Feb 27, 2012

Loving Gay Blog for Bullied teens & NDE's of LGBT Persons

Found this truly delightful and refreshing gay site, SNEADY WILL UNITE ALL GAY LGBT,  devoted to the issues of young gay persons dealing with bullying and esteem issues. I had been following links to the latest tragic gay suicide (a 12 year old boy on Feb 17) when I came to this quite wonderful place. Well deserves a careful look. The blog author follows quite a few naughty, explicit nude sites - as can be seen in the following column on the right - but there is nothing explicit about his (or her?) own site. 

Here are just a few examples of the riches found on this blog:

And finally the story that brought me to this blog:

On another and very inspiring note - especially after contemplating the beautiful face of 12 year old James Dickinson above, who departed this life on February 17th after receiving over 200 email messages telling him to kill himself - a very kind reader of this blog has sent me some extraordinary links to detailed accounts of Near Death Experiences of gay and lesbian persons. Needless to say, they are a revelation - of unconditional love and acceptance on that other far distant shore. However, this is such a profound and significant issue that I need some time to do it justice and hope to post a full article by next weekend.

Feb 25, 2012

Red Lights for Cardinal Dolan

Whispers in the Loggia has a posting today about the decision of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to light up in red the still under construction One World Trade Center building, in honor of Timothy Dolan's elevation to the Cardinalate. This tribute will continue throughout the week, at who knows what cost. Such are the ways of the world and the mystique of power, proving once again that institutional religion is as much a hindrance as a help in enlightening the souls of human beings and leading them to a true understanding of the divine. But as Jeshu said so eloquently (through his scriptural interpreters), My Kingdom is not of this World. But the Cardinal is very much of this world and moves serenely and adroitly through the halls of power, while occasionally making a dramatic photo-op foyer into the neighborhoods of the poor, as he did this Ash Wednesday.

I don't wish to judge the Cardinal's sincerity in this photo, but I just wished he hadn't worn his pectoral cross so ostentatiously. What are we Catholics and catholics to make of all this. Well, for myself, I simply remember that such it has always been - ever since this elite little club of men came into existence in the 12th century. Judging by the reactions of ordinary Catholics in the pews these days, however, not to mention the many Catholic feet walking out the door, the allure of the Cardinalate is waning, all efforts of the Port Authority notwithstanding. While such it has always been, such it need not always be.  We are witnessing the demise of a particular institutional form of Christianity, and though it seems to be taking a long time dying, dying indeed it is, with signs of light and life springing up elsewhere - though not on the scaffolding of the soon to be tallest building in Manhattan, the 1776 foot high new One World Trade Center (even it's title is chilling, a reminder of the One World Order of the Neo Cons). How fitting that a monument to hubris and economic world domination should honor the hubris of Roman Christianity. Here we have the perfect poetic metaphor for the symbiotic relationship between mammon and religious power, as the bishops' turn to the right in the US so amply demonstrates. Yet such it has always been - so much so that it really is a fundamental archetype of human existence, the regally clad religious prelate hobnobbing with princes and kings, while the saints suffer and labor in the gutters and byways of the poor.

 But the Lord wishes us to have faith in his living, abiding presence amidst these signs of contradiction. Indeed, the sign of contradiction that the hierarchy has become today should only comfort us with the assurance that the Lord is near, hiding in the shadows of our trials and sorrows, but closer to us than the beating of our own heart. Trials of faith are meant to lead us to a deeper understanding of the living presence of the Spirit among us and within us, a living stream of gentle, live giving water that flourishes in the dark pools of suffering and oppression, and a Presence that recoils from the garish lights of human aggrandizement and folly. 

In light of these reflections, I was just reading last night from Bishop Carlton Pearson's wonderful, inspiring book, God is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu:

The purpose of the organized, institutional church is not to save anyone. The purpose of any organization, from churches to governments, is to perpetuate its own existence. It runs counter to the interests of any Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other formal faith tradition to declare that you can be free simply by adopting the Christ Principle, because then you will not need the church, and it will have no reason to exist....

