Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scarlet Prince vs Grey Lady

Just when you think there'd be a Holy Week pause in the battle between The Vatican and The New York Times, we get this!

You know things are escalating when they send in Darth Levada, who has B16's old job.

I've read the full text of the letter from this Prince. It is at various times amusing, bitter, misleading, spun, scapegoatish, childish and ultimately very sad.

Keep in mind that this is a letter from a prince. The Roman Catholic Church has about 175 princes. They bear the title ''Cardinal". They have coats of arms with more tassles than do the coats of arms of Catholic bishops. Seriously. They wear many yards of scarlet watered silk. Just wanted to be sure you know who wrote that letter.

When this prince starts a letter by saying

In our melting pot of peoples, languages and backgrounds, Americans are not noted as examples of “high” culture. 

the condescension is palpable and makes it very difficult to hear anything that follows eventhough he himself is an American. (God, where in this twisted tortured church is there a leader with good instincts and a good heart and a good mind? Surely there are one or two out of 175 who speak as would Jesus have spoken in this circumstance.)

He goes on to repeatedly state that criminal authorities had been notified about the abuse cases, implying that we shouldn't be angry at just the bishops. Thin skirts behind which to hide, I think.

His disdain for Archbishop Weakland is obvious. In at least two instances in the letter he refers to him simply as "Weakland" not supplying his title, something that is never done in  this sort of writing. This might be a stretch, but it seems to me that the Prince is tossing him under the bus and there are many who will understand this to be another example of the insidious hierarchical effort to fuse homosexuals with sexual predators.

His lengthy efforts to paint B16 as a man who should not be criticized in these matters is feeble. He's right when he also says about Americans

But we can take pride as a rule in our passion for fairness.

It is exactly that American passion for fairness that brought down another prince, Cardinal Bernard Law. Why does Cardinal Levada think that Americans will not apply that same passion for justice to the pope?

And the way he spins the Vatican non-response of leniency (silence signifying consent?) to the pedophile Father Murphy is a daring and intricate set of steps that should earn him a spot on Dancing With The Stars.

His conclusion returns to the condescension of his opening statement.

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.

No time for this, Your Eminence? Oh honey you better clear your calendar.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Petty Gossip of Dominant Opinion?

The Pope is 82 years old. Funny thing about octogenarians. They get pretty set in their ways. The ones who were always gracious and loving and wise and magnanimous reap what they have sown in the care they receive from friends and family. The ones who have been heartless and judgmental and careless with those entrusted to them still receive the maintenance and respect that good people always extend to anyone who is elderly, but a persistently hateful elder doesn't get the luxury of a pass in matters of sin, crime, justice and reparation.

The disgruntled German Shepherd doesn't care for what is being said about him, and he used his Palm Sunday sermon to say that faith in God helps lead one “towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion.”

Oh, Mary, how the congealed liebfraumilch of human kindness doth stagnate in your icy Bavarian veins!

The Archbishop of New York. Thoughtful. Daring. A man of promise.

He doesn't just have a blog, but he allows comments (moderated, of course.)

When I left my comment, I was sure it would never be published, but it was.

This may seem like such a small thing to many of you, but it isn't. It's really very significant. Tim Dolan is not afraid to sit down with the likes of us. He is not dismissive of our kind. He will listen. This is very encouraging, and if you are inclined to leave a kind comment on his blog you will do much to reinforce his gesture. Set aside the rants for the moment. He's leaving the door open just a bit. Giving space to those who are totally opposed to B16. Again, you may not understand just how significant a gesture this is. For the moment, please just take my word for it.

PS: I suspect he does not connect me with the name Tony Adams although I did have to provide the address of this blog at sign-in.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Responding to Andrew Sullivan

(Update: Andrew Sullivan has published this on his blog.)

Dear Andrew Sullivan,

While I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion that B16 should retire and that the charade of priestly celibacy ought also to be retired, I was startled by some twists in your route to those good ends. 

