quotes [by Jericho]:

• "Your disordered desire for poop on your penis has warped your entire worldview."

• "[You] identify your entire existence by what you do with your genitals. "

• "[He wants to] ram his erect penis into the rectum of another man,"

• "If someone wants to place his scrotum on a belt sander, . . ." (OUCH!!)

Compare these to Michael's statement:

• "Well, [the bishops] could start [by listening to] gay people’s experiences of the loving and transforming presence of God in their lives and relationships."

I think this says it all about two different viewpoints on not just gay sexuality, but but anyone's healthy development of their sexuality. On one point you have Jericho's views of gay sexuality...It IS disordered, and immature, non developed. Jericho's viewpoint on gay sexuality and spirituality is limited by his OWN experience, which is stuck in an adolescent fog of body parts and sex acts (some of them seemingly not that pleasant.) His development was stopped and he desperately NEEDS a faith that tells him his sexuality is bad, close the door on it, lock it up and keep it there, be asexual and everything is fine. Which I for one am happy he found something to hold him back and contain himself. What he doesn't see is that perhaps,if he was raised in a society and a faith that said, "Your sexuality is fine, this is how you conduct yourself.." he may have developed a mature, healthy way to express himself sexually. I have noticed this on many different blogs and websites, gay people who were somehow damaged by their experiences, so much so there sexuality has been disordered and unhealthy, be it by promiscuity, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, disease, etc. . . finding solace in the Church . . . which is great (and extends to straight people too, a great deal of sex addicts of all types need to have an something control their behavior.

However, many of us don't have the same experiences (there but for the grace of God go I, so I am not trying to be sanctimonious) and don't need a faith to keep us locked away from our sexuality, or controlled – because we are in control. I totally agree that a person should not be reduced to their sexuality, as that is just one part of a whole. But it does make a whole. And it is our responsibility to control our sexuality, not let it control us. However, some of us who have developed past that and have families and lives long for a faith that is developed to include us and our partners and our families. Can you imagine gay kids being told, "Yes, you are gay, and this is how you can grow in God's love, be a whole healthy person, and find someone to love and raise a family in Gods' grace." I think there would be a lot less wounded people running to Courage or any of the other places and trying to figure out how to totally deny their own sexuality.

. . . The best thing that ever happened to me was indeed meeting someone to love and help me to mature and care more for others and create a family and extended family. That has little to do with genitals (though those are involved thank God!!!) and more to do with loving, trusting, and respecting that person and creating a safe stable environment for a family. I would love to have a Church that respects that and promotes that within the sexuality that God gave me. I find such resprct on the parish level, and that is fine with me. Like married couples who use birth control and don't post to Catholic websites to ask what appropriate foreplay would be (I read one like that if you can believe it), I don't choose to change the Church teachings created by old men (many of them closet cases, or not so closet cases) who will never change, I choose to ignore them and hope for the best someday.

And that is one viewpoint and one person's opinion. But the Church should be open to discussions of these things, doesn't mean it has to change, but as Michael said, it needs to listen.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Promiscuity, and "the Love that is the Center of Catholic Christianity"
Thoughts on Archbishop Nichols' Support for Civil Unions
Responding to Some Very Misguided Comparisons
Liberated to Be Together

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Captain Blamey Comes A-Calling

I continue this evening with my sharing of Verity's story from Winston Graham's Poldark novels. As I've mentioned previously, I'm currently re-reading all twelve novels in this series, and I'm happy to share my enthusiasm and love for them here at The Wild Reed!

A brief synopsis: Verity is the cousin of Ross Poldark, the central character in Graham's acclaimed series of novels set in Cornwall in the years 1783-1820. Verity's romance with Captain Blamey has been quashed by her brother, Francis, and her father, Charles, and she is resigned to a life of loss and loneliness. Ross' wife, Demelza, however, decides to intervene, journeying secretly to Falmouth to see Captain Blamey. Their meeting does not go well. Several weeks later, however, when out walking near her home, Demelza is startled by the appearance of Captain Blamey.

The following excerpt from Winston Graham's Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 continues the story.

"I hope you'll accept my excuses, ma'am. I hadn't any thought of scaring you."

He was standing beside her, thinking that the shock had brought her near to fainting. But it would have taken far more than that to send Demelza over. He kept a hand at her elbow until she was again sitting on the wall. Out of the corner of her eye she thought there was no arrogance in his expression.

She had sworn aloud at the shock, forgetting her manners and annoyed with herself the moment after.

"It is a bad beginning," he said, "to have come here with an apology to make and to need another at the outset."

"I had not thought to see you in these parts."

"Nor I to see myself, ma'am. Ever again.

"Then what brings you here, Captain Blamey?"

