Friday, September 30, 2011

I just listened to the panel you were on at Fordham, and I wanted to note something regarding one of the questions you were asked -- namely, the one concerning "celibacy as a sanction."

The traditional teaching of the Catholic Church is actually that celibacy is the highest way of life. See Session 24, Canon X of the Council of Trent. (That link goes to, in case the link doesn't work.)

This has been lost in modern times with the dominance first of the notion of the nuclear family, and then of sexual politics, and the Church's responses to both of these things. However... there it is.

Also, semi-tangentially, I found this article when I was looking up a website to cite the above canon (that's Food for thought.

and anonyreader #2:
If you want to get rid of priestly awe, trying having a kid brother who is a priest. My brother [Redacted] was ordained a couple of years ago, and he is still just as goofy as he was as a kid, and a little too firmly Republican for my taste. But he's still a good priest. This also probably pertains to folks who form close friendships with priests. It's inevitable that one sees one's friends as complete humans, otherwise you are not really their friend.

I think a lot of people avoid friendship with priests because of some of the issues you were talking about. They distance themselves from them out of a reverential awe. While I think it's a good idea to maintain a certain distance from your confessor, or perhaps even your pastor, it would be beneficial for most lay people if they had a decently close friendship with a priest. (If priests only have priest friends, they become an insulated echo chamber, just like any other credential based group.)

I had a small problem with this line from your post. "These are reasons that a layperson-to-priest attitude of empathy at best, wry distance at worst, will serve both parties much better than a surfeit of awe." This may be true, as I said, when dealing with your own confessor, but with priests generally? Doesn't this instrumentalize priests, rather than treat them as full and complete human beings? If the awe of the laity makes it too easy for priests to cover up sins, I think it's a good idea for there to be people who are ready and willing to tell a priest he's wrong.

I value my friends the most who will tell me when I'm being a jerk. I certainly don't hesitate to tell [Redacted] when I think he's wrong, and I decline to call him Father or show him any more respect than I ever have, and I think that will ultimately be to his benefit.

Just some thoughts.

Thank you!
"I worry that on Judgment Day my punishment will be that God will read aloud all the poems I could have written had my life been good."
--character of WH Auden, in The Habit of Art, now playing at the Studio Theater

[I don't actually recommend this play, I don't think--it's too baggy, there's too much on-the-nose dialogue, and while I get that the sordidness is a major part of the point, it isn't great enough to make me want to spend more time with its sordidness. Still, the acting is really good and there are some very fun lines and moments.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

REALLY FANTASTIC INTERVIEW WITH ROCCO PALMO. Via WAWIV. I initially skipped this but went back to it on his recommendation and it was completely worth it.
VIDEO OF MY PANEL AT THE FORDHAM "MORE THAN A MONOLOGUE: SEXUAL DIVERSITY AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH" CONFERENCE. I'm sorry for how scatty I am here. This turned out to be the unofficial test-run of a newer and better version of my standard Gay Catholic Whatnot talk, and I kept adding and subtracting things almost right up to the moment I got up to speak, which did not serve the overall organization or coherence well. That said, I did say some things which I think were worthwhile, and the next iteration of this talk was much sharper.
AN ATTACK OF MORNING GLORIES! My review of the Met's Japanese summer and fall art exhibit. You should all go see it! The review is currently subscribers-only, unfortunately.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't picture your relationship as two people pulling a wagon. It's like two legs carrying a person.

yeah, you know you should click
“[Maureen Tucker] and I were friends but I always got the feeling that Moe disapproved of everything that the rest of us were doing on some basic level. Moe was raised a catholic and she was pretty strict at the time. She always wore pants. She brought one dress with her on every tour and I remember waking up on a Sunday morning after doing a show the night before and being really bleary eyed and seeing a pair of legs go out the door and realizing that was Moe! She was going to church and I'd never seen her in a dress before. She was very consistent about that. She wouldn't swear a lot, I would say never but I seem to remember occasionally. She was very proper in a lot of ways. She didn't expect anybody else to live up to her standards but she would occasionally not allow certain behavior. You weren't supposed to get into any explicit talk about sex with Moe around. She could drink, though.”
-- from an interview w/ Doug Yule circa 1994, describing life on the road circa 1969; via JWB

