The Catholic Church’s Dirty Little Secret …

St. John Vianney College Seminary Miami Florida

In the years 1986 – 1987, I spent that year, in a college seminary in Miami. The sainted priests of my home parish really thought I had a calling to the priesthood. They worked very hard at my formation prior to entering the seminary. Altar Boy, Eucharistic Minister, so forth and so on.

I loved the Pastor, Priests, and the many other people who served my parish so dutifully and loyally. We were a family. And I was safe. When I needed help the most, in my most desperate hours of illness, after I was diagnosed, the men of my parish really stepped up their games for me.

I really had nothing to loose, entering the seminary. My parents were going to get rid of me, and not have me under their roof any longer, that was good for all of us. I would no longer be abused mercilessly, but on the down side, I would have no support from home, except the parish priests.

I was two years out of high school, having completed a year’s scholarship at the community college. But I was destined for greater things.

I took all my tests and psychological exams. And I guess I passed well, because I was in, that fall. It was a learning curve for sure. The residence was located above classrooms of the main building, with double occupancy, Murphy bedded rooms. You were not alone at any point, unless your room mate was in class or off campus.

A retinue of priests were housed in the building with us, on each end of the building. And it seemed all was well, but something was just not right, all around.

I had not come out of the closet, because I figured that If I made it, I wasn’t going to have to worry about my sexuality because I would be serving Holy Mother Church. Not that being gay was top of mind, because it really wasn’t. I had eyes into ministry and I was singularly focused.

The other odd thing was that many GAY priests, and priests who had been diagnosed with AIDS, or had other parish issues, were sent to our school, to either teach, or be in ministry positions to the class in residence, and say mass every day and on Sunday.

Gay WAS a thing. It DID exist. Right in front of me. Nobody talked about it, but it was clear and out in the open, if you knew to look for tell tale signs of homosexuality. I had pretty good GAYDAR then.

There were three Catholic institutions that were located on a plot of land, who shared common outside space and school precincts. There was Christopher Columbus Boys High School, St. Brendan’s across the green space from our buildings. And the Seminary.

Out back of the three sites were baseball, and soccer fields. A communal pool, that was fenced in, and a perimeter road that circled the high school and the seminary grounds. We spent nights after dinner walking that circle, night after night.

I knew, after while, which of my classmates were gay. That was pretty apparent to me, at least, yet I asked no questions. EVER.

It was common knowledge that gay priests were in residence with us, and nobody batted an eye over that. The first rector of the institution had issues with the drink, and they sent him away to rehab. Which incensed me to no end, and I lobbied long and hard to get him back.

He was replaced with a papal wannabe Rector Andy Anderson, who thought himself Divine. And pranced around and acted like he WAS the pope, when he was in public and when he said mass. I hated Andy Anderson with every fiber of my being. I hated his sanctimonious attitude and his pride and arrogance as a priest.

HATED HIM !!!

Several of my classmates were sanctimonious pop tarts who walked around like they were above everyone else. Many years later, MANY years later, I turned on the tv once, and saw, one of my sanctimonious classmates saying mass on television. I was revolted for sure.

During the day and on Friday we had assigned chores every week, like mowing the grass on the quad, cleaning the house and the chapel, and odds and ends jobs.

One of the jobs we had during the day was serving the high school next door to the seminary, since we shared common space and their cafeteria. We served lunches and took care of the cafeteria. But I noticed that several of my upper classmates were passing notes to many of the boys as they came through the lunch line.

It was not kosher at all …

One night as I walked the quad after dinner one evening, I was behind the school, walking past the baseball dug outs and IN the dug out were several of my classmates having sex with kids from the school next door.

I averted my eyes so as not to notice, and kept walking. I was sure, I had seen what I had seen. Not long after that incident, I was approached by several of my classmates who made it perfectly clear to me that I should never tell anyone what I saw. They confirmed to me what it was that I did see, by telling me to shut up and keep quiet.

Or I would pay a price.

Each week we had spiritual direction, with a certain priest we had chosen to see on a regular basis. And I kid you not, it was like sitting in front of an inquisitor. The first question, every time I sat with my spiritual director was this … “Did you touch yourself this week, and how many times did you touch yourself ?”

Spiritual direction took a backseat when it came to sexual information.

Now, even if I had masturbated whenever I could get away with it, I’m not saying I did or I didn’t … I wasn’t going to give that priest the sexual satisfaction of hearing about “If I touched myself, and how many times I did so.” In essence, I lied to his face …

And I think to myself, you know, “Masturbation is a far lesser sin, then fucking kids in the dug out out back of the school after dark.”