You say that some men entered the priesthood to find a cure for their gay sexuality. I suspect that somewhere there may be such a priest, but overwhelmingly, we who were ordained gay were actually not in search of a cure. We had a rather high estimation of ourselves as sexual creatures. We were joining a fraternity of accomplished and respected gay men. Gay sex was certainly not off limits to us as long as we bought the duplicity and the premise that we did it secretly. As gay culture became acceptable, the need for this fraternity withered and the priesthood stopped attracting good gay candidates. 

Also, I tried hard to understand and to feel your assertion that pedophile priests see their victims as less than human. I don't think I agree with that. I think that in most cases, pedophile priests saw their victims as convenient humans. These men were largely not part of the fraternity of gay priests whose meetings would happen at gay rectories, resorts, bars and baths. As the accusations came to light, many of us who are or were gay priests were totally surprised by the names of the accused. I think that many of them felt trapped by celibacy whereas those of us who simply shrugged it off from the time of our ordinations and led active sex lives and formed healthy relationships with adults were not their associates. They conducted their pedophile sex in secret. I think the media mistakenly paint the image of a priesthood in which all priests were aware of what was happening. I, hardly a blushing flower, was among those shocked at the extent of the situation.

The fledgling group called "Catholics for Equality" hopes to derail an unfair connection between pedophilia and gay clergy. I hope their efforts are successful, but I will say that my experience of the hierarchy makes me firmly believe that a gay bishop or cardinal - especially one who has had his career boosted by not having the kind of sex he might personally desire - might be inclined to go easy on a pedophile priest because he feels guilty about his own desires, mistakenly grouping together all forbidden fruit. 

I think what many Catholics don't know is that priests are simply not well trained for celibacy. Even the ones who are not sexually active have substituted the non-celibate preoccupations of gluttony and entertainment and porn and whiskey to take the place of sex. It's a sad way of life all around. 

I think B16 will retire "for health reasons" but I am afraid that we do not at this moment have a cardinal ready for election who will abolish the charade of priestly celibacy. Five years from now, there may be one courageous (or practical?) enough to do it, and he may be an American.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is how it ends.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper. A series of whimpers. The ending comes with an almost daily new unraveling. Using the broad and unflattering daylight to unravel lace.
Of course he know. Anyone who knows how the bureaucracy of the church works knows that he knew.

What is most fascinating is the evidence of mutiny high in the ranks. In the old days, these pieces of incriminating information remained hidden or were tossed onto the flames of a rectory fireplace. Ranks were closed, in the old days. It becomes obvious that the hierarchy has begun to see the German Shepherd as inconvenient. As a liability. They won't murder him, but they won't cover for him. If this keeps up, he'll never live out his natural life as Pope. He will retire. For reasons of health, of course.

The problem is that a noble successor is not yet ready to assume the chair of Peter. I have a few men (and one woman) I believe would make great popes, but they are not quite ready yet. It would be better for Benedict to stay in place for another five years while some of the dead wood around him rots into mulch that will nourish the seedlings.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I just hope that when I am 75....

Doing this series of profiles for SouthFloridaGayNews has allowed me to meet some admirable men of accomplishment. Chuck Nicholls is not just that, he's also hot.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In the Park with a Bugger

Not Central Park but Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale. The delightful Renaissance manly bug afficionado in the video is Doug Taron of Chicago who writes the popular blog Gossamer Tapestry. He is on his way to Miami where he will deliver a lecture about a virus that is threatening butterflies.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

There will be no fat bishops in Ireland

Go here for the full text of the Pope's letter to Ireland.

B16 has proposed the establishment of churches or chapels devoted solely to "Eucharistic Adoration" as the remedy for the Irish Catholic sex abuse scandal.

He has also asked that the bishops and clergy devote prayer and fasting from today through Easter of 2011 as reparation for the sins of the priests and religious abusers.

So, in America, we call this the TV show "The Biggest Loser". If I were an Irish Catholic, I'd be clamoring for the bishops to step on the scale in public today so that a year from this Easter, the faithful will be able to determine just how sorry they really were about this situation.

And I know whom I'd be assigning to scrub the floors of those chapels of Eucharistic Adoration.

Seriously, if no mitered heads roll, this letter may not be enough.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today on Bilerico: "We Can Forgive, But Can We Forget?"

