Dec 26, 2013

Tom Daley's Christmas Cheer

Young Olympic diving star, Tom Daley, who 'came out' several weeks ago, is taking his newly acquired title of "Gay Icon," with a bit of whimsy - and with the help of some of his friends. Tom posted these photos on his Facebook page yesterday, and he has a rueful expression on his face as if he's not quite sure of what to make of it all. It appears as if his best (girl) friend and the first recipient of his confidences about his same sex attractions was the principal gift bestower - from the brightly wrapped packages with the rainbow ribbon to the rainbow socks and the cheeky apron. Note the hairy legs.  There is certainly no doubt that Tom himself and his public witness are precious Christmas gifts this season for the youth of the LGBT community. Tom has gone from being the wholesome, decent boy next door to the wholesome, decent gay boy next door, and he's made the transition with hardly a burp or a stumble. 

Dec 25, 2013

Christmas Blessings

On this Christmas Day in Prague, I give thanks for the many blessings of this year, both personally (and they have been many) and more universally, of which I place the arrival of the holy and compassionate Pope Francis at the very top of the list. Despite the frustrations of some gay activists at Francis's seeming lack of haste in redressing injustices to gay folks and making the institution truly more welcoming to us, I've felt his slower, more cautious approach is the more effective one in the long run, and seems truly inspired to me.

Here is a comment I found on the Being Liberal site which reflects my own sentiments exactly.

Whether it is intentional on his part or not, by opening the possibility for changes driven from the trenches, Frances has a better chance of moving the church forward than if he decreed change.  Seeds for how the church can change after his time will be planted, as well.  Plus, he is less likely to suffer kickback from the "conservative" leaders or worse if a groundswell begins.

And so among the many blessings I am grateful for this year, the appearance of this holy man at the helm of the bark of St. Peter appears to be the most auspicious. My only qualification would be that the above commentator's optimism regarding kickback may not be entirely realistic. There is no doubt that Francis is angering many very powerful people with his incisive criticisms of our present economic situation. May blessings and wisdom be upon him and may he be protected from the dark forces that always arise in response to such unmitigated goodness and courageous truth-telling. 

Dec 22, 2013

Dec 21, 2013

Blessings from Utah

What an inspiring gift we have all been given at the beginning of this Christmas season by the news coming out of Mormon Utah. Gay marriage has arrived in the most hardened state of the US union. What a joyous noel. 

Praise be to the Lord and Lady of the Universe watching over all of us. What a prophetic sign of contradiction for fundamentalist religions everywhere (and totalitarian states reincarnating themselves such as Putin's Russia). Them walls of Jericho will indeed come tumbling down with a loud and riotous clatter and shouts of joy and cries of release. Day by day in the face of religious intolerance, the Spirit shows her life giving Presence, not (usually) in the marbled corridors of ecclesiastical power, but more often down among us little people struggling to survive day by day without pomp and purple and circumstance. Blessings have come upon us all and let us be grateful for these brief moments of light and grace. May they continue to grow and may our faith and trust in a loving Providence continue to increase in the face of doubts, temptations and those dark, grey moments when 'God" seems all too silent. For this moment at least, the heavens shine and we are blessed.

And for some of the most joyous iconic moments of the year for LGBT people, especially transgendered, click here.

Some heart warming photos:

Dec 10, 2013

Tom Daley's Outing and Mystical Grace

(Tom Daley  in Houston a few days ago, with new found boyfriend Dustin Lance Black holding back in the background.)

Mystical Grace - I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, linking to my previous post about the disarming and candid 'self-outing' of young Olympic diving star, Tom Daley a few days ago. Most of the fanfare and hoopla has died down by now, to the relief of many readers of UK papers, who were becoming slightly irritated by all the attention, and the numerous articles day by day. Nonetheless, putting aside one's reservations about the current obsession with celebrities and their intimate lives, the disclosure of teen Tom's relationship with another man caused shock waves across the athletic world and was a genuine 'event' of some significance for the LGBT community. Some of the most sensitive reflections were posted in the Guardian newspaper, with numerous comments spanning the full spectrum from heartfelt gushing support to nasty homophobic jibes (in the minority, thank the Lord). Only Tom Daley, I think, could manage to make the jibe "Gay Boy" appear to be a compliment, something sexy, charming and fashionable. 

I followed the case with some interest because I'm currently writing a novel with a young gay teen love story at its heart (modeled on the lives of several of my students). So anything of a gay teen love element draws me in, ever hungry for verisimilitude in my own writing. (Hard to be in touch with the vibes of the young when you are 70 years old). See a bit of gossip from the Daily Mail here. 

And so it was that I was thoroughly charmed by Tom's story of 'love at first sight,' his first encounter with his new partner, Dustin Lance Black, an encounter that turned him around and upside down and led to his recent disclosure of same sex attraction. Unless Tom is being disingenuous, the story does seem like a remarkable coincidence, too much so to be chance. Is there an element of divine whimsy at work here, a loving providence leading two souls together at just the precise moment.

For in fact, Dustin Lance Black is not only an Oscar winning screenwriter (for Milk), he is also a prominent LGBT activist. Tom claims that when he saw him from across the room at a party, he did not know his name or his identity or even "if he was gay." The fact that Tom used the 'gay label' in that sentence during a spontaneous interview is revealing. He does know how to use labels when convenient. He felt an irresistible force drawing him towards the older man, but was too shy to speak to him directly. So he jotted down a short note with phone number and winky face and slipped it into the notes Black was carrying. The next day Dustin Lance texted him and the two have been together ever since. 