George Orwell wrote in 1984, "The object of power is power." That is the idea that the Christ principal threatens. Christ was never about religion: He did not come here to found one. He was about personal awareness and self-discovery, the church that lies and lives within each of us. Organized religion is designed to compel its adherents to become addicted to the church, not God or Christ. Religion is a drug, and its most intolerant proponents are drug dealers who push ignorance. The addiction that millions have to religion has caused many destructive and abusive habits and criminality within human culture. Instead of the church being a spiritual rehab center for drug-free living, it has become the crack house where addicts get their hits. 

Religion cannot and will not survive true Christ consciousness. That is why it cannot tolerate Inclusion. The less religious you are, the more radically inclusive you become.

Very provocative words indeed. But I'm reminded of the humble figure of Dorothy Day, living day by day in the Bowery of New York, very much a Catholic living in her tiny niche, hidden  in the deep inner bosom of mother church - and then vigorously picketing the then Cardinal Spellman when he would commit some egregious shameful folly. The Christ principal exists within Holy Mother Church, but you have to look hard to find it and it will not be illuminated or celebrated by the garish red lights of the One World Trade Center.    Such it has always been, but will such it always be?

Feb 18, 2012

Cockblocking the Almighty and Transubstantiating Bishop Bucks

When the sword of satire pierces the armor of hypocrisy =

thanks to Bridget Mary's Blog for this hilarious take on the Catholic Contraceptive Controversy in the US.

Some of the one liners are brilliant.

from the very Catholic Collbert Nation:

The Madonna of Medjugorje on Contraception and Homosexuality

Quite by 'accident' (while exploring the present contraceptive tempest in a teapot in the US),  I came across this diatribe from an irate Christian complaining stridently that the Madonna of Medjugorje has had nothing to say about abortion, contraception or homosexuality in the past 'twenty five years,' since the article was written.  Shock, horror, but no surprise to me.

Since the word ‘abortion’ brought no results, I next looked to see how many times ‘contraception’ was mentioned in all of these hundreds of messages.  Same result – ZERO.  Well, how about ‘pornography’ – nope, a ZERO again.   What about ‘homosexuality’ or ‘sodomy’ – ZERO.  

     And yet these apparitions are supposed to be ongoing communications and warnings from the Blessed Virgin Mary urging us to turn back from our sins or else face great chastisements.  The holocaust of legalized abortion is the defining crime and offense of our era against God, with millions upon millions of innocent victims. For this cause alone, God surely has in store for us a great chastisement.  But in the public messages delivered over the course of the past twenty-five years, we do not hear one peep about abortion from the “Madonna of Medjugorje.” This is the kind of silence one would expect from that other false Madonna. 

Those of us in the gay community who feel drawn to Medjugorje (and we are many) would not be surprised in the least by this revelation and would take it as one more positive sign of the essential balance and health of the whole phenomenon at its core, despite the peripheral aberrations (which include, to be scrupulously honest, the visits of known priestly pedophiles to Medjugorje). The apparitions simply don't fit into the traditional conservative mindset. The very first sermon I heard in Medjugorje on my very first visit three years ago was from an Irish prelate reflecting on "St Peter in Chains." It is we, the devout Catholic faithful, who put Peter in chains, the priest explained,  by attributing to the Petrine office a constant, persistent, infallible authority it does not really possess. The prelate pointed out that Peter stumbles and falls just as often as he remains upright in the storms, and it is when we forget this and project upon Peter a sacred invincibility that is not rightly and humanly his that we contribute to the distortion of the Petrine office. Peter needs to be firmly confronted and chastised when he wanders off into the wilderness and misleads the flock. (This was clearly the case with Humanae Vitae and Contraception, a position almost universally rejected by the 'sense of the faithful.) While the Irish sex abuse scandal was not mentioned in the sermon, it hovered in the air and those of us in the audience (mostly Irish pilgrims) were certainly thinking of it.  Wow, I thought to myself, what on earth have we here, from the pulpit of the parish church of Medjugorje? Fatima this is not! A more profound examination of the problems of authority in the Church would be hard to find. However, what was even more impressive than the content of the sermon was the Irish priest's evident joy,  serenity and confidence in the protection of the Gospa, (as the White Lady is called), gracing us with her guiding presence and aiding us in healing the wounds of the Church. It was a quintessentially Catholic moment, far more profound and inspiring than the fawning adulation of authority that characterizes the false distortions of  tribal religion.  Hail Mary full of grace and indeed we were filled with grace on that Sunday morning, and the wounds of the sex abuse scandal and the distortions of authority in the Church seemed to dissipate before our eyes in the serenity and peace of Medjujgorje.

