Choir Practice

It would seem that The Creature From the Blog Lagoon has finally reached the end of his rope.

On second thought make that ONE of his ropes.

Last week, something quite banal happened at St. Benedict’s Church in the Bronx. A gay couple were told they could no longer sing in the choir. Their sin was to have gotten a civil marriage license in Canada. One man had sung in the choir for 32 years; the other had joined the church 25 years ago. Both had received certificates from the church commending them for “noteworthy participation.” But their marriage had gained publicity; it was even announced in The New York Times. This “scandal” led to their expulsion. The archbishop’s spokesman explained that the priest had “an obligation” to exclude them.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a very small event. But it is a vivid example of why this last year has made the once difficult lives of gay Catholics close to impossible. The church has gone beyond its doctrinal opposition to emotional or sexual relationships between gay men and lesbians to an outspoken and increasingly shrill campaign against them. Gay relationships were described by the Vatican earlier this year as “evil.” Gay couples who bring up children were described as committing the equivalent of “violence” against their own offspring. Gay men are being deterred from applying to seminaries and may soon be declared unfit for the priesthood, even though they commit to celibacy. The American Catholic church has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would strip gay couples of any civil benefits of any kind in the United States.

And what were you expecting, Sully? That the World’s Largest Pedophile Cult would see the error of its ways and change? Hardly. As I write the “beatification” of their most prominent ghoul is in full swing.

Sully, as if in answer to said spectacle, is in full Drama Queen frenzy.

For the first time in my own life, I find myself unable to go to Mass. During the most heated bouts of rhetoric coming from the Vatican this summer, I felt tears of grief and anger welling up where once I had been able to contain them. Faith beyond resentment began to seem unreachable.

Clutch the pearls!

For some, the answer is as easy as it always has been. Leave, they say. The gay world looks at gay Catholics with a mixture of contempt and pity. The Catholic world looks at us as if we want to destroy an institution we simply want to belong to. So why not leave? In some ways, I suppose, I have. What was for almost 40 years a weekly church habit dried up this past year to close to nothing. Every time I walked into a church or close to one, the anger and hurt overwhelmed me. It was as if a dam of intellectual resistance to emotional distress finally burst.

Very Joan Crawford. a fortiori Sully now moves into his “But enough about me — what about ME?” mode.

But there was no comfort in this, no relief, no resolution. There is no ultimate meaning for me outside the Gospels, however hard I try to imagine it; no true solace but the Eucharist; no divine love outside of Christ and the church he guides. In that sense, I have not left the church because I cannot leave the church, no more than I can leave my family. Like many other gay Catholics, I love this church; for me, there is and never will be any other. But I realize I cannot participate in it any longer either. It would be an act of dishonesty to enable an institution that is now a major force for the obliteration of gay lives and loves; that covered up for so long the sexual abuse of children but uses the word “evil” for two gay people wanting to commit to each other for life.

I’ve met a number of members of “Dignity” — the organization of Gay Catholics that was begun in the hope of changing the church’s mind thorugh reason and reform. They’re nice people. Hopeful people. But not nearly so naive as Sully. For they came to realize quite some time ago that being in direct opposition to the Catholic church makes their organization a renegade one. The fact that the church’s history of sex crimes has been exposed in recent years for the entire world to see has only strengthened its hatred of “Dignity” or anyone else who would dare to question the “Holy See.”

But let’s get back to As the Sully Turns

I know what I am inside.

AS IF!!!!

I do not believe that my orientation is on a par with others’ lapses into lust when they also have an option for sexual and emotional life that is blessed and celebrated by the church. I do not believe I am intrinsically sick or disordered, as the hierarchy teaches, although I am a sinner in many, many ways.

No shit, Sherlock!

I do not believe that the gift of human sexuality is always and everywhere evil outside of procreation. (Many heterosexual Catholics, of course, agree with me, but they can hide and pass in ways that gay Catholics cannot.) I believe that denying gay people any outlet for their deepest emotional needs is wrong. I think it slowly destroys people, hollows them out, alienates them finally from their very selves.

