Happy Prom Season

From Frank Maiva, a graduating high school senior, who explains that "gay is the new cousin" when it comes to finding a last-minute and/or non-threatening prom date.

My prom season was far more memorable and a bit less pleasant, as some of you may know. It makes a great story, but it's better in person after a pint.

One brief word of warning/wisdom from an older brother, though. Frank writes,

"Perhaps this is why certain girls and certain gay guys become such good friends in high school. They're waiting for an environment that isn't based on popularity or games, an atmosphere where they can thrive. While I've had an excellent time in high school these past four years, I have to believe there is something better out there for me in years to come. I know many of my friends feel the same way."
Well, I wish that I could tell Frank that finding that place will get easier soon, and it will, but it will never be "easy". Particularly as a gay man. (For Frank, particularly as a gay man heading to New York.) Finding one's friends and possibly more significant others doesn't, it seems, get tons easier post-high school.

I hate to be all down on my people, but one of the wisest things I was once told upon coming out was that just because someone is gay, it doesn't mean he's a good person. Or a bad person, either, but I remember heading off to college expecting to find an exciting, welcoming and, dare I say, virtuous community of brothers who had learned from their experiences of marginalization and prejudice to begin creating a different sort of community. I have found that, but in part by helping to create it. I've also found a lot of the opposite. (Caveat: this isn't a "perfect me vs. the rest" argument; as a relatively self-aware Christian, I've had plenty to time to be imperfect and flawed in my continued attempt to flourish the way God wants me to.) Studies have suggested that because gay men, at least those not as self-aware and mature as our young author here, tend to delay adolescence, in part because they never have the chance to learn how to socialize with the objects of their affection and attraction the same way that our straight friends do. Those apparently silly "dates" to the mall with twenty other pre-teens do a lot more for teaching us how to treat each other than we realize sometimes, and a community of guys who often didn't have that chance is just as prone to popularity contests, gameplaying, etc., as the jocks referred to in the article.

So...the fact that Frank and his generation are beginning to have that chance in high school, however limited it might be, gives me a great deal of hope. But the lesson of learning to appreciate people who are authentic, or trying their best to be authentic, that Frank's learned in hanging out with his promdates, might, IMHO, be more important than learning how to pin on a corsage correctly.

P.S. If you're a younger person who's stumbled on here and is looking for support, check out your local area's resources or see if there's a GSA (a Gay-Straight Alliance) in your school or area. On the web, a random google search picks up YouthResource and QueerAttitude.


Two articles from Commonweal

First, their editorial on the Reese affair.

Second, an intriguing essay by the Orthodox priest and writer John Garvey on Orthodox impressions of the papacy of John Paul and that of Benedict to this point. One of Garvey's main textual bases for expressing Orthodox concerns regarding the centralization of Roman authority is John Paul's encyclical Ut Unum Sint (which appears to have been written, at least in part, by the subject of my research, the late Fr. Jean-Marie Roger Tillard, O.P.). In Ut Unum Sint, the pope asks for help from other Christians to better reflect on how the Petrine ministry could be better exercised to remove it as a stumbling block to Christian unity. I'm not sure that I agree with Fr. Garvey's strong statement that "as long as the idea of papal infallibility is in place", there would be no petrine ministry acceptable to the orthodox; this doesn't seem to understand the difficulty of contemporary Roman Catholicism relinquishing a dogma that has become central to its identity, if not necessarily to all Catholic theologians. But it has been interesting, particularly as a Tillard scholar, to see that in many of the treatments of John Paul's papacy in the secular press, Ut Unum Sint appeared to pop up far more frequently as a high point of his theology than some of his other encyclicals.


Mary: Grace and Hope

A vespers service was held today in Seattle to formally celebrate the joint statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on the role and special nature of Mary. Copies of the full text should be available online at the Centro Pro Unione at some point, and you should be able to order it on Amazon before the end of the month. The statement of Archbishop Alex Brunett, the co-chair of ARCIC, is available on the diocesan website. We'll now wait for more formal acceptance of the document by higher authorities within the two communions.

Now, I haven't read the document yet, but the meta-conversation in the few press reports I've seen so far is even more interesting...for example, the Associated Press story is broadly hopeful, talking about the (amazing, frankly) possibility that the two communions could agree that the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are consonant with Anglican interpretation of the Scriptures. It should be noted that the joint documents does not address the thornier issue of how these dogmas were defined by the Roman church, which raises questions of infallibility, papal authority, etc... (LOL...one Anglican reporter stated, "I can name a couple of parishes here in Seattle that have better Marian devotion than some Roman Catholic parishes." -- as if that is surprising these days...)