On another note, a reader of this blog very kindly sent me this link to a recent article on the apparitions of Medugorje in the distinguished journal of Transpersonal Psychology.

(Readers will have to copy and paste the above links, but the links below should work automatically.)

by Dr. Paul Cunningham. ( Part Two is here.) A look at his credentials revealed that he completed his BA degree at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence, RI. Evidently  he was at one time a Catholic candidate for the priesthood, but judging by his very sophisticated article he has moved far beyond the traditional Catholic framework of his youth. The article gives a very detailed and fair-minded survey of the various psychological theories that attempt to 'explain' the phenomena of the apparitions, and the possible psychological mechanisms behind them. You could not ask for a more up to date evaluation. The author's own perspective, which becomes clear by the end of the article, is very much a transpersonal, trans-cultural one, by which I mean he lifts the whole experience out of its explicitly Catholic context and examines it from a religiously pluralistic viewpoint. The most interesting question facing trans-personal psychologists today is not whether the apparitions are fraudulent or the product of psychological aberrations ( positions he rules out in light of the extensive psychological testing the visionaries have undergone over the years). Rather, the truly challenging areas of examination for psychologists and para-psychologists focus on the precise mechanism by which the images are created in the visionaries' consciousness. Assuming that there is a spiritual entity communicating to the visionaries (an assumption Cunningham does not take for granted), to what extent does this benevolent entity itself through a psychic energy transmission  'create' the image of a Croatian Madonna in the eyes of the visionaries and to what extent does this spiritual presence rely upon the psychic processes of the visionaries themselves to come up with the appropriate psychic images that conform to their own religious culture. This would then be a process that they would jointly communicate to each other telepathically. In other words, the visionaries would jointly 'create' the image most suitable to their own psychological development, but a creative process that is done in cooperation with a genuine, authentic trans-personal inspiration that is guiding them through the whole process . That is a very crude simplification of Cunningham's highly sophisticated, subtle and nuanced position. He ends with a call to psychologists everywhere to 'expand their metaphysical base,' because the present traditional scientific paradigm renders most psychologists incapable of doing true justice to phenomena such as the apparitions of Medjugorje. Cunningham does not assert unequivocally  that the apparitions are 'authentic,' (i.e. the product of a genuine spiritual disembodied being communicating to the minds of the young visionaries), but he does clearly lean in that direction. He also clearly understands that  this entire spiritual phenomenon far transcends it's limited traditional Catholic framework, which it has simply appropriated as a means of communication. Or to put it another way, the mystery of the Divine Black Mother God predates Christianity by thousands of years. And she is with us still.

