Friday, March 31, 2006

Fr. Leonard Klein

Leonard Klein, the former Editor of the Lutheran Forum and Lutheran minister, who was received into the Catholic Church 2003, will be ordained to the Catholic Priesthood in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday, April 1, 2006. This is no April Fool's joke! According to the web page of the Administrative Offices of the Diocese of Wilmington, Klein was accepted as a seminarian for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington in 2003, and began his studies at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland. Since his ordination to the Transitional Deaconate in July 2005, Klein has reportedly been working in parish ministry at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Wilmington. He will celebrate his Mass of Thanksgiving (First Mass) on Sunday, April 2, 2006 at 12:00 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Shipley and Weldin Roads in Wilmington, Delaware. The report on the Diocesan web page went on to give the following biographical details about Klein:
Rev. Mr. Leonard R. Klein was born in Easton, Pennsylvania. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Yale College, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and a Master of Sacred Theology from Christ Seminary-Seminex. Ordained to the Lutheran ministry in 1972, Rev. Mr. Klein served as a Pastoral Intern, Associate Pastor, Pastor and Senior Pastor for Lutheran congregations in New York and Pennsylvania. He has served on numerous boards and committees and has written and lectured on various topics during his career as a Lutheran minister.

Rev. Mr. Klein and his wife of 36 years, Christa, have three adult children....

"Although widowed men and men who have served as Protestant ministers before converting to Catholicism have been ordained to the Priesthood in the past in our diocese, this will be the first time a married man will be ordained to the Priesthood," explained Bob Krebs, spokesman for the diocese. "This is a first for our diocese, but the situation is not unique. About 100 married, former Protestant ministers are serving as Roman Catholic Priests in the United States."
A former student of mine, also a Catholic convert, now in priestly formation for the Diocese of Charlotte at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, ends his phone conversations about Klein's ordination with erstwhile fellow Lutherans from North Carolina by saying, "Y'all come home now, hear?"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Alice von Hildebrand on liturgical symbolism

Commenting on changes introduced into Catholic life since Vatican II, Alice von Hildebrand writes, in an essay entitled "The War on Symbolism":
... Those of us who are now elderly remember vividly that priests were identifiable not only because of their Roman collars and dark suits, but also because of their tonsure. The latter had a clear symbolic meaning: the fact that part of the priest's hair was shaved indicated his total donation to God. After Vatican II, this longstanding tradition was abolished. I do not recall that a convincing reason was given for this change, but somehow the special dignity of the priesthood was no longer honored by a visible sign.

Before ascending to the altar for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, priests had to don 7 pieces of clothing, each one of which symbolized a step in a particular scene of Christ's ascent to Golgotha, where the ultimate sacrifice of the God-man for our redemption took place. These symbols have been powerfully highlighted in [Martin] von Cochem's book, The Amazing Catholic Mass [i.e., The Incredible Catholic Mass] (TAN). Today many of them have been eliminated. It is most unlikely that young priests know either their names or their symbolic meanings. What is particularly regrettable is that priests are likely to be much less conscious of the fact that Holy Mass is essentially a non bloody re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, a fact of which the priestly vestments they were wearing physically and forcefully reminded them.

Whereas in the so-called Tridentine liturgy the priest stood first at the foot of the altar -- once again symbolizing the way of the Cross toward the hill of Calvary -- in the Novus Ordo he immediately faces the congregation. The steps have been eliminated. And yet, how deeply meaningful and symbolic were these "steps" -- powerful expressions of the virtue of discretio, which teaches us that before reaching a noble goal, we should beware of rushing to it without proper preparation.

Another significant change is the abolition of minor orders: up to Vatican II, there were seven steps leading to the priesthood: porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte, and then subdeacon, deacon, and finally the holy sacrament of the priesthood, in which a human creature is granted the unfathomable privilege of representing Christ, and of changing bread and wind into the holy Body and Blood of the Savior of the world. These seven steps had a deep meaning: inspired by a sentiment of sacred discretio, the Church in her wisdom reminded the candidate to the priesthood of the awesomeness of the step he was about to take. Whether in universities or in the military, we note grades of dignity. It was thus highly appropriate that the ascension to the highest dignity ever given to man should be marked by several degrees, each one of them granting the seminarian a more intimate participation in the mystery of Holy Mass. Once again, this tradition rich in symbolic meaning has been eliminated.

It is also regrettable that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is now celebrated on a table, the piece of furniture used for meals. An altar, on the contrary, was exclusively used for sacrifices, as clearly stated in the Old Testament.

Another important change is that priests now face their congregations, whereas for centuries they were facing east, and Christ is called the sol justitiae. He is the light -- the lumen Christi. Once again, a profound symbol was discarded.

Still another break with tradition is the elimination of the altar rails in catholic churches. For centuries, people knelt while receiving Holy Communion, and kneeling in our culture is the most perfect expression of an adoring posture -- that is, a bodily duplication of the proper posture of the soul. Why this change was introduced (at great financial cost) is difficult to understand, by unfortunately it is not the only case in which symbolism has been eliminated.
Read Von Hildebrand's article in its entirety here. It offers a helpful complement to our ongoing discussion about the hermeneutics of "fittingness" in the liturgical changes introduced since Vatican II.

Thomas Blosser (1951-2006), RIP

My adopted Japanese brother died suddently of a heart attack last Thursday, March 23rd, and my wife and daughter and I drove to Birmingham for services. Tom, whose original Japanese name was Sudo Yoshiro (sirname and given name reversed, in the traditional Japanese style), was a dear friend and beloved family member who was the life of every party and loved by all who knew him. He went into a period of profound grieving after the death of his wife, Wendy Holcomb, in 1987, and fell out of touch with family members until the report of his death came to us last Friday. He was not a church-going man or a Catholic, but was a baptized Christian raised in a loving Christian home. Please pray for his soul. More details to follow in due course.

Update (Monday, April 10, 2006): I've posted a memorial for my brother, including a brief family history, on a separate page, entitled: Thomas Yoshiro Blosser.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Some Dukes are winners ...

Some Dukes are winners .......... and ....... well ...

... um ...

... You pick the losers ...

... And those cruel, heartless, happy people in the grandstands ...

  • Final Score: LSU 62. DOOK: 54
  • Shooting Percentage for game: LSU: 39% (24 for 61) , DOOK: 27% (18 for 65)
  • JJ Redick shot 3 for 18 from the field in a classic choke performance from Dook's star guard.
[Hat tip to Jonathan Blosser, Toyota Chiso Corp., Maryville, TN.]

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

On the hermeneutics of fittingness: the removal of the Communion rail?

I would like to enter this as a subject for discussion in our series on the sacramental hermeneutics of fittingness. Why was the Communion rail removed? What good rationale was offered for its removal? What is signified by its removal? Communicants no longer have a natural place to kneel to receive Communion. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion ('civilians,' or 'pedestrians') now freely move about and behind the free-standing Altar after the consecration. What is the purpose of this? What has been lost by the removal of the Communion rail? What did it symbolize, signify, and facilitate? Was it in any way a hinderance, an obstacle? Is Communion more fittingly administered and received at a Communion rail, or without one? Why? Which conduces to more reverent and intimate participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass? Why?

I realize that this question can hardly be isolated from other questions such as we have we have been already entertaining -- for example, the question of kneeling vs. standing, or receiving in the hand vs. receiving on the tongue. Nevertheless, I think there are sufficient issues germane to the question of the Communion rail to warrant a discussion of this question in its own right, and I invite your considered comments, for which, as always, I am very grateful.