But if you turn the virtual page over to the Reuters story on today's press conference, you find the lovely headline "Catholics, Anglicans uphold dialogue despite gays." It's a valid observation to note that this is the first Anglican-R.C. dialogue event to happen since the ordination of Gene Robinson, which raised concerns on the Roman side of the dialogue, but these concerns were largely assuaged by the Windsor Report, at least according to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. But both the headline and the focus of the story are remarkable. First off, "the gays" referred to in the headline didn't call the dialogue into question; to be more exact, the U.S. Episcopal bishops did, as well as the Roman curial officials who saw Robinson's ordination as a stumbling block to further dialogue. So it seems slightly disturbing to now blame "the gays" for not only ruining the family, but also steering the ship of ecumenism onto the shoals. Secondly, it's fascinating that the Reuters article seems to uncritically assume that the most important part of this document is its existence, rather than its content; if both the Anglican and Roman magsiteria approve this statement of shared faith, it could only be compared in historical scope and import to the 1999 Joint Declaration on Justification between the Romans and the World Lutheran Federation. As is the case with regards to justification, the disagreements over Marian doctrine are not "side issues" in the Anglican/Roman division; Christians on both sides have lost their livelihoods, and sometimes their heads, over questions of the proper place for Mary in Christian devotion. So to turn this event into a story about the ordination of gay men seems, as is sadly so common, that even though more religion reporters on the beat are learning quickly, there's still a lot to learn.

I promise to have some non-Vaticanista postings soon for all my non-/anti-/former-Catholic friends!


Caput Ethiopicum???

Benedict's New Coat of Arms

A few weeks ago, L'Osservatore Romano published Pope Benedict's new coat of arms, pictured above. EWTN explains the various elements of the coat of arms, and their significance; particularly noteworthy, IMHO, is the replacement of the triple-tiara (dropped in practice by Paul VI, but remaining in the coat of arms of JP's I and II) with a simple mitre, representing the pope's ministry as a bishop, but with three gold bands symbolizing the special order, jurisdiction, and magisterium of the pope. The elements of the shield themselves are drawn, in part, from the diocese of München-Freising where Benedict was ordained bishop.

Many people, however, who are not avid followers of the above news outlets, will get their first glimpse of the coat of arms today, as they appear on the papal window banner for the first time in public. I think that many people, though, are going to glance at the arms and begin, "Oh, wow, that's cute, a little bear, and a seashell, and a ...WTF???" The "Crowned Ethiopian" or the "Moor of Freising" is a traditional element of arms of the diocese of München-Freising. But so far the news reports have been quite informative about the Augustinian elements of the shell and the heavily-laden bear, but rather quiet about what to make of a black man with big red lips and a heavy gold earring. Yes, it makes sense that the pope would draw on his Bavarian heritage for his arms, but does it really make sense in 2005 to put imagery that rivals some of the worst lawn jockey art (and worse) of the American south? It's bound to be misinterpreted, and Benedict needs to get some old-fashioned P.R. people in to help him manage his brand. [tongue-pokes-cheek]


Benedict the Joker

Cathleen Kaveny of Notre Dame has a touching article as part of Commonweal Magazine's reflections on what to expect with Benedict's papacy. She tells a laugh-out-loud story of her first and only meeting with then Cardinal Ratzinger while a graduate student at Yale with George Lindbeck:

During the first break, Lindbeck introduced me to Cardinal Ratzinger. The conversation went something like this: Lindbeck said, “Your eminence, I would like to introduce to you Cathleen Kaveny, a Catholic studying moral theology at Yale.” I smiled and said hello. Ratzinger smiled at me and responded, “A Catholic studying moral theology at Yale? You’d better be careful or you’ll have the Congregation after you.” I couldn’t believe my ears. After all, I had just heard, while wide awake, what Cardinal Ratzinger--the Grand Inquisitor--would say to me in a nightmare, which naturally would also include a stake, a match, a heap of kindling, and a long, flowing white dress (à la Cecil B. De Mille’s The Story of Joan of Arc). He was joking, of course, as I realized almost immediately. Nonetheless, my face must have turned as pale as Joan’s dress. The cardinal quickly understood the problem: “With whom are you studying?” he asked. And not quite able to speak again, I pointed mutely to Lindbeck. Ratzinger said, “Well, then, that’s all right...you’re in good hands.”

Good enough to make me snort water through my nose over lunch today.

If Tom Reese is too radical...

then we all might be in trouble. The Boston Globe and the New York Times are both reporting that Jesuit Father Tom Reese has resigned as the editor-in-chief of America magazine, partly or primarily due to pressure from the C.D.F. The National Catholic Reporter may have been involved in breaking the story, but at least at 11:30 on Saturday morning, their website appears to be having some issues.

