Father forgive me

I have a love hate relationship with the Catholic church.

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My parents are both from Italy and as a result my entire education has been affiliated in one way or another with the Catholic church. I went to Catholic grammar school, an all boy Jesuit high school, a Catholic university and a Catholic medical school. I trained at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center as well as Cabrini Hospital. One is part of the Arch Diocese of New York and the other was run by the Sisters of Charity.

As a gay adult, I take issue with some of the church’s teachings and their hypocrisy. In high school one of the priests was accused of molesting a student. He was transferred shortly after the accusation and was never heard from again. I never forgot that.

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My first year of private practice, I was employed by my mentor who treated mostly gay men and HIV. One of his patients was a Catholic priest. When I was told, I think I made the sign of the cross and genuflected. I can’t be sure. It was nearly ten years ago. This priest was a very nice man. Unfortunately, he was also a closeted homosexual with HIV. Treating him over the course of that year, I became close to him. At one point I asked him how he negotiated being a priest as well as being a gay man with HIV.

“I am how God intended,” he said. “Only He can judge me.”

“But what about the church?” I asked. “How can you be a priest when the church does not accept us as equals?”

“The church was created by man not God.”

“But you represent the church.”

“I represent God.”

Earlier this year an elderly man made an appointment for a full physical. His name was Michael. “You look great for seventy,” I said. “How come you don’t have a doctor?”

“I’m a priest and I was transferred here from New Jersey. I need a doctor in the neighborhood to monitor my diabetes.”

I had not taken care of a priest since my first year of private practice. I did not want to make an presumptions about this new patient, so during the history portion of the intake, I asked Father Michael if he was sexually active.

“I said I’m a priest,” he responded.

“Father, when I was in high school a priest molested one of the boys. My first year of private practice, I took care of a gay priest with HIV. So please spare me the celibacy speech.”

“Oh, I see,” he said. “Well then to answer your question, no, I am not sexually active, and I’ll spare you the celibacy speech by simply saying that I am celibate.”

That evening I confessed to Chad, my spiritual adviser and partner, that I was rude to a Catholic priest and that I had judged him based on my previous past experiences with other priests.

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” said Chad. “See if he comes back.”

Father Michael did return for his follow up visit and so to make up for my rude behavior, I was extra nice to him. Call it Catholic guilt.

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Last week, a new patient named Daniel presented to my office in need of a physician after his old one stopped taking his insurance. “You live in Philadelphia,” I asked while perusing through his chart. “I know I’m good but you weren’t able to find a doctor in Philly?”

“You came highly recommended,” he said. (That line works like a charm on me.)

“Oh, go on,” I said. “But seriously, don’t you think I am a little out of your way?”

“No, I’d rather come in to the city,” he assured me. “I want a good, gay doctor.”

Toward the end of the exam, I began to make small talk. “So what do you do in Philly?”

“You mean you didn’t read my chart?”

“No, why?”

“I’m a priest.”

“A Catholic priest?”

“Yes.”

Is this some kind of divine inquest? Am I being tested like Job? Did my mother have anything to do with this?

These were the questions that ran through my mind as I stared at Father Dan. As I looked beyond those big, brown eyes of his, searching for answers that might re-awaken my own belief in the Catholic church, my mouth acted first and said, “So Father, how do you negotiate being a priest and a gay man?”

“That’s simple,” he said. “As a priest, I took a vow of celibacy. This vow pertains to women. The Church only recognizes unions between a man and a woman. If I choose to sleep with a man then I am not breaking any vows.”

I clap my hands slowly, once then twice. “Well played Father.”

“I see you don’t approve?”

“I am not a priest,” I said. “I am a doctor. Therefore I do not pass judgement on you. In here you are not a priest. You are Dan, the gay man.”

Several days later Dan’s labs came in. He was positive for Chlamydia. I sat there and pondered the meaning of this. None of it made sense to me, and I don’t think it ever will. The church does not condone the use of condoms and as a result many South Africans have become infected with HIV. Gay men and women are not accepted nor can they marry in a Catholic Church. Yet, many of my Catholic friends have had their marriages annulled or divorced without being excommunicated. As anger boiled my blood, I picked up the phone. Call it a mortal sin or revenge. But when Dan picked up the phone, I couldn’t wait to say, “Hello Father, it’s Dr. Spinelli. You have Chlamydia. Happy Father’s Day.”

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5 Comments

  1. Posted June 20, 2009 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Brandon form miami, big fan, this is sad, religion is so fake, i grow going to chruch, and we had a pastor, who was fucking a 16 year boy and many other men in the chruch,when it come out the women in the chruch all cried, i hate these type of men, one min gays are sinner, next we are there booty bois, i’m black, and that shit is big in the black chruch. I have been hit on by many men, who are dl in the chruch, there always going back and forth, dick or god, dick or god, never pussy!! lol, why do these people have so much control in the world?

  2. Larry Flick
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

  3. YNAGER65
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    OOOPS!

  4. Angelique La Bruja
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing what so many of us “recovering” Catholics struggle with long after our last Mass.

  5. mich lyon
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    both guilt and prayer are fantasies . . . dont bother with either. instead give your boyfriend a great big hug.


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