But I didn’t ever say that to anyone.

Many years would pass, after my unceremonious expulsion from the seminary in the Spring of 1987. I was told by Rector Andy Anderson, that I was not ONE OF THEM, and that I did not pass my yearly review as a seminarian, so I had to go.

That unceremonious expulsion sent me on a tirade about God. I was terribly angry at God for a long time. I had later come out of the closet and was at one of the major gay watering holes in Miami one night, when five of my classmates walked into the bar, and hung out and drank and cruised like the other gays in the building.

But They Were Seminarians, Still in Formation at the College.

The Church today is facing the biggest problem of its life. Sexual abuse in the church by priests. They used to say that a homosexual man could not be ordained into the priesthood. After I left the seminary, they purged, or attempted to purge homosexuality out of seminary life.

I don’t think they succeeded.

Because when I was in that seminary, most every single priest in residence was GAY, or had AIDS and was GAY. And half of my classmates were GAY.

Over that year we hosted two retreats for prospective men who wanted to come into the seminary. A couple of them made it in, but after helping them unpack and sort themselves out, I knew it would not work for them, and they later were dismissed.

I NEVER had a gay issues in my home parish and the men and the priests who served my home parish were upstanding, respectable men with integrity and morals. All of them, were great men to me. I would never speak a bad word about any priest I knew growing up.

It wasn’t until I hit seminary that that all changed for the worse.

I studied Religion and Theology at Concordia University here in Montreal, and one of our Monsignors was one of my instructors. At the end of term I had to write a 40 page prospectus. I wrote on the care of the LGBTQ community, and how the church could facilitate that. He then offered me a place to work in the diocese when I graduated.

I did not get the job, and the offer was rescinded.

Because I was GAY.

The church is not perfect, by any stretch. And Gays, do exist in the church today and priestly abuse is a FACT, which the church has turned a blind eye to for decades and decades. Because of the culture of silence and coverups, by the highest men in the curia and the papal offices.

Decrees can come from Rome by the hour, but the farther you are removed from the center of power, the more diluted the order and the less the orders can be enforced by local Bishops and clergy. The farther you get from Rome, the Bishops around the world control the diocese they administer.

The farther away Bishops are, take more latitude in enforcing Papal decrees and laws. What happens in Rome, does not necessarily happen in North America or Latin America, or in any other far flung location, removed from the seat of Holy Mother Church.

We know who were abused, we hear about it very often. Pope Francis needs to be decisive and stern and certain with punishment and prosecution.

There is no room for men of the cloth who abuse boys and girls.

That is abominable.

And God Wept …


Sunday Sundries … The European Drinker

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Another Sunday, some more stories. Today I took it kind of slow, after yesterday`s running all over town, and didn’t get home until after ten at night.

I had shopping to do on the way, So I departed early. I was the only one at the church, but I did not look at my watch (read:phone) on the way. I cranked out set up and was finished by the stroke of five.

Today’s read, was particular in many ways. Coming from Section Three in Experience, Strength and Hope. I noticed that this story, spoke very heavily about God, and quoted scripture, and our man, in the end, began to cultivate his own relationship with his higher power, whom he called God.

The mention of God so up front, and so insistently sets this story apart from the others we have read. As the relationship with God (as we understand Him) is so important in our spiritual and sober maintanance.

Reading this story I identified with several parts of the story:

  • The Bottle Hiding
  • Drinking in Germany
  • Spending time in religious community
  • Finding creative solutions to drink better
  • The realization that God does exist

When I was a young boy, as I have said in the past, the men in our family were all alcoholic. But my father’s father was the ultimate drinker. He was the ultimate in bottle hiding. Imagine, a bottle in the kitchen under the sink, bottles under the sinks in both bathrooms, Everywhere he could possibly sit down, anywhere, inside or outside the house, a bottle was within an arms reach from that seat.

Next door, in a small strip mall, was the local liquor store AND a tavern called LaRosa’s (that tavern still exists in that same spot to this very day), I have Google Earth’ed the old address, the house has been gone for over a decade, and a shack sits in its place.

The tavern appropriated much of the front yard of the old homestead, to build a much bigger parking lot. They must be packing them in at night.

Our man, from tonight’s story is from Germany, originally. Alsace to be exact.

I have a particular drinking story when I was in my late teens, I took a trip to Europe with my then boss. Little did he know, he’d be a captive tourguide. One stop was Munich, during Octoberfest.