Quite romantic and if true, quite astounding as well as a coincidence. There are moments in our lives when grace manifests itself in a clearly sensible way, illuminating with a sense of interior warmth and attractiveness a particular person within our horizon or a moral choice to make or a city or country or profession we feel drawn to. The Spirit moves where she will. Taking this story at face value (there are others who claim friends of the couple arranged to introduce them), then, it means that one of the world's great teen athletic celebrities was drawn unwittingly to seek out one of the western world's most prominent gay activists, precisely the caliber of man who would be able to steer young Tom through the ordeal of coming out as a major teen celebrity. Was providence at work here in a loving and compassionate way? I would like to think so, since the impact of this story on gay youth has already been considerable. A moment of mystical grace leads young Tom Daley to his first romantic gay partner.

However, there are the nay sayers within the gay community and some catty rather amusing gossip as well, much of it dissing Lance, as he prefers to be called, as a chicken hawk and predator of the young with a history of going after teens. There are even salacious details emerging about his previous sexual peccadilloes. It's all a bit nasty, but it does inject a dose of reality into the glowing, rosy story.

Yet, I prefer the original version, unsullied by suspicions and innuendo. As one commentator in the Guardian noted, the story of Tom's outing so moves us because we feel we 'know him  so well', due to his candor and honesty over the years. He feels like one of the family, if not a son, then a beloved nephew or distant cousin for whom we have some concern and care. I trust his basic honesty in accounting the manner of his meeting his new love - he saw him from afar without knowing his identity or sexual orientation, felt inspired to make the first move, and found himself to his great surprise, falling heedlessly and hopelessly in love. Such are the mysteries of providence and the Spirit of Love who moves through our hearts in mysterious ways, healing all of the dark corners and crevices where fear lurks and festers, bringing to light all of the dark motivations and expunging them, so all is light and love and peace.

Peace and joy be upon the couple as they embark upon this new adventure in their life journey. I wish them well.

One day someone will hug you so tight that all your broken pieces will stick back together. 

Tom Daley in a recent tweet. 

Dec 2, 2013

Tom Daley Comes Out

The news has already become viral over the rainbow blogosphere and internet in general, but young UK Olympic teen star, Tom Daley " came out" this morning on his Facebook page, admitting that he was in a relationship with another young man, an event that both surprised him and turned his life upside down. "I'll still fancy girls," Tom said, undoubtedly as a way of softening the blow for his millions of young female fans. Yet his new relationship felt 'right' and made him 'feel safe,' an interesting comment that is designed to elicit comment and speculation. He has taken the cautious, step by step approach to coming out, by first implying that he is 'bisexual,' as with so many of my young high school students. But as we've learned from experience, this is frequently just the crack in the door that leads to full acceptance of one's essentially gay identity, preferring men to women as long term partners. Full disclosure and admittance for many young teens is simply too difficult and painful. This must be doubly so for such a young, prominent teen celebrity, and no doubt Tom is being sincere in stating he fancies girls as well. It's simply a matter of which gender one can give one's whole heart and soul to unreservedly. No wonder he looked haggard and stressed in the video, and minus his signature dazzling smile. This must be quite a stressful event for a young 19 year old used to the public eye. Comments on his facebook page were uniformly positive, with the occasional tactless and insensitive comment from Neanderthals, intermingled with the loving support. Some commentators implied he shouldn't have made it public, that it was nobody's business and smacked of too much teen melodrama. How obtuse and lacking in insight. 

I'm commenting on this event today because by coincidence I was on line on Facebook when Tom posted the video, and so saw it instantly as it happened (along with 1, 500,000 other people I'm connected to Tom on Facebook). This was quite a shock, as it was completely unexpected - at least by me. Some commentators tried to make it seem obvious, but I hardly think so. In retrospect, perhaps, and given the fact he wasn't dating some famous teen fashion model or visiting strip clubs like the precocious Justin Bieber. Tom seemed so wholesome and 'boy next door,' too 'normal' for anything so edgy and daring as a same sex relationship. Of course we are all dying with curiosity to know who his partner is and to get a good luck at him. Lucky fellow, what a catch!

This is momentous news for the young gay teen community worldwide and undoubtedly young Tom Daley has already inspired countless numbers of suicide prone gay teens to continue valiantly with life's challenges and possibilities when such an outstanding role model is among them.  God bless you, Tom, for your heartfelt revelation and best wishes for a long and love filled life. 

The video can be seen on youtube here.

Nov 24, 2013

Photo of the Day and Gay Sex in the Vatican

Photo of the day is an amusing photo accompanying Vanity Fair's recent article, The Secret Lives of Vatican's Gay Cardinals, Monks and Other Clergy. Though everything is vague, nothing is specific , and no one is named, it has the "feel" of an authentic inside look. Little is shocking about it, most quite plausible, not much all that scandalous. However, a dark picture emerges of closeted men with no confidence they would be cared for or protected if they came out of the closet. As Pope Francis has said recently, no one has come up to him wearing a 'gay identity card' yet. No cabal or gay lobby, no power faction, but many hidden, secret lives, some deeply repressed and dangerous, others less so, some faithful to their vows, others promiscuous - scandalously so. One comes away from the picture wondering who causes more harm, the self loathing repressives supporting twisted doctrines or the corrupt hedonists soliciting young seminarians as prostitutes. Either way .....