St. Patrick's Sterling Rosary

St. Patrick's Sterling Silver Rosary.

Hand crafted by the Catholic Hannini Guild.

Made of premier quality, translucent green, world-renown Czech glass cathedral beads,

Italian sterling silver crucifix and St. Patrick, shamrock center piece imported by the Lewis Company. Meticulous, sturdy detail work. Guaranteed to please.

For sale at this store for $39.95, gift boxed, shipping & handling included.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pope's appeal for conversion of the Jews

In a break with the politically correct, revisionist interpretation of Vatican II offered by some Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that Jews and Christians remain joined by one, eternal covenant established by God, and appealed for the conversion of the Jews. Sandro Magister reports ("Credo Apostolicam Ecclesiam": Wednesdays in Saint Peter's Square):
ROMA, March 16, 2006 -- Last Wednesday morning, in a Saint Peter's Square crammed with members of the faithful attending the usual weekly audience, Benedict XVI inaugurated a new cycle of catechesis.
Benedict defended the essence of the Church against two distortions: (1) the individualistic distortion of liberal theology, as expressed in the Protestant scholar Adolf von Harnack, as well as in liberal Catholic theologians influenced by the tradition of liberal Protestantism, and (2) the distortion separating Christ from the Church by saying: "Christ, yes the Church, no." Concerning Benedict's appeal to the conversion of the Jews, Magister writes:
But the strongest passages of the catechesis were those in which the pope explained the relationship between the institution of the apostles -- twelve in number, like the twelve Jewish tribes -- and the people of Israel.

The pope recalled Jesus' intention "of founding the holy people again." And then:

"By their mere existence, the twelve -- called from different backgrounds -- have become a summons to all Israel to conversion and to allow themselves to be reunited in a new covenant, full and perfect accomplishment of the old."

This appeal from the pope for the conversion of the Jews -- stated as still valid today -- will certainly provoke discussion. In any case, it is perfectly consistent with the view expressed by Benedict XVI when meeting the Jews in the synagogue of Cologne, on August 19, 2005.

Jews and Christians -- Ratzinger said on that occasion -- remain joined by the one, eternal covenant established by God. And also therefore "in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect and love for one another." This begins with the chief distinction: belief or lack of belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the son of God.
Here is the Pope's catechesis in detail: scroll down to the title: "Between Christ and the Church there is no opposition."

Friday, March 17, 2006

A pro-life legacy

My paternal great-grandmother, Catherine ('Kate') Shank (1855-1932), was the fourth of nine children. She was born extremely prematurely and was so small, say the records, that "a half dollar was large enough to hide her face," "a kernel of corn would cover her hand," she would have fit "in a quart cup and covered with a hand," she "was fed with a medicine dropper, and was carried about on a pillow wrapped in a blanket until she was six months old," was kept warm "in the kitchen by the oven," and kept in a sock drawer at night. Here's the kicker: "... but in spite of her smallness at birth, she lived to have fifteen children" of her own! The second of her children was my father's mother, Ada (pictured right, with Perry, my grandfather). My father, the second youngest of nine children, just renewed his driver's license and will turn 89 next week. I am in awe of what people used to do, and what some still do, to support large families. It's not so much even the size of families that impresses me -- though that is impressive -- as the fact that it never seemed to even cross their minds that a newcomer (a baby) could be viewed as an unwanted encumbrance.

Sex in the City of God

At the 12th annual Aquinas-Luther Conference of October 21-23, 2004, I presented a paper entitled "Sex in the City of God: Why God Made Sex and Marriage." It was a lively conference, with, among others, Dr. Janet Smith, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte, and Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, the Orthodox priest and editor of Touchstone Magazine, on the panel of speakers. A version of this paper was first published with permission of the author under the same title in the Lutheran Forum (Summer 2005), pp. 38-49. Since I retain the copyright (© 2004), I've decided to make the paper available on line. The versions published on the linked sites below, is a transcript of the original address with minor editions:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Musings on the October Synod

[Note, if you wish to read the following article in its entirety, complete with footnotes and credits, click on the link at the end of this excerpt.]

by Peter A. Kwasniewski

There is no question that the 11th Ordinance Synod of Bishops that took place in Oct. 2005, dedicated to the theme of "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church" -- a synod already announced by John Paul II but carried into effect by his successor, a theologian noted especially for his liturgical and Eucharistic focus -- was in many ways a fruitful ecclesial event, making allowances for the limitations of any such enormous gatherings of prelates.[1] Pope Benedict XVI was unusually present and accessible in the sense that he came to all the plenary sessions, listened with great care to the discussions, and participated from time to time spontaneously, as a brother bishop. He is clearly at home in discussions of this sort, the give-and-take of theological debate and pastoral deliberations. For their part, the bishops spoke freely, at times movingly, but without saying anything that could be described as a real surprise. The 700 or so media agents approved for the event had to leave somewhat disappointed that no items of a liberal agenda (such as married clergy in the Latin rite, or communion for divorced and remarried Catholics) were taken seriously, much less proclaimed to a world waiting for more validation of its habitual permissiveness.

What surprised me the most, however, was the astonishing lack of discussion or even the awareness of the most fundamental point of all in any attempt to come to grips with the Church of today and her Eucharistic life -- namely, the extent to which the so-called reform of the liturgy has been a disastrous failure. Here was a golden opportunity for some honest soul-searching, for the admission of collective guilt in allowing the riches of the Western liturgical heritage to be pitilessly scattered and buried, for the proposal of radical cures to confront a disease already far advanced. Here was a chance, dare we say it, for humble acknowledgement that what the majority of the Fathers of Vatican II had expected and desired in a liturgical reform was far, far different from what actually transpired at the hands of Bugnini's band, that the de facto abolition of the unbroken custom of ad orientem worship[2] and the associated destruction of sanctuaries and tabernacles across the world was a wretched mistake.[3] Indeed, though one cannot expect the pope of today to declare that the helmsman of the barque of Peter in the 1970s was asleep on the job and did not wake up until he sent Bugnini off to a foretaste of purgatory in Tehran, one could have expected the pope, or at any rate some of the bishops, to confront directly the key question: What has happened to the Roman liturgy of the Mass? Could it be that there was some connection between unprecedented liturgical experimentation and church redesign on the one hand, and the massive drop in devotional life on the other? In short, did something go drastically wrong, and can we take steps to undo the damage?

But my hopes that this would happen were repeatedly dashed. The first indication that the synod would be dealing with worthy but, in a way, second-level questions (as compared with the burning heart of the matter, the Mass) was when the ZENIT news service reported on some comments made by the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Francis Arinze, at a press conference on October 13.[4] According to Cardinal Arinze, up until that point no bishop had mentioned the "Tridentine rite" at the synod -- which means no one had directly raised the painful question of the faulty reform and the inheritance it so grievously distorted, not only by wretched translations into the vernacular but also by the rationalist presuppositions and execution of the reform as such, which constitute nothing less than a break with Tradition, as Cardinal Ratzinger himself had observed in more than one publication.[5] Cardinal Arinze went on to say: "If there are groups that desire the Tridentine Mass, this is already provided for. Bishops may allow it for groups. It is not a priority for the synod, as no one has spoken about it." If you imagine a group of hundreds of bishops and even more assistants, and not one of them brings up a matter that is, for many reasons, at the heart of all that the synod is supposed to be about, does this not sound a bit like a conspiracy of silence?

