Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wisconsin GOP Senate Candidate Ron Johnson Versus Sexual Abuse Victims

     Earlier this year, Ron Johnson helped to defeat Wisconsin's Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act.  And Republicans are supposed to be for "family values"?  

     Below Keith Olbermann covers the story and he interviews Todd Merryfield, a victim of sexual abuse by a Green Bay priest, who is shocked that his candidate (Johnson) voted against his rights and the rights of other victims of abuse to have their day in court.

Friday, August 13, 2010

LGBT POV Article on Yesterday's Prop 8 Stay Roller Coaster Announcement

     Here's a link to the full article that I mentioned yesterday, where SHE and I were interviewed by Phillip at Unite the Fight for a collaborator at LGBT POV.

     Phillip Minton left for the Beverly Hills courthouse right after taping the cheering reaction. I called him to tell him the bad news. I could feel sadness wash over him. He interviewed Tom Rastrelli (who blogs at The Gospel According to Hate) and his fianc矇 Bruce Mayhall, who have been together for three years [32 months to be exact]. They were the first to make it to the courthouse that day anticipating that Walker would lift his stay, allowing the couple to get married.
This picture of us waiting for Judge Walker's announcement was taken by Adam Lau of the AP and is making the internet rounds.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Denied Marriage, SHE and I Ended up the News

     The Los Angeles Times reports:
     Bruce Mayhall and Tom Rastrelli were the first in line Thursday morning at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, ready to get a marriage license if good news came down from Judge Vaughn Walker.  They dressed in matching pink shirts and waited.

     As the hours passed, they watched heterosexual couple after heterosexual couple -- decked out in suits and white dresses -- pass them in line to get married. They waited off to the side for their turn. CLICK HERE FOR THE REST
     Here's a short interview of SHE and I after we were denied a chance to get a marriage licence today. The interview was done by Phillip of Unite the Fight, and will be part of an article on LGBT POV.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Catholic Priest-Perpetrators of Europe and the Americas Were Shipped to Africa

     What were the Catholic bishops of Europe and the Americas to do with their all their priest-pedophiles?  Where could they send them so that no one would ever find out?  Where could they escape prosecution?  Where could they go where it wouldn't matter what they do to more children?  Why, Africa, of course.

     Tighten your cinctures.  Here's the next round in the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal: the inherently patronizing and racist attitudes towards Africa, where American and European bishops banished many a predator-priest, because they didn't care about kids in Africa.

     Damning reports accusing senior Catholic clerics of institutional cover-up of sexual abuses are still emerging, as predator priests in Europe and the Americas sent to Africa, allegedly, continued offending whilst dodging prosecution in their home country.
     The AFP has been questioning people in Nigeria, which counts the highest number of Catholics in Africa, Uganda and Congo if such abuses have been endured by some members. The head of the Southern African Bishops Conference has, meanwhile, publicly acknowledged that the issue of paedophilia has truly inflicted African Churches and that about 40 abuse cases have been reported since the last 14 years.
     News24, an online South Africa news source, quotes a former clergyman from Burkina Faso, Felix Koffi Ametepe as saying: "When I was in the church, I happened to discover some suspected cases of abuse, especially by foreign clergy. There’s a certain tolerance among African Catholic communities regarding priests who visit women. Even if people very well know that the priest has a child, or that he has ongoing relations with a woman, no one does anything about it.  Everyone accepts if a priest is with a woman, but no one would understand what he would look for in a boy. That means that no child would be believed if he said that a priest had touched him."
     And the church continues to claim that celibacy works...and that condoms don't.  Yes, their traditional values definitely place the well-being of children above all else.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

D.C. Catholic Archbishop Punishes All Spouses for Same-Sex Marriage

     The Catholic church continues it's total war method for attacking gay rights.  If dysfunctional Mother church doesn't get her way, she follows the example of her Old Testament god and cuts everyone off.  Burn it all to the ground and blame the gays!  If there are gays in the pews, deny everyone at Mass communion.  If homosexuals have legal rights to marry, then quit providing social services to the needy.  It's what Jesus would want. 

     Now, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.,  and Archbishop Wuerl have taken the war on gay rights to a new level.  Rather than provide a gay employees' civil spouses with medical benefits, ultra-straight Wuerl is cutting off benefits to all spouses who work for Catholic Charities in the nations capital.  So much for the church being a champion of healthcare reform. 

