On One Hand

October 19, 2007

Father Steve, Dave the Devout and the sexually-ambiguous youth group mentor

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 10:14 pm

This started as a comment in another blog, but I decided to expand and post it here.

When I was growing up, a very effeminate priest served for several years at the Catholic church I went to. During my weekend Confirmation retreat the two other 14-year-old boys I bunked with were telling each other, “I bet it’s hard for Father Steve to be a priest since he’s gay.”

I was like, uh… he’s taken a vow of celibacy, so he is either 1) following that vow and it’s no different for him than it is for any heterosexual priest who follows the rules, or he is 2) hooking up secretly with other gay priests or random men, in which case it’s no different for him than it is for any other gay men who are single and closeted.

Less than a year later, Father Steve got kicked out of the priesthood. Not for hooking up, but for stealing money from the church. At least that’s what they told us. Since we were Catholic, we decided to respond in a Catholic-ly way, and about half of the adult congregants in the church wrote Steve “Forgiveness letters” in the weeks following the announcement.

In the youth group, every now and then a guy would announce that he’s “thinking about becoming a priest.” For me and other closeted Catholic teenagers, that was code for gay. You don’t choose to be a priest, God “calls” you, so if you weren’t attracted to women you could wonder if that was God’s way of telling you that “marriage and family life” isn’t for you. The first guy to do such a thing was Dave (who may have actually been straight), a dangerously sexy religious fanatic, and I was instantly in love. When I went through my religious crisis in high school, ocilating between ultra-devout Catholocism and complete disillusionment, he transfered from the nearby Catholic school to my own high school. One day he asked me if I was a “Cafeteria Catholic,” which means you take some Catholic teachings to heart but reject others. I told him no. I was either in or out; leaning towards in then, but I left Catholocism soon after.

Years later I got an email from one of the guys who had been “called to the priesthood” saying he saw my profile Online somewhere. He was the guy who used to play racquetball with the archbishop. Kris had been a 21-year-old CORE TEAM leader of the group and I was 15, and I had a desperate crush on him. His younger sister was still leading the group, just as my own younger sister was still a member. Now Kris was no longer Catholic either, and we ended up quasi-dating for a very short time. Dating…sort of. We were really only hanging out in my mind, but once when I stayed at his house and slept in his bed, he told me “I totally… like you.”

I said I think of him as more of a mentor than anything else. It was too awkward, trying to be on equal terms with someone who I thought of as an authority. I think he was hurt by my answer, because he never wanted to hang out again.

Now I’m a youth group mentor too. It’s different in many ways; first, it’s a Unitarian Universalist church and I am out of the closet there. Second, I don’t think I’d ever consider dating any of my kids, even years from now, because like I said to Kris, it would be too weird.


1 Comment »

  1. Closeted

    Matt, you’ve written much more than I ever realized when I was in Catholicism. I suppose I simply repressed it. However, I was never totally IN Catholicism. For example, I found papal infallibility ridiculous, even as a staunch Catholic.

    By the way, I suppose you’re rooting for the Rockies in the Series.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 20, 2007 @ 11:24 am | Reply

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