As I contended above, the burning heart of the matter is the Mass in concreto, not he Eucharist in abstracto. One of the most common mistakes today is when people think that since the Eucharist is the greatest mystery of the faith, we should focus our attention only on it, and not bother so much about he liturgy, which is a secondary affair, (rather like the shell of a hard-boiled egg: when it comes time for eating, you break the shell and eat the egg). But it is not like that. The only way in which our Lord gives himself to us is through the liturgy that His Spirit has lovingly created inside the heart of His Bride, who is our Mother. The Eucharist is not a free-floating entity but a distinctively sacramental, liturgical reality. We cannot be transformed eucharistically apart from being habituated to a life of meditation and contemplation by the sacred rites of the Church. The attempt to cut off the sacraments and view them as independent wholes, almost like Platonic Ideas, forgets altogether the way in which sacramental life is always and essentially a liturgical life, inculturated in forms of a given age and place.

We have been through many phases in the history of Western liturgy, and there have been peaks and valleys. Yet never have we been through a collective desacralization and ideological rewriting of the rites such as the past forty years have witnessed. This is the true crisis that stands behind the more attention-getting crises in the Church; this is the deepest reason for the Church's amnesia of identity, her loss of political nerve, slackened missionary impulse, abandonment of pure contemplation, and whatever other evils we are suffering from (and there are truly very many evils, as Amerio, Ferrara, and Woods, among others have documented all too well).[6]

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"The most powerful Catholic audio on the web"

"Almost thirty years ago, a dear and holy priest gave a Catholic family a complete set of audio tapes of a retreat given by the incomparable Archbishop Sheen.

"The retreat was so inspiring that they obtained permission to copy the tapes for their friends and relatives.

"Their response was phenomenal, and it inspired the idea of forming a lay apostolate -- Keep The Faith -- to distribute such inspiring orthodox Catholic material to Catholics everywhere.

"Today, by God's grace, Keep The Faith's apostolate has flourished to the point where we are now distributing Catholic audio cassettes and videos to more than 65 countries each year - always at cost and often free-of-charge."

The site has "hundreds of sermons and lectures by the foremost defenders of Catholic orthodoxy in the world today," devotional talks, spiritual retreats, and theological lectures "provided under thousands of titles," and, among other things, "maintains the world's largest audio and video tape collection of sermons and lectures by Archbishop Sheen."


Check it out. Audio downloads are a mere $1.00 per MP3 File or WPA File. (These take only seconds to downlodad, and you can either play them on your computer, MP3 player, or, if you have a CD burner, they suggest you burn them onto a blank CD-R so you can play them on any CD player.) You can, of course, also order audio tapes at $3.00-6.00 per cassette.

Take the tour of the site HERE.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Truth about the Homosexual Rights Movement

By Ronald G. Lee

Ed. Note: This article contains an honest description of the homosexual "lifestyle." If you don't want to read such accounts, DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE. If you do read it, don't send us a letter of complaint. You've been forewarned.

There was a "gay" bookstore called Lobo's in Austin, Texas, when I was living there as a grad student. The layout was interesting. Looking inside from the street all you saw were books. It looked like any other bookstore. There was a section devoted to classic "gay" fiction by writers such as Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, and W.H. Auden. There were biographies of prominent "gay" icons, some of whom, like Walt Whitman, would probably have accepted the homosexual label, but many of whom, like Whitman's idol, President Lincoln, had been commandeered for the cause on the basis of evidence no stronger than a bad marriage or an intense same-sex friendship. There were impassioned modern "gay" memoirs, and historical accounts of the origins and development of the "gay rights" movement. It all looked so innocuous and disarmingly bourgeois. But if you went inside to browse, before long you noticed another section, behind the books, a section not visible from the street. The pornography section. Hundreds and hundredsof pornographic videos, all involving men, but otherwise catering to every conceivable sexual taste or fantasy. And you would notice something else too. There were no customers in the front. All the customers were in the back, rooting through the videos. As far as I know, I am the only person who ever actually purchased a book at Lobo's. The books were, in every sense of the word, a front for the porn.

So why waste thousands of dollars on books that no one was going to buy? It was clear from the large "on sale" section that only a pitifully small number of books were ever purchased at their original price. The owners of Lobo's were apparently wasting a lot of money on gay novels and works of gay history, when all the real money was in pornography. But the money spent on books wasn't wasted. It was used to purchase a commodity that is more precious than gold to the gay rights establishment. Respectability. Respectability and the appearance of normalcy. Without that investment, we would not now be engaged in a serious debate about the legalization of same-sex "marriage." By the time I lived in Austin, I had been thinking of myself as a gay man for almost 20 years. Based on the experience acquired during those years, I recognized in Lobo's a metaphor for the strategy used to sell gay rights to the American people, and for the sordid reality that strategy concealed.

This is how I "deconstruct" Lobo's. There are two kinds of people who are going to be looking in through the window: those who are tempted to engage in homosexual acts, and those who aren't. To those who aren't, the shelves of books transmit the message that gay people are no different from anyone else, that homosexuality is not wrong, just different. Since most of them will never know more about homosexuality than what they learned looking in the window, that impression is of the greatest political and cultural importance, because on that basis they will react without alarm, or even with active support, to the progress of gay rights. There are millions of well-meaning Americans who support gay rights because they believe that what they see looking in at Lobo's is what is really there. It does not occur to them that they are seeing a carefully stage-managed effort to manipulate them, to distract them from a truth they would never condone.

For those who are tempted to engage in homosexual acts, the view from the street is also consoling. It makes life as a homosexual look safe and unthreatening. Normal, in other words. Sooner or later, many of these people will stop looking in through the window and go inside. Unlike the first sort of window-shopper, they won't be distracted by the books for long. They will soon discover the existence of the porn section. And no matter how distasteful they might find the idea at first (if indeed they do find it distasteful), they will also notice that the porn section is where all the customers are. And they will feel sort of silly standing alone among the books. Eventually, they will find their way back to the porn, with the rest of the customers. And like them, they will start rooting through the videos. And, gentle reader, that is where most of them will spend the rest of their lives, until God or AIDS, drugs or alcohol, suicide or a lonely old age, intervenes.

Ralph McInerny once offered a brilliant definition of the gay rights movement: self-deception as a group effort. Nevertheless, deception of the general public is also vital to the success of the cause. And nowhere are the forms of deception more egregious, or more startlingly successful, than in the campaign to persuade Christians that, to paraphrase the title of a recent book, Jesus Was Queer, and churches should open their doors to same-sex lovers. The gay Christian movement relies on a stratagem that is as daring as it is dishonest. I know, because I was taken in by it for a long time. Like the owners of Lobo's, success depends on camouflaging the truth, which is hidden in plain view the whole time. It is no wonder The Wizard of Oz is so resonant among homosexuals. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" could be the motto and the mantra of the whole movement.

No single book was as influential in my own coming out as the now ex-Father John McNeill's 1976 "classic" The Church and the Homosexual. That book is to Dignity what "The Communist Manifesto" was to Soviet Russia. Most of the book is devoted to offering alternative interpretations of the biblical passages condemning homosexuality, and to putting the anti-homosexual writings of the Church Fathers and scholastics into historical context in a way that renders them irrelevant and even offensive to modern readers. The first impression of a naive and sexually conflicted young reader such as myself was that McNeill had offered a plausible alternative to traditional teaching. It made me feel justified in deciding to come out of the closet. Were his arguments persuasive? Frankly, I didn't care, and I don't believe most of McNeill's readers do either. They were couched in the language of scholarship, and they sounded plausible. That was all that mattered.

