For the San Francisco Chronicle, Lesley Hazleton reviews Richard Rodriguez's new book, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography. As she notes, as an openly gay Latino Catholic, Rodriguez has long struggled with the overweeningly macho heritage of Christianity, or, at least, of significant strands of the Christian tradition.
As I myself have noted, Rodriguez has persistently argued that it will be women who will eventually open the exceedingly male-dominated and exceptionally heterosexist Catholic tradition to gay and lesbian people. Hazleton finds the same theme in Rodriguez's new spiritual autobiography:
But at the heart of this book are women. Rodriguez - gay, Catholic Rodriguez - loves women. Not the way many men say they do, with a sexual twinkle in their eye, but deeply and gratefully. The stand-alone masterpiece of the title chapter starts with that "voluble endearment exchanged between lovers on stage and screen" (Noël Coward's "sequined grace notes flying up" like "starlings in a summer sky"), touches among other things on the use of habeebee among Arab men ("In a region of mind without coed irony, where women are draped like Ash Wednesday statues ... men, among themselves, have achieved an elegant ease of confraternity and sentimentality"), and builds to the central take on how much the three "desert religions" need women to survive ("Somewhere in its canny old mind, the Church knows this. Every bishop has a mother.").
Rodriguez depends on women "to protect the Church from its impulse to cleanse itself of me." It was women who stood against the arid maleness he sensed as a child: "Outside the Rodriguez home, God made covenants with men. Covenants were cut out of the male organ. A miasma of psychological fear - fear of smite, fear of flinty tools, fear of lightning - crackled in God's wake. Scripture began to smell of anger - a civet smell. Scripture began to smell of blood - of iron, of salt."
What a very different church the Catholic church could be, if . . . .
(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing this review to me and other friends.)