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF '80S. Via VM. This just makes me happy.
You had very sensitive and responsible young people suddenly attuned to certain cosmic questions that beckon us all, and expressing these concerns through acoustic guitars and lilting harmonies and pale melodies. I hate these people.
--Sterling Morrison, here, via JWB

Monday, September 19, 2011

ONE LAST THING--FROM MY NOTES FROM FORDHAM: You have to make loyalty and obedience beautiful before you can evoke sorrow for disobedience.
LOCATION FOR MY PRINCETON TALK! 302 Frist Campus Center. Directions. Time is 4:30 pm tomorrow, Tuesday, September 20, 2011, Princeton, NJ, USA, the Earth, the Milky Way, the Universe. Hope to see many of you there! (I don't remember the official title of the talk, but you can assume it's basically "Gay Catholic Whatnot: O tell me the truth about love.")
PRIESTS SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS: I'll link you all to the video of my panel at that Fordham U. "Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church" conference [ETA: when it is posted]. I'd intended to do a full set of notes on the conference but really I think I only have one thing to say, which is that I noticed a recurring theme of putting (what I consider to be) overly-intense pressure on what is said by priests.

You guys already know that I am basically anti-clerical in attitude. And I completely realize that my stance can be self-centered and adolescent. Viewing priests merely as sacrament-dispensing machines, as I tend to do, leaves the layperson shallow and the priest without either the support he needs to exercise his ministry or the pressure he needs to spur him to perform well. Priesthood is a leadership role, and leaders need both support and challenge in order to wield authority effectively and well.

That said, here are some reasons not to picture a priest when you picture the Catholic Church. These are reasons that a layperson-to-priest attitude of empathy at best, wry distance at worst, will serve both parties much better than a surfeit of awe.

1. Priests will inevitably say very stupid or inappropriate or hurtful things. They will sometimes say these things while specifically claiming to speak for the Church. They are wrong. Don't give priests the power to define the Church or Her teaching in your mind.

2. Priests know they mess up, and they feel a lot of stress and sorrow over their own mistakes and flaws. Fr. John P. Duffell, a gritty New York guy of the old school whom I very much liked on a personal level (despite one thing he said which I thought was seriously, deeply wrong), made this point explicitly at the conference.

3. It's easy to resent priests if you view them as wielding power, rather than making themselves radically available (even disposable) to their people.

4. The laity's awe makes it easy for priests to cover up for their own or others' sins. I don't really think I need to give evidence of this claim. When the coverup ends, then, the awe (which should never have been extended in quite the way it was, in the first place) then curdles into furious mistrust of authority. This isn't in any way to let priests who abuse people's trust off the hook, just to suggest that the attitudes of the laity can make a bad situation worse.

5. At the conference many people conflated the hierarchy of the church--the priests and archbishops and cardinals and popes, all those men in odd hats--with the teaching of the Church. This allowed them to force a wedge between the Body of Christ and those aspects of the Catholic faith with which they disagreed, such as sexual morality. It also meant that the validity of the teaching stood or fell based on the personal holiness of the hierarchy. Without this conflation one would have to admit that the teaching of the Catholic Church--including Her hardest lessons--stands closer to the lives of the saints than to the lives of the popes.

A conversation in the taxi on the way back from the conference underscored some of these issues in my mind. One of the other panelists and I were talking about how institutions gain loyalty and love through creating personae. The other lady asked, "So who is the person who represents the Church, then? The Pope, I guess."

I really don't think it's the Pope, and I said so. I fumbled around with some unhelpful attempts at alternative images before I figured out what I wanted to say. I said that I picture the Bride of Christ, the bride from the Song of Songs; or sometimes Mary. Those are my icons of the Catholic Church.
You are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair, as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long. You have hitherto done nothing to diminish my goodwill, and though you had done much more than you have supposed imputed to you my goodwill would not have been diminished.

I write thus largely on this suspicion which you have suffered to enter your mind, because in youth we are apt to be too rigorous in our expectations, and to suppose that the duties of life are to be performed with unfailing exactness and regularity, but in our progress through life we are forced to abate much of our demands, and to take friends such as we can find them, not as we would make them.

--letter of Samuel Johnson; more

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

IN WHICH I PERSIST THROUGH TIME AND SPACE, despite everything! Some of you appear to think that an announcement of a speech or presentation might include trivialities like "location" and "time." We call these people THE WEAK.

...No, actually, sorry--I was being a fluffbrain. My Fordham U presentation will be at noon this Friday at the Lincoln Center campus, in the Pope Auditorium, and my Princeton talk will be at 4.30 next Tuesday afternoon at a place TBA (but probably in New Jersey, is my guess). Both will be about Gay Catholic Whatnot; the Fordham thing will definitely focus on possibilities for faithful gay vocations, and I'm still not 100% sure about the Pton one. I'd be especially interested in hearing from undergrads or recent grads about what they really wish someone had said on their campus! I'll post a location for the Princeton talk as soon as I can.

Monday, September 12, 2011

TELL ME WHAT TO SAY: I'm speaking this Friday at the Fordham U. conference, "Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity in the Catholic Church," and then again at Princeton University on Tuesday, 9/20, on some gay Catholic thing TBA. What do you guys think I should talk about? Where do you think I've made good points, and where do you really want to push me and make me clarify my thinking?

Also, of course, I would love to meet any readers who are around in NYC or New Jersey. Come say hello! And if you're not in either of those areas, but want me to talk at your school or church or yard sale or hobbit village, keep in mind that I do sometimes talk for (not much) money. Like Weevil Navarro, I am both audio and visual.
And funeral trains got much shorter
and people chose to which they went
and into the earth the flowers
went and no one remembered their names

only that they died that summer
when rains came late and the streets emptied
and flags flying on car roof tops
waved like women welcoming the army
into a small, abandoned city.

--"Summer Rain," Atar Hadari (entire poem here)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Dev comes to the doorway, one knuckle making a screwing motion in his eye socket, saying, Are y'all crying again? Then, Why does everybody from Texas cry and smoke?
--Mary Karr, Lit

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

THE FORGOTTEN LOVE: Chuck Colson on Bert and Ernie:
...And blogger Alyssa Rosenberg summed up the biggest objection. “I think it’s actively unhelpful,” she wrote, “to gay and straight men alike to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple . . . Such assumptions narrow the aperture of what we understand as heterosexual masculinity in a really strange way.”

Strange indeed. It teaches the ridiculous and deeply destructive idea that same-sex friendships are necessarily sexual. And that’s the last thing we want to teach our children, because it will spell the end of friendship, particularly friendships between young men.

Yet that is precisely the message that’s communicated over and over. It’s the reason gay apologists want to eroticize Bert and Ernie, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the apostle John, and Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Iliad.

Some in our culture are apparently incapable of understanding close friendship without sex. And that flies right in the face of a Christian understanding of friendship.

more (and Mark Shea's second paragraph is also really poignant--I stole the title of this post from him)
RECONCILIATION: Photos of confessionals. Via IP, I think.
A question for language-learners: what have been your most depressing moments along the path to fluency?

more (via IP)
"I DECIDED TO PHOTOGRAPH the reactions of my friends and family when I told them my good news - I'm going to be a dad!" Via Ratty.
"If anybody wishes to understand me", he continued, "they must listen to my music; if anybody wishes to know my ‘philosophy’ then they can read any of the Church Fathers; if anybody wishes to know about my life, then there are things that I wish to keep closed... unlike our friend John [Tavener]!"
--Arvo Pärt, quoted here; via WAWIV