Monday 29 June 2015

Just a Little Pinch of Incense...Don't You LIKE Caesar?

You can sing a rainbow, too.
I didn't get to sleep this morning until three because a childhood friend draped her Facebook photo with the rainbow flag. A Catholic childhood friend. The last person I expected.

My first Facebook acquaintances with rainbow flags were, unsurprisingly, out-and-proud men who self-identify as gay. Apparently one was once-upon-a-time distressed thinking that I did not know he was gay. He felt deeply worried about it, and asked B.A., and B.A. assured him that I knew, which annoyed me, as actually I didn't know. I never assume anyone is gay until he tells me he is. Occasionally I gather that a particularly hip and stylish Catholic pal with certain mannerisms might experience same-sex attractions, but I assume from the company he keeps and his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament that he lives a life of strict chastity, and if he should fall into sin, he drags himself to the confessional and does his penance like everyone else is supposed to do.

Anyway, my out-and-proud pal, of whom I am very fond because he is quite lovable, self-deprecatory and utterly without malice, has draped a photo with the flag, and I was not surprised. Oh well, I thought. Oh well.  I felt even more resignation about the gay chap I met in local literary circles; I'm amazed he's so tolerant as to want to be Facebook friends with Catholic me, but I'm glad as he is a gifted artist and well worth knowing.

When a Catholic professional stage manager I know draped her photo in the flag, I thought, with a little less resignation, Oh well. She's in theatre.  She might even experience SSA, although I don't remember her mentioning this at university.

But then I espied another Catholic friend, a married mother of multiple children, covered in the rainbow stripes, and I was shocked. Holy crap, I thought. I don't believe it. It wasn't that I thought she wouldn't be PC; she lives a PC kind of life. I guess I hadn't  realized how far PC has gone.

I began to go through all my Facebook friends. A Catholic Studies PhD grad in the stripes--Being a smartass as usual, probably. Girl I knew in high school--Well, I have long thought she is ashamed of her Catholic upbringing and tried to hide it that time. Musician--Not gay, but not Catholic either. And then--Oh no...WHAT? This makes no sense!

But even then, I could see that from a sense of compassion she might do it. Or from love of child. "What if your child turned out to be gay?" people ask mothers, and  the mothers hug their babies and inwardly pledge to accept their children and their decisions no matter what. In a moment of maternal tenderness, this woman might have thought "Well, Caesar's not so bad"--he was a baby once--and chucked a pinch of incense before his statue.

Because that's what it comes down to, doesn't it? Nobody blames the average pagan Roman for having burnt incense before the gods of his nation. He didn't know any better, and he thought it a noble civic thing to do. And, if we think charitably, we might even see why the Romans were cheesed off at the Christians--widely rumoured to be utterly hateful people, said to do hateful things, especially to children--refusing to embrace the famous Roman tolerance of all things religious. The Romans adopted all kinds of foreign gods. The more the merrier. Plus, the Christians apparently hated Rome so much they burnt it down, etc., etc., etc. The very fact that they wouldn't burn teeny tiny pinches of incense before a statue of almighty Caesar... How intolerant can people be?!

We have many stories of Christians refusing to burn the incense and dying horribly yet paradoxially gloriously because of it. We don't have as many stories about Christians just going ahead with it and burning the incense, although my Asian Theology prof  LOVED stories like that. He practically licked his lips as he related the tale of some Japanese ruler nattering triumphantly over a tortured, broken formerly-Christian European missionary. Nice, eh? Must check to see if the prof is still a priest.

Anyway, the conclusion of this rant is that it almost doesn't bother me that men I know to be openly gay have wrapped themselves in the rainbow flag, but I am utterly horrified that married Catholic women raising their children as Catholics have. I wonder if they actually know that there are thousands of people with same sex attractions--particularly Roman Catholic and other Christian people with same sex attractions-- ho do not attend Pride parades, and do not fly the rainbow flags, and who might not appreciate such token gestures of "solidarity."

Meanwhile, and more pertinent to my own experience in life, I wonder if they know what a scandal they, the  flag-draped-married-Catholics, are even to Catholics who do not struggle with those kinds of sexual temptations. e.g. me. It's scary enough to be a tradition-loving Catholic in the UK, to say nothing of the arts world, to say nothing of the theological world, without ordinary people-in-the-pews suddenly forgetting on what marriage is.

