Tuesday 14 October 2014

The Welcome Mat

You know, I've never been in a church in my life where people with same sex desires weren't welcome. In Canada sometimes one sits right up front beside the altar, as he is the priest. In theology school, there were so many gay guys around, one didn't really think about it that much. The men who got talked about were the ones who gave off no sexual vibes at all.

I could repeat some of those conversations, but I don't think I will. 

The Anglican squabbles about gay ministers always amazed me because by the time I was 18, I knew perfectly well there were gay Catholic priests. At the time I assumed that it really didn't matter if a priest were gay or not because it never occurred to my innocent mind that any priest would ever, ever, ever in a million zillion years give into sexual temptation. The Thorn Birds was a big, fat, lie, and so was that creepy priest in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. No wonder Victor Hugo had been on the Index, the impious wretch!  That said, when I heard about the Mount Cashel orphanage scandal, I did believe that the Christian Brothers had done bad things to the boys, although I was not sure what, exactly.

As far as I can recall, the "out" guys (and one "out" gal) in my Canadian theology school were very nice and, I think, popular. (The "out" gal was very bright, and the apple of her thesis director's eye.) There was a gay convert I really liked with children. His "partner" was a chaplain or a religion teacher (or both) in a Catholic school, and his ex-wife... I think there was something wrong with the convert's ex-wife, for he seemed to have full custody of the kids. I could be wrong.

Alas, there was some serious drama, for his Catholic school teacher "partner" announced that he wanted an "open relationship" and to see other men, and etc. So that was rather sad for my nice classmate, who had become a Catholic in the first place because of the influence of his "partner". 

As far as I know, none of our friends ever suggested he rat out his straying partner to his Catholic school employers, just as no-one ever, I mean ever, asked him or any of the other "out" gay guys (or girl) in a nasty way what they were doing in a Roman Catholic theology school. We weren't just "tolerant"; some of us girls were very fond of them--hugs all around--and they got along well with other guys, too. We were all Catholics together.

The only time I remember anyone saying that it would be much better for the nice guy to be broken up with his rat-fink boyfriend and pursue a life of chastity is when I told one of our friends that. I think she was a bit surprised by my attitude. But no matter how "progressive" an institution I have been in, I have never forgotten the faith as it was taught by Father Robert J. Fox of the Prayers for Young Catholics book I got for my sixth birthday.

The only (and I do mean the only) nastiness about any gay guy at my college was told to me by two other gay guys at the wider university, and I was very disturbed by the story. I took it to a priest-professor (rumoured, incidentally, to be gay), and he said he would take any necessary steps. The end.

What I am saying here is that any adult woman who has spent any significant time in Church circles in the past ten years has probably already met many, many church-attending Catholic homosexuals. There's no need for a rainbow sticker; anyone who wants to can go to Mass in a Catholic church. If, however, he or she tries to bring attention to his or her sex life in some immodest way, the average Catholic is going to feel uncomfortable, whether that person is a gay man or an ordinary woman with "a special friend".  And any kind of trying to bring attention to oneself as SPECIAL, somehow apart from the rest of the congregation--with political badges or sashes, for example---is most definitely disliked. 

I believe it is disliked among the priesthood, too, and I suspect (although I don't know) most gay priests do not share the fact that they are gay with all and sundry. For many of them, it's not even that important. Being a priest is more important. And the people they work with don't even mention it or think about it all that much. I remember a super-lefty priest I knew, who has now gone to his eternal rest, who was as campy as a bed-bug, but mostly I was concerned by his unhealthy bulk.

So I have thought often about this as I spent yet another day in front of the computer, reading about the Synod on the Family.

You may be wondering if anyone ever spoke to the students about the implications of their same-sex proclivities, and the answer is that I haven't the slightest idea. I never thought it was any of my business--until I heard the rotten allegations. The professors never talked about homosexuality, really, and it wasn't until I began my PhD elsewhere that I began to see signs of the so-called lavender mafia. And it does exist, my cherubs. It does exist.

Update: In case you are horrified by my matter-of-fact tone, I should stress that I grew up in a big city and joined a drama club as soon as I got to university. Thus, I have knowingly been around gay men since I was 19. I think the ones I knew at the club were very respectful of youthful and religious innocence. They were even protective--although I suppose it is an open debate who they were protecting. When a priest in an American city (we travelled) tried to seduce one of our guys, nobody told me until we had left town.

"But I could have told his bishop!" I wailed afterwards, horrified.

"That's why we didn't tell you," they said, which just goes to show that it is not just Catholics who cover up for sinning priests.

Meanwhile, I draw the line at dirty talk and having to watch gay men grope each other. But most gay men (or, to be orthodox, men with SSA) I have known socially have been very respectful of my religious-lady limits. Like other decent men, they sense that there are some things you just don't do and say in front of ladies.

1 comment:

  1. In the U.S., there was a big hurrah when the military dropped its "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I never heard anyone mentioning that it was the freedom to *tell* they were excited about, though, not the rule against *asking*. I'd imagine many people would like that part to have stayed, precisely for gay people who aren't out and don't plan/want to be.


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