Feb 13, 2012

Hedges on Havel: The Bishops on Contraception and Liberation Theology

 Chris Hedges has another powerful article at Truth Dig on the Occupy Movement -

In the mid section, he includes some moving references to Vaclav Havel, hero of the 1989 revolution in Czechoslovakia and the late former president of the Czech Republic, where I am presently in residence. No disrespect intended to Havel, who was a truly great man of his times, imbued with genuine wisdom and the spirit of non-violence, but he had his own quite understandable blind spots when it came to his perceptions of the West and the US in particular. He was a rather chummy friend of Madeleine Albright, one of the architects of the first Gulf War, and when he addressed the US congress shortly after his election to office, he praised the country as 'the great defender of freedom in the world.' When you have been oppressed so terribly for decades by the Russian bear, the psychological need must be very great to find signs of hope anywhere you can. However, recently I was reading Noam Chomsky's recent book, Hopes and Prospects, where he makes mention of Havel's speech to the US Congress. Without diminishing Havel's true stature, Chomsky does point out that 1989 was also the year that saw "the brutal assassination of six intellectuals, Jesuit priests, along with their housekeeper Julia Elba and her daughter Celina, by the elite Atlacatl Battalion, armed and trained by Washington. The battalion had just returned from a several month refresher course at the JFK Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg and a few days before the murders underwent a further training exercise run by US Special Forces flown to El Salvador. ....."

Chomsky concludes with some very somber words on the destruction of liberation theology in Central and South America, a demolition campaign that was jointly orchestrated by the most reactionary forces in Church and State in South America, the US government and its special forces, and most emphatically, the Vatican of John Paul II and Cardinal Raztinger. It's an old sad story by now, but it bears remembering, particularly in light of the  present hysteria among the US Catholic bishops over something as trivial as contraception. It is well to remember that behind such trivial obsessiveness lies a deep seated reactionary nature that aligns itself with the most violent and tyrannical forces. The two are inextricably linked. 

Chomsky goes on to say, "In the course of the terror and slaughter, the practitioners of liberation theology were a prime target, among them the martyrs of the Church whose execution in November 1989 was commemorated on the twentieth anniversary with a resounding silence, barely broken."

Chomsky wrote these words in reference to the ecstatic celebrations in 2009 of the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolutions in Central/Eastern Europe which brought down the communist system. He points out that the brutal US oppression of Central America and the 1989 martyrdom of the six Jesuits went virtually unnoticed, an oppression that left - " hundreds of thousands of corpses and general misery during a reign of torture, murder and destruction led by the Reagan administration under the guise of a war on terror...

"There has been much debate about who deserves the credit for the fall of the Berlin Wall...There is no such doubts about the demolition of the attempt to revive the church of the Gospels. The School of the Americas (since renamed), famous for its training of Latin American killers, proudly announces as one of its "talking points" that liberation theology was "defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army" - given a helping hand, to be sure, by the Vatican, using the gentler means of expulsion and suppression, particularly under the guidance of the Vatican enforcer, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict VXI....
"In 1977, the highly respected Jesuit priest Rutillo Grande preached in El Salvador of his fears that "very soon the Bible and the Gospel will not be allowed within our country. We'll get the covers and nothing more, because all its pages are subversive...And I fear, my brothers, that if Jesus of Nazareth returned...they would arrest him. They would take him to the courts and accuse him of being unconstitutional and subversive." His insight into policy was all too accurate. A few weeks later he was assassinated, again by much the same hands."

" The two events- the collapse of Russian tyranny and the destruction of the evil ways of the Gospel- were linked symbolically when the hero of 1989, Vaclav Havel, came to Washington shortly after the assassination of his Salvadoran counterparts. Speaking before a joint session of Congress, he received a thunderous applause when he praised the United States as "the defender of freedom." ...Commentators were deeply moved by Havel's explanation for the passivity of the Czech security forces when faced with the forces of 'love, tolerance, nonviolence, the human spirit and forgiveness.' If only the Salvadoran Jesuits had grasped these lofty thoughts when facing the guns of Washington's Altactl battalion"

(Photos taken from website: The El Salvador Martyrs)

Quotes taken from Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects: 1989 and Beyond, pg. 269-280

I've ruminated and quoted at such length on this issue because of my own  sense of exasperation at the present folly on display by the US Catholic Bishops over the relatively trivial issue of 'contraception and religious freedom.' Without belaboring the point, I wanted to make the connection with the larger context. This kind of mindset - focused so obsessively on the control of sexuality, and the oppression of women and gays - leads by a straight road of consistency to the destruction of religious movements that align themselves with the defense of the the powerless and the oppressed.  Hence the deafening silence of US Catholic Bishops over the recent Occupy movements. Contraception, women, gays and the poor - crush them all, when they seek to challenge the structures of power under the control of divinely appointed males.