While I was writing this, I was remembering the story about that fascinating queen cardinal from the first half of the twentieth century, Rafael Merry del Val. He wanted to become pope. He had an Italian rival. He did everything he could to kill the career of his rival but the guy kept getting promoted. When the pope died and the cardinals voted in a new pope, the winner was not Cardinal Merry del Val but his rival! There is a ritual immediately following the election of the new pope before the cardinals exit the Sistine Chapel. Each cardinal kneels before the new pope and kisses his open palms. When Merry del Val knelt before his rival, the new pope whispered "We can forgive but we cannot forget."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fr. McNeill is writing for the Holy Spirit

For a level headed, calm, spiritually vibrant and theologically sound take on the current Catholic nonsense, I recommend reading my friend John McNeill.

Monday, March 15, 2010

You can't argue with Eva Wankerl

Let me reframe for you the latest chapter of the German Catholic papal accountability scandal.

The convicted German pedophile priest has been named. Fearing increased anger over the sheltering and shuttling of pedophile priests, the German bishops suspended the priest admitting that he had continued to work with children because they had given him assignments that involved working with children. (Priests do not make their own assignments. They receive them from the bishops to whom they promise obedience.)

The supervising bishop of the pedophile priest has resigned, taking a bullet for the pope who, despite this maneuver, remains entirely not off the hook.

The fourfold net effect of all this is really bizarre.

First, it is clear to everyone that the German bishops had not been bothered by the continued ministry of the pedophile priest. Their suspending him is entirely a PR move, and a lame one at that.

Second, we find ourselves in the weird position of empathizing and almost siding with the pedophile priest who appears somehow either to have learned to control or perhaps outgrown his pedophile urges. Some of his German parishioners have praised his work upon learning about his distant past.

Third, the cruel absurdity of Catholic justice is not lost on the faithful. Consider the words of Eva Wankerl, one of the parishioners of the pedophile priest.

If you get divorced and remarry you can’t take communion, but someone convicted of molesting children can say Mass for the rest of his life. 

Fourth, the obvious villain in this sordid story is not the pedophile priest, nor the supervising prelate who resigned, nor the scrambling German bishops covering B16's ass, but the pope himself who is allowing this to unfold with only an expression of sadness about what that pedophile priest did. He obviously and tacitly seems to approve of the heroic but clumsy efforts to shield him while he is safely far away in his palace, humming that Bette Midler classic "From A Distance" and choking on only the last line "God is watching us, from a distance."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vatican Speaks!

This headline, Vatican Speaks as Abuse Details Emerge, reminded me of another headline from many years ago: "Vanna Speaks!", trumpeting the first televised scripted statements of Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune.

Vanna's signature message "Bye-Bye" should now be addressed to B16.

More seriously, this article tells us that the Vatican is claiming that bad people in Germany are saying mean things about B16. Not exactly the strongest defense of the century, but I guess that is all they got.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Chickens Have Come Home To Roost

(For those of you unfamiliar with gay slang, "chicken" means "young" and a chickenhawk is an older gay man who chases very young men.)

I suppose it had to happen. I should have been able to predict this but I did not allow myself the luxury of suspecting that our biggest enemy, B16, the German Shepherd, would be personally guilty and in need of "retirement".

First there was the exit of Cardinal Law. Recently we met those guilty Irish bishops. There was that prostitution ring operated within the walls of the Vatican. There were those violated German choirboys perhaps associated with a priest who is B16's brother, and now the Pope's own Vicar General when he, B16, was archbishop of Munich has expressed his guilt over having kept a known pedophile in active ministry while B16 was archbishop of Munich. The Vicar General says that B16 was not directly involved in that decision.

"Vicar" is an interesting word. It denotes "stand-in" or "substitute". The Pope claims to be the Vicar of Christ. That is why he claims infallibility in matters of faith and morals. He says perfectly and only what Jesus would say on those matters. Gerhard Gruber was B16's vicar. B16 is the vicar of Jesus.

This is much easier than tracing the chain of command at General Motors, and in the American mind will demand the same type of accountability and reparation.

