So, the bell has been rung and word has gone out around the world that a new pope has been chosen — and with this action, with the rising of the ceremonial fuma blanca disappearing into thin air, so, too, will, The Catholic Church itself. With one plume of white smoke, this institution is FUCKING VAPOR, BABY.
But here’s the thing. It didn’t have to be this way. They had a choice. They did not have to sign their own death warrant. They did not have to ensure that they went the way of the 8-Track. They could have chosen a younger pope, a progressive pope, a pope who could have led the church and the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide into a New Age of Enlightenment. They were standing at the crossroads of The New World…and they could have made the progressive choice, a choice of inclusion, reason, tolerance, and love.
But they didn’t.
Goddamnit, they didn’t.
They chose more of the same. More hatred, more lies, more intolerance, more ignorance, and more denial of the PURE, ROTTING, STINKING, FETID, PUTRID WOUND THEY HAVE LEFT ON THE HEART OF HUMANITY. Trust me, FAR MORE UNSPEAKABLE ATROCITIES have been committed in the name of god than have EVER BEEN COMMITTED IN A BATH HOUSE IN NEW YORK CITY or a NIGHTCLUB IN WEST HOLLYWOOD.
And you might be asking yourself where I get off thinking that I have the authority to make a call on this new pontiff — how some trashy, little broad from Fresno could possibly know where evil lies. Well, trust me…I DO. The evil of the Catholic Church is not some distant, abstract, make-believe concept in my own life. It is VERY REAL.
Because it is her story and not mine to tell, I will not go into all the details here beyond the fact that a very important, influential person in my own family was regularly dropped off at her parish church as a child — by an ignorant mother whose blind faith blinded her to the truth of the counterfeit institution to which she entrusted the three small people she brought into this world — where she was brutally and repeatedly raped from the ages of 6 to 13. If you wish to bear witness to the lifelong, ongoing fallout from these atrocities…you have to look NO FURTHER than the SHEER FUCKING EPIC WRECKAGE that is my family; THE CARNAGE THAT IS MY KIN. I myself am still standing, able to speak to you and tell you my truths, NOT by the grace of some god I don’t believe in — but by the grace of myself, a self I fight for every single day of my life.
And for those who would argue that the actions of one sick fuck in a white collar do not represent the whole of the institution…I would tell you that 25 years ago, when I was practically still a kid myself, I took this family member — LONG before it was on the cultural radar, LONG before support groups had been formed and lawsuits had been filed, LONG before people spoke aloud of these shameful things — to talk to the Bishop of Fresno, a snake-faced man named John Steinbock, to tell him our story, to show him the damage, to ask him for help in fixing what had been broken by his church. As I stood beside my rocking, sobbing family member — who was SO traumatized that she could scarcely open her eyes or even breathe, much less speak — Steinbock, a man of god, looked me right in the eye and with his forked tongue hissed at me that such things were lies…that they never really happened…that I was making them up.
People sometimes ask me how I am able to muster up such righteous anger in my life — how I can wake up every single morning and continue to fight hard and fight on for those who have no voice, day after day after day. They want to know how I can RAGE THE FUCK ON WHEN IT IS NECESSARY TO DO SO.
This is how.
This man was a BISHOP, one of the highest ranking Catholics in the entirety of California. I leaned over onto his desk, got right up in his face, and met the smug gaze of that evil, lying bastard with NO HESITATION and NO FEAR…and said: “I don’t know if you started out evil or if you became evil — but that’s what you are: EVIL. You have a rotten heart. In your world, I am young and powerless and insignificant, which may very well be true — but let me tell you what else I am. I am a WRITER — and before I die, the world will know which side of goodness that Bishop John Steinbock stood on: THE WRONG SIDE. I’ll see you in hell, motherfucker.” The look on his face was PRICELESS. I have carried it with me to this day.