     Employees at Catholic Charities were told Monday that the social services organization is changing its health coverage to avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of its workers -- the latest fallout from a bitter debate between District officials trying to legalize same-sex marriage and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington
     Starting Tuesday, Catholic Charities will not offer benefits to spouses of new employees or to spouses of current employees who are not already enrolled in the plan. A letter describing the change in health benefits was e-mailed to employees Monday, two days before same-sex marriage will become legal in the District.
     The employees, who already work for reduced not-for-profit wages, are not pleased.  Here, The Post reports some of their reactions:
     Tim Sawina, who was until last year one of the group's highest-ranking executives, called the elimination of spousal health benefits "devastating" and "wrong" in a letter Wednesday to the governing boards of the social service organization..."Some, including the archbishop, have argued that by providing health care to a gay or lesbian spouse we are somehow legitimizing gay marriage," said Sawina, a former priest. "Providing health care to a gay or lesbian partner -- a basic human right, according to Church teaching -- is an end in itself and no more legitimizes that marriage than giving communion to a divorced person legitimizes divorce, or giving food or shelter to an alcoholic legitimizes alcoholism."
    Many Catholic Charities employees did not return calls or declined to talk, citing worries of being fired.
    "People are really upset," one employee said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. "You don't do this kind of job for the money. You're not getting paid a lot to start with. You're working in pretty rough areas, doing pretty tough work for the needy. If recruiting was hard before, it's going to be even worse now."
    One employee provided by Catholic Charities this week agreed to be named. Michelle Mendez, staff attorney for immigrant legal services, also described dismay about the spousal benefit reduction but said she remained committed to the organization's work and mission.
    Gibbs said that the archdiocese is not surprised that workers expressed discouragement but blamed it in part on media coverage of the issue.
    "Part of the problem is that they're coming in hearing this stuff every day -- not all of it accurate -- about the organization they work at," she said. "It's been a tough few months for all of us. It was a hard decision but one that allows us to continue the important work we're doing."
     When will the people in the pews stand up to these injustices?  Sure, it's legal for the church to discriminate, thanks to the separation of church and state (which the church has violated time and again by funding crusades against the civil rights of women, blacks, and now LGBT persons), but to all you Catholics out there: is it moral?  Is it just?  Is it right? 

     Your "savior" is definitely weeping the falling tears.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Straining Gnats while Swallowing Camels

     The holy, Roman Catholic, Mother church has made it clear where she stands: having no parents is better than having two loving mothers or fathers.  Strange, since in Mother church every priest is called father, god is called father, female religious superiors are called mother, and the "virgin" is called mother.  This practice created a dangerous equivocation in my mind as a child: the Fathers were equal to god the father and to be trusted and obeyed like my own daddy.  It's no wonder kids are so prone to sexual abuse by clergy.  The praxis of Mother church does the grooming for the pedophiles.

     So, the definition of a Catholic family is not two mothers or two fathers, which is too confusing for a child and sinful, but a harem of mothers and a gaggle of fathers, which is healthy and holy.

      The Post reports:

    The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples, the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city's move to legalize same-sex marriage.
    The marriage bill, which was approved and signed in December, is expected to become law in the next couple of weeks if it clears a congressional review period.
    Catholic Charities, which receives $20 million from the city, had sounded alarms in the run-up to the council vote, saying programs serving tens of thousands of people were in danger. Being forced to recognize same-sex marriage, church officials said, could make it impossible for the church to be a city contractor because Catholic teaching opposes same-sex marriage.
     Fantastic!  That's $20 million that the District can give to charities that won't discriminate on the basis of creed.  In the long run, Mother's bigoted leaders will have done the needy children of Washington a huge favor.  

     The Post continues:
     Edward Orzechowski, president and chief executive of Catholic Charities, the archdiocese's social service arm, said the group is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage.
     Asked if that meant looking at ways to avoid paying benefits to same-sex partners or ways to write benefits plans so as not to characterize same-sex couples as "married," Orzechowski said "both, and."
     Both, and?  Orzechowski is definitely Catholic.  Both/and is at the heart of every one of Mother's theological paradoxes: Jesus is both god and man, one gets to heaven by both grace and works, revelation is in both scripture and tradition, one's relationship with god is both individual and communal, etc. etc.  Catholics are gluttonous experts when it comes to having their theological cake and eating it too, but they don't share.  No  unleavened Jesus for you, unless you are in full communion with Mother.
     "Now we're in a position where we need to scrutinize everything," he [Orzechowski] said. "From our point of view, it's important that we don't in any way compromise our religious teaching."
     Yes, Mother wouldn't want to compromise her precious religious teachings.  Didn't the Pharisees use that same argument, before Jesus ripped them a new one with one "woe" after another

     And, it's not like mother didn't compromise her teachings before, when she was placing children in homes, with one mother and father, who didn't use artificial contraception, who never had a secret abortion, who never cheated on one another, who tithed at least ten percent of their pre-tax income back to mother, who didn't have sex before they were married, who didn't live together before they were married, who didn't use in vetro fertilization or other aggressive fertility measures to try and get pregnant before turning to adoption, who didn't take one of god's many names in vein, who didn't have oral sex or dog-forbid practice any sort of ass-play, who didn't masturbate (even mutually), who didn't vote for candidates outside of mother's moral prescriptions, who didn't support unjust wars, who didn't fantasize about sex outside of marriage, who didn't lie, who didn't question the virgin birth, the assumption, and the immaculate conception, who didn't ever skip Sunday Mass, who didn't ever do anything in violation of any one of mother's endless moral prescriptions.

     No.  It's just easier to pick on the homosexuals.  What a consistent Mother she is!

