Although I was born in a Catholic country, I have never practiced religion. In part this is due to parents who brought my brothers and I in the heady Leftist promises of the 1970's (most of it long-obscured as mere ideologist dogma of their own, at least in my country), but also because the church so often turns its back on its own people when it fails to understand their humanity.
I do have to confess that I envy some gays and lesbians who nevertheless find peace and strength from their unshaken beliefs. And though I do find unexplainable beauty in nature and humanity that goes past what evolutionary science reveals (oh no! - I think I just said I believe in Intelligent Design!), I see my religious friends as beacons of hope at a time when fundamentalist blindness is the source of so much horror in this world.
A sign of the changes to come in Spain under Zapatero rule, Reverend José Mantero shocked the world when he posed for a cover story Spain's leading LGBT magazine ZERO - a glossy version of Out magazine, only better, though Mantero riles against it in this interview - and announced to the world that he was gay.
That was 2001. In "Thank God for making me Gay," an interview by Bosco Palacios published this morning by the web portal, Periodistadigital.com, the 43-year old Mantero talks candidly about the magazine cover and life after coming out. He also announces the launch of his own Spanish-language blog, La casulla de San Idelfonso.
I have translated some parts of the interview. Missing here are discussions about the new Pope, media and local Spanish politics, which you will have to get friends to translate. As for the rest of the interview:
Q: Was it your descision to be in [ZERO]'s cover?
Well, I got a call... from Manuel Andreu, who was then editor of Zero, to ask me for an interview. After thinking about it and praying, I decided to give it (we had not discussed if it would be on the cover, just that it would be a simple interview.)
Q: So how did it become the cover story?
He was thrilled with to be able to a Catholic priest who was 'gayfriendly' so I had to clarify that I was gay and that I'd be 'heterofriendly' anyway. That's how I got to Zero and, regarding the cover title - "Thank God I am Gay" - that was my response to the first question Paco Vidarte, the interviewer, asked me: 'Are you gay?'
Q: Do ever regret that cover?
Man! If it hadn't been Zero, it would have happened elsewhere, because to tell you the truth, I was sick and tired of the homophobic manifestations by the Catholic leadership. But I might have waited longer. In any case, I do not regret it. On the contrary: I continue to thank God for having made me gay, and for wanting me to complete his plan of salvation as a gay man. Today Zero is no longer what it used to be.
Q: How is Zero today?
Today it's a vulgar little magazine without any social compromise, more connected to the fashons and money, than the cause of gay liberation. If I came out of the closet today, it would not happen in Zero, that's clear.
Q: Can you be Catholic and a gay man?
Evidently. I am Catholic and I am gay. I am a priest (not ex-priest as some illiterate folk have disseminated) and gay. Look at all the good the gay clergy, the magnificent gay priests that exist. What is really incompatible is to be Catholic and a homophobe, or intolerant, or an interested defender of power and money. In any case, homophobia has a cure and psychiatrists [who can treat it], but the opposite is a question of conversion and I don't see many who are willing.
Q: How do you continue to live with your faith?
My work as a priest, in place of being over, has been reborn, it has returned from that accident when I was supposedly banned [from priesthood]. When on February 6, 2002 Ignacio Noguer signed the decree, something beautiful died inside me with his signature: Decades of life in a institution that, even if sinful and radically treasonous in regards to the Gospel, I countinue to love. The synthesis was needed, perhaps it was among God's plan. And I now have no single doubt of the enligtening role of suffering, a whole educatioon [in itself].
Q: Can you continue to celebrate [mass]?
I have been barred, I mean, institutionally blocked from celebrating Holy Mass and all the other sacraments. Now, I continue to celebrate Holy Mass at least on Sundays. I mean, I don't go to Mass, but I do celebrate it at home or with any Christian group that asks me... The Eucarist is a treausre that Jesus has given me and I am not going to throw it away due to a enlightening piece of paper I consider innocuous.
Q: They want to ban gay priests from the seminaries. How can this be done?
Yes, I think they want to ban them. But I ask: Who can prohibit this from the prohibitionists? This absurd prohibition is a summer storm, a fashionable negative inside the Church, since in so few other profession in our world exist as many homosexuals - gays and lesbians - as in the Catholic church. In Fact, all the prohibitions do is to reveal the overwhelming existence of the gay phenomenon in their ranks...
Q: What tests are they planning to stop this "invasion?"
