A Father’s Journey

Frank Bruni has been an Op-Ed columnist for The Times since June 2011. This is his essay on how his father, like his country, has changed. It is not to be missed.

Complete Article HERE!

But at some point Dad, like America, changed. I don’t mean he grew weepy, huggy. I mean he traveled from what seemed to me a pained acquiescence to a different, happier, better place. He found peace enough with who I am to insist on introducing my partner, Tom, to his friends at the golf club. Peace enough to compliment me on articles of mine that use the same three-letter word that once chased him off. Peace enough to sit down with me over lunch last week and chart his journey, which I’d never summoned the courage to ask him about before.

But he has decided that such writing is necessary. “There’s prejudice out there, and it’s good to fight that,” he said, adding that visibility and openness are obviously integral to that battle. “I’m convinced that people who don’t accept gays just don’t really know any of them.”

husband & husband

A Very Extra-Ordinary Place

HURRAY! My friend, David Cantero, and I made it.

AVAILABLE NOW!

Just in time for the holiday giving 2012!

A very extra-ordinary old woman with magical powers wants to share her very extra-ordinary gifts with her very ordinary neighbors.

The very ordinary village, full of very ordinary people doing very ordinary things, is soon to become a very extra-ordinary place indeed. But first the wise old woman with magical powers must discover a way to visit her neighbors without them knowing it is she.

Joy and laughter, music and dancing all make life very extra-ordinary

Click on the book cover below to purchase.

 

A Very Extra-Ordinary Place marks our first collaboration.  It is a delightful and beautifully illustrated children’s book.

For more information about the story, sample pages and where to buy look HERE!

REMEMBER THESE PHOTOS

Remember these photos every time you hear a Catholic bishop tell you to ignore your conscience and blindly follow what he tells you to do, think, and how to vote.

 

Our bishops tell us that we homosexuals are intrinsically evil, but when they had the opportunity to say something similar about the Nazis…well, not only were they silent, but they were actively complicit with the regime.

Our bishops are as morally bankrupt today as they were then!

Weighty Matters

I’m cross-posting, here, an exchange I had with a correspondent on my sex advice site this morning. I believe it will be both relevant and insightful to my audience on this site. — Richard

Name: Seattle Guy
Gender: Male
Age: 27
Location: Seattle
Dr. Dick – Were you really a Roman Catholic priest? I’m Catholic – and trying to figure out where I stand sexually. I’d be gay in a second if I had confidence that was my authentic self. I’m definitely bi – somewhere in the middle. Anyway, have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality? But I guess I should ask, do you still believe in God? How did you find your way to producing porn? How does God figure in everything, in your opinion? Do you think a soul has a sexuality? Are these too many questions? Any response you have would be very appreciated!

Yes, Seattle Guy, you have way too many questions! But because you asked so nicely, I’ll do my best to answer each and every one. Because I’m such a friggin sweet guy.

“Were you really a Roman Catholic priest?” I were, I really were! I was a Catholic priest for 19 years. Technically I still am a priest, but I no longer practice in that capacity. Here’s a little known fact, I am the only Catholic priest in the whole wide world with a doctorate in Clinical Sexology. How about them apples? That and a $1.50 gets me a ride on the bus.

I completed my doctorate with the publication of my thesis concerning the sexual attitudes and behaviors of gay Catholic priests in the active ministry in 1981. This was unprecedented research back then. Hell, it’s groundbreaking even now. Needless to say, there was a firestorm of international publicity upon publication. I was soon to be known as “The Gay Priest.” Like if I was the only one. This notoriety (some would say infamy) effectively ended my public priesthood. I fought the Vatican for the next 13 years, from 1981-1994, in an attempt to salvage my priesthood and ministry, but they would have none of it. I published a book about my ordeal, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest. It came out last summer. (Click on the title for more information about the book.)

I was kicked out of the religious community I belonged to, but I was never defrocked. So, like I said, technically I’m still a man of the cloth. Scary huh? And what a difference 30+ years makes. The political climate in the church is even more repressive than it was in the early 80’s, but now openly gay men serve as priests all over the world. I can’t explain it either.