Pope Francis is scheduled to meet Vladimir Putin. Geoff Farrow wonders if the wellbeing of LGBT people in Russia will be sold down the river for a sweet deal between Vatican and Russia or whether good Pope Francis will confront the infamous premier. See full article here.

Unfortunately, my computer crashed recently and photos posted on this iPad I'm using don't usually appear. But it's worth a try. Here is the witty article photo from Vanity Fair. It's wistful thinking of course. If only.......perhaps Gene Robinson would wear such a rainbow mitre.

Nov 16, 2013

Possessed by Demons; Gays, Catholics and the Death of Garcia Lorca

(Gay Demons within the bosom of Mother Church)

I've taken a hiatus on blogging for the past several months, while working intensely on a novel set in Prague, a political thriller with a gay teen love story at its heart. The book and the research associated with it are taking up most of my time, so my apologies to any regular visitors to this blog for my unexplained silence and absence. The Spirit moves where she wills, so to speak, and I haven't felt any particular inspiration to reflect or comment on spiritual issues and events for some time now. I also have continued difficulties with my vision, as a result of the minor stroke I suffered some months ago, resulting in 'double vision.' It's doubtful my vision will ever return entirely to normal, but when my eyes get tired - particularly from long hours on the computer - then the vision deteriorates, making it impossible to write. So the hours of good vision are precious when writing a book. 

However, I've kept one eye open on religious and spiritual issues within my range of interests. Recently, I've been following the discussion at William Lindsey's superb blog, On Bilgrimage, about the continued frothing hate displayed by the US Catholic hierarchy towards gay people. The discussion at the moment focuses on the bizarre - and frightening - announcement by a Catholic prelate, Bishop Paprocki by name, that he is planning to perform a very public exorcism re: same sex marriage. This from the Chicago Tribune.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said he will offer prayers for "exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage" at the same time Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the same-sex marriage bill into law next week.
Paprocki said he will offer the prayers intended to cast out evil at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the state's capital Wednesday. . . .
An exorcism, which often refers to a rite performed on a person, is applicable in the case of same-sex marriage because the devil can appear "in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the church," the Diocese of Springfield said in a statement.

(The above quote has affected the formatting from here on in.)
Living here in Prague, where the ashes of gays, gypsies and Jews carted off to concentration camps still lingers in the air, this suggestion is horrifying and depressing, as is the lackluster, ho hum response of most centrist Catholics. What is there to get excited about?   The insanities of the Nazi's were treated with the same studied indifference and passivity. Surely no one could possibly take them seriously. Yet taken seriously they were, how deadly seriously for gays, gypsies and Jews. How little we learn from the tragedies of the past. For those interested, please consult William's blog, On Bilgrimage, for further discussions and much commentary. For myself, I don't have the heart to say more about the bizarre happenings in the American church, and since a picture speaks a thousand words, here is one that says it all most eloquently:

On to other matters, I've been reading Leslie Stainton's moving biography of the great Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, killed in 1938 by the fascist Spanish guards during the infamous Civil War, both for his political sympathies for the poor and for his gay sexuality, which greatly offended the Spanish Catholic Fascist sense of machismo. Lorca was indeed 'possessed' by demons and had to go. Stainton's book is entitled, Lorca: A Dream of Life, and is the first English language work that deals in a straightforward and honest manner with Lorca's sexuality, linking it  to his death. For those unfamiliar with this great Spanish poet and playwright (The House of Bernada Alba, Blood Wedding, Yerma), he is indeed a gay icon and martyr of our times and deserves to be honored as such. Unfortunately, for the past seventy plus years since his death, his sexuality has been obscured by Spanish commentary, because how could Spain's greatest modern poet be anything less than a 'real man.' Stainton's biography goes a long way to rectifying this gross distortion. 

Lorca's principal biographer, Ian Gibson, sidestepped the issue of his sexuality in his monumental first book, Frederico Garcia Lorca: a Life. '

However, Gibson has recently rectified his glaring omission (it's about time!)  by publishing a separate volume that deals directly with Lorca's sexuality, setting the record straight at last and helping to remove the distortions of the last 70 years (which Gibson himself contributed to) that have obscured the 'demon possessed' sexuality of "Spain's greatest modern poet,"  a sexuality so at variance with traditional Spanish machismo, and therefore one dare not speak its name. Unfortunately, this book has yet to be translated into English. The book is entitled Lorca Y El Mundo Gay (Lorca and the Gay world).

A 1996 film, entitled The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca (or Death in Granada), and staring Andy Garcia in the title role, didn't simply obscure Lorca's gay sexuality, it completely reversed it, no doubt to protect Mr. Garcia's Latin Lover movie star image. The movie really chronicles the exploits of a very handsome, very hetero young Hispanic journalist, played by Esai Morales, who journeys to Spain to uncover the "facts" about Lorca's death. In the course of his sojourn, he falls in love with the daughter of one of Lorca's executioners, and in order to marry her, decides to conceal the role of his future father in law in Lorca's death. Needless to say, apart from the identity of this one criminal, the journalist discovers no answers to questions of motive about the killing. Lorca's sexuality? Not even a hint of a suggestion that it was an issue. This is a hetero movie from start to finish, as attested to by the very macho images on the poster,  and no hint or suggestion of anything "aberrant" can be allowed. 