Apparetly thwy will attempt to use through some tests. As a matter of fact, since you are a journalist, I beg you to send me a copy of some of them as soon as you have them in your hands: I need a good laugh. In any case, it is only more proof of the obsession that the high Ecliastic spheres have with sex, sex as a problem, only as compulsion, as slavery of the soul. But sexuality is more than the genital, they still do not get that. I suppose a lot will change when sexuality is discovered as a source of pleasure, instead of a burden.
Q: What opinion do you reserve for homophobia inside the Church?
With respect to the secular homophobia of the church, is a mortal sin for which they will ask for forgiveness one day (when it's too late). God not only considers humans worthy, but he has made us gays as such to broaden his glory (in the same way he has created heterosexuals). Everything is to increase the glory of God; the problem with many [religious] leaders is that, for them, the glory of God is not worth a damn. The position of the church on homosexuality is against nature, anti-evangelical and hypocritical.
Q: Is Spain totally advanced with respect with other countries?
That is indisputable: We are in the absolute vanguard in respect to formal recognition of equal rights. Now, in respect to full equality, or real equality, if you prefer, there is still a lot to go, a long and passionate educational process of socierty, particularly of the new generations, so that they don't use the equation 'homosexuality = problem, or pathology' but that they see it as it is: One more color in the fan of love and sex.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle to normalization?
Tha Catholic Church and its continuing homophobic manifestations.
Q: Why [do you say that the church] is against nature?
Aganist nature, because sexual orientation is just one more of those that the Creator made, created and instituted. How do I know? The Holy Spirit has told me. Yes, I think that He has also spoken to Ratzinger once in a while. Excuse me, Benedict XVI.
Q: Why anti-evangelical?
Anti-evangelical, because it is fundamentally opposed to love. And I know what I am telling you: For them, infrequent sexual relations are not a major problem, even homosexual relationships, which are more common among members of the clergy, in high places and low. Now, if the little priest falls in love, uf!, that is worse in their eyes. Opposed to human love and, by definitionh, to Divine love.
Q: Why hypocritical?
Hypocritical, because in too many occasions, the religious leaders who are the most homophobic are gay priests themselves, I don't know if it's for fear of being found out or fear of finding themselves. Now, there is also the exception to the rule, the other side of the coin: Simple Catholic ommunity churches, in which homosexuals, even if they have been persecuted, have been accepted, integrated, loved in the most natural of ways. But unfortunately a grain does not make a farm.
Q: What is your opinion of the demonstrations by pro-family associations against gay marriage?
They seem as "E.T." to me as "The War of the Worlds..." I see these associations as sorry and docile peons in the hands of truly sly puppet masters, which manipulate them at their whim and according to which way the winds of their personal interests blow.
Q: Who is directing the orchestra?
You saw them clearly in the J-18 manifestation, with all the priests taking to the streets instead of doing what they are meant to do: Be priests and announce the Lord. The puppet masters are the Episcopal Conference... and the Popular Party, loyal servant and master at the same time.
Q: How have you lived these continuous manifestations?
There is nothing wrong with having voices of criticism, even against gay marriage (what is truly perverse is a sole thought, no matter under which sign). But I am somewhat fearful of what all these - you qualify them as continuing - manifestations: A resurgence of catholic fundamentalism, as terrible as any other.
Q: Tell us about your blog
My blog, La casulla de San Idelfonso, will basically be like the other one, Terminal de Ausencias: A mix of meditations about reality that I perceive as important. It's the home of a priest, who continues to be a priest, who feels he is a priest, who loves his ministry and that does not see it as having decreased. For that reason, there are / will be many posts which refer to the church, the pristes, the clergy... not exclusively. I also address the gay world... Every public... At the very least, this blog means something: Whoever thought about shutting me down, now it is clear...
Q: You were a priest and married to God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). would you marry again with a man and adopt children?
I didn't use to be a priest, I am a priest. In me, the ministry is not something from the past, but the present, pleasurably the present, indivisible from my individual self. Second: I have not gotten married, with a man or a woman, not even with any of my cats, and you should see how much I love them! With respect to adoption, I haven't thought about it personally, since, as I tell you, I haven't built a family yet. In respect to the Holy Trinity, effectively God is Father, Son and Holy Saint, communis nexos aborum.
One man's trash...... - It is always somewhat of a culture shock for me when I visit my friends and in my in-laws in the South. They are just so polite down there. They will "yes ...
1 hour ago