Gay, Catholic, and (Sometimes) Proud of It

crazy-1.jpgThis seems to be the week of gay Catholic themes for me.

 1) In Saturday’s paper, I read a great story in the San Francisco Chronicle about a gay priest, Father Rich Danyluk, in the Bay Area who came out to his congregation two years ago. He knew he was gay in the 7th grade but struggled with his identity for most of the 31 years he has served as a priest. His lack of honesty with himself and others, he claims, caused him to use other people and to abuse alcohol. His life was changed in 1999 when he went through treatment for alcoholism and confessed to his congregation his sin of alcholism. Their forgiveness and grace gave him the ability to finally stick to his vows of celibacy and to stop abusing alcohol. He decided a few years ago that it was time he was honest with himself and his parishoners about his identity as a gay man and priest. And, angered by new guidelines for how seminaries should treat candidates to the priesthood who present gay tendencies or a gay identity, he chose to come out during a sermon. Here I quote from the SF Chronicle gay-priest.jpgarticle: “He grabbed the Gospel and held it aloft before the congregation. ‘This is either the good news for everybody or nobody,’ he said. That included all gays and lesbians, he said, including those in attendance, to whom he added: ‘I’m one of you.'”

One of his parisoners said, Sue Spiersch, 62, said: “He’s the most deeply spiritual person I’ve ever met,” and claimed that Father Rich made a congregation of strangers into friends.  

He is now leaving the priesthood for a year’s rest and relaxation–but I wonder if there’s more to the story? Despite the fact that his congregation still clearly recognizes him as their spiritual leader, is he being forced out by the hierarchy?crazy_movie_poster.jpg

 2) On Sunday night, I watched C.R.A.Z.Y., which is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. Okay, okay, I do cry easily when I’m watching films, but I can tell the difference between crying because the film has manipulated it through music and drama and crying because I’m truly touched. In C.R.A.Z.Y., the mother recognizes early on that the main character Zac (the fourth boy out of five boys) has a special gift of healing. If he prays for somebody, it stops their bleeding. If he prays for babies, they stop crying. But he’s also “special” in other ways and his father constantly worries that his son is girly. The activities that he punishes his other sons for (fighting, going too far with girls), he actively encourages in his fourth son–because at least those would be signs that he is “normal.” Zac, too, wants to be like his brothers. He wants to be accepted and acceptable. So he spends most of his life denying that he’s anything but a typical heterosexual, Catholic kid. But it’s making him go crazy and eventually he realizes he has to be who he is. What I like about it, though, is that he doesn’t say “F*** you” to his family, even though it’s clear for most of the film that his father will (and does) reject him because he’s gay. He keeps trying to reach out to his dad. With the oldest son in a coma due to a heroin overdose, Dad talks to Zac about how the worst thing in the world is to lose a child. But then he says he can’t and won’t accept that Zac is who he is and can’t be changed or cured. It seems as if he is going to lose one son to heroin and will reject another son who wants a relationship with him that he can no longer have with his son who may never wake up from his drug-induced coma. I won’t spoil the ending. Watch it.

3) On Monday, I finally finished The World of Normal Boys, a coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old kid in New Jersey who starts exploring his feelings for the opposite sex about the same time his brother has a serious accident that leads to a coma and, ultimately, death. (Although C.R.A.Z.Y. also has a brother in a coma, and gay themes, and Catholicism, the two stories are nothing alike.) The Catholicism in this book is muted and the main character is never safe enough to come out to his parents, especially not his dad. Although I liked C.R.A.Z.Y. better than this book, the portrayal of confusion, angst, and rebellion that a gay teenager who cannot talk to his parents about his feelings seems realistic. There’s a little too much rumination in this book, but it’s a pretty good read.

Comments 5

  1. Steve

    Don’t think I’ll be reading those anytime soon.

  2. Jess

    Steve, I have some videos of Gorongosa in Mozambique that I tried to send to you. I’ll try again.

  3. Steve

    Thanks so much for forwarding those. I just watched them and I think they were great. That rat video is something. I hope that plan works.

    Maybe you can visit Gorongoro when you’re over there. If so, think of me when you see something with big horns.

  4. Jess

    Oh, I’ll definitely visit Gorongosa, among other places!

  5. Jess

    Maybe you and Tabitha can come visit while I’m there and see it for yourself. Start planning now, probably Dec. 2008-Jan. 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *