I was sick; I was dying; I needed help. After a night of rough sex inside a San Francisco bondage club, I collapsed onto the cold pavement somewhere near the Castro District. I had nowhere to go – so I crawled home – to my parents; the prodigal son returned: stinking like a pig.
I slept for several days; waking up in the morning, stuck to the sheets that were encrusted with dried blood. Oozing from every orifice. I pushed some hand towels down my pants and limped to a surgeon. But unlike one of my childhood heroes – he couldn’t make me better, stronger, or faster; the best he could do was to patch me back together. Afterwards, I felt like a naked Frankenstein – with the all the stitches intact and visible.
Although I was sewed into one piece, I still felt strangely fragmented. Who am I? The moment I fell facedown into the gutter – I started to wonder about: everything. How the hell did I get here?
Why would the victim of abuse or violence return to the scene of the crime? In hindsight, this is the overwhelming question that still haunts my memories of returning to the Catholic Church. Despite my past experiences with Catholicism, and with priests, I still regarded something of value to be found in the Church.
For some inexplicable reason, I allowed myself to be strapped down once again. I placed my trust in the Church as a hospital; this parish looked ideal: clean and well-respected. While bound to that gurney, they didn’t subject me to any intrusive or aggressive forms of treatment; I didn’t receive shock therapy. Instead, the moral malpractice that they inflicted upon me was more subtle; certain priests, particularly the Jesuits, could teach a master-class in gaslighting.
I was gravely ill. Not because I continually tried to pretend that the anus and the vagina were interchangeable, but due to my lingering internalized homophobia and the failure to integrate homosexuality into my spirituality. In their estimation, the gay Jesus blessed and preordained my hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and prolapse. They were eunuch priests of the Phrygian goddess Cybele: persuading bystanders to join in the orgiastic festivities while they smacked their lips in the background.
When I used to visit the bathhouses, during a time of stringent allegiance to the dogmas of “safe-sex, upon entrance, the towel boys offered everyone a packet of lube and a condom; when I was released from the Catholic “hospital” in San Francisco – they handed me the spiritual equivalent of a packet of lube and a condom; the major thrust of their advice and post-operative care: look for a long-term partner; if not, play safe. I was still bleeding. They didn’t even offer a Band-Aid.
For the most part, albeit not as dramatic as my first hospitalization, I have been repeatedly subjected to Catholic malpractice. I return for help, only to be told that there is nothing wrong with me.
Occasionally, I will meet a sort of independent traveling doctor – not associated with the well-funded, high-rise, downtown hospitals; he tends to make house-calls and practices a form of near-outlawed “quackery.” Inside his old-fashioned leather physician’s bag is a crucifix, a purple stole, holy-water, chrism, and the Eucharist; and the truth. They are a modern-day Edmund Campion; or an Archbishop Vigano.
But there are many voices who insist that I return to the Catholic “hospitals.” The infrastructure, the system itself, isn’t broken or irreparably corrupt – it’s only individual doctors. But the hospitals are still open; employing the same administration, the exact same pool of doctors and nurses. They continue to cover-up their gross misconduct and negligence. They are killing people.
Those who deny the presence of widescale corruption and malpractice or downplay its seriousness, in their own circle of family, friends, and loved-ones, when someone becomes seriously ill – they all know and recommend a “good priest;” i.e. a good doctor. The rest of us, we get sent to the emergency room or the free-clinic.
Please, don’t pretend anymore that these former edifices of the Catholic Church are anything but a glorified butcher-shop.
I have left specific instructions to those closest to me, if I am dying – do not take me there; I would rather take my last breath in the sewer.