The savage, godless, soul-murdering acts of one priest at a small parish in a small town in Central California have caused UNIMAGINABLE COLLATERAL DAMAGE THAT CONTINUES TO THIS DAY. My family and I have EARNED, the hard way, the right to call out evil where it lies — to shout from the rooftops of the world that it lies within a church that claims to save souls when it, in fact, devours, destroys, and decimates them. Don’t you fucking talk to me about goodness and humility. You wanna be an apologist for the Catholic Church — be my guest…JUST DON’T FUCKING DO IT ON MY PAGE.
I fully understand that the idea of god is a helpful, comforting, inspiring reality for some people — but it is an absolutely confounding one for others. Trust me, NO ONE marvels at the beauty and profundity of this world more than I do, AD FUCKING NAUSEUM. But a god that demands our obedience and monitors/judges/rewards/punishes our actions? Really?
I just can’t do it.
Despite your crossing yourself right now and reaching for the holy water with which to douse my fat, blasphemous ass, I suspect I am as “spiritual” a person as you will ever come across in this place — as are MANY of my friends, believe it or not. These are people with kind hearts under their towering wigs and glittering garments, people who support each other and love each other and do good in the world JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
Look, I don’t know much in this life — I am muddling my way through, just like everybody else — but what I DO know is this:
Whatever Power it is that set all the Beauty and Chaos in motion so this place could come together and we could all arise from the slime of the seas…that Power doesn’t give the slightest FUCK about who I hang out with, who I marry, how much money I give it, or what I do with my vagina. Do you understand…IT DOESN’T GIVE A SHIT, one way or the other…and to believe that it somehow does is a befuddling concept to me, to say the very least. You are not changing my mind with your scripture…and I am not changing yours with my reason. Let us embrace those differences. Let us celebrate them.
I suppose faith all boils down to what you need to get through this world every single day, as well as how you view that world. I, too, read the stories of courage and selflessness in Newtown a couple of months ago, and I wept and MY first thought was, “Goddamnit, the human capacity for goodness is an ASTONISHING thing.” You see, god doesn’t play into it for me…except for, well, you know, the profane, blasphemous part there. I am a Vulgarian Philistine, after all. Anyway, I would not presume to insult or undercut the bravery of those women by suggesting that the credit for the EXTRAORDINARY actions they took to protect those babies should go to ANY ONE or ANYTHING beyond just themselves and the courage and goodness that innately exists within their being. THEY ARE THE LIGHT. THEY ARE THE POWER. THEY ARE THE GLORY. THEY ARE THE BEAUTY. ALL BY THEMSELVES. To those who are saying, “But, those teachers — what they did. GOD WAS THERE.” — to stay true to what you are saying, if your omnipotent god deserves the credit and is responsible for the amazing actions of those women three months ago, then you have to admit THAT HE ALSO MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ATROCITIES COMMITTED BY THAT DANGEROUSLY IMBALANCED YOUNG MAN. If there is, in fact, a god, there is NO WAY around this. An all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god either runs the show completely…or he doesn’t exist in the form nor capacity in which you believe. You can’t have it both ways.
Look, I can appreciate the faith displayed by many of the people with whom I am friends — and even sometimes wish that I could believe something so fully and without question, myself. I suspect there is much solace to be found in believing in a Big Daddy who is looking out for you at all times, who can comfort you when you are grieving, kick your ass when you are naughty, and move you into his glorious clubhouse-in-the-sky until the end of time when you are not.
But I just can’t.
Such beliefs, for me, hearken back to a time of darkness, manipulation, superstition, and madness — not a time of science, reason, art, and progress. So, though I can certainly appreciate all of your unswerving faith in your god and your belief that he loves EVEN A WICKED OLD WHORE LIKE ME…as for me, I believe in humans. In beauty. In logic. In love. In doing the right thing JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, not because it’s listed in some celestial rulebook written by guys with a VERY human agenda. If you corner me and demand to know what I believe, insist that I give it a name so that you might better understand it, I will tell you that I believe in old Ben Kenobi’s religion, THE FORCE, the interconnectedness of every single thing in the Universe that exists and radiates light, the thing that ties us all one to the other, whether we believe in gods or not.