One day we took a tour of Ladies Island. An attraction which boasted a replica copy, castle, called Versailles, as in the Palace of Versailles in Paris. It was handsome and all decked out.

It wasn’t the tour that I remember, but what took place after.

We had coupled up with some travelers on the tour. A young guy and his mother. I would later find out that, my boss had slept with that particular young man, after that trip, much to my consternation. (I was not yet out of the closet).

Anyways, we walked into a tavern. I being a young, white, American, the Germans were going to have a bit of fun, at my expense. I was only willing because it involved alcohol. I found out later, that the Germans were betting to see just how much dark beer I could drink. I had, in the end, upended many steins of beer.

Let’s just say that I was plastered.

We had to get on a bus to take us back to the city. I took a seat on the back wall. And some of you might know how warm it is in the back of the bus, against the back wall, engine and all.

I don’t know what happened next. And I have no memory of it either. What I do remember is waking up in my hotel room, in bed, so sick, I thought I was going to die.

I was told that the bus had to be taken out of service, because apparently, I was sick all over the bus.

Not my proudest moment …

Time spent in a religious community

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The Chapel and grounds of St. John Vianney College Seminary, Miami.

Prior to my Really Good Job, I spoke about in an earlier post, the job that afforded me the above mentioned trip to Europe, I had spent the year prior in a Catholic Seminary in Miami.

I was not drinking, because I was only 19 years old, so going out to a bar was non existent. Many of my classmates, I would later learn, were GAY, and they used to hit the local Gay Bar “Uncle Charlie’s,” in Miami, after I had come out of the closet, later on.

I could not reconcile Gay / Seminarians, and a calling to serve God in the same breath. I was naive and somewhat very idealistic, in my own thought about serving God. I had not an inclination that I was gay at that period of my life yet.

But Church and Homosexuality WAS a thing when I attended seminary. IN fact, it was thrown in my face every day that I was there.

Drinking … The seminary had several buildings. The library/office, the rectory with chapel, the students residence/classrooms. And the Chapel, on the grounds.

A certain rector, who shall remain nameless, I loved and adored him. He was a great man, who had a great problem. He was an alcoholic. Many a nights would pass, and we would be up in the residences, after hours, and He would come up to our rooms, totally plastered. And a number of times, I found myself, along with a few others, who would take him back to the rectory and put him to bed.

That kept happening. That at some point, the diocese decided to remove him from the Seminary and they put him someplace to get “better.” That did not go over very well with me. I could not see why they had to send him away. I lobbied very vocally, my disapproval of the way the diocese handled the issue.

The man they sent to us in return, was a pompous, arrogant, thought he was Pope, was holier than thou, asshole. I could not stand him. It was he, in the end, I think, who had veto or acceptance powers of who stayed and who went.

At the end of the year, it was I who was asked to go.

Many years later, sitting here, in the very spot I am sitting right now, read that a handful of priests and seminarians from my old seminary days were in jail for various reasons. One of those men, was the man I cared a great deal for.

**** **** ****

We read these stories and we get to see how our folks thought about what they drank, how they drank, and how they invariably, went to great measures to try and figure out, how to drink MORE, without the associated after affects.

As a young gay boy, I went to the bar when I was old enough to do so. It was the place I enjoyed much of my twenties. Alcohol was present at ALL the jobs I had. It was part and parcel of working in the travel industry.

Alcohol was served at work, often. Then after work I would hit happy hour and drink until happy hour ended.

I would drive home …

Change my clothes, and drive back to the bar for the nightly drink specials, and dance parties.

And drive home again…

There came a time when I could not drink every day. It was just impossible. By the time I quit drinking the first time, (in Fort Lauderdale) you could very easily drink 23 hours a day … for real !!! I did that on occasion.

I would then resort to the binge drink, do the drag show and dance till 5 a.m. run, every night after work. I was working for Todd by now.

He got me sober. And saved my life.

It was on my slip, that last few months that the binge became ritual. That one night of week blow out, that ended in total destruction.

Even that did not last for very long, until I hit my bottom.

The rest they say is history.

There is a God, And I am NOT God.

I love God.

I love my friends.

I would only change portions of my story if I could go back and relive them. I would want to know how certain sections of my story would have turned out had I stayed in certain places, schools, jobs, careers. Or what woud have happened had I followed Todd to California, when he did leave.

That is probably one of my few regrets.

I should have gone, But I believed with all my heart that my fate was to reclaim family after my father’s hopeful crash, burn and death.

SADLY, my father is still alive … BOOOO …

He wants nothing to do with me to this day. His loss…

Thank God I never have to drink again.