I felt sick. I was nauseous. My stomach hurt. I stood up, turned around, and headed for the exit. Outside in the hall, I looked around. I saw a sign and walked towards the restroom. Moving as fast as I could, without running, I pushed open the door and hurried into a stall. I leaned forward and vomited. Once I thought I was finished, I went to a sink and washed my hands, but then I threw-up again. I closed my eyes, straightened my back, and took a deep breath. I said to myself: “What the hell am I doing here?” I answered: “I always seem to end-up in the toilet.” I put some cold water on a paper towel and wiped my face. I wondered if I should go back. I hesitated for a few seconds and then returned to the large conference room. On the dais in front of the audience, a priest was finishing his presentation on how to gain the trust of an LGBTQ child.
I raised my hand and I asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. There was a large boy’s lavatory at the end of the hallway. I pushed open the door and went to a urinal. The room was empty. Within a couple of seconds, I heard the door open again. It was silent. I turned to left and the right. No one. I got tense. I started to zip-up when I sensed someone standing directly behind me. They stopped me.
After that, although I was never an energetic or boisterous child, I became increasingly withdrawn and incredibly insecure. Other boys recognized my reluctance as a sign of weakness. Teasing became a daily occurrence. I had very few male friends. Sometimes, even my so-called friends would ridicule me in front of everyone else. As a result, I was instinctively mistrustful. But simultaneously needy for male affirmation and friendship.
In high school, I often sat alone during lunch or disappeared into the library. For a while, I glommed onto a group of girls who barely tolerated my presence. Eventually, they tired of me. I was desperate. One day, a handsome older boy put his arm around me and said he wanted to be my friend; then, he proceeded to shove me into the girls locker-room. Not long after that, on a dark night, I sat in a car with an older man. At a dimly lit church parking lot – I couldn’t see much, but I sensed him inching closer to me. I liked him, and I wanted him to like me. Very few men ever took an interest in me. I was overjoyed when he did. According to him, God made me gay. In a world where I felt alone, I suddenly had a friend. Someone who understood. Afterwards, he asked me if I wanted to become a priest.
What followed were years filled with pathetic attempts to recreate those pivotal and tragic moments in my life. In the gay male community, I unwittingly discovered an environment in which that was a distinct possibility. There – I found myself in a hundred public restrooms and automobiles where anonymous sex with countless men wasn’t difficult to find. I always looked for something, but I didn’t know what – the perfect man, a friend, a savior? Slowly, whatever happened to me as a boy – became a nearly forgotten non-issue, because almost everyone I knew had a similar story. However, an unrecognized communal misery proved to be poor company. Amongst those who were equally wounded and needy, the affirmation I had always sought I never obtained.
My trip down the “yellow brick road” was a dangerous one. Along the way, I met a Roman Catholic priest dressed in black leather. Those who claimed to offer guidance, only pointed the way to hell. Yet just when my fate appeared to be sealed, I hesitated and thought of God. Then, like the proverbial “prodigal son,” I eventually returned home. But despite the ordeals of the past, I nevertheless gravitated towards male authority figures. My desire to know God and for male mentorship merged in the priesthood. I sought them out, and oftentimes begged for their direction. Some of them were extraordinarily good; others were equally as evil. I was abused. Again. The good priests, could only drop their heads and pray. Their ordination gave them the power to absolve my sins, however they were powerless against their bishops and the corrupt Church hierarchy. For most of them, the utter lack of support and sadistic persecution that was heaped upon them by their bishop drove them to near madness – in most of their cases, it didn’t end well. Why did they submit to such abuse and humiliation? It made me angry. Shortly thereafter, I would do the same thing.
A film I have been fascinated with since my youth is “The Nun’s Story” (1959) starring Audrey Hepburn as Sister Luke. The plot revolves around a Belgian young woman (played by Hepburn) who enters a strict Catholic religious order of nursing sisters. During her postulancy, one of the older nuns describes how they should view the Mother Superior: “The Reverend Mother Emmanuel represents Christ among us. And as such she is loved and obeyed by us.” The priests that I knew, obeyed their bishop as if he were Christ on earth. But their treatment by a man who supposedly represented the Savior of mankind, more closely resembled that of a vengeful god from ancient Mesopotamia. Inside the BDSM dungeons of San Francisco, I had once submitted to such cruelty. Only that was make-believe; this was all-too-real. And for priests who disobeyed, the possible removal of their faculties or even laicization was used as a cudgel to keep them inline.