Swinging to the other extreme, the 2008 film, Little Ashes, explores the alleged sexual affair between Garcia Lorca and the very young Salvadore Dali. Lorca's sexuality is faced head on and the repressed homosexuality of Dali, who first shows up looking like a drag queen,  is also bravely addressed, in the face of demurs from Ian Gibson, also Dali's biographer, and other critics who simply take at face value Dali's dubious assertion that he 'was not homosexual.'  The drawing power of the film stems from the starring role of Dali, played incongruously by the gorgeous Robert Pattinson, fresh from his role in the Harry Potter series, and prior to his mega role as the vapid, pale vampire in Twilight (though the film was released after the first Twilight, causing something of a sensation). As Roger Ebert notes in his review, the film gives evidence of Pattinson's willingness to take on daring challenges that stretch the limits of convention. However, it is the stunning presence of Spanish hottie newcomer Javier Beltran that carries the film, in a bravura performance of depth, passion and subtlety - with nary a limp wrist in sight. 

The film is a touching, sweet, deeply moving (if slightly slow moving) fictionalized portrayal  of a romantic liaison between Lorca and Dali, one which is never completely consummated sexually, except indirectly as Dali (a known voyeur in his later life) watches and masturbates to the scene of Lorca making love to a woman while gazing passionately into Dali's eyes. It's the most powerful scene in the film,  and suddenly everything I had always felt about the strange, eccentric, very 'gay acting' drag queen, Salvadore Dali, came into focus. The film suggests that Dali's later eccentricities stemmed from a deeply repressed obsession with Lorca from which he was never able entirely to free himself. Yet again, another deeply unhappy, repressed semi-gay man, acting out his fantasies in bizarre fashion while living a life of complete denial.

The film Little Ashes succeeds in dramatizing the possibility that the noble, passionate Lorca sees more deeply into the young Dali's true nature than Dali ever can.  
To be fair, nothing is completely certain about Dali's sexuality, he did have a life long relationship with the enigmatic Gala, whom he stole away from the surrealist poet, Paul Eluard, and whom he described as his muse.  Friends and observers have described Dali's relationship to Gala, however, as curiously asexual. Indeed,  the suggestions of repression are strong enough, making the suggestions of the film more than plausible. Here is his own late in life reflection on the alleged affair:
'He (Garcia Lorca) tried to screw me twice... I was extremely annoyed, because I wasn't homosexual, and I wasn't interested in giving in. Besides, it hurts. So nothing came of it. But I felt awfully flattered vis-à-vis the prestige. Deep down I felt that he was a great poet and that I owe him a tiny bit of the Divine Dali's asshole.'

Well, well, well - what comes across here, perhaps subliminally, is that Dali was not enough of a machismo hetero to refuse Lorca's advances. It actually reached the stage - more than once - where Dali realized penetration 'hurts.' As the film director, Paul Morrison, stated, "Clearly there was something more going on." 

There is something terribly sad about this story, when one reflects upon the fate of the great Garcia Lorca, and the eventual deterioration and corruption of the once talented Salvadore Dali. The film's suggestion that Dali's own repressed love for the great poet derailed him for the rest of his life and led partly to the demise of his own creativity as an artist, seeking fame and fortune instead of the purity of art- rings so tragically true. Love denied is sad, the love that dare not speak its name, possessed by the demons of self hate and self doubt. 

And the world spins on and old hates die and are reborn in new forms, while ever newer forms of life and spirit come to life as well and flourish for a time. Living here in Prague, I'm far from the whiff of sulphur coming from the American Church, and closer to the breath of fresh air now wafting from the Eternal City on the Tiber south of Prague. Which wind shall prevail. Only time shall tell

(Leaving the Tomb by Chinese artist He Qi)

Oct 15, 2013

God Loves Uganda: New Documentary on the Evangelical spread of homophobic hate.

A startling and disturbing  new documentary on the spread of homophobic hate in Uganda by US Evangelical Christians has just opened across theaters in the US last week. Entitled, God Loves Uganda, it is well worth taking a look, for many reasons, not least for the connections with anti gay hate flourishing in the US itself. This film is a warning cry and one that needs to be heeded. The Catholic connection is one that still needs to be exposed more fully. See its' official website here. 

(The New York Times review here)

Here is just one of the many reviews already written on this significant film:

Williams’ film carefully constructs a critique of the missionary movement in Uganda using close access to a Christian organization called the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, and personal interviews with prominent Ugandan citizens. It is through the damning interviews with evangelicals, however, that we learn the most important principle facts of the documentary.
The consequences of this movement are likely several fold, reaching further than a documentary can expect to explain. For the purposes of God Loves Uganda though, the negative impact of adopted conservative Christian ideologies revolves around a repressed attitude toward sexuality.
Williams’ film does not have to work hard to raise ire, because the current landscape of prejudice in our country finds an almost elegant magnification in Uganda. Here, evangelicals take advantage of a country lacking a means of filtering their message, where even the most radical preachers can find traction where none exists in the States.
If readers were to go looking for a contemporary to God Loves Uganda, the closest may be the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp, which raises similar questions. Unlike Jesus Camp though, in God Loves Uganda the endgame of a youth based Christian indoctrination is stripped bare, and the animosity wrought in God’s name reveals itself. Some may feel the film decries the outrage in Uganda too forcefully, that it polarizes the audience into those who already feel one way or another, and lacks the ability to sway hearts and minds. For me, this would be a misread of the film. It is important to maintain a measured, rational voice in regards to religion but you had better make sure your voice is loud. Otherwise, your words just will not carry.
- Jacob Mertens, Film International

I would just add that when religion is used to foster death threatening hate, then taking a measured, reasoned approach is simply not an option. 

