One glaring example of the shadow side of sexuality that is alive and well in our times can be religion’s negative teachings around it. A recent book paints an ugly and pitiful picture of the price individuals and communities pay for such teachings. Called In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by French journalist Frederic Martel, the book bluntly reveals the extreme price the Roman Catholic church is currently paying for forcing ecclesial decision-makers into the closet because of misbegotten religious ideology around sex and gay sex in particular.
The author, a gay journalist himself, is not trying to out anyone but rather tell the story on what is going on behind the scenes in the Vatican. One exits the book with more respect for Pope Francis, who called a synod that would render the church’s attitude toward homosexuals more benign. The synod failed and his deepest opposition came from gay prelates who rose up to denounce it including members of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, who as often as not were acting out sexually at night while enacting rules during the day for Catholics both gay and straight about just what sexual practices were permissible and not.
This book is so foundational for understanding the hypocrisy and cynicism of ecclesial authoritarianism that I wrote a 9000-word response to it. I end the essay this way.
Overall I recognize in Martel’s shocking book a present day parable not only of how “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but also about how internalized oppression and homophobia preached by religious hierarchy who choose to be ignorant of science kills the soul, renders religion demonic, and rains self-hatred upon others. How thoroughly the second chakra can be seized by powers of self hatred and internalized oppression…
The Stonewall revolution occurred fifty years ago thanks to the courage and moral outrage of oppressed gay people. Liberation happens, redemption happens, when the oppressed say: “Enough!” ….Liberation begins with people throwing off internalized oppression and embracing themselves, sexuality and all, as Original Blessings.
Early in the twentieth century a Celtic poet wrote a poem in which he described the church as a giant sailing vessel that for centuries plowed the great oceans surviving hurricanes, typhoons, schisms and the rest. And then, in the twentieth century, it crashed into a giant rock, was torn apart and sank. And the name of the rock was: “Sex.”*
*Adapted from https://www.tikkun.org/review-of-frederic-martels-in-the-closet-of-the-vatican
See also Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society (Berkeley, Ca: North Atlantic Books, 2016), 237-266.
Banner image: St.Peter’s Square, Vatican City. Photo by Silar, Wikimedia.
Queries for Contemplation
In meditating on human nature as an “original blessing,” what role do you include for your sexuality? And for the diversity of human sexuality? How does science assist you to make those determinations?
And how does Thomas Aquinas’ teaching that “a mistake about creation results in a mistake about God” affect your attitudes toward sexuality? Isn’t it disturbing to see churches deny sexual minorities their identity when science spoke back in the 1970’s about how diverse our species is when it comes to sexual expressions and experience and preferences?
Fox makes the point that religion has so often oversold the concept of “sin” that it has left us without language or power to combat evil. Through comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.