Monday, January 4, 2010

11th Hate of Christmas: Orange County

     The 11th Hate of Christmas According to Heretic Gary C:

     The Boyf & I decide that for the first time in our thirteen years we're doing Christmas with both families together as a couple, and they can like it or lump it.  My family doesn't care either way.  His are wigged out but cave when I say it's both of us or neither of us, and since he's The Only Son (like Jesus!), they need him to complete their...something.  Did I mention they're Chinese?  Did I mention their parents were among the first Chinese converts to Seventh Day Adventist...ism ?  This weighs heavily.

     We agree to drive all over Southern California so no one has distance as an excuse.

     My family's first, so we leave Hollywood for The Orange Curtain.  I figured since my niece is living with Another Woman, this will be easy.  


     Another Woman has family: redneck family not particularly supportive of her "alternative" lifestyle and not shy about voicing their disapproval, even on Our Lord's Birthday (OLB), even with Christian Soft Rock fouling the airwaves.  I thought Redneck Bro and I were gonna have to have a special education session out back, but Sis stepped in and asked for peace on OLB, so we ate, made our excuses and left...

     ...up the packed 91 to Loma Linda -- Seventh Day Adventist central.  We're almost an hour late, and of course even though we said not to, they're holding dinner for us...except not really.  They're holding dinner for The Boyf, are absolutely gobsmacked that I showed up, and clearly don't know what to do with me.

     So we eat, rather quickly, even though we’re already stuffed, keeping the conversation to safe topics like the food.  We endure a desultory present exchange, during which I'm pretty much ignored, and then gather around the piano to sing carols.  (They've all had decades of musical instruction.)  Knowing what's coming, The Boyf disappears into the bathroom and does not come out again, for over an hour, so I'm stuck.  But, when God closes the [bathroom] door, he makes lemonade.  Or something.  I was in the choir in grade school and have a good memory for lyrics and other unimportant stuff, so I figure I can win them over with my singing.


     Even though they use caroling books (seriously, who has fucking caroling books?), they all know all the words to all the verses of everything, and they sing all the verses of everything.  I realize I'm lost somewhere around the fifth verse of "Adeste Fidelis."  Out of nowhere, they ask if I have a favorite carol.  I stammer "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  After a LONG silence, Mom says, "We don't know any secular carols," in the same tone that she would have used if I’d just farted in church.  Uncle B. mercifully suggests something else, and they're off again.

     The Boyf finally surfaces, and we our excuses without mentioning that I have to work the next day, which for them is The Sabbath.  I had no idea, although it did explain why there was no ham.  They're not as strictly observant as the Jews who won't even turn on a light switch, but close.  The Sister, acting as hostess for the first time, realizes just how strict this is when we learn she isn't even allowed to clear the table, load the dishwasher, or wash the tablecloth because that's considered work, even though the same group (minus us) is coming back for lunch tomorrow.  The Boyf won't break Sabbath in front of the parents, so The Big White Guy winds up clearing the table, loading the dishwasher and starting the laundry just so we can get out of there guilt-free. (Apparently they have no problem with heathens working on The Sabbath.)  Sis will finish laundry, empty the dishwasher, and set the table overnight when her husband is asleep; he will not question this.

     The first thing we both said when we got in the car was "NEVER again!"

Friday, January 1, 2010

8th Hate of Christmas: the Ultimate Family Question

The 8th Hate of Christmas According to Heretic Jennifer:

The top ten things I hate about Christmas:

10) The irritating bell ringers who give dirty looks and try to make you feel guilty when you don't drop money in their buckets - I know some who are working as bell ringers and I would never trust them with the money. I'll donate directly to the organization, thank you.

9) Only Christmas movies on TV during December. I can only handle so much and twenty-four hours of a movie on the same channel.  Please give me a variety. Over the weekend the same four movies were on almost every channel!

8) Christmas decorations in the stores before September. Unless it's a craft store where you need the time to make the decoration, I don't need to see Christmas decoration for sale until November. Can't we get past Halloween first?

7) Christmas music on radio stations before Thanksgiving.  Three of my six preset  stations in my car switched to full-time Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  I mean please, it isn't even Christmas yet and I'm sick and tired of hearing "Jingle Bells"!

6) The suddenly "religious" people who have started asking for prayers and quoting bible verses and saying the "reason for the season."  If they were so religious, why didn't they start before? They are the same ones who I know go to church only on Christmas and Easter, so please!  And people wonder why I gave up on the idea of organized religion in high school.

5) The lines at your everyday store where you just need to run in and pick up something like laundry detergent or shampoo and have to wait behind the shopper with a million things in their carts who argue about what is on sale elsewhere. There should be a non-Christmas shopping line or an actual express line where they enforce the ten-items-or-less rule.

4) I save up in order to spend lots of money on my nieces and nephews (gotta spoil them!) but just once I would like it acknowledged by my sister who makes four time as much money as me, has a two income household, and every year regifts to me something that she got from someone else and couldn't return. Almost always something that she knows that I will never use!

3) The assumption that because I am single, I should have no problem juggling a schedule to get time off to spend with the family.  But the job also assumes that, since I am single with no kids, I should work so that those with kids and family can have the day off! Can't afford to lose the job so the winner is...

2) The most over used statement when I talk to or see relatives & friends: "You are so good with the kids! It's a shame you don't have any of your own." I hear it over, and over, and over...