Here are Hedges moving words on Vaclav Havel's philosophy or resistance.

All we have, as Vaclav Havel writes, is our own powerlessness. And that powerlessness is our strength. The survival of the movement depends on embracing this powerlessness. It depends on two of our most important assets—utter and complete transparency and a rigid adherence to nonviolence, including respect for private property. This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.

 Havel, who would later become the first president of the Czech Republic, in the essay writes a reflection on the mind of a greengrocer who, as instructed, puts up a poster “among the onions and carrots” that reads: “Workers of the World Unite!” The poster is displayed partly out of habit, partly because everyone else does it, and partly out of fear of the consequences for not following the rules. The greengrocer would not, Havel writes, display a poster saying: “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.” And here is the difference between the terror of a Josef Stalin or an Adolf Hitler and the collective charade between the rulers and the ruled that by the 1970s had gripped Czechoslovakia.
“Imagine,” Havel writes, “that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”

This attempt to “live within the truth” brings with it ostracism and retribution. Punishment is imposed in bankrupt systems because of the necessity for compliance, not out of any real conviction. And the real crime committed is not the crime of speaking out or defying the rules, but the crime of exposing the charade. 

“By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such, he has exposed it as a mere game,” Havel says of his greengrocer. “He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted façade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can coexist with living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.”

Those who do not carve out spaces separate from the state and its systems of power, those who cannot find room to become autonomous, or who do not “live in truth,” inevitably become compromised. In Havel’s words, they “are the system.” The Occupy movement, by naming corporate power and refusing to compromise with it, by forming alternative systems of community and society, embodies Havel’s call to “live in truth.” It does not appeal to the systems of control, and for this reason it is a genuine threat to the corporate state.

Movements that call on followers to “live in truth” do not always succeed. They failed in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, triggering armed insurgencies and blood-drenched civil wars. They have failed so far in Iran, the Israeli-occupied territories and Syria. China has a movement modeled after Havel’s Charter 77 called Charter 08. But the Chinese opposition to the state has been effectively suppressed, even though its principal author, Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year prison term for “incitement of subversion of state power,” was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Power elites who stubbornly refuse to heed popular will and resort to harsher and harsher forms of state control can easily provoke counterviolence. The first Palestinian uprising, which lasted from 1987 to 1992, saw crowds of demonstrators throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, but it was largely a nonviolent movement. The second uprising, or intifada, which erupted in 2000 and endured for five years, with armed attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, was not. History is dotted with brutal fratricides spawned by calcified and repressive elites who ignored peaceful protest. And even when nonviolent movements do succeed, it is impossible to predict when they will spawn an uprising or how long the process will take. As Timothy Garton Ash noted about Eastern Europe’s revolutions of the late 20th century, in Poland the revolt took 10 years, in East Germany 10 weeks, in Czechoslovakia 10 days.

Feb 12, 2012

Incorruptible Saints and Corruptible Hierarchs

My beloved iMac -intimate friend and support for the past four years - has died a sudden and unexpected death last Friday. Have yet to take it to the shop, but hope it's not too expensive to repair. Fortunately, I had backed up most of my files, particularly writing, novel in progress etc. Only when we are unplugged, do we realize how dependent we have become on our electronic lifelines = symbiotic, I believe is the word. I cherished this high powered computer because I could download HD quality movies and watch them on TV. Now, silence reins, which is welcome gift.

Still, life seems more peaceful without it, the weather has plunged into the nether-sphere here in Prague, about -16-20 Celsius, yet it's so glorious and beautiful out on my terrace at night - the air so cold it enters your lungs like tiny razor blades, yet so crisp and clear and fresh. The moon has been out for the past several nights and there are even stars visible. I was out on the terrace last night at 2am praying the rosary for twenty minutes - bundled up of course - but still, it must have been a strange sight. Neighbors across the way were peering at me from behind their steamy plate glass windows. Since I had a scarf wrapped around my face and a woolen cap, I must have looked like a ninja.

