UPDATE – Welcome Andrew Sullivan readers!? I’m running for office in Cleveland, check out the site, and donate if you can.? Thanks for your support.

I’m a recovering Catholic.? Growing up with those traditions gave me an appreciation for the ancient rituals of belonging to something.? Holy Week approaching reminds me of my favorite ritual in the church calendar, the Holy Thursday mass, which is so thick with the highest rituals, you leave the church with the smell of incense still in your nostrils.? It’s pretty damn cool.

I haven’t been to Holy Thursday mass in years.? Like most American Catholics, I’ve stripped pretty much all of the catechism out of my Catholicism – it’s more like being Polish & Italian to me than being in a religion.? And since coming out of The Closet,? I’ve grown further apart from the church, largely because of the effect Catholicism has had on my acceptance of my sexuality, and that of others, and my total conviction that the Catholic Church is one of the foundational pillars of The Closet writ large.

When the current pope was being elected, I paid a lot of attention, in the hope that somehow, a new pope would be elected who threw open the welcome doors again, and I could come back into the church without fear of having a man in a collar condemn my existence to hell.? When Pope Benedict was chosen, I was crushed, and turned my back on the Catholic Church again, for this very same reason.

The Closet is now biting the Church back.? If you are gay, and you are a priest, The Closet is your own ticking time bomb, and when it explodes, it will destroy you and everyone around you.? There is no relationship between pedophilia and being gay, don’t get me wrong.? Priests deny their sexuality whether or not they are gay.? You cannot take sexuality out of humanity, no matter how hard you try, but the Catholic Church by doing so creates a Closet On Steroids.? The Catholic Church makes it an institutional, in fact, divine priority, to perpetuate The Closet in the name of Jesus Christ.? Not even its own priests are permitted out of it.? That’s how powerful The Closet is if you are Catholic.

But as these abuse scandals prove every time, when human sexuality does find the way out, as it always will, the Catholic Church will make excuses for its priests, all to perpetuate That Closet, excuses that do not apply to a kid growing up gay.? No, even as all of your priests live in The Closet, and may be abusing children all around you, your own existence is deemed sin.? Whenever people learn that I was an altar boy, and combine that nugget with my criminal conviction, they assume I was abused as an altar boy by a priest.? No, that didn’t happen, thank God.? What did happen is precisely what the Catholic Church wanted to happen – I denied who I was to myself, everyone else, and to God.? That took an immeasurable toll on my life, and still does.

Because if you deny truth to God, that’s the biggest sin of all.? Sin of that nature is powerful.? So powerful, it will destroy whoever succumbs to it.?? The Closet is not holy, it is not truth, it is not God’s intention, it is the flimsy work of man in service to a lie, and nothing built on lies lasts forever.? That includes a sitting pope who is standing at the door of The Closet with the keys he claims Christ handed him to keep it shut.

Serving sin to perpetuate untruth is pretty bad stuff under any religious dogma – doing so in the name of Jesus??? This pope may soon find out just how high a price The Closet takes.

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  • Recovering Catholics unite! I recognized at an early age the hypocrisy of the church and many who attended it. I grew to eventually make the decision not to be confirmed. The only thing I've retained are certain rituals and I keep them only for the power of the ritual and not the dogma. My dad taught me The Lord's Prayer when I was 3 and whenever it was recited at mass we'd look over and wink. It was and still is a powerful connection between father and son. Like you say, it's more about my culture and upbringing than it is about religion.

    I watched Sin?ad O'Connor talk about the recent crisis with the Pope on TV and I found it ironic given how shunned she was for ripping up a photo of the Pope. She and others in Ireland were trying to draw more attention to how bad this stuff was since the 80's. She was right.

  • mvirenicus

    i became a symbolic satanist. inside my front door is an ornate cross with a jocular-looking satan hanging from it. when some fundie knocks on my door i have a ready prop to send them away with something to think about. as a matter of fact it's been years since i've had any religious boobs knocking at my door. i wonder why. when i first bought this house they were a regular feature of the neighborhood. at least catholics don't bang on doors.

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  • WestlakeDavid

    What offends me the most about this argument is the animosity leveled against the “other side”, no matter which side you are currently on.

    You want to belong to a certain, organized Religion, they have Rules.