Oct 13, 2013

Our Lady of Fatima and Pope Francis

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, commemorating the first apparition of the Blessed Lady in White to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal 96 years ago. In four more years, it will be the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. Despite the psycho-babble over the years which has attempted to explain the whole phenomenon in terms of psychological repression and projection on the part of the eldest child, Lucy dos Santos, there is something deeply moving about this whole story - inexplicable, mysterious, holy. The story of the children's lives is one of suffering, trials and contradictions, endless contradictions, which one wouldn't wish on any child. 

Pope Francis received the original Fatima stature into St. Peter's Square last evening, followed by prayers and a vigil. This Sunday morning, he celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square  before a large crowd of faithful and devout "Marianists," to coin a word. It was a moving experience to witness Pope Francis' evident deep devotion to Mary in her Fatima manifestation. However, to be honest, I found it so disconcerting to witness the preponderance of male clerics dominating the services, no women priests apparent anywhere (of course). But at this point in history, it is such a jarring vision to see, and tends to mar the ceremonies. 

Blue Eyed Ennis has some wonderful links to videos of the events at her very spiritual blog.

I am also a devotee of Fatima, despite the numerous signs of contradiction surrounding these phenomena. Every corrupt Portuguese dictator has felt compelled pro forma to sink to his knees before the same stature that so moved the Holy Father last evening. Right wring groups of every shade and persuasion have appropriated the legend for their own uses, thereby alienating more liberal Christians who shun such manifestations of religious fanaticism. And homophobia, in particular,  is rampant and virulent among Fatima devotees, to a very alarming extent. This alone should give pause to any gay Christians. Yet, I continue to discern  Our Blessed Mother's true presence here, calling all of us, across all ideological lines, to a life of penance, prayer and sacrifice. And I believe she calls persons of my own orientation and persuasion precisely to make the point that her apparitions are not to be appropriated by any extremist faction, however loudly they proclaim their ownership.  Fatima is holy and sacred, the children reached heights of  loving sacrifice that were astonishing, and Sister Lucy lived to nearly 90, both blind and deaf before her passing in 'the odor of sanctity'. There is a mystery here that defies explanation, whatever the human element may be. 

The apparitions of Garabandal, Spain (remember those) in the 1960's have been long eclipsed by its more flamboyant and famous younger sister, Medjugorje in Bosnia. Yet Garabandal has been linked to Fatima, and some are predicting that the long awaited consummation of Garabandal will take place in 2017, on the 100th anniversary of Fatima. I was profoundly moved by the Garabandal story while in the Sacred Heart Jesuit Novitiate in Los Gatos , California. I  have remained among the small, loyal remnant who - 48 years later - are still waiting for Garabandal's moment to arrive. One of the original visionaries has passed on, one has 'defected' and denied the apparitions, The two other visionaries, now in their sixties, remain faithful and patient, living ordinary married lives, with children and grandchildren. Like Fatima and Medjugorje, the call is the same, prayer, prayer and more prayer, penance, sacrifice and prayer, and great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. There is little that is controversial or partisan about the messages of these appearances. Yet it remains a mystery why 'the conservative right' rushes to own them with disconcerting noise and fanfare, while the more liberal part of the church finds the whole phenomenon distasteful. That is a generalization, of course, but fairly accurate on the whole. I remain one of the strange exceptions, but while we are few, we are not alone. Two summers ago, during the 30th anniversary of the apparitions at Medjugorje (another shrine surrounded by contradictions), I sat next to two very progressive nuns from a liberated order. Their habits consisted of long skirts with a beautiful, colorful weave, white flowing silken long sleeved blouses, simple wooden crosses around their necks, no head coverings, and long, flowing grey hair, gracefully coifed down their backs. Their very appearance bespoke dedicated spiritual women, who valued their own feminine natures and beauty and were in no way espousing the traditional ascetic image of self denial of most religious sisters. We got into a conversation, I told them I was a gay Catholic living on the edge, and they responded simply and warmly. One of them told me with deep sympathy about the gay issue, "The Church does change, slowly, very slowly, but change does come." She gave me such a warm, understanding smile. Gracious, intelligent, liberated, progressive - and here they were honoring Our Lady at the shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzogovina. Mary is calling many of us of a similar outlook and orientation to journey to her shrines, to honor her, to receive her call and her graces, and to witness to others that such a call is not in contradiction to our own most cherished values and principles. Mary is for all, and the call to prayer, penance and sacrifice can be embraced by all of us from one end of the spectrum to the other in this sacred family called church. Let us not let one end of the spectrum so dominate the conversation that the simple grace and beauty of Mary's call becomes confused with the cacophony of human ego. 

Sep 29, 2013

Sep 15, 2013

Gay intimacy with Christ

Many thanks to Kittredge Cherry (again) for a collection of  stunning images from gay artist, Richard Stott. Read the full article and view more images at her superb blog, Jesus in Love.