I have to say I have a heck of a more respect for my funny, friendly out-and-proud pal, whose name I bring before the Divine Mercy whenever I remember, e.g. now, than I have for such PC Catholics. So shocked. So disappointed.

On the other hand, perhaps they're just not that bright  just didn't think it through.


  1. I was talking this very thing over with a friend of mine last night -- we were both surprised both by the people on our friends list who rainbow-ized their profile picture, and by some of the people who didn't. I was particularly interested to see the number of people my age (late twenties / early thirties) from my parents' church back home who put the flag up -- and wonder a bit what's going on there. For my part I've been reading a lot and not saying much... but I did quietly change my profile pic to a shot from our (Christian, heterosexual) wedding.

    1. Christine! Some of my married (straight -- there's no gy mrrge in Australia) friends have put up wedding day pics too! I suspect for that purpose -- asly alternative to the rainbow. I LOVE IT. Post more, please. I'm serious. If I were married, I would do it. A picture speaks a thousand words.

    2. Yes Julia, lots of Catholics are putting up their wedding pictures for that reason. A single friend put up her parents wedding photo which I thought was lovely.

      Aussie girl in Australia

    3. I just put up mine, with my baby as a cover photo!

  2. Reading a lot and not saying much is probably the best way to go on Facebook. I "Vatican flagged" my own photo and went to bed wondering if I would have the same number of Facebook friends in the morning. I do.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I've been extremely disheartened by it all, too. Some friends who I know don't use contraception were posting things in favor! I mean, shouldn't that give you a better idea what sex is for??? And that homosexual sex is NOT for that/that is not how they have babies "together."

  4. Someone came up with a prize-winning slogan. "Lovewins" is the "My body, my choice" of the 21st century, and just as logical.

    1. "Surrogacy" and other forms of assisted reproduction technology are going to become more and more important issues as a result of that SCOTUS decision. There is a movement afoot to ban them, especially surrogacy, which is much worse than many Catholics realise. Here are some links:
      Risks of surrogacy and IVF to women, children:

      Battle against surrogacy:

      For a discussion of where gay rights advocates will now carry their battle, see here:

      Alias Clio

    2. Auntie,

      That slogan isn't original, it's the title of a book by a Protestant clergyman arguing that Hell doesn't exist.

  5. And in both cases, children lose.

  6. I suppose the other thing that really bothers me, as an American, is that we are a country founded on democracy. Yet the fact that this was utterly undemocratic (and in fact overturned democratic decisions on many states) seems to bother no one. Because, equality. Love etc.

  7. Yeah, that's pretty bad, too.When it comes to freedom, a much worse situation than Ireland--although Ireland's Catholics left me almost as gob-smacked as my rainbow striped Canadian co-religionists.

  8. Oh, Seraphic (and others), I feel your pain. One of my Catholic friends (not a close one) who should know better posted a status that quoted some Jesuit (what a surprise) and it was all about Church = Mean and Gay = Oppressed Victim. The combox on that one was interesting, but very polite too. This friend appears to be a fan of Card. Marx et al. Woo hoo.

    The thing that surprises me more than the rainbow overload on my newsfeed is the small but significant number of people who I would have expected to post rainbows and who haven't. It's not as if they'd be unaware of it. They clearly, for some reason or another, thought, "Nah".

    People, there is already a push for group marriage/"polyamory". The fact that people can't or won't see that is insane. People like to roll their eyes about the slippery slope, but it's real.

    Abrtn was initially supposed to be there to "save the mother's life" (or for rape, or for other "exceptional" circumstances). Now, in my region, we can abrt babies up to birth for any or no reason and it's, like, totally no big deal. Same deal with IVF -- initially supposed to be for infertile married couples, now for whoever wants it. This will be no different.

  9. (By the way, I love the picture and the caption.)

  10. I don't normally comment on this blog, but I'm a longtime "Eavesdropping Male" on the old Seraphic Singles blog. That is why this comment is anonymous.

