More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church - Vol. 1

By Christine Firer Hinze; J. Patrick Hornbeck II | Go to book overview

16 At a Loss

DAN SAVAGE

My dad was in the first class of the ordained permanent diaconate. This sentence may require some unpacking for my non-Catholic readers. So here you go, heathens: Before a man could become a Catholic priest, he would typically spend a year serving as a Catholic deacon. Deacons are to priests as novices are to nuns— or they used to be. In the 1980s, to address a growing shortage of Catholic priests (a shortage that has since gotten worse), the church created the permanent deaconate. Ordained deacons could do almost everything priests do— pass out wafers, preach sermons, baptize babies— and so my dad was up on the altar of our church every Sunday when I was growing up. Which makes me something of a rarity among Catholics: I am a preacher’s kid. (Technically I’m the kid of two preachers, as my mother was a Catholic lay minister.)

As the son of a Catholic preacher man— just one of his four children— I attended Catholic grade schools, and yes, I was an altar boy. But, this isn’t a story about being sexually abused by a priest. Because I wasn’t sexually abused by a priest. Looking back at my childhood, I can identify a couple of close calls— a priest from our parish once took me and another boy skinny-dipping at a Catholic school’s indoor pool after hours— but the experiences were creepy, not abusive. In addition to being a Catholic deacon, my father was also a Chicago cop— a cop who loved his children and wore his ser vice revolver wherever he went— and that fact may have given pause to any rapey priests who crossed paths with his children.

I am no longer a practicing Catholic. If I had to apply a religious label to myself, it would be “agnostatheist,” an awkward hybrid of agnostic and atheist. I don’t believe in a higher power, but I do cross myself on airplanes. I once blew up at a friend who thought he was being funny when he inverted one of the crucifixes in my “ironic” collection of Catholic kitsch. And when I take the Lord’s name in vain— when I mutter “Jesus Christ”

-165-

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