This is only a partial image of one panting. For a full view and for Richard Stott's own reflections,  see Kittredge's Cherry's article at Jesus in Love Blog.

What makes these images so powerfully erotic and moving is the fact that it is the crucified Jesus from the cross who is embracing the other male figure, thereby making explicit much of the sublimated sexuality of Christian mysticism of the cross. As Storr points out in his reflections,  not everyone will feel drawn to relate to Jesus in such a mystical/erotic way and some will not feel drawn to Jesus at all in their search for the transcendent. But I have always felt a deep mystical love for the crucified and embodied Christ, so these paintings moved me deeply.

The painting below inspired me all through my Jesuit novitiate days  some 50 years ago. And while it is not on the same level of quality as Richard Stott's work, it still served as a powerful icon for the passionate love of the crucified heart of Jesus. In fact, it was used as a holy card in those days long ago, to further devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But what a difference from Richard Stott's powerfully erotic, fully human paintings, in which the most intimately human areas of Christ's body are shown. This Jesus is engaged in passionate, suffering love with another wounded human being. He is not solitary in his suffering, but rapturously consumed by the Other. Stott has managed to capture the passionate, all consuming love of Jesus for a single individual, thereby making his love so much more concrete and personal, powerful and real. This is a suffering love that burns for each one of us personally, individually, sensuously, erotically. And since these images are of same sex couples, we cannot help relate the wounds of this sufferning Christ to the afflictions of gay people everywhere. The image below is of a lonely, isolated Christ, suffering in sadness and solitary, abandoned isolation. But it is not a passionate, erotic, Christ. Nonetheless, the painting served me well as a doorway into the divine heart of Jesus.

Back from the Wilderness

Finally, after nine weeks of intensive summer camp work with some wild and wonderful Czech kids, I've returned to some kind of normalcy. A very intense summer with young people in the throes of adolescence, I made so many strong connections among them, ties for life. Now it's back to the regular school year and hopefully i can begin reflecting on this blog again. But what I noticed after this nine week hiatus - in which I read almost nothing and kept up not a wit with world or church news - is that very little has changed over that period of time. It's as if I haven't been away at all. The world turns and turns. Some very interesting developments re: Pope Francis and gays, making it seem all the clearer that the man is a rare gift to the church, and making it even more clear that one good man in the papacy can't really do all that much in the short term when bucking against the prevailing ideology. But the power of his example is sending tremors and reverberations throughout the religious sphere. 

Double vision - which has been plaguing me for the past three months has cleared up about 70% and doctors say it should continue to improve, but will probably not go back to 100% normalcy. The problem is in the arteries in the brain, which is a warning to me about my lifestyle and the need to be cautious and change my diet, exercise, etc. I turn 70 in 3 months. All for now.

Jul 30, 2013

Pope Francis's comments on gays

An historic comment from Pope Francis on gay people that is historic in its ramifications. It has stirred a lot of comment, and I refer readers to William Lindsey's great blog, On Bilgrimage, for a very spirited discussion on this incident. But the moment I saw these comments, I recognized their historic importance, while also realizing there is not all that much a single Pope can do in resisting the corrupt and psychotic homophobia of the church, fostered under the two previous papacies. Yet this is a momentous start, for all of that. We must be grateful for small blessings and single steps forward. I also fear the repercussions for Pope Francis, in terms of his personal safety. Commentators at Bilgrimage are calling it the JPI disease, in reference to the  assassination by poison of Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani. So this should be a stern warning to any of us who are impatient with the Pope and eager to push him beyond the limits of his office. We must be cognoscenti of the risks he would be taking. At any rate, his comments are a cause of joy - however tempered must be our reaction as the whole church and in particular his homophobic bishops react to the comments (largely by ignoring them).

Jun 28, 2013

Off to Summer Camp

Don't know if I'll be posting much over the summer months. Tomorrow I take off for four weeks of summer camp with Czech kids - who come to camp for a wild, wild time. Last year we had twelve year old boys running around with condoms! Unnerving, to say the least!

Boy times have changed since I was a twelve year old, timid and shy and almost totally ignorant about my own sexuality. I feel a spot of pity for that confused young boy, looking towards the future and assuming that I would begin experiencing interest in girls. What "saved" me from greater self knowledge was my own passionate, overwhelming yearning for God, even at such a young age, which replaced all of the normal prepubescent longings. I look back on this time of my life as a moment of stupendous grace which set the course of the rest of my life- on a path so different from my childhood friends. This was essentially a saving grace, yet also  partly sublimation, substitution, a bit of escapism, perhaps, since our motives are mixed and the Holy Spirit gives her grace to correspond with our deepest needs. Yet I knew young love and passion for my young male friends, and developed passionate crushes on girls as well.  However,  none of these attachments could match the glowing, burning love that seemed to be calling me from such an infinite, mysterious, elusive height and depth, near yet far.

And so off I went, carried on the wings of love - and it would be another twenty plus years before I would finally come out as gay. A long journey of self acceptance, and I can't help wonder how much the religious quest prevented me from understanding and accepting my own nature. Yet it was the fruits of that quest - an abiding, profound sense of being loved in every particle of my being that finally enabled me to come out. All in God's good time.