McNeill, like most of the members of his camp, treated the debate over homosexuality as first and foremost a debate about the proper interpretation of texts, texts such as the Sodom story in the Bible and the relevant articles of the Summa. The implication was that once those were reinterpreted, or rendered irrelevant, the gay rights apologists had prevailed, and the door was open for practicing homosexuals to hold their heads up high in church. And there is a certain sense in which that has proved to be true. To the extent that the debate has focused on interpreting texts, the gay apologists have won for themselves a remarkable degree of legitimacy. But that is because, as anyone familiar with the history of Protestantism should be aware, the interpretation of texts is an interminable process. The efforts of people such as McNeill don't need to be persuasive. They only need to be useful.

This is how it works. McNeill reinterprets the story of Sodom, claiming that it does not condemn homosexuality, but gang rape. Orthodox theologians respond, in a commendable but naive attempt to rebut him, naive because these theologians presume that McNeill believes his own arguments, and is writing as a scholar, not as a propagandist. McNeill ignores the arguments of his critics, dismissing their objections as based on homophobia, and repeats his original position. The orthodox respond again as if they were really dealing with a theologian. And back and forth for a few more rounds. Until finally McNeill or someone like him stands up and announces, "You know, this is getting us nowhere. We have our exegesis and our theology. You have yours. Why can't we just agree to disagree?" That sounds so reasonable, so ecumenical. And if the orthodox buy into it, they have lost, because the gay rights apologists have earned a place at the table from which they will never be dislodged. Getting at the truth about Sodom and Gomorrah, or correctly parsing the sexual ethics of St. Thomas, was never really the issue. Winning admittance to Holy Communion was the issue.

Even as a naive young man, one aspect of The Church and the Homosexual struck me as odd. Given that McNeill was suggesting a radical revision of the traditional Catholic sexual ethic, there was almost nothing in it about sexual ethics. The Catholic sexual ethic is quite specific about the ends of human sexuality, and about the forms of behavior that are consistent with those ends. McNeill's criticism of the traditional ethic occupied most of his book, but he left the reader with only the vaguest idea about what he proposed to put in its place. For that matter, there was almost nothing in it about the real lives of real homosexuals. Homosexuality was treated throughout the book as a kind of intellectual abstraction. But I was desperate to get some idea of what was waiting for me on the other side of the closet door. And with no one but Fr. McNeill for a guide, I was reduced to reading between the lines. There was a single passage that I interpreted as a clue. It was almost an aside, really. At one point, he commented that monogamous same-sex unions were consistent with the Church's teaching, or at least consistent with the spirit of the renewed and renovated post-Vatican II Church. With nothing else to go on, I interpreted this in a prescriptive sense. I interpreted McNeill to be arguing that homogenital acts were only moral when performed in the context of a monogamous relationship. And furthermore, I leapt to what seemed like the reasonable conclusion that the author was aware of such relationships, and that I had a reasonable expectation of finding such a relationship myself. Otherwise, for whose benefit was he writing? I was not so naive (although I was pretty naive) as not to be aware of the existence of promiscuous homosexual men. But McNeill's aside, which, I repeat, contained virtually his only stab at offering a gay sexual ethic, led me to believe that in addition to the promiscuous, there existed a contingent of gay men who were committed to living in monogamy. Otherwise, Fr. McNeill was implicitly defending promiscuity. And the very idea of a priest defending promiscuity was inconceivable to me. (Yes, that naive.)

Several years ago, McNeill published an autobiography. In it, he makes no bones about his experiences as a sexually active Catholic priest -- a promiscuous, sexually active, homosexual Catholic priest. He writes in an almost nostalgic fashion about his time spent hunting for sex in bars. Although he eventually did find a stable partner (while he was still a priest), he never apologizes for his years of promiscuity, or even so much as alludes to the disparity between his own life and the passage in The Church and the Homosexual that meant so much to me. It is possible that he doesn't even remember suggesting that homosexuals were supposed to remain celibate until finding monogamous relationships. It is obvious that he never meant that passage to be taken seriously, except by those who would never do more than look in the window -- in others words, gullible, well-meaning, non-homosexual Catholics, preferably those in positions of authority. Or, equally naive and gullible young men such as me who werelooking for a reason to act on their sexual desires, preferably one that did not do too much violence to their consciences, at least not at first. The latter, the writer presumed, would eventually find their way back to the porn section, where their complicity in the scam would render them indistinguishable from the rest of the regular customers. Clearly, there was a reason that in the earlier book he wrote so little about the real lives of real homosexuals, such as himself.

I don't see how the contradiction between The Church and the Homosexual and the autobiography could be accidental. Why would McNeill pretend to believe that homosexuals should restrict themselves to sex within the context of monogamous relationships when his life demonstrates that he did not? I can think of only one reason. Because he knew that if he told the truth, his cause would be dead in the water. Although to this day McNeill, like all gay Christian propagandists, avoids the subject of sexual ethics as if it were some sort of plague, his life makes his real beliefs clear. He believes in unrestricted sexual freedom. He believes that men and women should have the right to couple, with whomever they want, whenever they want, however they want, and as often as they want. He would probably add some sort of meaningless bromide about no one getting hurt and both parties being treated with respect, but anyone familiar with the snake pit of modern sexual culture (both heterosexual and homosexual) willknow how seriously to take that. And he knew perfectly well that if he were honest about his real aims, there would be no Dignity, there would be no gay Christian movement, at least not one with a snowball's chance in Hell of succeeding. That would be like getting rid of the books and letting the casual window-shoppers see the porn. And we can't have that now, can we? In other words, the ex-Fr. McNeill is a bad priest and a con man. And given the often lethal consequences of engaging in homosexual sex, a con man with blood on his hands.

Let me be clear. I believe that McNeill's real beliefs, as deduced from his actual behavior, and distinguished from the arguments he puts forward for the benefit of the naive and gullible, represent the real aims and objectives of the homosexual rights movement. They are the porn that the books are meant to conceal. In other words, if you support what is now described in euphemistic terms as "the blessing of same-sex unions," in practice you are supporting the abolition of the entire Christian sexual ethic, and its substitution with an unrestricted, laissez faire, free sexual market. The reason that the homosexual rights movement has managed to pick up such a large contingent of heterosexual fellow-travelers is simple: Because once that taboo is abrogated, no taboos are left. I once heard a heterosexual Episcopalian put it this way: If I don't want the church poking its nose into my bedroom, how can I condone it when it limits the sexual freedom of homosexuals? That might sound outrageous, but if you still believe that the debate is over the religious status of monogamous same-sex relationships, please be prepared to point out one church somewhere in the U.S. that has opened its doors to active homosexuals without also opening them to every other form of sexual coupling imaginable. I am too old to be taken in by "Father" McNeill and his abstractions anymore. Show me.

A few years ago, I subscribed to the Dignity Yahoo group on the Internet. There were at that time several hundred subscribers. At one point, a confused and troubled young man posted a question to the group: Did any of the subscribers attach any value to monogamy? I immediately wrote back that I did. A couple of days later the young man wrote back to me. He had received dozens of responses, some of them quite hostile and demeaning, and all but one -- mine -- telling him to go out and get laid because that was what being gay was all about. (This was a gay "Catholic" group.) He did not know what to make of it because none of the propaganda to which he was exposed before coming out prepared him for what was really on the other side of the closet door. I had no idea what to tell him, because at the time I was still caught up in the lie myself. Now, the solution seems obvious. What I should have written back to him was, "You have been lied to. Ask God for forgiveness and get back to Kansas as fast as you can. Auntie Em is waiting."

