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31| Reverence from an Irreverent Catholic

Michael Slattery

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A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: "Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?" We must always consider the person.
– Pope Francis

[How many a holy and obsequious tear]

2013. Thunderstruck when I read this declaration from the current Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Amazed that I was witnessing a change in attitude from Church leadership. “Radical” statements about homosexuality, blessings to people with facial deformities, washing the feet of Muslim women in a Holy Thursday ritual; the newest pope’s message seemed to be one long disregarded by the Catholic Church: “We must always consider the person.”

[Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye]

I was brought up Irish Catholic. Every Christmas, Lent, and Easter, we attended church promptly. Passive guilt other Sundays for shirking. I was baptized, catechized, communionized, and confirmationized. Always, unease over the lessons that I was learning, with mounting rules. By confirmation, I knew I was gay. I was sin. On the news, Pope Benedict IX called homosexuality an “objectively disordered inclination” with “enormous consequences on a variety of levels” in our society. Stealing glances at that cute boy in class, I didn’t feel consequences. But when the boy returned the stare, I felt the glare of our Father, of the Pope, of those words. My eyes would dart to the speckled tile floor.

[As interest of the dead, which now appear]

I shook. A day came when a boy held my look. An older boy, relaxed, charming as hell. Lascivious. In turn off-putting and scintillating. At a party, we leapt into an empty room. Withdrew into each other. Exploded. A lesson learned not in love, but desire. Through a cock in a mouth, a tongue on a hip bone, a trailing finger paused. We perspired. I inspired to not hide.

[But things removed that hidden in thee lie]

To seek. Came out to my family and friends and found not one person who accused me of sin. Where I had once looked up to the Catholic Church as a place of heritage and religious authority, I found now a stagnant cluster of restrictions. Lost meaning. But then, Pope Francis. 2013. I cannot call the Church mine own, but I can steal them a glance. And let it hold.

Michael Slattery is a current graduate student in the MLA program with a focus in English studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg where he also received his Bachelor’s degree in English in 2012. He is also an Admissions Officer for the office of Graduate Studies at USFSP. Michael is currently working toward a creative writing assignment as his final project, largely inspired by elements of human sexuality as depicted in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays.

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