1) And the top thing I hate about Christmas: the most asked question that makes me want to scream: "So, are you seeing anyone special yet?" A.K.A.: You're in your mid-thirties so why aren't you married or engaged yet?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

7th Hate of Christmas: Lonely New Year's Eves

The 7th Hate of Christmas According to Heretic Tom:

     I cried myself to sleep tonight, before the clock turned to midnight and people from the Canadian tundra to the Costa Rican jungle cheered joyfully and kissed their romantic others.  I cried myself to sleep for the second New Year's Eve in a row.  Alone.

     The year is now 2004.  It's 2:07 AM.  At least I slept for three hours.  That's more than I've been getting lately.  I can't sleep.  I can't stay awake.  I go through my days in some sort of liminal hell between depressive consciousness and restless shards of dreams.  Most nights, like tonight, I cry myself to sleep.  Alone.

     I spent a few days after Christmas with my family at my sister's house.  There I realized just how sick I am, how endangered I am.

     I was sitting alone, in the sunlight of the living room, listening to the old tape in my head that's been playing for decades.  Over the past eighteen months, since I was ordained a priest, the tape's volume has steadily been growing louder.

     "I'm a loser.  I'm unsalvageable, going to hell.  Nothing I do matters.  I'm a sick faggot: depraved.  I will always be this way, a failure: a homo, a sinner, a person to be used, abused and then thrown away."

     My sister entered the living room and asked me what was wrong.  I couldn't talk.  I just cried, like I am right now, as I stare at the ceiling over my bed.  She hugged me as I sobbed.

     "Uncle Tommy?"

     My two and a half year old nephew, stood before us, his big blue eyes peering out past his straw-blond hair, confused.  I couldn't stop crying, even for his sake.  He ran to my feet, climbed up onto my lap and hugged me and said, "I love you Uncle Tommy."

     I wanted to believe him, but I didn't.  I couldn't believe him.  In my depleted mind, there was only the old tape and its incessant iterations: "Nobody could love you.  Pathetic.  Sinner.  Loser.  Wimp.  Repulsive..."

     In that moment, I realized that I was sick, and that not even the power of my loving nephew's sweet hugs and honest love could penetrate my depression.

     A few days later, I returned to my parish.  I cried all the way from Chicago O'Hare to the rectory in Iowa.  Thankfully, the pastor Fr. Angerer had already vacated the premises, going to Boystown in Chicago for his New Year's festivities.

     Alone, I went through the motions.  I made it through the New Year's Eve Masses celebrating the Feast of Mary the Mother of God.  What bullshit!  I've never bought the whole Marion adoration, the myths, the "infallible" dogmas of the 19th century and their reverse revelation about what really happened two thousand years ago to a supposed virgin, but still I teach it focusing on the spiritual not the historical.  I was ordained to serve the church and to teach what it teaches, not what my depraved intellect discerns.  As with every other teaching with which I disagree in good conscious, I obediently choose to sell a little bit of my integrity, my soul, for the mission of the church.

     But even larger parts of my soul have been whored out to holy mother church.  I'm gay, but publicly in the closet.  In college and seminary, I was sexually exploited and harassed by priests, with whom I now work side by side, acting for the people in the pew like they are the holiest and healthiest priests alive.  I gave up the chance for love in the final months of my seminary life in Baltimore.  I loved!  I was loved in return, and it was holy, good, and real.  But, the man I love, now a vowed celibate like me, has cut me off, rejected me, in the name of god and what is good.  And it is good, our vocations.  We're helping people.  Our sacrifice, our lost love, will flower in their joy.  My celibacy, my pain, and my wounds will water their salvation.

     But nothing is alive anymore.

     I stare at the ceiling depressed, sobbing in the New Year, alone, afraid to act, paralyzed.  Then it hits me, my New Year's resolution: I'm done with fear.  I'm done bowing to the institutionalized homophobia of what "they" say on the other side of the closet.  I'm done fearing myself and beating myself up for not being what the church says god thinks I should be, for who can know the mind of god?  I'm done being afraid of what will happen to my career, my security, my healthcare, my future, and my reputation should I come out to my bishop about being gay and what I've endured at the hands of other priests that were supposed to be helping me be celibate, but only used me for their gratification.

     I don't know it right now, but this will be the last New Year's that I cry myself to sleep.  This will be the year that I conquer the fear.

     I don't fall back to sleep.  I watch 2004's first sunrise through my bedroom widow from frightened eyes, but that's okay.  I enter the fear, embracing it, confronting it, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

3rd Hate of Chistmas: Divorce

The 3rd Hate of Christmas According to Mrs. Levine:

