Vine and Fig podcast co-founder Pat Gothman and his fiancé Jacob Flores interview gay priest James Alison about his phone call with Pope Francis, what he thinks Pope Francis wants to happen in the church on LGBTQ issues, why the gay issue is more an emotional issue for the Church than a theological one, the unique spiritual insights that queer catholics have for the rest of the Church in this time of crisis, and a whole lot more!
In this year’s international bestseller, In the Closet of the Vatican, Frédéric Martel reveals that two years ago Pope Francis phoned a prominent gay priest and theologian ordered by the Vatican not to teach, preach or celebrate the Sacraments.
And then this: “I want you to walk with deep interior freedom, following the Spirit of Jesus. And I give you the power of the keys. Do you understand? I give you the power of the keys.”
More recently I have had the privilege of being able to ask a very distinguished canonist what this means, this immediate act of the Universal Ordinary sending me forth as a sort of clandestine mercy priest. He roared with laughter and said: “Canonically, it makes no sense at all, but … he does these things!”
What might those who follow the thought of René Girard have to offer to those currently excavating Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey? The answer to this question will depend to a great extent on how followers of Girard’s thought, like myself and others in this collection, are able to match the generosity we have been shown by those involved in the discipline. I hope we can do something of this by making Girard’s hypothesis available to people working in the area, clarifying it (especially where notorious misapprehensions about it have arisen), filling out some of its many lacunae (for instance, in the eighty thousand or so years between the arrival of homo sapiens sapiens and the axial era, from which most of Girard’s evidence is derived), and showing that it does at least enable some intelligent questions to be asked of the sort which might lead those working at the “trowel’s edge” to look at elements of what they have seen in a different light.
Contribution to the Syndicate Symposium on Martel’s book In the Closet of the Vatican curated by Sean Larsen
In his book The Cassowary’s Revenge: The Life and Death of Masculinity in a New Guinea Society, the late Social Anthropologist Donald Tuzin describes what he found on his second visit to Ilahita, a New Guinea village, over a dozen years after his first, made in 1972. The males of the village had recently and suddenly renounced their secret cult, or “Tambaran”, and along with that, their “men’s house” from which the cult had emanated. By means of the cult and the house they had dominated the women of the village for generations. Indeed such houses have been prominent features of many Melanesian societies prior to western influence. It will come as no surprise to friends of mine that the mythology which the males handed on, centring around the Cassowary (a large and potentially dangerous flightless bird), seems to have been made to measure for a Girardian reading. But that is not my concern here. It is Tuzin’s description of the various factors which had impinged on Ilahita life between his 1972 visit and the collapse of the cult which are fascinating: the presence of different forms of western life including, but not limited to, evangelical missionaries. The voluntary self-destruction of the men’s house was one of the most visible symptoms of the complete collapse in the meaning of masculinity among the inhabitants, and the concomitant need for all of them to renegotiate all the dimensions of the meaning of being women and men. I once met one of the tribal men who experienced all this as a youth. He had, since the time of the collapse of “Tambaran” became an openly gay Qantas air steward. In less than forty years, he had thus lived through the identity changes which the last six thousand years or so have wrought among the rest of us.