In light of all the legitimate concern about Internet pornography, it might seem ironic to assert that the Internet helped rescue me from homosexuality. For twenty years, I thought there was something wrong with me. Dozens of well-meaning people assured me that there was a whole, different world of homosexual men out there, a world that for some reason I could never find, a world of God-fearing, straight-acting, monogamy-believing, and fidelity-practicing homosexuals. They assured me that they themselves knew personally (for a fact and for real) that such men existed. They themselves knew such men (or at least had heard tell of them from those who did). And I believed it, although as the years passed it got harder and harder. Then I got a personal computer and a subscription to AOL. "O.K.," I reasoned, "morally conservative homosexuals are obviously shy and skittish and fearful of sudden movements. They don't like bars and bathhouses. Neither do I. They don't attend Dignity meetings or Metropolitan Community Church services because the gay 'churches' are really bathhouses masquerading as houses of worship. But there is no reason a morally conservative homosexual cannot subscribe to AOL and submit a profile. If I can do it, anyone can do it." So I did it. I wrote a profile describing myself as a conservative Catholic (comme ci, comme ca) who loved classical music and theater and good books and scintillating conversation about all of the above. I said I wanted very much to meet other like-minded homosexuals for the purposes of friendship and romance. I tried to be as clear as I knew how. I was not interested in one night stands. And within minutes of placing the profile, I got my first response. It consisted of three words: "How many inches?" My experience of looking for love on AOL went downhill rapidly from there.

When I first came out in the 1980s, it was common for gay rights apologists to blame the promiscuity among gay men on "internalized homophobia." Gay men, like African Americans, internalized and acted out the lies about themselves learned from mainstream American culture. Furthermore, homosexuals were forced to look for love in dimly lit bars, bathhouses, and public parks for fear of harassment at the hands of a homophobic mainstream. The solution to this problem, we were told, was permitting homosexuals to come out into the open, without fear of retribution. A variant of this argument is still put forward by activists such as Andrew Sullivan, in order to legitimate same-sex marriage. And it seemed reasonable enough twenty years ago. But thirty-five years have passed since the infamous Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York, the Lexington and Concord of the gay liberation movement. During that time, homosexuals have carved out for themselves public spaces in every major American city, and many of the minor ones as well. They have had the chance to create whatever they wanted in those spaces, and what have they created? New spaces for locating sexual partners.

There is another reason, apart from the propaganda value, that bookstores like Lobo's peddle porn as well as poetry. Because without the porn, they would soon go out of business. And, in fact, most gay bookstores have gone out of business, despite the porn. Following an initial burst of enthusiasm in the 1970s and 80s, gay publishing went into steep decline, and shows no signs of coming out of it. Once the novelty wore off, gay men soon bored of reading about men having sex with one another, preferring to devote their time and disposable income to pursuing the real thing. Gay and lesbian community centers struggle to keep their doors open. Gay churches survive as places where worshippers can go to sleep it off and cleanse their soiled consciences after a Saturday night spent cruising for sex at the bars. And there is no danger of ever hearing a word from the pulpit suggesting that bar-hopping is inconsistent with believing in the Bible. When I lived in the United Kingdom, I was struck by the extent to which gay culture in London replicated gay culture in the U.S. The same was true in Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Homosexuality is one of America's most successful cultural exports. And the focus on gay social spaces in Europe is identical to their focus in America: sex. Cyberspace is now the latest conquest of that amazing modern Magellan: the male homosexual in pursuit of new sexual conquests.

But at this point, how is it possible to blame the promiscuity among homosexual men on homophobia, internalized or otherwise? On the basis of evidence no stronger than wishful thinking, Andrew Sullivan wants us to believe that legalizing same-sex "marriage" will domesticate gay men, that all that energy now devoted to building bars and bathhouses will be dedicated to erecting picket fences and two-car garages. What Sullivan refuses to face is that male homosexuals are not promiscuous because of "internalized homophobia," or laws banning same-sex "marriage." Homosexuals are promiscuous because when given the choice, homosexuals overwhelmingly choose to be promiscuous. And wrecking the fundamental social building block of our civilization, the family, is not going to change that.

I once read a disarmingly honest essay in which Sullivan as much as admitted his real reason for promoting the cause of same-sex "marriage." He faced up to the sometimes sordid nature of his sexual life, which is more than most gay activists are prepared to do, and he regretted it. He wished he had led a different sort of life, and he apparently believes that if marriage were a legal option, he might have been able to do so. I have a lot more respect for Andrew Sullivan than I do for most gay activists. I believe that he would seriously like to reconcile his sexual desires with the demands of his conscience. But with all due respect, are the rest of us prepared to sacrifice the institution of the family in the unsubstantiated hope that doing so will make it easier for Sullivan to keep his trousers zipped?

But isn't it theoretically possible that homosexuals could restrict themselves to something resembling the traditional Catholic sexual ethic, except for the part about procreation -- in other words, monogamous lifelong relationships? Of course it is theoretically possible. It was also theoretically possible in 1968 that the use of contraceptives could be restricted to married couples, that the revolting downward slide into moral anarchy we have lived through could have been avoided. It is theoretically possible, but it is practically impossible. It is impossible because the whole notion of stable sexual orientation on which the gay rights movement is founded has no basis in fact.

Rene Girard, the French literary critic and sociologist of religion, argues that all human civilization is founded on desire. All civilizations have surrounded the objects of desire (including sexual desire) with an elaborate and unbreachable wall of taboos and restrictions. Until now. What we are seeing in the modern West is not the long overdue legitimization of hitherto despised but honorable forms of human love. What we are witnessing is the reduction of civilization to its lowest common denominator: unbridled and unrestricted desire. To assert that we have opened a Pandora's Box would be a stunning understatement. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, it looks to be a bumpy millennium.

When I was growing up, we were all presumed to be heterosexual. Then homosexuality was introduced as an alternative. That did not at first seem like a major revision because, apart from procreation, homosexuality, at least in theory, left the rest of the traditional sexual ethic in tact. Two people of the same gender could (in theory) fall in love and live a life of monogamous commitment. Then bisexuality was introduced, and the real implications of the sexual revolution became clear. Monogamy was out the window. Moral norms were out the window. Do-it-yourself sexuality became the norm. Anyone who wants to know what that looks like can do no better than go online. The Internet offers front row seats to the circus of a disintegrating civilization.

Take Yahoo, for example. Yahoo makes it possible for people sharing a common interest to create groups for the purpose of making contacts and sharing information. If that conjures up images of genealogists and stamp collectors, think again. There are now thousands of Yahoo groups catering to every kind of sexual perversion imaginable. Many of them would defy the imagination of the Marquis de Sade himself. People who until a few years ago could do nothing but fantasize now entertain serious hopes of acting out their fantasies. I met a man online whose fondest wish was to be spanked with a leather wallet. It had to be leather. And it had to be a wallet. And he needed to be spanked with it. Old-fashioned genital friction was optional. This man wanted a Gucci label tattooed across his backside. He could imagine no loftier pinnacle of passion. And he insisted that this desire was as fundamental to his sexual nature as the desire to go to bed with a man was for me. Furthermore, he had formed a Yahoo group that had more than three hundred members, all of whom shared the same passion. There is no object in the universe, no human or animal body part, that cannot be eroticized. So, is the desire to be spanked with a leather wallet a "sexual orientation"? If not, how is it different?