Anyway, off to camp for four weeks, then one week free, then another four weeks of camp. I need  To make money to make up for the eight weeks of work from pneumonia. Fortunately, I'm going to some beautiful camps in the Czech mountains.

Will post when I feel the muse, but will follow the usual threads and blogs, to keep with the unfolding events of our times.

Jun 26, 2013

A Day of Rejoicing

A moment of light and grace today as the US Supreme Court overturned the most discriminatory part of DOMA and opened the way to gay marriage - once again - in California. I rejoice with gay and lesbian people everywhere, and feel a certain peaceful joy as well in the necessary and purificatory humiliation of the US Catholic Bishops. A small sign of victory, a small significant step forward, and one feels a rush of peace and joy, life breathing itself into existence in the face of darkness. 

Nonetheless, everything must be seen in context. This partial victory takes place within a society plummeting headlong into fascist totalitarianism, a state for which gay marriage presents little threat, so why not endorse and facilitate it. Hence my somewhat subdued reaction to today's victory. It must not be allowed to obscure - or whitewash - the profound state of crisis of US society, a crisis most of us are choosing to ignore or minimize, in a state of profound denial.   

Edward Snowden continues to languish in a nebulous exile, his exact whereabouts unknown. Perhaps he is still in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport (in one of its 43 transit hotel room cubicles) perhaps the Russian secret police, the FSB,  are draining him of information, perhaps he has made it to the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow, and best of all, perhaps he has already boarded a flight to Ecuador via Cuba. As is to be expected, he is being demonized in the US - or else ignored by those who should be his defenders. Some are even suggesting he is in reality a CIA plant, spreading disinformation in service of the surveillance state. How familiar all of this is to those of us living in post totalitarian societies in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet just as its own lonely, under-appreciated, resented dissidents saved the moral consciences of their respected countries, so too the lonely figures like Edward Snowden take their own giant steps for the rest of us, and shame us with the knowledge of our own timidity and cowardice. Courage is possible, and truth does prevail, and moments of grace do occur. Let us be thankful for these moments of grace, signposts along the way. And let us pray for young Edward Snowden, a man without a country, suspended in limbo, waiting to be offered refuge in the storm. 

Jun 23, 2013

Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for mystery asylum via Moscow

Happy 30th birthday to Edward Snowden (June 22nd). Hong Kong authorities, taking maximum advantage in loopholes in expedition laws, have expedited Mr. Snowden's exit from Hong Kong to a third country for asylum via Moscow. Mr. Snowden's initial flight to Hong Kong is now being seen as more intelligent than first perceived. I wish him well and my prayers are with him, as with anyone with true moral courage who stands up against the principalities and dark powers of this world, while being branded traitor, lunatic, fanatic. We live in perilous times, but there are moments of grace, and the journey of Edward Snowden is one of them. Blessings and prayers for a safe haven for one of the truly remarkable 'ordinary heroes' of our times, a man who simply did what was right (though there was little simple about it) in the face of egregious crimes and sickening lies.

See report in the South China Morning Post

I breathed a enormous sigh of relief when reading this breaking news this morning (I lived in Hong Kong for  year and read the South China Morning Post every day.). I haven't been blogging much, but have been following the Snowden affair with keen interest.

However, for an even more explosive exposé of NSA spying, see the interview with NSA whistleblower Russ Tice here at Boiling Frogs. This is essentially the interview MSNBC severely censored. Too hot to handle for the compliant mainstream media.

More reflections later, but I can only reiterate the powerful mystical connection I feel with the whole Snowden affair. Yet how difficult it is for some to see the light amidst the fog.

Perhaps I shouldn't have breathed quite so loud a sigh of relief for the young fugitive, since he's been charged with espionage by the Obama administration - no surprise there - under an antique, outmoded law that has now been used by Obama seven times, more than double the times of all previous US administrations. Meanwhile Obama continues to preach his smooth liberal agenda regarding gay rights, women's right, fairness to all, peace to the world - words that do little to threaten the dark and hidden systems of power that truly rule the US in the shadows.

Prayers and blessings for Edward Snowden - may he find safe refuge. Is that praying for a miracle?

Jun 9, 2013

Back to Life

Both the glorious city of Prague and its majestic, serene river, the Vltava or Moldau (take your pick), have returned to some semblance of normal. The flood waters are receding - slowly - having caused far less damage than the 2002 floods. The beautiful, wide embankments which are such a pleasure to walk upon, are still under water, about four feet. But the subways are open, the cafes are bustling, the days are glorious and sunny, and the swans have returned to their peaceful meanderings along he river shore. 

And I have finally adjusted to living with one eye, for the time being, and have already returned to work and back on the computer. Lots of work ahead of me, with summer camp coming up and work on my novel. Everything  feels fine and peaceful and I'm looking forward to lots of good reading, including a list of great spy novels, with Red Sparrow at the top of the list.

I just finished Barara Kingsolver's harrowing, deeply moving novel, Flight Behavior, which explores the horrors of climate change as seen through the eyes of an ordinary, struggling Tennesee housewife. One of the most frightening literary novels I've read in some time, for the very effective way it drives home the impending disaster coming down upon all of us. To borrow an image used by one of the scientists in the book, think 'Niagra Falls,' you are in a canoe, the roar is deafening, the abyss is in view and there is no turning back for a slow paddle back to shore. The story revolves around the stunning discovery of a colony of thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies, who have bypassed their usual yearly migrating site in Mexico and landed insread in a forest in rural, Bible Belt Tennessee. The locals see it as an act of Divine Grace;  the scientists, however, are grief stricken as they witness the extinction process of a beautiful species. Yet the book actually succeedes in ending on a note of some hope for the human community, as the crisis itself brings people together into new forms of cooperation.  Deeply spiritual message, which reminds me of mystical activist, Andrew Harvey's latest book, The Hope.

