Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Beat Goes On... (Part Two)


This is part two of my response to the newly named Archbishop Leonard of Belgium's statement that homosexuality is not normal in the same way that anorexia is not normal.  (Click here for part one.)  Just to refresh your memory, we were back in my seminary days, when I was doing everything I possibly could to stop myself from masturbating and having homosexual feelings and fantasies.

And, the beat goes on...

Even if there were prayerful ejaculations, the intrinsically-disordered-yet-god-given sexual longings and attractions persisted.  In these dark-night-of-the-soul moments, I was counseled to sidestep my sexual energy and attractions.  In my mind's eye, I was to open up my personal Internet Explorer—Father Tommy's Brain Browser—and click on my "Favorites" tab.  There I was to have numerous bookmarked options, proven in sidestepping the forbidden urge to purge my testosterone cocktail.

Here are just a few of the options that my seminary formation team prescribed:
1.      Pray in Public:  Since offering ejaculations in bed is too risky, why not go down to the chapel and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  You can’t touch yourself in public, lest you be seen by someone else and reported to the faculty.  But it’s dark in the chapel, and there were so many shadowy options: behind the salty oak shield of an empty pew, the dozen creamy marble side altars, the soundproof anonymity of a desperate confessional, or in the abandoned rafters of the vaulted ceiling.  No, it was safer to pray alone, in your room.

2.      Exercise:  Exhaust yourself physically so that you don't have any energy left for self-abuse.  But, unless you are pumping iron with your cock, the erections will keep coming.

3.      Hands above the Sheets:  If you are cursed with nighttime risings and everlasting morning wood, you should sleep with your hands above the sheets.  Of course, what man in their 20s and sexual prime is not "cursed" with such obstacles?  I was told that sleeping with a body pillow helps.  Not at all. It added to the possibilities and made the physical feelings match up realistically with the fantasies.

4.      Cold Shower: The age old prescription, good for avoiding blindness and hair growth on the palms.  Only, in the seminary, the showers were communal.  Even though everyone had their own little private john and shower cubicle, there was always the fear/fantasy that someone would follow you into your marble-walled closet-sprinkler and take an offering on the tongue.  Not a good place to go when a repressed gay boy can't stop the swelling!

5.      Physical Punishment:   I never went for this, as I wasn’t into spiritual S&M, like John Paul II and the Opus Dei clan.   It was ludicrous that god had given me the gift of a body so that I could scratch, tear, cut, and whip it for god's pleasure and sexual abuse.  The gift of my psyche was another issue.  I preferred psychological mortification.

6.      Call Somebody (Preferably Not a 1-900 Number):  My phone bills were huge in seminary, not to 900 numbers!  There was no anonymity when it came to our school disseminated phone bills.  Being in the Eastern Time Zone, I spent the hours between ten and eleven on the phone with friends and family out west.  The trouble, Father, is that you quickly discover there is no even Stephen and that others are more important to you than you to them, because they never call first, and before you know it, you are jealous and they are never off the hook to your own personal needs, and how is that dependency good for celibacy?  Furthermore, you can't call and wake someone at three in the morning when you wake up with your desperate dick in your happy hand, unless they are looking for phone sex, which is not celibacy, Father. Great Scott! Next option, please.

7.      Go for a Walk with a Friend:   This was a great option; one of my favorites.  I went on walk after walk after walk with friends.  Some of my intimacy needs were met by talking with other closeted gay guys who were secretly going through the same struggle as me.  We waxed theological and philosophical, distancing ourselves from the reality of the wet spots on our flies.  The grounds around the seminary were wooded, an inviting retreat from faculty evaluations and peer scrutiny and a great place for blow jobs, even though I never indulged in that fantasy.  There was always someone else in need of a walk.  The risk of all that walking and talking was getting to close to someone, developing a “particular friendship,” and falling in love.  But gay men were disordered and incapable of falling in real love, so there was really nothing to fear.  Then why did my heart go pitty-pat, when my hand brushed his as we walked under the spring moonlight?  Why do I want to hold his hand?  Why can I not imagine my life without his presence, his friendship, his love?  This love, it is real, right?  It is of god, right?  No!  Dry marriages (that is friendships in which celibates become dependent upon one another and live like spouses even though they are not fucking) are not permitted.  A celibate is to be dependent upon no one, but god Himself (and, of course, holy dysfunctional mother church).