There was a time when I would have snorted, "Of course it is different. You can't share a life with a leather wallet. You can't love a leather wallet. What you are talking about is a fetish, not a sexual orientation. The two are completely different." But the truth is that all the gay men I encountered had a fetish for naked male skin, with all the objectification and depersonalization that implies, that I now consider the distinction sophistical. Leather is skin too, after all. The only real difference between the fellow on the Internet and the average gay man is that he preferred his skin Italian, bovine, and tanned.

Over the years, I have attended various gay and gay-friendly church services. All of them shared one characteristic in common: a tacit agreement never to say a word from the pulpit -- or from any other location for that matter -- suggesting that there ought to be any restrictions on human sexual behavior. If anyone reading this is familiar with Dignity or Integrity or the Metropolitan Community churches or, for that matter, mainline Protestantism and most of post-Vatican II Catholicism, let me ask you one question: When was the last time you heard a sermon on sexual ethics? Have you ever heard a sermon on sexual ethics? I take it for granted that the answer is negative. Do our priests and pastors honestly believe that Christians in America are not in need of sermons on sexual ethics?

Here is the terrifying fact: If we as a nation and as a Church allow ourselves to be taken in by the scam of monogamous same-sex couples, we will be welcoming to our Communion rails (presuming that we still have Communion rails) not just the statistically insignificant number of same-sex couples who have lived together for more than a few years (most of whom purchased stability by jettisoning monogamy); we will also be legitimizing every kind of sexual taste, from old-fashioned masturbation and adultery to the most outlandish forms of sexual fetishism. We will, in other words, be giving our blessing to the suicide of Western civilization.

But what about all those images of loving same-sex couples dying to get hitched with which the media are awash these days? That used to confuse me too. It seems that The New York Times has no trouble finding successful same-sex partners to photograph and interview. But despite my best efforts, I was never able to meet the sorts of couples who show up regularly on Oprah. The media are biased and have no interest in telling the truth about homosexuality.

I met Wyatt (not his real name) online. For five years he was in a disastrous same-sex relationship. His partner was unfaithful, and an alcoholic with drug problems. The relationship was something that would give Strindberg nightmares. When Vermont legalized same-sex "marriage," Wyatt saw it as one last chance to make their relationship work. He and his partner would fly to Vermont to get "married." This came to the attention of the local newspaper in his area, which did a story with photos of the wedding reception. In it, Wyatt and his partner were depicted as a loving couple who finally had a chance to celebrate their commitment publicly. Nothing was said about the drugs or the alcoholism or the infidelity. But the marriage was a failure and ended in flames a few months later. And the newspaper did not do a follow-up. In other words, the leading daily of one of America's largest cities printed a misleading story about a bad relationship, a story that probably persuaded more than one young man that someday he could be just as happy as Wyatt and his "partner." And that is the sad part.

But one very seldom reads about people like my friend Harry. Harry (not his real name) was a balding, middle-aged man with a potbelly. He was married, and had a couple of grown daughters. And he was unhappy. Harry persuaded himself that he was unhappy because he was gay. He divorced his wife, who is now married to someone else, his daughters are not speaking to him, and he is discovering that pudgy, bald, middle-aged men are not all that popular in gay bars. Somehow, Oprah forgot to mention that. Now Harry is taking anti-depressants in order to keep from killing himself.

Then there was another acquaintance, who also happened to have the same name as the previous guy. Harry (not his real name) was about 30 (but could easily pass for 20), and from a Mormon background, with all the naivete that suggests. Unlike the first Harry, he had no difficulty getting dates. Or relationships for that matter. The problem was that the relationships never lasted more than a couple of weeks. Harry was also rapidly developing a serious drinking problem. (So much for the Mormon words of wisdom.) If you happened to be at the bar around two in the morning, you could probably have Harry for the night if you were interested. He was so drunk he wouldn't remember you the next day, and all he really wanted at that point was for someone to hold him.

Gay culture is a paradox. Most homosexuals tend to be liberal Democrats, or in the U.K., supporters of the Labour Party. They gravitate toward those Parties on the grounds that their policies are more compassionate and sensitive to the needs of the downtrodden and oppressed. But there is nothing compassionate about a gay bar. It represents a laissez faire free sexual market of the most Darwinian sort. There is no place in it for those who are not prepared to compete, and the rules of the game are ruthless and unforgiving. I remember once being in a gay pub in central London. Most of the men there were buff and toned and in their 20s or early 30s. An older gentleman walked in, who looked to be in his 70s. It was as if the Angel of Death himself had made an entrance. In that crowded bar, a space opened up around him that no one wanted to enter. His shadow transmitted contagion. It was obvious that his presence made the other customers nervous. He stood quietly at the bar and ordered a drink. He spoke to no one and no one spoke to him. When he eventually finished his drink and left, the sigh of relief from all those buff, toned pub crawlers was almost audible. Now all of them could go back to pretending that gay men were all young and beautiful forever. Gentle reader, do you know what a "bug chaser" is? A bug chaser is a young gay man who wants to contract HIV so that he will never grow old. And that is the world that Harry left his wife, and the other Harry his Church, to find happiness in.

I have known a lot of people like the two Harrys. But I have met precious few who bore more than a superficial resemblance to the idealized images we see in Oscar-winning movies such as Philadelphia, or in the magazine section of The New York Times. What I find suspicious is that the media ignore the existence of people like the two Harrys. The unhappiness so common among homosexuals is swept under the carpet, while fanciful and unrealistic "role models" are offered up for public consumption. There is at the very least grounds for a serious debate about the proposition that "gay is good," but no such debate is taking place, because most of the mainstream media have already made up their (and our) minds.

But it is hard to hide the porn forever. When I was living in London, I had a wonderful friend named Maggie. Maggie (not her real name) was a liberal. Her big heart bled for the oppressed. Like most liberals, she was proud of her open-mindedness and wore it like a badge of honor. Maggie lived in a house as big as her heart and all of her children were grown up and had moved out. She had a couple of rooms to rent. It just so happened that both the young men who became her tenants were gay. Maggie's first reaction was enthusiastic. She had never known many gay people, and thought the experience of renting to two homosexuals would confirm her in her open-mindedness. She believed it would be a learning experience. It was, but not the sort she had in mind. One day Maggie told me her troubles and confessed her doubts. She talked about what it was like to stumble each morning down to the breakfast table, finding two strangers seated there, the two strangers her tenants brought home the night before. It was seldom the same two strangers two mornings running. One of her tenants was in a long-distance relationship but, in the absence of his partner, felt at liberty to seek consolation elsewhere. She talked about what it was like to have to deal on a daily basis with the emotional turmoil of her tenants' tumultuous lives. She told me what it was like to open the door one afternoon and find a policeman standing there, a policeman who was looking for one of her tenants, who was accused of trying to sell drugs to school children. That same tenant was also involved in prostitution. Maggie didn't know what to make of it all. She desperately wanted to remain open-minded, to keep believing that gay men were no worse than anyone else, just different. But she couldn't reconcile her experience with that "tolerant" assumption. The truth was that when the two finally moved out, an event to which she was looking forward with some enthusiasm, and it was time to place a new ad for rooms to let, she wanted to include the following proviso: Fags need not apply. I didn't know what to tell Maggie because I was just as confused as she was. I wanted to hold on to my illusions too, in spite of all the evidence.