Although there was much that I admired about these priests, I eventually fled them; I ultimately viewed such men as subservient and spineless. However, in the world of Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) Catholicism, I thought I finally came across a bastion of courage and fearlessness. Compared to some of the others, the TLM priests were occasionally outspoken and visibly devout – hence semi-revered by their parishioners who were used to Fr. Fund-Raiser, Rev. Radical, and Pastor Perky. It was within this environment that I first heard of the phrase: “In persona Christi.” For someone like myself, who was still subconsciously looking for a human savior, it made perfect sense; only such holy men as these could be “in the person of Christ.” In my mind, the rapturous fusion of priest and ritual was complete in the TLM – as opposed to the modernized vernacular mass that merely featured a priest-facilitator whose main purpose was to entertain the people in the pews with a sightly comedic homily.
Then, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time: I completely trusted someone. They were, I believed: “In persona Christi.” But they manipulated and exploited me.
After that, I quickly discerned that even the limited number of “smells and bells” bishops were corrupted. For them, morality and abuse were measured by secular standards of legality. For a while, only the Pope, remained a true representative (Vicar) of Christ; in terms of John Paul II, then in the early noticeable stages of Parkinson’s Disease, his sickly pitiful countenance exuded the air of suffering and humility. (At the time, I wasn’t aware of his complicity in the rampant abuse surrounding Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Marcel.) Little did I know, the following year, the putrid stench of corruption would spill out from the pus-filled wounds that filled the bowel-walls of the Church. In 2002, with a series of bombshell reports about priest sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, what was superficially unknown became a front-page story. For those of us who lived through the reality – nothing looked that new.
Afterwards: Cardinal Francis Law was whisked off to Rome, the USCCB instituted a series of measures – while excluding themselves from any oversight – and Bishop Wilton Gregory (now the Archbishop of Washington DC) declared that “…the scandal is history.”
For me, after over 20 years as a devout practicing Roman Catholic, since 2002, nothing has really substantially changed: some of the victims are different, some of the predators are different and the methodology they use is somewhat different. But in my eyes – it’s actually worse. When I was a kid, the grooming of a child by a predator priest or layperson took place in secret; inside the church rectory; at a priest’s office; or inside a parked car. As I witnessed at the LA REC, nowadays, grooming occurs out in the open: from the pulpit; inside specialized ministries; and even from the Vatican balcony.
In my opinion, within the numerous sexual orientation and gender identity ministries of the Roman Catholic Church, predators (both clerical and lay) have a large pool of prospective victims. As the activist priest stated at the LA REC, children who may one-day identify as LGBTQ are oftentimes alienated from other children and their families; they can appear withdrawn. According to him, Catholic priests, religious, and educators should attempt to befriend such a child, gain their trust, and then help that child embrace an LGBTQ identity; all under the guise of a “God made you gay” dogma. It sounded a lot like what happened to me; thus, my almost instantaneous response of revulsion and nausea.
For years, even before the LA REC, I have known that opportunistic priests and laypeople are grooming vulnerable young people and adults to accept the God-given “gift” of homosexuality or transgenderism. Initially I believed that the propagation of “queer” dogma was primarily endemic to the Roman Catholic parishes of the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, but as soon as I started to write about my own experiences with rainbow stole-wearing priests and Pride-marching ministries, I received a plethora of emails and correspondences from those whose lives had been adversely affected by such pogroms; usually the author of the emails were the mothers of adult children who now identify as LGBTQ. Since their children are not minors, the best I can do is tell them to write their local ordinary. But I know that such an action is pointless.