    You want Government to protect you from being discriminated against? You have to Change Existing Rules OR make up Rules to do just that.

    If you demand that Rules be created to Protect, AND you decide that Rules are to be followed, then you SHALL abide by ALL Rules.


  • Snowshoe

    I am so sorry you had to go through this, and glad that you came out of it so well. I was also raised Catholic, and I left before confirmation because I couldn't deal with their stance on issues like gay people, birth control, and women priests. I thought about going back several years ago, but when I tried, the first homily I'd heard in many years started out with the priest saying that if you don't agree with the pope about gays, you aren't Catholic. (Wow, thanks for making that decision easy!)

    This all happened just about the time the Episcopal church ordained Gene Robinson, their first openly gay bishop. So I decided to check them out. Seven years later, I'm still there, profoundly thankful that I've found a home that is everything my parents taught me about Catholicism, without the misogyny and homophobia. If you ever feel the need for organized religion again, the Episcopal church is often a great place for former Catholics.

  • kay

    You were never confirmed, you are not a Catholic! You decided at a young age to reject Catholicism, how can you call yourself a Catholic if you weren't even confirmed? I believe you have a right to criticize any institution, including ones you don't belong to. But why are you calling yourself a “recovering Catholic”? You're not a recovering Catholic, you're a person whose parents are Catholic who baptized you in the church, but you then at an early age rejected the church, even before confirmation. Stop calling yourself a recovering Catholic!

  • Jo

    Kay, your comment is nuts. Do you know the first thing about your faith? He is Catholic by his baptism. Period. He would be held to the same Canon law as you, me, or anyone, Cradle Catholic, RCIA Convert, the Deacon at your parish. If he was a straight man and married outside the Church without dispensation, his marriage would be illegitimate, as an example. He has a right to call himself that. I am very sorry for the situation and how he feels, I know it must be very painful.

  • valencia

    I detest religion and feel sorry for the victims. This bimbo Kay perfectly illustrates the ridiculousness of religion…..arguing about “rules” of a church, when “souls” and lives and love are at stake. Why do these people never look in a mirror? Oh, that's right…because they're religion freaks! Terrorists without a bomb. Idiots. Evil, ultimately.

  • IT

    I was baptised and confirmed Roman Catholic before I lost God as well as that misogynisitc, authoritarian, homophobic institution. But the rituals still are very comforting in their familiarity. Lucky for me my wife, who is a woman of deep faith and sprirituality, has decided to leave the RC church for the far more sensible Episcopalians. All of the liturgy (even better than most RC churches) and a profoundly welcoming church, even to a non-believer like me who likes to sit quietly and listen to the music and smell the incense. And a strong sense of social justice. When we walked into the Episcopal church for mass, holding hands as a married lesbian couple, and were welcomed in the fullness of who we are–well, a lot of my anti-religious attitudes were spiked. I'm so happy we found this community.

  • I use “recovering Catholic” more as a rhetorical flourish than an actual identification. I don't consider myself recovery from or recognizing anything resembling Catholicism. I do, however, retain certain cultural rituals established by my father because they are still recognized by both of us as connections with one another.

    I don't mind if you bristle. I want nothing to do with your religion. I'll describe myself as I see fit though. You can't change that no matter the dogma. One of the reasons I tired of the church was all the control involved. You demonstrate this aptly.

    PS – You really know nothing about me so stop pretending that you do. You can ask you know.

  • mvirenicus

    i love catholicism and i can't wait for jesus to rise from the grave to distribute colored eggs on sunday!

  • BobSF_94117

    Exactly when does an infant or a child get asked if he or she wants to join Catholicism? Baptism? First Communion?

    I suppose Confirmation is a vote of some sort, but by then, if you're gay, the damage has been done.

    How many Confirmees do you know who walked away from the ceremony?

  • chelseami13

    Well, Mr. Russo, you certainly can turn a phrase. This is a beautiful post. I wish you great luck in your campaign.

  • chelseami13

    Thank you for two articulate and lovely posts. I don't have a Catholic upbringing, but it seems like something one would require recovery from, even if one was precocious enough to evade confirmation. On behalf of the Kays of the world, may I offer my compassion and condolences.

  • thank you

  • thanks chelsea……its good to know people are out there who get it.

  • we're gonna win, don't you worry.

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