Obviously — as it leads to defining one’s emotional life as an “outlet.”

But I must also finally concede that this will not change as a matter of doctrine. That doctrine — never elaborated by Jesus — was constructed when gay people as we understand them today were not known to exist; but its authority will not change just because gay people now have the courage to explain who they are and how they feel. In fact, it seems as if the emergence of gay people into the light of the world has only intensified the church’s resistance. That shift in the last few years from passive silence to active hostility is what makes the Vatican’s current stance so distressing.

Forgetting to send “thank you” notes is distressing. The Church has declared war on humanity. Not just gays and lesbians — anyone who takes issue with its demands. But you won’t get much notice of this in a “mainstream” media that can’t get enough of the sets and costumes at that theme park called the Vatican, and that treats the Pope’s declining health as a spectacle on par with “illusionist” David Blaine’s plastic box starvation stunt.

Terrified of their own knowledge of the wide presence of closeted gay men in the priesthood, concerned that the sexual doctrines required of heterosexuals are under threat, the hierarchy has decided to draw the line at homosexuals. We have become the unwilling instruments of their need to reassert control.

In an appeal to the growing fundamentalism of the developing world, this is a shrewd strategy.

What “growing fundamentalism”? There’s been no end of pimping for it in the press but that’s not the same thing serious reporting on actual lives as they’re lived. And there you’d find something other than the crowds that gather every time that sad, sick old man pokes a palsied paw out his window in St. Peter’s square.

In the global context, gays are easily expendable.

Sez Captain bareback.

But it is also a strikingly inhumane one.

Nice of you to notice.

The current pope is obviously a deep and holy man; but that makes his hostility even more painful.

Obvious to whom? PR is not Revealed Truth.

He will send emissaries to terrorists, he will meet with a man who tried to assassinate him. But he has not and will not meet with openly gay Catholics. They are, to him, beneath dialogue. His message is unmistakable. Gay people are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who we are.

Your point?

I was once more hopeful. I saw within the church’s doctrines room for a humane view of homosexuality, a genuinely Catholic approach to including all nonprocreative people — the old, the infertile, the gay — in God’s church. But I can see now that the dialogue is finally shutting down.

When did this hallucination first occur to you and what drugs were you taking at the time?

Perhaps a new pope will change things. But the odds are that hostility will get even worse. I revere those who can keep up the struggle within the channels of the church. I respect those who have left. But I am somewhere in between now.

Between WHAT? Shit or get off the pot!

There are moments in a spiritual life when the heart simply breaks.

Could we have some music for this Elmer ? I love those woodwind arrangements of yours.

Some time in the last year, mine did.

Not in the previous twenty when thousands of people were dying of AIDS?

I can only pray that in some distant future, some other gay people not yet born

The “unborn”? That’s a nice touch Sully — sure to impress your Fundie pals.

will be able to come back to the church, to sing in the choir, and know that the only true scandal in the world is the scandal of God’s love for his creation, all of it, all of us, in a church that may one day, finally, become home to us all.

A day that that most devout of Catholics, Ronald Firbank heralds in this passage form his masterpiece Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli:

Flinging back a shutter drawn fast against the un, the boundless prospect from the balcony of his cell recalled the royal Escorial. The white scattered terraces of illas set in dark deeps of trees, tall palms, and parasol-pines so shady, and, almost indistinguishable, the white outline of the sea, made insensibly for company.

Changing into a creation of dull scarlet crepe, a cobweb dubbed “summer-exile,” Cardinal Pirelli felt decidedly less oppressed. “Madrid is on the Mazanares,” he vociferated, catching sight of the diligence from Sodre. Frequently it would bring Frasquito, the postman — a big tawny boy, overgiven to passing the day in the woods with his gun and his guitar.

See Sully? The Bears will save you after all!