"Your visit to see me. For after it I have had no peace of mind."

He kept moistening his lips and frowning, as if with turns of pain.

She said: "How did you—Have you walked from Falmouth?"

"I came on foot from Grambler, hoping to be less conspicuous if you should have company. I was in Truro this forenoon and saw both your husband and—and Francis Poldark. Knowing they would be away, the need was too strong."

"I am expecting Ross back any moment."

"Then I'd best say what can be said while there is time. No doubt you took a very bad opinion of me from our first meeting, Mrs. Poldark."

Demelza stared at her feet. "I was a small matter put out."

"Your visit was sprung on me. It was something I had put away. . . . It was something I had put away. . . . Its—its sudden outcropping brought with it all the bitterness." He put his hat down on the wall. "I am, I grant, a man of strong temper. To control it has been the work of a lifetime. Sometimes still there are moments when the struggle returns. But God forbid that I should quarrel with those who wish me well."

"Not even your own sailors?" said Demelza, faintly malicious for once.

He was silent.

"Please go on," she said.

"The sailors quarrel with all their captains just now. For years they have eked out their poor wages by smuggling goods into the ports on each voyage. But it has come to such a pass that we are held to blame. Captain Clarke in Swan of Flushing was detained in Jamaica under prosecution, and others will fare the same. So we have reached an agreement on the belongings that each sailor shall carry. It's not surprising they dislike it, but this is no personal quarrel between my crew and myself: it is a commotion throughout the packet service."

"I beg pardon," she said.

"I met you that day already angry from a disturbance. When you spoke it seemed at first an interference. Only later I came to count the exertion you had been to. Then I wished it was possible to have you back to thank you for what you had done and said."

"Oh, it was nothin'. It was not that I wanted, if you understand—"

"Since then," he said, "there has been no peace of mind. To Lisbon and back I carried what you said of Verity. You were allowed time to say little enough, maybe. But . . . Verity had never got over it. You said that, didn't you? And that she was ten years older than her age. How often I've thought of what it means. Ailing but not ill, you said. Because of me. Ailing but not ill. Ten years older than her age. You know, I never knew what Verity's age was. At the time I had her love. We didn't think of such things. I am forty-one, ma'am. She didn't look old when I knew her. Is that what her brother and father have saved her for? There's no more rest until I've seen her. That much you've done, Mistress Poldark, whatever the outcome. The move is with you again. That's what I came to say."

His eyes had been on her the whole time he was speaking, and she had not felt able to break from his gaze. At last her glance moved to the plain of Grambler; she got up.

"He's coming, Captain Blamey. You'd best not be seen here."

Blamey stared down with puckered eyes. "Is he against me now? He wasn't at the time."

"Not against you. He was against me stirring up what he thought should be left alone. He'd be angry with me if he knew."

He looked at her. "Verity has a good friend in you, ma'am. You take risks for your friends."

"I have a good friend in Verity," she said. "But don't stand there or he'll see you. Let us move behind the wall."

"What is the best way back?"

"Those fir trees. Wait there until we have gone down."

"When can I see you again? What arrangements can be made?"

She wracked her brain for a quick decision. "I can't say now. It depends—on Verity. . . . If—"

"Shall you tell her?" he said eagerly.

"I don't think so. Not at the start. I—hadn't thought more because I'd given up hope of ever anything being done—since I came to Falmouth. It will depend how I can arrange . . ."

"Write me," he said. "Care of the packet offices. I'll come."

She bit her lip, for she could hardly form her letters. "All right," she promised. "I'll leave you know. What if you're away?"

"I sail on Saturday, there's no choice for that. Set a time for the third week of next month if possible. It will be safer that way. If—"

"Look," said Demelza urgently. "Twill be in Truro; that's safest. I'll send you word, just a place and time. I can't do more'n that. It will be up to you then."

"Bless you, ma'am," he said, and bent and kissed her hand. "I'll not fail you."

She watched him leave the shelter of the mine building and run quickly to the trees. At her first meeting in Falmouth she could not imagine what Verity had seen in him to take his loss so to heart. After this she was more able to understand.

For previous Poldark-related posts, see:
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 1)
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 2)
Passion, Time and Tide
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
Into the Greenwood

Recommended Off-site Links:
Winston Graham's Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall – Kate Sherrod (Kate of Mind, May 3, 2013).
Winston Graham’s Demelza: Mistress Poldark, Herstory – Ellen Moody (Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two, July 18, 2010).
Winston Graham’s Demelza: A Young Woman’s Entrance Into the World – Ellen Moody (Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two, May 7, 2011).
The Official Winston Graham and Poldark Website

Opening image: Jonathan Newth as Captain Blamey in the BBC television series Poldark (1975-1977).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Conservative Catholic's Contribution to the Journey to Marriage Equality

Progressive Catholic thoughts on Joseph Bottum's
"Catholic case" for same-sex marriage.