Jun 2, 2013

Prague Under Water

Terrible floods in Central Europe, at the moment, with flooding in the south of the country and the historic center of Prague threatened by rising river waters. We're all hoping and praying this is not a repeat of the 2002 disaster, which caused two billion dollars damage and was a terrible blow to the Czech economy. But it's already bad. Forecasters and tentatively predicting the Vltava river will reach its peak levels tomorrow by 7 and - hopefully- begin receding. But predictions are changing every moment.
I'm safe in the southern district of Podoli, about three miles from the  center. The land on the other side of us is much lower, so all the excess water is flowing in that direction. But our favorite riverside cafe is a foot under water at the moment and probably at least a meter by tomorrow morning. Mother swans with their chicks are anxious and confused, huddling by the river bank seeking shelter.

This is a terrible tragedy for the country and puts everything into perspective.

Jun 1, 2013

Signs of Hope: Cardinal Defends Gay Marriage Legislation

Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Belgium speaks out about gay marriage.

This hopeful, wise and inspiring article was taking from the site Catholic Conclave (or is it the Cardinal's words that are,hopeful, wise and inspiring?) More signs of change in the Church and indications that the glacial icebergs are melting.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels defends legislation for same-sex marriage in an interview with this newspaper, though he feels that there is another term that should be found for relationships between people of the same sex. Archbishop Leonard sides with him. 'Do not call it gay marriage, but a gay relationship. "

D e Tijdspoke with Godfried Danneels following his eightieth birthday.

There have been months of massive demonstrations against gay marriage, which has been accepted by parliament. In France on Wednesday, there was the first legally blessed marriage , heavily protected from protesters. When asked what he thinks of the attitude of his church in this discussion Danneels says, "You know what the Church says about these problems, I do not want to go against it. But I think it's a positive development that states open up free civil marriage for homosexuals if they want. "

Can you not as a human being identify with this orientation?

Cardinal Godfried Danneels,

The reasoning goes like this: "Can you not as a human being identify with this orientation? I think there is a clear evolution in the thinking of the church. Also towards people who commit suicide, for example. Previously, that condemned you to be not being buried in a cemetery - of course you cannot do such things! It is much more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle. '

Politically sensitive

Same-sex marriage is currently politically sensitive in several European countries.The British Parliament is considering the opening up of civil marriage to persons of the same sex. In Paris, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets against gay marriage. Recently historian Dominique Venner put a bullet through his head at the high altar of Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage. Nineteen countries, including Belgium, have already opened civil marriage , dozens of other countries will follow in the coming years.

On what is legal, what one can do legitimately and legally, the Church has nothing to say.

CardinalGodfried Danneels,

Danneels has a reputation of being in the vanguard of the troops. As in 2004, when he set the Vatican in turmoil by declaring that someone who is HIV positive would be better to use a condom during sex. About gay marriage, he is clear, albeit cautiously: "It is positive if states want to regulate the relationships between people of the same sex but for the Church it is not real marriage as between man and woman. So you have a different name cited in the dictionary sites. But on what is legal, what one can do legitimately and legally, the Church has nothing to say.. "


The statements fit in with a change in the Vatican.
Paul Van Geest,
Professor of Church History, University of Tilburg

“What Cardinal Danneels says is remarkable. Here he creates a noteworthy opening, because the institution of the Church is opposed to a civil marriage, that regulates and legitimises sexual relationships between people of the same sex' "says Rik Torfs, professor of canon law and rector-elect of the university. Paul Van Geest, professor of church history and his colleague at the University of Tilburg, gives perspective."There is the story put out by the New York Times that the current Pope, Jorge Bergoglio, as archbishop of Buenos Aires behind the scenes campaigned for legal rights for gay couples and civil union, a fight he lost in the Argentine Episcopal Conference. (See Cathcon- witness inside the Episcopal Conference) ;The statements fit in with a change in the Vatican. "

Also Archbishop Andre Leonard sides with Danneels, "The position of Danneels is that of the Archbishop ', says Jeroen Moens, a spokesman for the archdiocese."Monsignor Leonard has no problem with a legal commitment between gay men. But he would not call it marriage. Let us say that Monsignor Leonard endorses a gay commitment. Marriage happens before the Church in the complementarity of man and woman. Such complementarity is impossible between two people of the same sex. "

Let us say that Monsignor Leonard endorses a gay commitment.

Jeroen Moens,
Archdiocese spokesman

Danneels, in other words, is not the only ecclesiastical dignitary who recently reached out to gay couples. Archbishop Piero Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies promoted by Pope Benedict (Cathcon- well, not exactly) recently remarked that "it is time to recognize that many couples suffer because their civil rights are not recognized. 

Similar words were spoken earlier this year Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family - before he was rebuffed

Source Cathcon- Archbishop Leonard is in theory at least meant to be a conservative. Like origami, turn a conservative inside out and you get a liberal. You cannot do that with tradition. See also German Cardinal defends mutually caring homosexual relationships