So you’re a Catholic too, OK. But you’re still (at 38) trying to figure out where you stand sexually. I’m not sure I know what that means. You say you’d be gay in a minute if you thought that was your authentic self. You’re bi for sure…somewhere in the middle. In the middle of what, may I ask? You’ll pardon me, darlin’, but you sound suspiciously like a mugwump. Do you know what that is? A mugwump is a fence-sitter, someone with his mug on one side and his wump on the other. The reason I say that is if your were authentically bi, you’d leave it at that, as do all authentically bi men.

“Have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality?” You betcha I have! But I have a completely different take on this then you apparently do. Ya see I would have phrased the question in the reverse. How does our sexuality fit into god? The way you have it, suggests that the infinite can fit into the finite. And this is precisely where most religious people go very, very wrong. We do god a disservice by trying to stuff the divine into the mundane.

My sexuality fits into god when I am honest and authentic with myself about who I am and acknowledge my insignificance in the greatness of creation, I fit into god when I honor my sexuality, when I celebrate it, when I give it as a gift. I do not fit into god when I am dishonest with myself, or others, when I falsely claim my own significance in the mind of god and when I belittle god with my pettiness and insecurity.

You’ll notice that I was careful not to mention anything about sexual orientation, even though I think that’s what you were ultimately asking me about. Mugwumps are so predictable. Ya see sexual orientation, as we currently understand it, is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. And all of human history barely registers in cosmic history. Why do you suppose we’re so consumed about something so irrelevant to the big picture? And god is the ultimate “BIG PICTURE.” What concerns me is that you’ve come this far in your life and still haven’t been honest to god…or yourself.

Do you still believe in God? Yes, in a manner of speaking! I tend not to use the word “god” as much as I used to, because it comes with too much cultural baggage. I prefer the term, “divine. But whatever I call it, I’m positive my god is nothing like your god. Your god is made in your image. My god is not made in my image. In fact, my god so unlike me — a mere fallible, insignificant mortal — as to make my god incomprehensible to the likes of me. But that doesn’t mean there’s no appreciation. There is!

“How did you find your way to producing porn?” God led me! Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. It all started back in 1981, believe it or not. My career as a therapist in San Francisco coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS . Not surprisingly, my practice evolved into working primarily with sick and dying people. In the mid-90’s I founded a nonprofit organization called, PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach and resource for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. Despite the fact that this was brilliant cutting-edge work, I couldn’t find the funding I needed to keep the nonprofit alive. This precipitated a massive mid-life crisis and a rather sudden move to Seattle in 1999.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here. I developed programming for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and men with prostate cancer. This lead me to develop concepts for videos for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses; to help them deal with reintegrating sex and intimacy into their life post diagnosis. But I needed to find funding for this ambitious project. I soon realized that no mainline foundation would fund an overtly sexual project like this. I would have to fund this on my own. But how? Friends prevailed on me to start by making porn. I’d make a load of money and then I could turn my attention back to the original project — death and dying work. Thus Daddy Oohhh! Productions was born. Unfortunately, the load of money has yet to materialize. But while I was shooting porn, my focus is to create projects that are different in style and tone from what currently rules the marketplace.

“How does God figure in everything, in your opinion?” Once again, I think you’ve got that backwards. The better question, to my mind, is: How does everything figure into god? And here my answer echos my previous answer. If there is a god, then everything figures into god with ease and grace.

“Do you think a soul has a sexuality?” Nope, I don’t. Sexuality is part of the finite material world. It’s a bodily function that apparently goes away when our body dies. A soul, as it is popularly understood, is something other. What precisely? I can’t really say. Hey, maybe something else takes the place of sexuality in the spiritual world, if there is a spiritual world. I guess you and I will just have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be great if you freed yourself up to be exactly who you are? And not wait on someone, especially someone of a religious bent, to give you permission to do so, or tell you what you can and cannot be.

Good luck

For If The People Will Lead, Eventually The Leaders Will Follow

The following is the speech given to the 2012 graduates of Stanford University by Sr Joan Chittister.

Sister Joan Chittister’s Stanford Baccalaureate Address
Bertolt Brecht, German dramatist and poet wrote: “There are many elements to a campaign. Leadership is number one. Everything else is number two.”