Vintage illustration of a father reading the newspaper with his daughter Pictures, Images and Photos
     My grandma used to say, “You were the apple of your daddy’s eye.” I have one picture where I can see what she meant. I’m four, in a red and white frilly dress with thick white tights and black patent leather shoes. My daddy is holding me upside down above his head, looking up into my face, laughing. I’m squealing, looking down at him, laughing, the apple of my daddy’s eye. I love a lot of things about Christmas, but that’s the one I hate. It reminds me of what was lost.
     Shortly after that picture was taken, my dad started a custody battle. My parents had already been divorced for two years, but they were both about to remarry. It was time to start anew, and they wanted to take half of the old with them. Me.
     My dad is someone who gives up easily. So is my mom. This is how I know that I must have been equally as important to them at one point in my life. My mom won that battle, and my dad gave up. He remarried, stopped paying child support, had four boys, and showed up two hours late every other weekend to pick me up. I didn’t know how completely he had given up, though, until he gave me a Pizza Hut promotional basketball for my twelfth birthday. Secret Twenty-Four, Revealed. I’ve always hated basketball. I should have been grateful, though. After that birthday, he forever stopped sending presents or cards.
     Around fourteen-years-old I started needing him. My mom divorced and remarried again. I was looking to boys to make me feel valued. I had large breasts that the boys wanted to touch, so it was easy to get them to love me. I wanted to know my dad loved me. The way that manifested was to send his family cards for everything. All four half brothers got cards for every birthday. Occasionally I sent money. My dad got a card on his birthday. My step-mother got a card on her birthday, which coincidently is the day after my own. I sent Christmas cards, Thanksgiving cards, Graduation cards, and Father’s Day cards. I never got a single one in return. When I got married, something about my husband filled that hole and I finally stopped sending cards.
     Last year my husband said, “I think you need to try to see your dad this Christmas.” I’d been debating it for months. I had his phone number tucked into a book somewhere. I hadn’t bothered to remember which book. I assumed he lived at the same address. I hadn’t seen him since my wedding, five years before. So, at my husband’s urging, I called him.
     I can’t tell you what happened from there. I can tell you the actions but not the meaning. We had a series of four awkward phone calls trying to arrange when I would drive three hours over icy roads to get to his house in the next state over from my mom’s. At one point he offered to come and get me. But in the end, when there was only the date left to arrange, he never called back.
     And so it is Christmas, and I’m wondering do I put myself through this again? He’s a good man. I love him, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried so hard over the years, but he’s someone who gives up easily. And I continue to battle being given up time and time again. I know he loves me, but he’s too ashamed of himself to show it. He, quite miraculously, had a daughter that doesn’t give up. It’s a fact that apparently hurts us both.
     I try not to take my mother’s advice on men, but she says that men need time before they can see what’s important to them in life. She thinks that men are too concerned about themselves for most of their lives to really notice the people in it. She thinks that my father, like her own, will come back around and need me nearer to the end of his life, that I will again be the  apple of his eye.
     I’ve now been something like seventeen Christmas without seeing him. Seventeen X-mases and I'm still playing that goddamn tape in my head:
     All I want for Christmas is to know my daddy loves me.
(Read more by Mrs. Levine at her blog: Whispered between Women)

**Picture reblogged from Chronically Vintage.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The 1st Hate of Christmas: the Scam

     My seven-year-old tongue probes the soft, rust-flavored divot between my remaining baby teeth. Another tooth lost, and I feel like a big boy, on my way to becoming a man. I inhale and look up at my tall, skinny dad, with his long nose and big Adam's apple. It's time.

     "Is the Tooth Fairy for real?" my timid, boy-soprano voice sounds.

     "She's real if you want her to be."

     Dad's voice is awkward and singsongy, like when he reads The Rescuers to me at bedtime. His brown eyes widen behind his rose-tinted, round glasses and his black eyebrows rise unevenly.  His Adam's apple  moves up and then down.  He smiles.  Something's weird in his smile, something that I don't have a word for yet, but it feels like I asked something I wasn't supposed to. I can see it in his eyes and hear it in his freaky response: he wants me to believe.

     But, I'm not stupid. It just doesn’t make sense that a miniature lady with wings can fly through a closed and locked window, get under my heavy head and pillow, and turn my bloody stump of a baby tooth into money.

     She's real if you want her to be?  What a bogus answer! My seven-year-old mind (Yes, I've reached the age of reason according to Catholic teaching.) sees right through my helpless father's smile. A dam breaks.

     "Is the Easter Bunny for real?"

     "He's real if you want him to be."

     Well, is just plain stupid! Why isn't he giving me a straight answer?  If you want him to be?  I want the truth! Is it really possible for a bunny rabbit to carry loads of candy, baskets, and eggs to homes around the world, and all in one night? A bunny can't open a locked door. A bunny can't cross the Mississippi River. No, there is no Easter Bunny. I can live with that, but the next question, it's more frightening and carries larger consequences.

     "Is Santa Claus for real?"

     "He's real if you want him to be."

     "So he's not real then."

     "Do you want him to be real?"

     What kind of question is that? Of course, I want him to be real. I want to get presents, the things that I want, every year for Christmas for the rest of my life.  I want to be rewarded for being a good boy in school with loads of Smurfs, Legos, and Hot Wheels.  Yes, I want him to be real. But...

     The North Pole? Flying reindeer? Glowing red-nosed Rudolf? Elves? A fat man sliding down our skinny chimney?  How does he get through the damper?  How can I believe that anymore? How can I believe anything again?

     "I don't believe that he's real."