Every now and then I dip into the weirdness that is the United States at the moment, a truly deranged society if ever there were one, and twisted into so many alarming and abnormal shapes by the power of bigoted religion. I thank my lucky stars and the Holy Spirit that I've been graced to live outside the place for the past thirty years.  And the weirdness that is the Catholic Church - priests being fired for slightly altering the words of the Mass to suit the spiritual needs of their flocks and the themes of the day. Bishops on the rampage over contraception (contraception, still???, at this late date??? It's 2012 and people are still in a tizzy over contraception? Could anything be weirder or more unhinged?) Tribal religion - or rather religion that feeds the ego and not the spirit - seems to be in the ascendant at the moment, until we recall that goodness and sanity always speak with quiet, gentle voices, madness and irrationality and tribal pride bellow like buck toothed jackasses in the backyard - kicking everything in reach with their hind legs. So for the sake of my own peace of soul I ignore.

However, for another very inspiring trip into Catholic weirdness, I'm reading two very charming books by Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles and The Incorruptibles. So wonderfully weired and inspiring are the stories contained within - of miraculous bleeding hosts and incorruptible bodies of holy men and women - that I need another blog posting to do them justice. But they testify to an extraordinary repository of mystical grace and superannuated  phenomena right at the heart of the great Catholic tradition. So much so that it seems that hosts weeping blood and bodies of saints emitting the scent of roses are just as much a part of the Catholic tradition as are corrupt Popes with their 14 year old boy concubines. Corruption at the top and the scent of roses wafting from the tomb, the most appalling sexual crimes and the most sublime sanctity and heroism, co-existing side by side, the one somehow contained within the structure managed by the other - in many cases, the most incompetent,  venal and corrupt of administrators. How to fathom the mystery,  how to respond to it, how to discern 'God's Will' in allowing such evil to flourish and triumph? Certainly it is a deep and profound mystery and in some sense it seems clear that the criminal actions of purple robed hierarchs are meant for us as tests and trials for the soul, terrible temptations to faith. But the miracles remain, the signs of holiness constant and steadfast, and though many of the stories may be fanciful, products of pious folk religion, my own sense is that the vast majority of them are not. These accounts of miraculous hosts and incorruptible saints represent for the Catholic tradition the other side of weirdness and they deserve our reverence and respect. 

Dearly beloved Saints Werburgh and Wunibald, Saints Alphege and Waltheof, Saints Ubald and Benezet, Saints Sperandia and Peregrine, Saints Herculanus and Eustochia, Saints Arcangela and Osanna pray for us and bestow upon us some of the heavenly fragrance wafting delicately from your tombs.

As an addendum to this posting, I also recommend the other equally charming biographical books by this Catholic house wife, including Secular Saints, Saintly Women of Modern Times and Saintly Men of Modern Times. An astonishing range of holy laypersons = with names so bizarre and unrecognizable as to boggle the mind.  Saints who have murdered their parents, saints who have committed rape, saints with no religious vocation whatsoever, saints struggling with all of the contradictions of a sinful church and a sinful leadership, but saints nonetheless, grateful to the Church for the structure it provided their spiritual lives and grateful as well for the harrowing trials that catapulted them towards sanctity. I was truly shocked at the number of unknown saints with the most delightfully bizarre names (bizarre to an Anglo Saxon that is). So many of them with so many truly original stories. The books, of course, are all quite traditional, with nothing to offend the most conservative Catholic church goer. But I found them profoundly inspiring - with many lessons to impart to searching Christians of troubled faith. Truly astounding holiness achieved under the most trying of circumstances.

Feb 8, 2012

Evolution of Gay Rights in Under Seven Minutes

Came across this wonderful, inspiring seven minute video chronicling the advances in  Gay Rights over the past fifty years. Deeply moving to see these historical events compressed into such a short time frame, particularly in light of the recent ruling in California on Prop 8.