And Walter Lippmann said: “The final test of a leader is someone who leaves behind themselves – in others – the conviction and the will to carry on.”

But how do we know what it means to really be a leader and how do we know who should do it?

There are some clues to those answers in folk literature, I think. The first story is about two boats that meet head on in a shipping channel at night.

As boats are wont to do in the dark, boat number 1 flashed boat number 2: “We are on a collision course. Turn your boat 10 degrees north.”

Boat 2 signaled back: “Yes, we are on a collision course. Turn your boat 10 degrees south.”

Boat 1 signaled again: “I am an admiral in her majesty’s navy; I am telling you to turn your boat 10 degrees north.”

Boat 2 flashed back immediately: “And I am a seaman 2nd class. And I am telling you to turn your boat 10 degrees south.”

By this time, the admiral was furious. He flashed back: “I repeat! I am an admiral in her majesty’s navy and I am commanding you to turn your boat 10 degrees north. I am in a battleship!”

And the second boat returned a signal that said: “And I am commanding you to turn your boat 10 degrees south. I am in a lighthouse.”

Point: Rank, titles and positions are no substitute for leadership.

You are all graduating from this great university this weekend because someone has seen leadership potential in you at a time of grinding poverty and gross inequality. At a time when we have never needed leadership more, someone saw in you the possibility to be a powerful presence in the public arenas of our own time. The question is, then, what will you inspire in this world now?

The motto under which you have been educated here – the “the wind of freedom blows” – is exactly what a world struggling between the challenges of the present and the ideals of the past requires.

It requires the freedom to question and the freedom to rethink absolutes.

It requires the freedom to confront what does not work and to rebel against rigidities that mask as unassailable traditions.

It requires you to re-energize the kind of courageous initiative that opened the frontier in one century and reached the moon in the next.

It requires the vision that freed slaves and empowered women, that preserved the spiritual but honored the secular, as well.

What the world needs now are those who will commit themselves to free that kind of energy everywhere and lead others to do the same.

First, though, you must realize that the world did not send you here simply to get itself another engineer or business manager or computer science programmer. No, your world sent you here to be its leaders.

But note well: The world you have been given to lead is both glorious and grim. One right step and the whole world can become new again. One more wrong step and the globe itself is in irreversible danger.

Indeed, we need a new direction; we need another point of view. We need a more complete human agenda. And it is yours now to lead.

No, the world does not really need the skills you learned here. Today’s skills will all change in the next five years and change your life with them.

The world does not need answers either. Answers are easy to come by: You Google them.

No, what the world really needs from you now is the courage to ask the right questions without apology, without fear, and without end.

It needs those who will lead from the vantage point of new questions, not old answers. From the point of view of enduring values, not denominational politics; from the perspective of global needs, not parochial interests.

Two-thirds of the hungry of the world are women. Two-thirds of the illiterate of the world are women. Two-thirds of the poor of the world are women.

That can’t be an accident; that has to be a policy.

Where are the leaders who will change these things?

The ozone layer, the placenta of the earth, has been ruptured. The polar ice cap is melting and raising the water levels of the world. And, at the same time, the lands of the poor are turning to dust and stone while the industrialized world goes on choosing short-term profits over long-term global warming treaties.

Nuclear weaponry threatens the very existence of the planet and they have the effrontery to call it “defense.”

The question is, then, how shall you lead this next generation, so that the errors of this present generation do not simply become even more death dealing in the future than they are now?

If you really want to be a leader who leads your city, your country, your world down a different path, there are three stories you should know, I think. They may say more about the kind of leadership needed for our time than anything any MBA leadership manual can begin to explain to you:

The first is from the western fabulist Hans Christian Andersen, which you may have learned as a child but which is, in fact, about a very adult problem.

In the first story, a village is preparing for a visit from its king. He will come regally dressed, his courtiers tell them. Never, they say, has a king been so finely outfitted as ours.

So, on the day of the king’s arrival people cheer and cheer as the king strides by. “You, O King, are the finest king of all.” Except for one small child. “No,” the child shouts. “No! He is not splendid. He is not honest,” he says. “In fact, the king has no clothes on at all.” Then the crowd went silent. Then the farce was over. Then everyone snuck away ashamed of what they had allowed to go unchallenged. Only then did the dishonest emperor resign the throne.