     Dad doesn't flinch.  His Adam's apple bounces, and then he smiles looking proud, but also a bit disappointed.  Or is he worried?  I've never seen this look on him before, relaxed facial muscles surrounding strained eyes.  I don't know what it means.

     I have another question for my dad, a question that I'm too afraid to ask. I don't want to hear his answer. I don't want to be told that He's real if I want Him to be. I want to know that He loves me. I want there to be a life after death, because any night the house could burn down, I could die in my sleep, and I just want to go to heaven and be with the people who love me, forever.  I want to be forgiven for my sins.

     So, I don't ask.

     For years and years, my fear keeps me from asking, but true to my namesake, my doubt remains. Over time, I get used to the doubt. I forget that the unasked question remains. I'm side-tracked, converted, and brought into the scam.

     I help Mom fill the Easter baskets after my little brother and sister fall asleep. I put the quarter under their pillows, but make Mom retrieve the teeth. I stay home sick from school and find my Christmas presents early. I feel like an adult, like I'm important, because I know the same truth as my older cousins. Even better, I can make my little sister and brother happy by encouraging their belief. Why would I want to ruin that for them or for the other kids in my class?  They need their Santa, and I need my presents.

     When my little sister figures it all out, I'm eager to initiate her into the ways of the scam. When playing hide-and-seek a week before Christmas, our little brother finds the wrapped Christmas presents inside the big cardboard Christmas-tree box on the highest shelf in the basement.  My little sister and I spin a lie to keep his big brown eyes believing: Santa can't get to all the houses in one night, so he delivers the presents early to most houses and the mommies and daddies help him by putting the presents out on Christmas Eve after the kids go to sleep.  Little brother buys it.  Phew.  Presents for another year!  And another year.  And another...

     In my thirty-first year, I finally ask The Question that I was too afraid to ask in the first grade, even though my mind knew the bogus answer that would follow.

     "He's real if you want him to be," the echo of Dad's voice bounces through my brain.

     But, I know that he's not real. There is no god. There is no heaven. There is only this fragile world, this precious life, these delicate relationships, and the frail mystery of existence.  Still, I'm frightened.  What will happen if I don't believe in god any more?

     I try it out.

     The world doesn't end. I don't lose myself in the fires of debauchery. I don't abuse others and use them for my gratification. I don't fear, anymore. Instead, I find peace.

      And, I still love. I still hope. I still seek. I still believe.

     Only, I don't believe in the myth of the Santa Christ.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nathan Halbach, Son of a Catholic Priest, Dies

By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  So by their fruits you will know them. 
-Attributed to Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 7:16-20)
     Just over a month ago, The New York Times published the article, "A Mother, a Sick Son and His Father, the Priest," about a young man, Nathan Halbach, with brain cancer who was speaking out for the first time (and bravely breaking the Catholic church's gag order) about being the abandoned son of still-practicing Catholic priest.  Here is the link to a two minute slide-show and verbal interview with Nathan and his mother, Pat Bond, that the Times published in October.  It's worth watching.

     On Friday November 27, Nathan died of cancer, without his biological father at his bedside.  So much for the "family values" that the Catholic church and its clergy are preaching to the nation in their current attempts to derail LGBT rights and women's reproductive rights.  But, don't worry, Nathan's biological father, Rev. Henry Willenborg, OFM,  was praying for him from afar, and I'm sure that meant so much to Nathan as his brain was being painfully eaten from within.

     Sexual abuse and exploitation in the Catholic church is not just of children, it is also of adults.  Nathan's mother Pat Bond's story of abuse started, like many stories of clergy abuse, including my own, a vulnerable and wounded person seeks help from their trusted and revered priest only to be taken advantage of by a disturbed individual, who is under the protection of powerful bishops.
     With three small children and her marriage in trouble, Pat Bond attended a spirituality retreat for Roman Catholic women in Illinois 26 years ago in hopes of finding support and comfort.What Ms. Bond found was a priest — a dynamic, handsome Franciscan friar in a brown robe — who was serving as the spiritual director for the retreat and agreed to begin counseling her on her marriage. One day, she said, as she was leaving the priest’s parlor, he pulled her aside for a passionate kiss.
    The sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy is horrendous and deserves the media attention and outrage that it's been getting, but lost in the cracks have been the stories of numerous adult women and men who have abused and exploited by priests.   The New York Times reports: "one study found  that 20% of American Catholic priests are involved in ongoing sexual relationships with women."  Nathan and his mother's story is just one example of how the church has tried to cover this up.

     After giving birth to Nathan, Fr. Willenborg abandoned Ms. Bond.  The Franciscans did their best to silence her and cover everything up:

     Ms. Bond’s case offers a rare look at how the church goes to great lengths to silence these women, to avoid large settlements and to keep the priests in active ministry. She has 23 years of documents, depositions, correspondence, receipts and photographs relating to her case, which she has kept in meticulous files.
      Those files reveal that the church was tightfisted with her as she tried to care for her son, particularly as his cancer treatments grew more costly. But they also show that Father Willenborg suffered virtually no punishment, continuing to serve in a variety of church posts.