While I want to hold off final judgment (and running to my bedroom to assume the fetal position) until I've seen some more reporting on the details of this, there's some cause for worry here. First, Fr. Reese, whose book Inside the Vatican is a solid political science analysis of the Vatican as institution, is not a wild-eyed, NCR-subscribing, Call-to-Action-attending radical. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, the blogger quickly adds, before half of his friends jump down his throat.) Reese, on his own and through America's pages, is one of the more moderate, Common Ground-oriented voices in the Catholic church in the U.S. today. As the Times quotes Philip Lawler,

"I'd think of him as sort of a mainstream liberal," said Philip F. Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, a news outlet on the more conservative end of the spectrum. "I think he's been reasonably politic. I watched him during the transition, and I cannot think of a single thing I heard that would have put him in jeopardy."

If America's reasoned debates are censorable, then I'm worried as well about the chilling effect on Catholic intellectual life which Steve Pope raises. Condemning Tom Reese for being too radical is like treating Harry Reid as though he were Ralph Nader's soulmate.

Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, the apparent complaint was not that America was radically undermining church teaching, but that by presenting opposing viewpoints on issues like Dominus Iesus, gay priests, and issues around communion for politicians supprotingn abortion, America was not supporting church teaching strongly enough. This reminds me right away of the case of Bob Nugent and Jeannine Gramick, who were disciplined by the CDF not for contradicting church teaching on homosexuality, but for not teaching it forcefully enough. Lisa Sowle Cahill's article on that case back in August of 1999 (in America, ironically) presciently foresees and warns of this move towards a "maximalist criterion of conformity" which, bluntly, comes close to theologians and pastoral ministers being instructed not only to be faithful to church teaching, but to "say it like you mean it". If the only option for adherence to church teachings of differing theological weights is to shout back one's assent loudly and clearly or be cast into the outer darkness, then, IMHO, we're both cheating ourselves of the reasoned debate our church has historically prized and we're in danger of ideologically covering up a situation in which faithful Catholics' real questions need and deserve conversation. If you've ever taught a student or child, you know that it's very easy to have a response parroted back to you in the proper language and, with some encouragement, that response can be louder or appear more convincing. But the moment the phrase "say it like you mean it" leaves your lips, you know that you've left the context of education and entered a discourse of raw power.

Some further questions, and again, I'd like to reserve final judgment until I find out more of the details of the case; after all, seven years is about how long Jesuits often work in the same place, and Fr. Reese's successor, Fr. Drew Christiansen, is not only qualified but doesn't seem likely to radically change the direction of the publication. The elephant in the room is the question of how involved our now Pope Benedict was in this action, which began and appears to have come to its conclusion while he was still head of the C.D.F. I'll leave it to the Vaticanologists to read those tea leaves, with the caveat that, at a first reading, it doesn't look good. I would be very hesistant to draw the conclusion that this is a signal of how a Benedictan papacy is going to treat dissent, since the action occurred before Ratzinger's election, and I, perhaps alone among my friends, am still holding out hope that the office is having an effect upon the man. We shall see.


Gay Sox Nation

So, I've recently joined a yahoo group for gay Red Sox fans, which has quickly blossomed into a more intense institutional arrangement with a chat room, message board, and more to come, all of which you can find at gaysoxnation.com. While those of you living outside of New England might think that this would be a relatively narrow niche group, the growth of the group has been phenomenal (kudos to the group's moderator/fearless leader!).

What has been fascinating has been the interplay of "normal" Red Sox banter (merciless attacks upon failing players, speculation about the intellectual ability of umps and/or coaches, a deep-seated, existential pessimism that last year's championship has only begun to erode away), there's also been some, ahem, "not-so-normal" Red Sox fan interaction: an extensive photo gallery of the team, polls ranking the players in descending hotness, speculation on who may have, or would be likely to, have crossed over to the side of most of the guys following the list.

You can brush this off with the quick dismissal that gay guys are still guys, and therefore the odds would be good that some of them would still be heavily socialized to be baseball fans, but I think there's something potentially deeper: these gay guys are still gay New Englanders, which means that there's still an awfully deep devotion (contagion?) to the Olde Towne Team. We may join some of our pink-shirted sisters in paying attention to more on the field than the batting averages, but I'm hoping at some point that some of our straight buddies might recognize that in addition to our lusting after, say, catcher and hottie Jason Varitek, there's a deeply rooted kinship. Talking about Terry Francona's coaching and Bronson Arroyo's pitching might be a starting point in maintaining our relationship with the guys down at the bar, who might then only be mildly amused, rather than threatened, by our opinions on Jason's thighs.


Happy Rhode Island Independence Day!!!!

As a local news website describes it, "Two hundred and twenty-nine years ago, on May 4, 1776, Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain, two full months before the other twelve colonies. Brave and bold, this historic event created the first free republic in the New World. Today, that spirit of independence endures, exemplified by the Independent Man high atop the State House reaffirming Rhode Island’s spirit of independence and intrinsic strength."

An official state holiday in Rhode Island, here in Boston we have to be content with observing R.I. Independence Day from afar. Rhode Island, and its various governmental and para-governmental leaders, continue to be both brave and bold.

God Save Rhode Island!