If I were a reporter in Rome right now, I'd be ringing the doorbell at Santa Maria Maggiore where I'd ask Cardinal Law if he thought that B16 ought to retire. What do you think he'd say, this ambitious prince of the Church and brilliant politician who never laid a hand on a kid but had his career scuttled by priests who did. I think the Pope should kneel before Bernard Law and let the disgraced cardinal decide whether or not the Pope should take responsibility for what happened during his watch.

I am quite sure the Catholics of this world have already reached that decision. And we certainly know what the chickens would say.

And for the record, I do not believe the Vicar for one second when he says that B16 didn't know anything about the maintenance of that pedophile priest.

(photo by David Lachapelle)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vatican Exorcist Father Amorth: "Here One Sees The Rot"

I wonder what the German Shepherd is going to do about this 85 year old blabbermouth. It's really hard to put a nice spin on things when Roman Catholicism's official exorcist discloses that in the Vatican there are "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon".

You can read the latest about the sweet old Father Amorth here, but I highly recommend this hilarious 2001 FreeRepublic interview in which he is asked how one might recognize someone possessed by the devil

By their aversion to the sacrament and all things sacred. If blessed they become furious. If confronted with the crucifix, they are subdued. We can sort out the phoney ones. We look into their eyes. As part of the exorcism, at specific times during the prayers, holding two fingers on the patient's eyes we raise the eyelids. Almost always, in cases of evil presence, the eyes look completely white. Even with the help of both hands, we can barely discern whether the pupils are towards the top or the bottom of the eye. If the pupils are looking up, the demons in possession are scorpions. If looking down, they are serpents.

I suppose this is an important distinction because one wants to have the appropriate venom antidote on hand.

Things like this tend to erode the believability of the Vatican. (Ha. Snort.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Catholic Charities Manages A "Seamless Transition"

While they threatened to pull critical services in DC if gay marriage became real, they were planning the exit strategy needed to save face after having painted themselves into a corner: how to balance the supposed love for the needy with the desire for political power.

Catholic Charities' own news announcement proclaims the ease with which they stopped serving these children:

Catholic Charities worked closely with D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to seamlessly transition the program to the NCCF. This transition includes seven staff, 43 children and their biological families, as well as 35 foster families. 

The kids, the staff and the families are all intact, as are the Archbishop's overridingly important coffers and homophobic reputation. Win-win!

The only upside to this situation is that there is now enough egg on the face of the Archbishop of Washington DC to feed the hungry in that town for the next year or two.

Monday, March 08, 2010

This week, in SFGN

Dermot Meagher, judge, artist, writer and neighbor. Not the easiest interview to write, but when I bumped into him earlier today, he had three copies of the paper with him and said he loved what I wrote. I'm very glad he's pleased.

Incorrectly Splitting Hairs

In his letter to the NYTimes, the Archbishop of New York cites Harvard's Dr. Green:

An otherwise perceptive column was somewhat scarred by two comments: recent work by experts like Dr. Edward Green of the Harvard School of Public Health, and experience in countries like Uganda, lead many to conclude that dependence upon only condoms to control H.I.V.-AIDS is dangerous policy, making Mr. Kristof’s comments about the Vatican (“whose hostility to condoms contributes to the AIDS epidemic”) unjust.

The Archbishop's conclusion is not really a valid one. Read Dr Green's letter to The Lancet, titled "Was the Pope Wrong" (provided below). I don't think anyone has been advocating for "condoms alone" as the complete strategy for ending the spread of HIV. It is not the condom that is inefficient, but rather the inconsistent use of it. That same aspect of human nature that makes abstinence fail as a way to stop HIV also makes condoms fail: the fact that people sometimes do dumb things when driven by sexual desire. Abstinence is a daunting challenge. Always using a condom is a daunting challenge. Note that Dr. Green talks about "partner reduction" as a more successful strategy. Understandable, and if all the world's leaders proclaimed 2010 as a year in which nobody will have sex in order to slow the spread of HIV, partnering and HIV would be reduced, right? Because everybody would follow that prescription, right?

Note that Dr. Green is not saying that condoms should be withheld from Africans.