8.      Release the Energy by Singing:  I spent at least ten minutes a day wailing to some musical theatre anathema, I mean anthem, at the top of my lungs.  I majored in acting in college after all, and the theatre was still in my blood.  So I accessed that musical energy: transcendent, purging, and non-touch.  When I was in a butch mood: Garth Brooks or Clint Black provided the template.  But it was safest to stick to the liturgical music of Marty Haugen, David Hass, or Michael Joncas, but even they can be pushed into the background to become a gay masturbatory score.

9.      Dance:  Eventually, I started dancing as I sang.  This was holy; good.  I offered my dance, my entire body, my being, my erections to god like David before the arc of the covenant, without apology, without shame.  These were beautiful moments in my prayer life, and left me feeling very close to god, but the erections persisted and so did the need to love and be loved in an incarnate way, not some spiritual Jesus, but actual flesh and blood, touching me, holding me, penetrating me.  In agony, I begged the god of my celibate, closeted forefathers, "Is this too much to ask?"  The Baptists were right.  It’s dangerous to have sex standing up, because it might lead to dancing.

10.  Go for a Drive: Get lost on the road.  Drive through the countryside.  Lose yourself and your erection in the transcendent landscapes of our great Christian nation, and don’t drink any liquids before leaving.  All those rest stops make tempting cesspits for repressive release.  Everybody knows what goes on in those bushes.  But, there are always cops in the bushes, so resist.  Resist!  I did. Still, that didn't help, for it is possible to drive one's stick shift while on the road.   But, the risks are great, who wants to lose control and pull a solo Parenthood?  Imagine the head-lines! 

11.  Go for a Hike:  Get back to nature.  Feel the earth beneath your feet, the sunlight on your nose, and the wind through your hairy forearms.  Know that the universe transcends you and your celibate struggles.  Commune with the gurgling brooks.  Whistle with the birds.  Walk St. Francis' path.  Only whatever you do, don't hug the trees.  Flora abuse!  Don't pee behind the boulders!  Don't follow the fantasy that the bearded, bearish, sparkle-eyed man with the walking stick and tarnished wedding ring that just greeted you on the path, also looked you up and down, before offering you a willing smile, and inviting, "It's a great day to be alone in the woods, isn't it?"  No!  Don't go there! You sick, perverted, depraved Sodomite!  He's married. There's no way that was a come on.  Stay on the path, the narrow, well-trodden path.  No backwoods ministry for you!  Focus on the smell of the earth, the mushrooms, not Mr. Lumberjack's juicy, musky, begging, loneliness.  That is your own.  Find god in your loneliness!  You are in the desert, not the woods.  Embrace the desert.

12.  Journal: Don't touch yourself, instead grab your pen and the spiral bound pad on your bedside.  Free write for god.  Offer it all up on paper.  Work it out there.  Pray-write it away.  I have notebooks, leather bound journals, and loose leaf sheets covered with all the sexual urges and tears that I exorcised via my journals while a seminarian and a priest.  But still, it's just paper, and the need to seed never went away.

13.  Learn to Play and Instrument (other than your organ): Try sitting at a piano in the chapel and plunking out "Home on the Range" and "Fur Elise" while other are trying to pray.  It's not going to happen.  So, buy a guitar, play in your own private room.  I did and again "Home on the Range" got old fast.  I did get myself up to about a third grade level of guitar playing.  I told myself it was a humbling experience, god putting me in my place.  But I had to be sure to only strum the guitar's chords.

14.  Go Out with Friends:  as long as your friends are also closeted and celibate and that you don't go to any questionable (off campus) venues.  I never went to a gay bar until after I'd left the priesthood, and even then it was a traumatic experience, so indoctrinated I was to believe that just entering a place like that would give me a venereal disease or that I'd immediately be gang raped by lecherous, dirty, old men .  After all, if priests were hitting on me throughout college and seminary, it had to be so much worse in gay bar, right?


     If all else failed, and ultimately it did, I was counseled to picture a big red stop sign in my mind and silently scream "STOP!"
This is how I was to treat my sexual urges, thoughts, and fantasies.  I was to order them to stop.  I was to sidestep them and ultimately compartmentalize and repress them, all under the guise of celibacy for the kingdom of god, because for a homosexual Catholic, whether or not s/he is a priest, brother, or nun, the only option for one's sexual salvation is celibacy.

And that, according to Archy Leo, Pope Ben, and Catholic moralists around the world is normal.