Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Gay Strikes Back: the Catholic Communion Wars

Which of these men is gay?

     What is a priest to do when a known-homosexual approaches the altar for communion? 

     According to Father Luc Buyens of Reusel, Netherlands, you deny the honest-gay communion and mark his forehead with a cross instead.  (I must have missed that lecture in my Holy Eucharist and Mass practicum class in seminary.)  And what is a holy father to do if there are many gays in the congregation?  You won't, well actually you probably will, believe this one.

     NRC reports that during the pre-Lenten Carnival festivities in the southern Catholic towns of the Netherlands it's the local custom to elect a "prince," whose dutuies include "waving at crowds, ritual tomfoolery and doling out free beer, but also participating in the traditional mass on the Saturday that precedes Carnival, this year on February 13."

     Well, this year something went very wrong for Reusel's Catholic church.  Gijs Vermeulen, an out-of-the-closet gay bartender was elected prince and communion-chaos ensued. 

     NRC continues:
     According to Catholic teaching, people who live in sin are excluded from holy communion. It is public knowledge in Reusel that Vermeulen lives together with his boyfriend. Therefore, father Luc Buyens of the local church told the prince before the ceremony he would receive “a cross on his forehead but no communion wafer.”

     The incident has caused uproar. Gaykrant, a Dutch gay magazine, called upon its readers to go to Reusel and visit last Sunday’s mass. Confronted with a deluge of homosexuals, father Buyens called upon the bishop of Den Bosch for guidance, before deciding to send his entire flock, regulars and new arrivals alike, home without granting them the communion.

     Now, an even larger crowd looks set to descend on the Cathedral of St. John, an historic monument that has long been home to the bishop of Den Bosch.
     Receiving communion is the lifeblood of the Catholic spiritual experience, but rather than feed his flock, Father Buyens withheld communion from the entire congregation!   I bet he didn't abstain.  It wouldn't have been a real Mass if the preist didn't take communion.  I'm guessing he ate his fill at the elevated altar, while his starving flock watched in a throwback to the Middle Ages.

     Catholic lesson of the day:  It's better to deny an entire congregation communion, rather than risk putting Jesus in the mouth of a few honest gays.  But, it's okay to give closeted gays as much body of Christ as their tongue can handle.  This is the Catholic "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or better put, "We'll ask in the confessional, tell us the truth, so we can prescribe you with an appropriate penace that will prove to Father that you are subbordinate and eager to make up for you sins." 

     The hypocrisy here lies once again in the oh-so-gayness of the Catholic clergy and ecclesial hierarchy.  Are Father Buyens and Bishop Antoon Hurkmans of Den Bosch gay?  I don't know.  Flip a coin for each of them and find out. estimates that 50% of priests and seminarians are gay.  From my experience as both seminarian and priest, I'd say that's a decent but somewhat low-balled estimate. 

     While I was a seminarian and priest (still in the closet), the vast majority of priests and seminarians I encountered were out-of-the-closet but only in the internal forum, meaning within the protective confines of confession, spiritual direction, counseling, and their inner priestly circle.  Since leaving the preisthood, I've met and spoken honestly with ex-priests.  I've learned out about numerous still-practicing priests who are still closeted.  The seminary network is a small world, and at a gathering of friends in West Hollywood, I'm always amazed at the people I meet who went to seminary and are friends with priests that served in my small hometown in Iowa.  It's a small, small (gay) world in the Catholic clergy, which is why the closeted guys have so much to lose by the gay rights movement

     The truth was best stated by a closeted seminarian friend of mine who remains a priest today: "We're gay until proven straight." 

     Father Donald Cozzens wrote that several studies have concluded that about 50% of priests and seminarians are gay.
     David France of Newsweek, referring to St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, CA, wrote: "Depending on whom you ask, gay and bisexual men make up anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of the student body at the college and graduate levels."

     Rt. Rev. Helmut Hefner, rector of St. Johns Seminary "accepts that his gay enrollment may be as high as 50 percent."

     Gay journalist Rex Wockner commented: "When I was in the Catholic seminary in my early 20s (St. Meinrad College, St. Meinrad, Ind., 1982-1983; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill., 1983-1984), at least 50 percent of the students were gay....At St. Mary of the Lake, the straight students felt like a minority and felt excluded from some aspects of campus life to such an extent that the administration staged a seminar at which we discussed the problem of the straight students feeling left out of things..."

     Author and sociologist James G. Wolfe estimated that 55.1% of seminarians were gay.
     It's difficult to estimate any accurate numbers dealing with closeted people, who have so much to lose by coming out.  I only know my own experience, and among the priests that I knew in my diocese I'd guess at least 50-60% were gay, and among the people with whom I was in seminary, I estimate between 80-85% were gay or bisexual. 

     These are the men who would deny homosexual Catholics communion.  Hypocrites!

     Let us close with the words of Prince Gijs Vermeleun, which summarize the truth of not only current Cathlic praxis, but also the history of religion in general:
     “What annoys me as well is the lack of uniform policy. Other so-called sinners – not that I would call them that – do not have this problem. If the church were consistent, nobody could receive communion.”


Deldachez said...

Disgusting as always, but then, can you honestly expect something else from this backward thinking institution?

Heretic Tom said...

Can you imagine telling an entire congregation, "No communion for you, because there are gays in pews"?

truthspew said...

Priests like politicians will do things that are contrary to their own existence in order to maintain the illusion of power.

Your estimates as to the number of gay people in the priesthood shocked me though. That high? Amazing. Why is the church still a refuge for gay men?

Heretic Tom said...

I'm not exaggerating the number, Truthspew. I look at pictures from seminary. I go through my memory of everyone I can remember being there, and the vast majority of the guys were gay. This is impossible to prove because most everyone was in the closet, but I also had the opportunity to live in a community of priests that could be out of the closet.

After I left the priesthood I was very depressed. I checked myself into a care facility for priests, nuns, and ministers who've been broken by their churches. It was the best six months of my life, in terms of my personal growth. There, all of us gay men were encouraged to be out of the closet and for the first time in our lives we started to develop and mature honestly and in the light.

Some would say that if you allow seminarians and priests to be out of the closet that it's too dangerous: they will have sex and fall in love. In the current system of sacred silence, they have sex, they fall in love, and they also torture and harm themselves and others because they are developmentally stunted by being the closet. Some also abuse.

Even if people could prove that all these horrible things would keep happening were priests out of the closet, even if priests still did these things, at least they would be living honest lives in the light and witnessing to the truth of their experience rather than cowering in the clerical closet.

Nearly all of the gay clerics with whom I did my six months of intensive group therapy returned to ministry, healthier, more honest, and for the first time in their lives free of shame. They were whole and at peace. Isn't that what Christians preach their gospel does? As long as they keep preaching the closet of shame and fear to LGBT persons, those persons will never find the truth that is supposed to set them free.

Here's a link to a post I wrote about why gay Catholics remain in the priesthood, church, etc.