Here in the U.S., Catholic conservatism is reeling with news of the "defection" of one of its prominent members to the growing ranks of Catholic supporters of civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

In a long and meandering piece published yesterday at Commonweal, the staunchly conservative Catholic commentator Joseph Bottum puts forward what he calls a "Catholic case for same-sex marriage." I have to say, however, that I agree with Terence Weldon when, in his excellent analysis of Bottum's piece, he notes that "it’s not so much a Catholic case for equal marriage, as an account of the writer’s own personal evolution on the topic." Having said that, here's the central point of what Bottum calls his "Catholic case" for marriage equality:

. . . I don't mean to hide this essay’s conclusions. Where we’re going with all this is toward a claim that the thin notions of natural law deployed against same-sex marriage in recent times are unpersuasive, and, what’s more, they deserve to be unpersuasive — for their thinness reflects their lack of rich truth about the spiritual meanings present in this created world. Indeed, once the sexual revolution brought the Enlightenment to sex, demythologizing and disenchanting the Western understanding of sexual intercourse, the legal principles of equality and fairness were bound to win, as they have over the last decade: the only principles the culture has left with which to discuss topics such as marriage.

And so, I argue, a concern about the government’s recognizing of same-sex marriage ought to come low on the list of priorities as the church pursues the evangelizing of the culture. For that matter, after the long hard work of restoring cultural sensitivity to the metaphysical meanings reflected in all of reality, Catholics will have enough experience to decide what measure of the deep spirituality of nuptials, almost absent in present culture, can reside in same-sex unions.

. . . [W]e can’t predict the effects of same-sex marriage. I think some good will come, I hope some good will come, but I cannot say with certainty that all must go well with this social change. Still, as the church turns to other and far more pressing ways to re-enchant the world, we’ll have time to find out. And when we are ready to start rebuilding the thick natural law that recognizes the created world as a stage on which the wondrous drama of God’s love is played, we will have the information we need to decide where same-sex marriage belongs in a metaphysically rich, spiritually alive moral order.

No doubt it's because I'm not a conservative Catholic that I find myself rather impatient with Bottum's long and somewhat tortured and inconclusive argument. As a progressive Catholic, i.e., a Catholic drawn to the church's capacity to grow and develop its understanding of a range of issues, I'm already quite familiar with more than one Catholic case for marriage equality. And, quite frankly, they are all much more concise and compelling than Bottum's.

Daniel Maguire, for instance, resolutely presents one such case here. Also, Daniel Helminiak, in my view, does a much better job than Joseph Bottum in both explaining and utilizing natural-law theory here and here. Margaret Farley, meanwhile, has written perhaps the definitive text on sexual relationships – including same-sex relationships – from the perspective of Christian ethics. Why, even I've helped write a "Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality" (see here and here.)

Of course, conservative Catholics readily dismiss all these writings as they are the products of progressives, which for many of them is code for "dissidents" and "not real Catholics." But when it's one of their own, someone like Joseph Bottum for instance, it's harder for many of them to be so sweepingly dismissive.

Bottum's lengthy commentary, I remind myself, isn't directed to me and Catholics like me. It's directed instead to Bottum's fellow conservative Catholics. Though many such Catholics are in an uproar and denouncing Bottum as a traitor, you can be sure that for many more, Bottum's honest musings and careful conclusions may well resonate deeply and help them on that long and often difficult journey from-disdain-to-tolerance-to-acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals, relationships and families. For this reason I welcome the conservative Joseph Bottum's "Catholic case" for same-sex marriage.

Related Off-site Links:
A Conservative Catholic Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage – Mark Oppenheimer (New York Times, August 23, 2013).
A Conservative Catholic Evolution on Gay Marriage – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, August 24, 2013).
Joseph Bottum Writes “The Long Goodbye” – Frank Weathers (Patheos, August 23, 2013).
Another Right-Wing Catholic Admits Defeat on Marriage Equality – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, August 24, 2013).
Catholic Right Loses It Over Joseph Bottum's Essay: "Stand Up and Spit in Their Face!" – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, August 25, 2013).

UPDATES: A Catholic Conservative Comes Out for Same-Sex Marriage – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, August 29, 2013).
A Reply to Joseph Bottum's Conservative Critics – Matthew Boudway (Commonweal, August 30, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond Respectful Tolerance to Celebratory Acceptance
Quote of the Day – July 22, 2013
Joseph O'Leary Responds to Carson Holloway's Arguments Against Gay Marriage
Daniel Maguire on the Progressive Core of Catholicism