      Willenborg was suspended with pay (only after last month's New York Times story was published) by Bishop Peter F. Christiansen of the Diocese of Superior.  Bishop Christiansen, in an interview by  Fox 21, said that he suspended Willenborg not because he exploited women and fathered a child (because that's "not criminal"), but only because of an allegation of Willenborg having sex with an underage girl.  Furthermore, Christiansen stated: "If Father Henry is proven to be tried and true, that he has taken care of some things in his life that go back twenty-three years ago, um, I'm willing to say, 'Okay, that was then this is now, come home.'"

     Has Bishop Christiansen learned nothing from the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church?  Willenborg has been living a duplicitous life for his entire priesthood and in his wake has left a series of wounded and scandalized people, and you, Bishop Christensen, would put him back into a parish where he is liable to abuse again?  Hypocrite!

     This is just another example of how the Catholic church is anti-women, and how the people in the pew support the system.  Many in the Catholic church have blamed the clergy sexual abuse of minors on sinful individuals (the whole church of sinners, but not a sinful church argument from Vatican II), but the truth is that many of the people in the pews want their abusive priests back.  They prefer the illusion of the vestment-wearing holy priest standing in persona Christi capitis and don't want to know (and thus don't give a fuck) about the children and adults that their revered clerics have abused.  As for Willenborg's congregation, the news report shows many parishioners saying they forgive their serial-womanizing and child-abandoning priest and want him back in their parish.  One of Willenborg's parishioners said: "We've all made mistakes.  Otherwise as the bishop said, 'We wouldn't need a savior.'"  Translation: it's okay for priests to abuse people, because god will forgive them.

     Conclusion: the complicit people in the pew are as much a part of the problem of abuse in the Catholic church, as are the deviant priests and bishops.

     Nathan Halbach's death is a tragedy.  The abandonment and abuse he and his mother endured at the hands of the holy Roman Catholic church is deplorable.  I can only hope that Mr. Halbach's bravery will make a difference in the life of others like himself, for that was his dying wish:
     Mr. Halbach said he knew there were other children like him who had been fathered and abandoned by priests, but it was such a taboo to talk about it that he wanted to give them a voice.
     Rest in peace, Nathan.  May your voice live on, never to be silenced.

Nathan Being Baptized by his Father, Fr. Henry Willenborg
Image Credit: Pat Bond

Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. 

-Attributed to Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 7:6)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A View from the Pew

     I've still received no word on Fr. Hate. It's as if he's been abducted by aliens. He's just gone. I'm very worried and doing all I can to find out what's happened.  The church his hiding something.  I hope he's okay.

     In lieu of my usual Sunday postings of my meetings with Fr. Hate, here's a reflection upon the funeral of the mother of my Super Husband Extraordinaire (SHE). 

            A View from the Pew

There is no god in the Huntsville Boulevard Church of Christ.  There are people.  There are pews.  There are bibles.  But there is no god.  Not for me.

Camouflaged by the tiny choir, I sit in the back corner of the naked church.  I wait to give voice to symmetrical hymns and latex lyrics.  A glimmer of grief grazes my consciousness, grief for the harmonies of my youth, my former life as a Catholic priest, days when there was no way out but through, no option but to deny oneself—the truth—for the glory of the kingdom, a kingdom in which I am no longer welcome.

Far away on the center aisle in the fifth pew from the front, my fianc矇 SHE sits alone, exposed.   The beloved Ms. Saint sits in front of him.  SHE’s family adores her—the ex— the last vestige of SHE’s “normal” life.  They never accepted him—for being a musician, for being gay.  They know nothing about his life.  Decades of atherosclerotic denial have dammed any flow of fondness for him that they may harbor in the bowels of their fear.   Instead, they venerate Ms. Saint, whom SHE has forgiven, to whom SHE remained true all those years that he knew Ms. Saint was cheating, when he knew that he was gay but was struggling to be straight for Jesus.  Divorce wasn’t an option in the Church of Christ.  Being gay wasn’t even on the menu.  And now, at his mother’s funeral, beatific Ms. Saint sits in front of SHE.

The pillow-like man to my right fidgets.  His pant leg grazes mine.  His fingers fumble through a stale songbook, although they’ve already located the first hymn.  His wedding ring needs a good shining.  To my left another married man with a permanent lemon-licking pucker keeps a more respectable distance like the evenly distributed married couples filling the pews, four inches of carnal security buffering them from their magnetic instincts.   Again, pillow-man’s leg punctures the body-space barrier kissing my knee.  He knows.  The forbidden voice from within is calling his name.  He can’t resist.  Still, he doesn’t inquire.  If asked, I am “a friend” of SHE’s old choir friends, for he’s in too much pain to speak the unspoken-yet-known truth, too weak to fight off the righteous condemnations that would ensue, and too exhausted to resist his shame, his function in the family’s dark dance.

SHE sobs alone in his pew.  I hate Alabama.  Each tear drives a reed under my toenails, spikes through my wrists, and a spear into my side.  I’m bound to the unfeeling pew by invisible chains, ancient chains.  I pull at them, but do not break away.  I remain in the chains for them: SHE’s dad, his sister and brother, and their families, the five generations that sit in the pews in front of my SHE.   