For over a decade, I have been pleading with bishops to at least oversee some of the ministries that are operating inside their jurisdictions. They won’t. Instead, they invite the celebrity-priest propagators of these false doctrines to preach in their parishes and to appear at their catechetical conferences. These bishops are the primary enablers in the grooming process. After numerous meetings, mostly which take place at impromptu moments outside a cathedral following mass, I have nothing to say anymore to such feckless men. These bishops carry a crook – as a sign that they are shepherds to their flocks; yet, they have stood by and watched as chunks of flesh are ripped from my body – there is nothing left on my bones. They don’t care.
For the most part, these ministries at progressive parishes are the ultimate cover for predatory behavior; the bishops will not interfere because they think these ministries are a public sign that their diocese is being pastoral; the mainstream “Catholic” media will not touch this story because it will disconnect them from the episcopal access that they prize; and secular journalists are uninterested because the open promotion of sexual orientation and gender identity (even among children) in the Catholic Church is viewed as a giant step forward.
Even the so-called Vicar of Christ, who supposedly represents Our Lord, is actively complicit in this global grooming process. For he also repeats the God made you gay deception – including to those who were molested by priests; it’s the ultimate betrayal that rivals the worst machinations of Satan himself. Russian Orthodox hieromonk Seraphim Rose, a man who walked many of the same streets in San Francisco that I once did, remarked about his earlier existence: “I was in hell. I know what hell is.” Not because of my squalid former life in the ugliest pits of homosexuality, but due to my dealings with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I know all-too-well what Fr. Seraphim meant.
But for a short few months, one last time, I remained hopeful. In 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released his first shocking letter in which he accused Pope Francis of promoting and enabling serial pedophile Cardinal Theodore McCarrick even though he knew that the American prelate had a prolific history of sexual abuse. Viganò revealed the depths of perversion in the Church. I thought Viganò’s letter would have a greater impact on Catholicism than the “95 Theses” of Martin Luther. It didn’t. Partly due to his own subsequent distraction with tangential issues and because the Church had changed since the 16th century – the letter became lost in the daily news cycle of Catholic scandal. Due to the fact that most self-professed Roman Catholics only rarely attend mass; the laity has split into two camps: one that celebrates the heretical “reforms” of Francis, the progressivism of the synodal system, and the blatant schismatic tendencies of the German Church; the other – is a devout minority that huddles into enclaves around the TLM. They revere the brave men that comprised the “Dubia Cardinals” and wait for a Pius XIII who will return the Church to a pre-Vatican II state of sanctity. Like I used to do, they wait for a savior; but I already met Him; or more accurately, He found me on the side of the road.
Then in 2019, I lost one of my dearest friends, a man who I had known since my darkest days in the Castro District of San Francisco. Both of us had been raised Catholic, and in middle-age we attempted to ensure that LGBTQ people received the care they deserved in the Catholic Church. While I became disgusted and gave-up, he remained stalwart and was convinced that reform was somehow possible within the institutional Church. At the end of year, we finally received a telephone call from the office of a local ordinary and a meeting was scheduled; after several years of trying. Only, my friend had died several months before. I didn’t want to attend, but in honor of my friend’s sacrifice – I did. It was a disaster; I met the man behind the curtain, except he didn’t even have a bag full of cheap consolation prizes.
Like Sister Luke in “The Nun’s Story,” I can no longer be obedient; I can’t even muster an ounce of respect for these men. Literally, they make me sick. A number of lay Catholic believe that the better part comprises remaining in the Church, despite the endless amounts of abuse, deception, and gaslighting that I have to endure. One day, many years after my death, I could be declared a martyr. It’s my place to suffer, they say. Only, such sadomasochistic torment does not make you holier, it just causes you to become increasingly angry, bitter, and hateful. At some point, daily life becomes a living hell. In my own personal inferno, I am Prometheus bound and forced to watch as others are abused like I was. Just as the good priests I knew, I am truly powerless. Well-intentioned Catholics will say: “You can pray.” But when someone is being brutalized in front of your eyes, do you stop and pray for them or do you try to stop the abuse? I knew there was nothing I could do and it was driving me insane. It was killing me; or I would kill myself. Now, for my own sanity, like Sister Luke, I have to walk away.
“Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” ― Alexander Solzhenitsyn