Point: If you want to really be a leader, you must be a truth-teller.

If you want to save the age, the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly writes, “Betray it. Expose its conceits, its foibles, its phony moral certitudes.”

Remember, there will be those among the powerful who try to make you say what you know is clearly not true because if everyone agrees to believe the lie, the lie can go on forever.

The lie that there is nothing we can do about discrimination, nothing we can do about world poverty, nothing we can do about fair trade, nothing we can do to end war, nothing we can do to provide education and health care, housing and food, maternity care and just wages for everyone in the world. Nothing we can do about women raped, beaten, trafficked, silenced yet, still, now, everywhere.

If you want to be a leader, you, too, must refuse to tell the old lies.

You must learn to say that those emperors have no clothes. You must see what you are looking at and say what you see.

The second story is about the Buddhist monk Tetsugen, who determined to translate the Buddhist scriptures into Japanese.

He spent years begging for the money it would take to have them printed. But just as he was about to begin the first printing, a great flood came and left thousands homeless. So Tetsugen took the money he’d raised to publish the scriptures and built houses for the homeless.

Then he began again to beg the money he needed to publish the scriptures. This time, years later, just as he finished collecting the funds he needed for the task, a great famine came. This time, Tetsugen took the money for the translation work and fed the starving thousands instead.

Then, when the hungry had been fed, he began another decade’s work of collecting the money for the third time.

When the scriptures were finally printed in Japanese, they were enshrined for all to see. But they tell you to this day in Japan that when parents take their children to view the books, they tell them that the first two editions of those scriptures – the new houses and healthy people – were even more beautiful than the printed edition of the third.

The second lesson of leadership, then, is that no personal passion, no private agenda, no religious ritual must ever be allowed to come between you and the people you serve.

The third lesson of leadership comes from the Sufi master who taught disciples one thing only: “If you want to smell sweet, stay close to the seller of perfumes.”

The heroes you make for yourselves, the people you idolize, will be the measure of your own character, your own ideals, your own legacy.

If you want to lead the world to compassion, you must surround yourself with the compassionate, rather than the uncaring.

If you want to lead the world to wholeness, you must follow the peacemakers, not the warmongers.

If you want to lead the world to the freedom you learned here, equality for everyone must mean more to you than domination by anyone.

Justice must mean more to you than money. People must mean more to you than fame. Ideals must mean more to you than power or politics or public approval.

If you really want to inspire those you leave behind with the conviction and the will to go on doing good, doing justice, doing right, like the child in the village, like the wise old monk Tetsugen, like the Sufi saint of perfume sellers, choose reality over image, choose people over personal profits and projects, choose your heroes wisely.

Speak up loud and clear to the powers of this world that use their power for themselves alone.

The great leaders of history are always those who refuse to bend to naked kings: Mahatma Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman.

The great leaders of history have always been those who refused to barter their ideal for the sake of their personal interests and who rebelled against the lies of their times.

If you want to be a real leader, if you want to give a new kind of leadership, you cannot live to get the approval of a system, you must live to save the soul of it.

“As long as the world shall last, there will be wrongs,” Clarence Darrow warned us. “And if no leaders object, and no leaders rebel, those wrongs will last forever.”

If you really want to lead, you must rebel against forces of death that obstruct us from being fully human together.

“The purpose of life,” the essayist Rosten writes, “is not to be happy. The purpose of life is to matter, to have it make a difference that you lived at all.”

To save this age, use your education, use your freedom, to make a difference.

Inspire in those who follow you the conviction and the will to denounce the lies, to reject the greed, to resist the heretics of inhumanity who peddle inequality, injustice and the torturers’ instruments of oppression and social violence.

To be a real leader, by all means make a difference!

Rebel, rebel, rebel – for all our sakes, rebel!

For if the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Priest Argues Catholics Can (And Should) Vote ‘No’ on Minnesota Marriage Inequality Amendment

FATHER BOB PIERSON: As Catholics we must follow our own conscience in making decisions such as how to vote. My conscience tells me to vote no on the amendment because I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need such an amendment to our state constitution. In fact, I believe the church does not have the right to force its moral teaching on others outside the fold.