The Archbishop of New York has perhaps not thought about the fact that if he or his predecessors had distributed condoms to the many priests who have died of AIDS over the last three decades or if the bishops had made preventive confidential counseling available to those priests along with condoms, the current shortage of priests would be alleviated considerably.  The number of priests who have died from AIDS has never been correctly reported for two reasons: the families of those priests almost always were ashamed of the fact and preferred to list an opportunistic disease such as pneumonia or cancer as the cause of death. The bishops did not want the faithful to know that priests are gay and sexually active. If the bishops were more courageous, Christlike and compassionate, they would have reached out the families of priests victimized by AIDS and to the gay clergy rather than become complicit in denial. We may also never know the number of men who have died because they contracted the virus from a Catholic priest.

I think any sensible bishop should attend to his own house before he starts spouting opinions about HIV in Africa, and that includes the German Shepherd who is the Bishop of Rome where he presides over a male prostitution ring operating within the walls of his own palace. I wonder how many choristers and seminarians involved in that business are HIV positive.

Was the Pope wrong?

The Lancet published an Editorial1 condemning comments Pope Benedict gave on a trip to Africa, calling them “outrageous and wildly inaccurate.” The Pope said he thought money alone could not solve the problem; moreover “If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help by responsible behaviour, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it.” Notice the construction: ifno responsible sexual behaviour (or primary prevention) then condom distribution will not overcome risky sexual behaviour, which is surely the case in Africa's generalised HIV epidemics.
Ecological and epidemiological evidence from generalised epidemics points to partner reduction as the primary behavioural factor explaining declines in HIV prevalence, which we now see in several African countries. Increased condom availability or use has not shown a similar pattern of association with prevalence decline across multiple generalised epidemics.23
Could condom promotion exacerbate epidemics? The phenomenon of risk compensation—engaging in higher-risk behaviours because risk reduction technology conveys a greater sense of safety than warranted—could account for higher infection rates,4 and has been suggested by at least one randomised, controlled study, which found that “gains in condom use seem to have been offset by increases in the number of sex partners.”5
The root of the problem is that people do not use condoms consistently, no matter how they are promoted. A little bit of condom use might be like a little bit of antibiotic use—not ultimately helpful.
We declare that we have no conflicts of interest.


1 The LancetRedemption for the Pope?Lancet 20093731054Full Text | PDF(82KB) CrossRef | PubMed
2 Potts MHalperin DTKirby D, et alPublic health: reassessing HIV preventionScience 2008320749-750.CrossRef | PubMed
3 Green ECHearst NMah THerling-Ruark AA framework of sexual partnerships: risks and implications for HIV prevention in AfricaStud Fam Plann 20094063-70CrossRef | PubMed
4 Cassell MMHalperin DTShelton JDStanton DRisk compensation: the Achilles' heel of innovations in HIV prevention?BMJ 2006332605-607PubMed
5 Kajubi PKamya MKamya SChen SMcFarland WHearst NIncreasing condom use without reducing HIV risk: results of a controlled community trial in UgandaJ Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 20054077-82CrossRef | PubMed
a Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, 9 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
b University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Having It Your Way

The Archbishop of New York, Tim Dolan, wants to embrace some parts of this article while trashing others. Sounds like a "Cafeteria Catholic", doesn't he?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vatican Gay Prostitution Ring

It makes me want to cry when I think of how much I could have earned during my four years there if I hadn't been so goddam precious.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I've been called many things in my day, but

this really made me laugh. This is one of those lines I wish I had written myself. It's from one of the comments on this article:

I googled "Father Tony Adams, wiki" and the name which appeared first was Victoria Beckham. So, either you aren't as famous as you'd like to believe or the internet is having trouble distinguishing over-the-hill spice girls.

Matthew 23:24 Straining Out The Gnat But Swallowing The Camel

I have been reminded that today's gospel selection, assigned to Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent, is from Matthew 23.

It reads:

Mt 23:1-12 (You ought to click on that link and read the rest of it to hear Jesus at his angry best, pitching a hissy fit!)

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

And before that gospel is read, the first text of the day is from the old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah:

Is 1:10, 16-20

In part:

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.

I think perhaps the Cardinals have misread that text. It says "redress" not "red dress".

Monday, March 01, 2010

This week, in SFGN

I review the Steichen show at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, and deliver a profile of innkeeper Roger Handevidt.