I've been in a silent place for the past several weeks (months) as personal events have turned my own life around - for the better one hopes. Not much inspiration for blogging, though I have been following the news at some of my favorite blogs, as well as the bi-monthly newsletter from Bishop Richard Mickley of One Spirit Diocese. Bishop Mickley heads the sub diocese of One Spirit in the Philippines and his primary focus is ministry to the LGBT community there, though his newsletter does contain news from around the world. I've been associated with One Spirit for the past year as an alternative Catholic community independent from Rome.

Lots of interesting developments lately, not least the recent ruling in California on Prop 8 and recent polling showing an increase in support of gay marriage by Catholics, 52% in favor up from 46% from a poll in 2010. What this clearly shows is that not only do Catholic leaders not lead the faithful in their opinions, they also act as a sign of contradiction, suggesting to discerning Catholics in the pews that their fanatical opinions are simply countersigns to the movements of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the more strident the pronouncements from the hierarchy, the more confident lay Catholics can be that the Spirit is not speaking through their leaders' stridency. That is to say, the Holy Spirit is not dependent upon  official leaders for the dissemination of wisdom and apparently not very impressed by them either - or to put it another way the Spirit of the humble carpenter, who had no official mandate as a religious teacher,  does not want us to be so impressed by the trappings of religious power. The Spirit does not work primarily through hierarchy, but in more hidden and humble ways, among the little folk, the outcasts, the obscure, the rejected, the unclean, the marginalized. "My ways are not your ways, says the Lord." Indeed. It seems we need to be constantly reminded of the all too human propensity to create false idols out of fallible, finite, limited and historically conditioned religious structures. Meanwhile, the Spirit of Love and Tolerance moves through the world in silent, hidden ways, overturning the pretensions of power both secular and religious. The message to be learned is that echoed by  Thomas Merton = in the face of leadership both secular and religious the first response of the conscientious Christian must be one of cautious, critical mistrust. The Spirit simply does not lead that way, much as we might prefer to project our insecurities upon self proclaimed infallible leaders.

On another note, I just finished watching gay playwright Kevin Elyot's BBC film, Clapham Junction -

Clapham Junction Poster
'36 hours in the lives of a number of gay men in Clapham, South London'

It received rather mixed reviews, and was roundly criticized for its rather bleak pessimism, but I found it quite engrossing in a gossipy, campy sort of way. It does deal with the very serious issue of gay bullying and the hazards of the closet, but much of the content and tone resemble the melodrama of soap operas. Also, given my advanced age, I wasn't prepared for the brazen full frontal nudity in a TV film. In one instance, a male character, (one of the bullies) is seen lifting his genitalia out of his shorts, pulling on his extended member, and massaging the whole package right in the viewer's face - since it fills the entire screen. It made for quite an eyeful. 'What the hell was that all about,' I asked myself, too taken aback to be titillated. I actually physically pulled back in my chair, so as not to get hit by the giant phallus. Is it expected of a gay themed film on the BBC that it must exhibit daring nudity in order to prove it's radical liberation? See how liberated we are from conventional bourgeois morality. Instead, it simply contributes to the perception that mainstream gay culture is rather decadent and addicted to sex for its own sake, divorced from any caring commitment to another human being (however brief such caring might be). And a little too proud of it's own daring, echoing one of the criticisms uttered by the  fastidious middle class lady at table, "It's so in your face." I couldn't agree more, Madam, and I'm as gay as a gander.   There was just something too ostentatious about the nudity, blurring the line between pornography and art. At the climax of the film, the '14 year old' boy ( who looks to be about 20) stands up nude in full view of the camera, giving both us and his 36 year old lover a clear shot of his tender parts. Some sort of statement was being made here, but I'm not quite sure what, especially since this was the closing shot of the entire film. Hmmmm?

And yet again on another note, I recently returned from the great Marian shrine of Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, which houses the miraculous icon of the Black Madonna, probably the most famous icon in all of Christendom, both East and West. A deeply prayerful weekend, in which I felt enveloped in silence, and specially blessed by the mournful Compassionate Madonna, who as always, blesses and affirms for me the grace and the gift of being gay.