I am convinced that many, if not most, people who are familiar with the lives of homosexuals know the truth, but refuse to face it. My best friend got involved in the gay rights movement as a graduate student. He and a lesbian colleague sometimes counseled young men who were struggling with their sexuality. Once, the two of them met a young man who was seriously overweight and suffered from terrible acne. The young man waxed eloquent about the happiness he expected to find when he came out of the closet. He was going to find a partner, and the two of them would live happily ever after. The whole time my friend was thinking that if someone looking like this fat, pustulent young man ever walked into a bar, he would be folded, spindled, and mutilated before even taking a seat. Afterwards, the lesbian turned to him and said, "You know, sometimes it is better to stay in the closet." My friend told me that for him this represented a decisive moment. This lesbian claimed to love and admire gay men. She never stopped praising their kindness and compassion and creativity. But with that one comment she in effect told my friend that she really knew what gay life was all about. It was about meat, and unless you were a good cut, don't bother coming to the supermarket.

On another occasion, I was complaining to a lesbian about my disillusionment. She made a remarkable admission to me. She had a teenage son, who so far had not displayed signs of sexual interest in either gender. She knew as a lesbian she should not care which road he took. But she confessed to me that she did care. Based on the lives of the gay men she knew, she found herself secretly praying that her son would turn out to be straight. As a mother, she did not want to see her son living that life.

A popular definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, while expecting a different result. That was me, the whole time I was laboring to become a happy homosexual. I was a lunatic. Several times I turned for advice to gay men who seemed better adjusted to their lot in life than I was. First, I wanted confirmation that my perceptions were accurate, that life as a male homosexual really was as awful as it seemed to be. And then I wanted to know what I was supposed to do about it. When was it going to get better? What could I do to make it better? I got two sorts of reactions to these questions, both of which left me feeling hurt and confused. The first sort of reaction was denial, often bitter denial, of what I was suggesting. I was told that there was something wrong with me, that most gay men were having a wonderful time, that I was generalizing on the basis of my own experience (whose experience was I supposed to generalize from?), and that I should shut up and stop bothering others with my "internalized homophobia."

I began seeing a counselor when I was a graduate student. Matt (not his real name) was a happily married man with college-age children. All he knew about homosexuality he learned from the other members of his profession, who assured him that homosexuality was not a mental illness and that there were no good reasons that homosexuals could not lead happy, productive lives. When I first unloaded my tale of woe, Matt told me I had never really come out of the closet. (I still have no idea what he meant, but suspect it is like the "once saved, always saved" Baptist who responds to the lapsed by telling him that he was never really saved in the first place.) I needed to go back, he told me, try again, and continue to look for the positive experiences he was sure were available for me, on the basis of no other evidence than the rulings of the American Psychiatric Association. He had almost no personal experience of homosexuals, but his peers assured him that the book section at Lobo's offered a true picture of homosexual life. I knew Matt was clueless, but I still wanted to believe he was right.

Matt and I developed a therapeutic relationship. During the year we spent together, he learned far more from me than I did from him. I tried to take his advice. I was sharing a house that year with another grad student who was in the process of coming out and experiencing his own disillusionment. Because I had been his only gay friend, and had encouraged him to come out, his bitterness came to be directed at me, and our relationship suffered for it. Meanwhile, I developed a close friendship with a member of the faculty who was openly gay. When I first informed Matt, he was ecstatic. He thought I was finally come out properly. The faculty member was just the sort of friend I needed. But the faculty member, as it turned out, despite his immaculate professional facade, was a deeply disturbed man who put all of his friends through emotional hell, which I of course shared with a shocked and silenced Matt. (I tried to date but, as usual, experienced the same pattern that characterized all my homosexual relationships. The friendship lasted as long as the sexual heat. Once that cooled, my partner's interest in me as a person dissipated with it.) It was not a good year. At the end of it, I remember Matt staring at me, with glazed eyes and a shell-shocked look on his face, and admitting, "You know, being gay is a lot harder than I realized."

Not everyone I spoke to over the years rejected what I had to say out of hand. I once corresponded with an English ex-Dominican. I was ecstatic to learn that he was gay, and was eventually kicked out of his order for refusing to remain in the closet. He included an e-mail address in one of his books, and I wrote him, wanting to know if his experience of life as a homosexual was significantly different from mine. I presumed it must be, since he had written a couple of books, passionately defending the right of homosexuals to a place in the Church. His response to me was one of the last nails in the coffin of my life as a gay man. To my astonishment, he admitted that his experiences were not unlike mine. All he could suggest was that I keep trying, and eventually everything would work out. In other words, this brilliant man, whose books had meant so much to me, had nothing to suggest except that I keep doing the same thing, while expecting a different result. There was only one reasonable conclusion. I would be nuts if I took his advice. It took me twenty years, but I finally reached the conclusion that I did not want to be insane.

So where am I now? I am attending a militantly orthodox parish in Houston that is one of God's most spectacular gifts to me. My best friend Mark (not his real name) is, like me, a refugee from the homosexual insane asylum. He is also a devout believer, though a Presbyterian (no one is perfect). From Mark I have learned that two men can love each other profoundly while remaining clothed the entire time.

We are told that the Church opposes same-sex love. Not true. The Church opposes homogenital sex, which in my experience is not about love, but about obsession, addiction, and compensation for a compromised masculinity.

I am not proud of the life I have lived. In fact, I am profoundly ashamed of it. But if reading this prevents one naive, gullible man from making the same mistakes, then perhaps with the assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe; of St. Joseph, her chaste spouse; of my patron saint, Edmund Campion; of St. Josemaria Escriva; of the blessed Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne; and, last but not least, of my special supernatural guide and mentor, the Venerable John Henry Newman, I can at least hope for a reprieve from some of the many centuries in Purgatory I have coming to me.

So, what do we as a Church and a culture need to do? Tear down the respectable facade and expose the pornography beneath. Start pressuring homosexuals to tell the truth about their lives. Stop debating the correct interpretation of Genesis 19. Leave the men of Sodom and Gomorrah buried in the brimstone where they belong. Sodom is hidden in plain view from us, here and now, today. Once, when preparing a lecture on Cardinal Newman, I summarized his classic Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine in this fashion: Truth ripens, error rots. The homosexual rights movement is rotten to the core. It has no future. There is no life in it. Sooner or later, those who are caught up in it are going to wake up from the dream of unbridled desire or else die. It is just a matter of time. The question is: how long? How many children are going to be sacrificed to this Moloch?

Until several months ago, there was a Lobo's in Houston too. Not accidentally, I'm sure, its layout was identical to the one in Austin. It was just a few blocks from the gas station where I take my car for service. Recently, I was taking a walk through the neighborhood while my tires were being rotated. And I noticed something. There was a padlock on the door at Lobo's. A sign on the door read, "The previous tenant was evicted for nonpayment of rent." The books and the porn, the facade and what it conceals, are gone now. Praise God.

[Ronald G. Lee is a librarian in Houston, Texas. His article, "The Truth About the Homosexual Rights Movement," was originally published in the New Oxford Review (February 2006), and is reprinted here by permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.]

Architettura della Chisa

A relatively new website devoted to traditional church architecture, restoration, and preservation: Check it out.

Karl Keating and Dale Vree

Some of you might be interested to know that I got a call from Karl Keating the other day, thanking me for defending Dale Vree and NOR on my blog. It's a small world. I asked him what Dale is like, since all I knew about him was what I'd seen in print. Karl, who said that he'd visited Dale in his home a number of times, said that he found him to be a soft-spoken, really nice guy. Then, just yesterday, I got a call from Dale Vree himself. Karl was right. He is soft-spoken, almost retiring, but has a really funny sense of humor. In a recent March for Life, Dale said he was wearing one of those NOR T-shirts and a priest who was walking besides him noticed it and asked him if he knew Dale Vree. Dale replied: "Yeah, I sort of know him ..." Priest: "What's he like?" Dale: "Oh, he's sort of shy and soft-spoken." Dale said he eventually told him: "I am Dale Vree," and the priest wouldn't believe him, insisting that he show him his driver's license. They became fast friends.

