The GodfatherTomorrow I will be a godfather for the third time. I am godfather to all three of my nieces: Katie, Charlotte and now Julia. It’s a testament to my sisters’ attitudes about spiritualism and religion that they should choose the gay uncle to act as the spiritual guardian to their daughters. This, despite the fact that these baptisms mark their entrance into the Catholic church, which, of course, is morally opposed to homosexuality. The church’s attitude about this, the role of women, birth control and the like, understandably cause many Catholics much consternation. But not me.
I am what Pope John Paul II once negatively described as a "Cafeteria Catholic". Guilty as charged. I take what I want from the religion and leave the rest. What else is one to do with a religion that is so out of touch with the modern world, modern relationships and questions of modern morality? Fortunately, many of these conflicts were not part of my experience as a Catholic. I do not have a lot of the negative associations with the church that many other Catholics have. I went to public school, so I have no memories of yard stick-wielding nuns in the classroom. I was fortunate enough never to have been taken advantage by any of those child abusing priests and although I understand the church’s official position on gays, I don’t ever remember hearing one word about it from the pulpit in our church growing up.
My memories of church are mostly good. My mother was active in our church and converted to Catholicism as an adult, so therefore had a more mature, spiritual understanding of the religion. (My father, on the other hand, was taught to believe that if he bit the Communion host, Jesus would feel it. But that’s life in old Italy for you.) We always went to church as a family and were encouraged to participate. I was an altar boy. I loved it–the pomp and circumstance. I took lighting the candles very seriously. Father Al, who was obviously gay, was in charge of the altar boys. But there was no hanky-panky going on, believe me. He lived for Christmas midnight mass and, like me, loved to sing. My CCD teachers were my friends’ mothers. I still remember Mrs. Calabria explaining how evolution and the story of creation could co-exist (it was a non-issue). I remember food drives for the poor at Thanksgiving time and buying gifts for under privileged children at Christmas time. I remember CYO dance marathons with my friends to raise money for soup kitchens and other charities. I remember singing in church and feeling like what I had to offer was important to the celebration. Most of all, I remember being part of a community.
So, as an adult, I reconcile my role as Godfather in a church that theoretically rejects me as one to protect these girls from the insanity of an archaic, patriarchal, dinosaur of a religion and the sometimes damaging messages it can send, which, somehow, I was spared myself. I’ll make sure that they know that spirituality and one’s relationship with God are very personal things. That they are beautiful and special in God’s eyes. That their gifts and talents are valuable blessings. That no matter what, their family will always love them. That charity, compassion, kindness, patience and love are what Christ taught, not judgement or hate. And hopefully, with a little help from above, I’ll be able to set a good example.