    Regarding the matter of Facebook rainbows, one of my friends forwarded this Facebook post. It was written by a certain Filipino named "Patrick Lim":

    "Two days ago, I changed my profile pic to one with the rainbow to congratulate the American LGBT for their win.

    Today, I'm taking it off. Not because I'm taking back my congratulations but because I feel that I have to take a stand.

    Yes, I am a happy gay man living a happy and contented life with my partner. We are both happy that our LGBT brothers and sisters in the US can now have the legal rights that married couples enjoy. However, it wasn't just a legal right that was passed, it was called marriage. Bhebhe and I do not want that for ourselves.

    Why? While we are gay, we are also both devout Catholics. Our view on marriage (and you may call it clouded by our faith but it is what it is) is aligned with the teachings of the Church. We know we are never going to be married in the eyes of God and the Church and we are ok with it. We are happy that the people around us are accepting (not tolerant) and loving. For us, that's enough.

    Over the last 24 hours, I saw posts here in Facebook about some South American LGBT activists celebrating Pride by mocking Jesus and the crucifixion. I am not even going to repost that as it is disgusting! We ask for respect and equality, we should know how to give the same. To me, mocking someone's faith and God is the most disrespectful act that any person can do.

    So yes, congratulations for the win on legal rights (I won't call it marriage). But please (and yes I am aware that it wasn't the Americans who did it), don't mock my faith and my beliefs.

    Respect demands respect. That is equality.


    Very few people posted their actual thoughts on the rainbow flag picture thing, despite it cluttering Facebook all over now. It's good to hear from one of them.

    Times of persecution have always given the Church many saints. These times will be no exception, and we will see many "gay saints". The gays will be persecuted on both sides - by us Christians for being gay, and by the secularists for being Christians. We should be praying for them.


  11. There are many seriously dodgy points in this post, beginning with the affirmation that the man has a partner. He doesn't have a partner--unless they are in business together--he has a friend. If they are devout Roman Catholics living a life of chastity, they do not share homosexual embraces, and so I do not see what the big deal is.

    I note the writer's pride that people around "ACCEPT" not just TOLERATE their living arrangement or soi-disant partnerhood or whatever it is. This is a slap in the face to Christians who do indeed, out of charity, tolerate something Scripture forbids. Many Christians resent the idea that they MUST accept, not merely tolerate.

    It's good that Patrick Lim finds the mockery of Christ disgusting. So it is. However, his Facebook post will be used to get Christians to be more "accepting" of the unacceptable. Meanwhile the only "gay saints" are those people with SSA who live lives of heroic chastity.

    Roman Catholics know very well that it is wrong to "persecute" people with SSA. We even do them the dignity, whenever possible, of refusing to define them by their sexual inclinations.

    1. Whenever possible, I use the word "gay" only to refer to men who tell me that they are "gay" and who make it plain that they do not attempt to live a life of heroic chastity. Naturally it is tempting just to write "gay" for everyone, as "people who experience same-sex attractions" is much longer to write. However, we really shouldn't.

    2. Hi Auntie,

      Yes, I do realize the problems with this post - especially when he mentioned his "partner".

      That said, not only is it notable that he took off his rainbow picture because Christ was being mocked, but he explicitly cited his belief in the Church's teaching on marriage (which he distinguishes from mere "legal rights").

      Don't get me wrong - Patrick isn't a "gay saint" just yet, but I can see that his Catholicism has soaked in a lot further than many self-identifying Catholics. As our faith teaches, and also from personal experience, everyone (gay, straight, whatever) is at least a little screwed up, and yet everyone can become saints.

      It's dodgy, but at the same time a little encouraging. And more to the point of your original post, he actually states why he has (or in this case, no longer has) rainbows superimposed on his picture.


  12. Expat Housewife6 July 2015 at 08:39

    Americans are a minority among my FB contacts but still, not a single one rainbowflagged themselves. Not even my progressive brother who faithfully follows all of the liberal agenda (and lives in the USA). But an Indian friend did, and a Japanese, as well as a Croatian who was in my church youth group years ago. Weird, all of it. I think that they have not thought it through (to put it charitably) and don't really understand the consequences of SSM. I guess it makes them in step with the western world, but without having their kids indoctrinated into all sorts of things by the government, and a number of other happy things that follow from this.


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