Monday, March 06, 2006

What went wrong at Harvard?

Camille Paglia, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times (March 6, 2006) entitled Academic, Heal Thyself," addresses the recent fiasco over the forced resignation of Harvard's president, Lawrence H. Summers. She writes:
Harvard's reputation for disinterested scholarship has been severely gored by the shadowy manipulations of the self-serving cabal who forced Mr. Summers's premature resignation. That so few of the ostensibly aggrieved faculty members deigned to speak on the record to The Crimson, the student newspaper, illustrates the cagey hypocrisy that permeates fashionable campus leftism, which worships diversity in all things except diversity of thought.

If Harvard cannot correct itself in this crisis, it will signal that academe cannot be trusted to reform itself from within....

Over the last three decades of trendy poststructuralism and postmodernism, American humanities professors fell under the sway of a ruthless guild mentality. Corruption and cronyism became systemic, spread by the ostentatious conference circuit and the new humanities centers of the 1980's. Harvard did not begin that blight but became an extreme example of it. Amid the ruins of the Summers presidency, there is a tremendous opportunity for recovery and renewal of the humanities. Which way will Harvard go?
Read more of the always provocative and insightful Paglia's article HERE.

On the hermeneutics of fittingness: Communion in the hand, standing

As promised in the comment box on our earlier discussion "On the hermeneutics of fittingness in posture for prayer" (March 2, 2006), I said I would continue this discussion with more specific gestures and postures in the Mass. Specifically, in response to "St Pio," I said:
I suppose what I should do is to raise more specific questions as to what gestures and postures would be more or less fitting in specific parts of the Mass. This I may do in forthcoming posts.
So here we go: the first change in the new Mass I propose we discuss is Communion in the hand, standing (as is currently widespread in the new Mass), as opposed to Communion on the tongue, kneeling (as is normative in the Traditional Latin Mass. As I recall from my reading, Communion in the hand was first re-introduced in the Netherlands after Vatican II by those who used ancient precedents for this practice in the Church as a pretext. I say "pretext," because when it was reintroduced in the Netherlands, it was done so in violation of what was then the normative practice of receiving on the tongue, and promoted particularly by those who had already embraced a diminished view of Christ's Real Presence in the Sacrament, those who found the traditional language of "transubstantiation" embarrasing and had embraced an essentially Zwinglian view of the Sacrament as symbolic of Christ's Body rather than the transubstantiated Body of Christ. If any of you wish to offer commentary that would shed further light on the re-introduction of Communion in the hand, would be grateful. The additional matter of standing to receive Communion, rather than kneeling, was introduced perhaps more gradually, only becoming the accepted norm in the United States comparatively recently.

The main question I would like to address in our discussion is this: What, if anything, is more fitting about receiving Communion in the hand, standing? Since the Church has accepted these practices, there must be a plausible rationale. The obvious ancillary question, then, would be: Is the rationale adequate, or has something important been lost in the currently widespread acceptance of Communion in the hand while standing -- something that can be found in the sacramental hermeneutics of the earlier manner of receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling?

Gender and Divinity (continued)

Another entry in the continuing discussion with Edgar Foster on Gender and Divinity (HERE).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pope drops traditional papal title

"Pope Drops Title for unity" declares (News.Scotsman.Com, March 2, 2006):

Pope Benedict has dropped one of his nine official titles, giving up "Patriarch of the West" in a discreet step apparently intended to help promote closer ties with the Orthodox churches of the East. (Read more here.)
[Hat tip, NOR]

Liberal 'tolerance': Orange County California diocese cancels Indult Mass

Steven Greenhut writes, in "Liberal 'tolerance' at Diocese of Orange" (Orange Punch, March 3, 2006):
In announcing his 10 theses to deal with the dioceses' horrible handling of the child-rape crisis, Bishop Tod Brown pledged, in thesis 4, to "work collaboratively with all members of the diocese." But, of course, the theses stunt was all about public relations rather than repentance. Soon afterward the diocese -- ever tolerant of liberal ideas on church teaching -- cracked down on the one thing the bishop cannot tolerate: traditional Catholicism. He shut down the Tridentine Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea in Huntington Beach, and has been unrelenting in his attempt to impose liberal orthodoxy on that conservative parish. (Read more here.)
[Hat tip, NOR]

Peter Jackson's achievement, a world-historical cinematic event

One of my good friends, a man well-acquainted with Hollywood and a connoisseur of fine acting, will not watch Peter Jackson's cinematic version of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." I guess he just doesn't consider men in tights playing dwarves and hobbits game material. Whatever the reason, I've had some occasion to reflect on my disappointed that he won't give Jackson's film a chance. From my point of view, Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" ranks among the top achievements of cinematic history.

Here's why (my review of the extended DVD edition).

Friday, March 03, 2006

A reflection on religious doubt

A interlocutor's query about religious doubt elicited this a post, "A reflection on religious doubt" (Perennial Philosophy, March 3, 2003)

Gender and Divinity

My good friend and colleague, Edgar Foster, continues his query into the question of gender and divinity, which led to this brief little exchange between us at Philosophia Perennis (March 3, 2006).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On the sacramental hermeneutics of fittingness in posture for prayer

Okay: exam time. Let me pose this simply as a question for discussion. What posture is most "fitting" and therefore expressive of a proper disposition for praying, say, the penitential prayer of Psalm 51 --
  • standing?
  • kneeling?
  • lounging on a piano top with a Martini in hand?
  • govelling in the dust?
Discuss and offer a rationale.

Banquet for Dr. Ralph McInerny launches ambitious Center

The Thomas International Project announces the establishment of The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies and invites you to join them at The First Annual Banquet honoring Dr. Ralph McInerny, Saturday, April 1, 2006, 6:30 pm Reception 7:30 pm Dinner. Guest Speaker: Michael Novak. Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. R.S.V.P. [Dyann Brown:] by March 15th. Black Tie Optional. Honorary Chairs: Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, The Catholic University of America; Chris Policinski, President and CEO Land O'Lakes. Inc.

To purchase tickets, journal ads or table sponsorships online, or for further details, visit or call (301) 983- 2851/973 416-4384.

Pre-banquet Conference on "Natural Law Today," 2:00 pm -- 5:00 pm. Speakers: Ralph McInerny and Hadley Arkes. Conference is free and open to public Location -- US Capitol.

Center's Purpose: The purpose of Center is to foster a renewal of Thomistic studies in the contemporary world. It aims to promote a strong and accurate rereading of Aquinas' philosophy and theology but, at the same time, to make Aquinas' thought fruitfully converse with contemporary culture, especially in the areas of bioethics, legal theory, economics, political theory, literature, science, and sociology.

Ralph McInerny is an important figure among those who have studied, preserved, and handed down Thomistic thought in the late twentieth century. It is very fitting for a new research center on Thomistic studies to be established in his honor and build on his distinguished legacy.

The Center will offer support for research scholars, organizing conferences, providing internet resources, offering courses, sponsoring a journal, and cooperating with like-minded institutes, here and abroad. Eventually, the hope of the Center's sponsors is that it will be the core of a new international university. The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies is sponsored by the American Public Philosophy Institute.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

"Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris."

"Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."
--Genesis 3:19