Monday, May 31, 2010

is the vatican secretly pro-gay?

today's New York Times has an article about the Catholic church and the Vatican's clever decision to solve sex abuse issues by keeping gay men from becoming priests. all applicants to the seminary must now undergo a grilling set of questions involving not only their sex lives but what and who they fantasize about and even what they they about when they masturbating, which is interesting because masturbation itself is considered sinful by the Church--'the sin of self abuse.' but anyway i guess when you're asked who you think about while abusing yourself, you're okay if you say miss america but not if you say johnny weir.

most progressives, including myself, originally thought this idea of keeping (celibate) gay men out of the (celibate) priesthood was pretty awful. but then it occurred to me---there's nothing conservative about this! it's the most brilliant pro-gay gambit i've ever seen.

see, according to the general stats, only about 10% of men are gay. [10% of women too, but since lesbians are already kept from the priesthood by virtue of their unfortunate gender condition, they're irrelevant to this discussion.] so anyway, the problem for the gay movement is that there aren't enough gays to fight against the hegemony of the 90% of hets. now, with so few gays out there to ...well, be gay, the last thing the movement needs is to have any of its number living in monastaries and being celebate. what they need is for every man who has ever fantasized about another man while abusing himself to be out there in the world, being OUT, there in the world. so the poor rejected would-be seminarian who has the mistaken notion that God loves him too must then remain in the general culture, adding his presence to the gay community.

this leads me to wonder if we are also taking the wrong tack on 'don't ask don't tell.' sure, it's oppressive and unfair and disgusting. further, it puts our country is great danger: i heard the other day that gay soldiers having been sneaking up on sleeping straight soldiers and performing fellatio on them. this is useful to know, because it shows us that straight soldiers are taking way too many sleeping pills or have very serious sleep disorders, and thus are totally unprepared to fend off an enemy attack in the middle of the night. so to be patriotic, i really should suggest that we drop all current and past military regulations regarding sexuality, and permit only gay men to be soldiers, or at least we should do studies on whether even gay men sleep through fellatio.

but i digress. the real problem with gays in the military is twofold. one, they're being too busy in the military not asking and not telling to be openly advocating gay rights in the larger community. and further, people in the army die. that's what armies are for: you go out where people are trying to kill you and if you don't kill them first, you die. that also contributes to the lessening of the numbers of gay men (and, in this case, lesbians as well])who aren't out there marching in gay pride demonstrations.

so let them close forever those saintly and soldiery closet doors! keep those gay men and lesbians where they belong--out on the streets flaunting their lavender shirts and their ordinary humanity. can it be that deep down, this is what rush limbough is really dreaming of?

Monday, May 17, 2010

the sign of the cross

Last year I when i walked into the bathroom of my bedroom in the castle in which I live for 3 months of the year,something on the glass shower door caught my eye, and I gasped. A small, bright cross had appeared there, hanging in midair.

For a moment, I just stared. This had to be a sign. But of what? Should I return to the arms of holy mother church? Should I sell the shower door on eBay?

Then I realized. This was not a miraculous visit from god. It was a reflection from the new night light I had put on the opposite wall. The light itself looked normal, but its reflection looked…well, divine.

In truth, I hadn’t wanted it to be a miracle. I abandoned Catholicism 45 years ago, and for a long time after that I couldn’t bring myself to walk into a church. Twelve years of Catholic school can make a pagan of anyone. Eventually, I could return to churches to admire the architecture, even to pay a visit to the saint who had helped me get through the horror of adolescence. Saint Therese was like a childhood friend, outgrown but still beloved. It seemed nice to drop in and say hello when I was in the neighborhood. Later, teaching literature courses brought me into intense contact with the beliefs I had long since discarded, but an appreciation for Dante, however deep, didn’t reconvert me. My own thinking over the years has led me into various spiritualities, and I have come to appreciate the more mystical and humane aspects of Christianity. But I am certainly no believer. The cross had startled me for a moment, but so would a heart or an animal face or a flower shape.

Nonetheless, when I came back to the castle this year, I put the nightlight up with certain anticipation, even a slight misgiving: suppose the cross didn’t come back this term? It did. And, may the god of all doubters forgive me, I was relieved. No, I was happy.

It has continued to make me happy throughout the term, and I keep the shower door positioned to catch the reflection. Like the old plush cat I keep on my bed long after the age anyone has any business with cuddle toys, my cross gives me a sense of peace and well being. It doesn’t seem like what it represents, a torture implement for a scary nonconformist. Nor does it seem like the paradoxical symbol of conformity, fear, and inhibition I grew up with.

What it does seem like, I can’t figure out. My cat, my knuffeldier, in that gorgeous Dutch word--that’s no trouble figuring out. But the cross, bane of my child-existence? I don’t get it.

But I love it, I look for and at it whenever I pass the bathroom, I feel reassured by it . I have no impulse to bring the nightlight home with me, even if it would work with American electricity systems, even if I could recreate the position of its reflection. My knuffeldier, he belongs with me everywhere, and follows me loyally. The cross, however, belongs here, in my room in my castle. Maybe it’s the spirit of some knight who once lived here, or of some dragonsouled girl who dreamed of crusades she would fight, boy-disguised and triumphant. Or of all the students who have lived at the castle over the years, whom I have forgotten but never ceased to love.

Or maybe it’s only the reflection of a banal nightlight that keeps away dark dreams. But they are castle dreams, and it is a castle cross. Holy, then, after all.