I know their stories.  I know about the deceased’s great-great-grandchild in the second pew.  I know of the hardships of his great-great-great-great grandfather, stories of generations past, family schism courtesy of the Civil War, the unceasing, unrelenting war.  Family stories mined from SHE’s exhaustive ancestral research come alive as I see his family for the first time, in the flesh, looking upon their matriarch, Ruth, who deceives us from the coffin with a blissful glow.  I sit.  I observe as the unknown entity, a nameless stranger who knows the intimate secrets and sin of their lives.  I’m a non-being, trapped in some out-of-body nightmare in which events progress, emotions drain, and daggers dressed as pious platitudes dance in the plastic preacher’s every other sentiment.

My body recalls, embraces even, how it felt—the closet.  My shoulders round forward.  My chest chokes itself into a knot.  Endorphins assault my extremities, pushing through capillaries into follicles.  My forearm hair stands erect.  My eyes dart, searching for signs.  Does anyone know?  Does anyone suspect who I really am?  My hearing sharpens as my comprehension clouds.  I filter through pleasantries, descrambling cadences for any indication that someone knows that I am other, I am gay, I am the scapegoat.  I sit alone in a sea of believers, people who profess that the truth sets one free and believe that Christ gave them the privilege to hit anyone different with their god-stick.  Drowning on the other side of the nefarious nave is my spouse, my SHE, and I am as powerless to help him as the corpse of his mother who stares peacefully at the stark rafters above.

There is no god in the Huntsville Boulevard Church of Christ. 

There is a preacher, who admires the sound of his voice as much as the crisp part in his greased mane, a preacher who would have failed my homiletics classes in seminary for his abuse of pious platitudes and random scriptural proof-texting, a preacher who knows only of Paul and Ruth what he wants to know in order to justify the rectitude of the prescriptions he hurls at his liver-speckled, white-haired, and white-skinned flock, a preacher who walks with an air of overconfidence and gestures with histrionics that betray the true nature of his closets, a preacher whose “inspired” wisdom has provided him with a kindergarten acrostic of a sermon.  

Ruth:  R is for reverent (Wife reveres husband.), U is for unselfish (Wife defers to husband.), T is for thankful (Wife thanks god for husband.) and H is for hospitality (Wife keeps house for husband).   

This preacher trains his flock to fear and condemn anyone different.  He continues the holy line of succession, the succession of bipolar bigots who hate their very selves “to the shame” and project their toxic denials onto the “gays and strays” of society.   

The preacher praises Ruth and Paul for what he knows them to be: reliable, loving members of the Church of Christ.  He omits half of the truth: they were parents who denied their children love and acceptance, a father who abused his children and belittled them as adults, a mother who let it happen, grandparents who put pious point-winning missionary travels above time with discarded grandchildren.  They are not perfect saints, as the preacher professes them to be, and there, SHE sits, an eternal void of saved souls separating us, skewering us.  Not a savior in sight. 

SHE weeps and wipes his wrinkled cheeks with a handkerchief.  My liver boils.  My spontaneously overgrown fingernail digs into the songbook on my lap leaving a mark, a divot that will never be repaired, a sign that I was there at Ruth’s funeral at 1:23 pm on Saturday, March 7, 2009.  I was there!  I am here.  We are here.  We will not go away.  You will not cure, erase, or crush our love, my love for SHE, his love for me.  We love.  We live.  You evenly-spaced stoic sour-faces catatonically propagating the status quo—you are dead, as dead as my lover’s mama in the casket before us.  You live in your closets, your fantasies.   I, for one, am finished.

I stand up and run down the aisle to SHE.  I embrace him, cradling the boy who misses his mama.  I don’t care what these religious bastards think.  I shout to the heavens.  The woman in front of me is an adulterer.  She’s not the saint Ms. Saint you have canonized her to be.  Paul wasn’t a loving father.  SHE hid under the bed when he came home from work.  My SHE was six!  He still has PTSD from the random beatings.  And on and on I preach the truth and expose the lies.

But I’m still in my pew with the choir, sight-reading another vacuous verse set to a three-tone bass growl.  SHE stares at the backside of the family that’s rejected him since his fourth birthday when he asked for paper dolls.  Together, everyone sings of the peace that the Lord Jesus Christ brings to those who confess the truth, and I bow once more to the god I have forsaken, the god I have outgrown, the god who failed to evolve with the truth of my human experience and history, a god who now takes his rightful place in the weathered acropoli of conquered civilizations, a god who is nothing more than myth grasping at power with fingers of dread, damnation, dependence, disgrace, and duplicity.  For one more day, I offer sacrifice to that god.   I bow and light fire to my dignity, my authenticity, my truth, and my love for SHE who wails abandoned to that heartless pew.  I sing Amen—and so it is—in Alabama.

My eyelid twitches.  My heart tightens.  My lungs resist breath.  I am in the closet.  I remain there a few more hours to spare people who know me not.  I spare them and sacrifice my love.  I loathe them, their preacher, their imaginary Santa Christ.  Never again, I promise myself.  Never again will I abandon my love, my SHE, to the jaws of their denial.  Never again.  

Postscript: The names of persons and places have been changed.