Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Monday, June 18, 2007

Article about me from Paul Moor

My "Sex-Priest" friend Father Robert Cromey
Jun 15th, 2007 by Paul Moor
Technorati Tags: San Francisco, Sister Boom-Boom, pornography, Freedom March, Martin Luther King, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Woody Allen, Wardell Pomeroy, homosexuality, Alfred C. Kinsey
During my San Francisco years (1982-95), “Time” once began its report on an election there with this sentence: “San Francisco is a tree-house for adult delinquents.”

I believe that story reported the November 1982 election that listed one candidate for the city’s Board of Supervisors as Sister Boom-Boom, with the explanatory addendum one line lower “Nun of the above.” Sister Boom-Boom belonged to a highly visible, almost hyper-active group of transvestite political activists called “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” Sister Boom-Boom actually polled 23,124 votes - assuredly nothing to sneeze at. Even the most case-hardened bird-watcher has always found San Francisco something special, truly in a class to itself.

I would never think of calling my esteemed San Francisco friend Father Robert Cromey an adult delinquent, but neither does he fit the mold of what most people think of as even an Episcopal clergyman. Soon after I settled there, I’d heard so much about his Trinity Church that sheer curiosity impelled my first visit. New and solitary in that weird city, attempting a wrenching adjustment after 32 years in Europe, I filled out the visitors’ card in the hymnal rack before me - and it startled me to get a telephone call only a day or so later from Father Cromey himself, inviting me to come in for a personal chat. I found a big, strapping, athletic-looking, handsome man who radiated unforced friendliness. I told him right off the bat that I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea, but I considered myself - the direct result of my Mississippi-born parents’ having force-fed me the strait-laced puritanical doctrines of the Southern Baptist Convention until I left home at 16 for Juilliard - an open-minded agnostic. (Linguistic punctilio stopped me short of out-and-out atheism, which to my way of thinking implies proven certainty that God does not exist.) My new friend gave me an even bigger smile and said: “Think of Trinity as a cafeteria - take what you want, leave what you don’t.” It didn’t take long for Robert and his (previously Mormon) wife Ann to become dear and especially esteemed friends of mine.

This past March, the “San Francisco Examiner” published this letter over Robert Cromey’s name:

“Pornography has a positive side. Psychologist Bill Perry (SF Examiner 3-6-07) says porno is bad for people. I am a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Priest of the Episcopal Church and have found sexually explicit films and videos helpful for people who are sexually dysfunctional. I and other therapists have suggested viewing porn films as helpful in re-stimulating sexual awareness in gay and straight couples.

“Studies of the effects of pornography on adults and even children are not absolutely clear that such viewing is harmful. Porn is a billion-dollar industry indicating millions of Americans buy and watch porn. Few of them can be called ill or criminal.

“Furthermore, images of nude men and women can be very aesthetically pleasing; porn is one way for people to enjoy the human body.”

Yup, I said to myself, that’s my Robert. (Earlier this month, incidentally, “The New York Times” reported that according to the trade publication “AVN” sales and rentals of pornographic videos in 2005 came to $4,280,000,000 - that’s not millions but billions - and $3,620,000,000 the year following, as only a part of “the overall $13,000,000,000 sex-related entertainment market.”)

I’ve always admired Robert for a number of things, among them his repeatedly proven readiness to act as well as speak and write. To cite only one instance, perhaps the most impressive, in 1968, with many Americans all over the country outraged over a particularly brutal racist murder in Selma, Alabama, Robert travelled there to join Martin Luther King in what became known as the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital.

Remember? ”On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil-rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

“One hundred years after the Civil War, in many parts of the nation, the 15th Amendment had been nullified by discriminatory laws, ordinances, intimidation, violence, and fear which kept a majority of African Americans from the polls. The situation was particularly egregious in the city of Selma, in Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up more than half the population yet comprised only about 2% of the registered voters. . . .”

In San Francisco, needless to say, Robert has long since become a familiar figure in public demonstrations of all kinds, with his letters frequently published in the daily “Chronicle” and “Examiner”. Acting on a tip, I went to one Sunday-morning service at Trinity featuring Robert’s bishop William Swing as guest preacher. Leading off, Bishop Swing mentioned that this exchange took place (as I recall) annually, when sweetness and light prevailed - temporarily: “the rest of the time we drive each other mad.” Regulars in the congregation around me smiled and nodded knowingly.

Only once have Robert and I ever come even close to locking horns over a religious issue. Religion - the various world religions - completely to one side, I regard as irrefutable perhaps the most famous quotation from that fire-breathing militant old professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair: “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea” - not Christianity, not Islam, not any individual religion, but the fundamental concept of religion itself. Robert had kind words for Ms. O’Hair as a person, but not for her out-and-out atheism.

So all in all it came as no surprise to me when a book Robert published two years ago bore the defiantly provocative title “Sex Priest”. Perusing it provides numerous little zingers, but for the moment I’ll let one suffice:

“God is love.

“Love is sex.

“Therefore, God is sex.”

(I believe I can quote verbatim from memory one of Woody Allen’s better aphorisms, on which Robert as I know him would probably see eye to eye with him: “Sex is the answer. What is the question?”)

One review of Robert’s book led off with this:

“With his new memoir, Sex Priest, Robert Cromey has done the churches a great service. He has opened up the private and personal life of a priest (his own) with unflinching honesty. He has neither minced words nor glossed over events in describing his own sexual experience.”

One characteristic excerpt:

“Priests are sexual creatures. We masturbate, have intercourse, anal and oral sex, same-gender sex, commit adultery, bestiality, incest, fornicate, enjoy bondage, abuse children, and commit any and all forms of sex known to human beings. We spend most of our time in ministry but we are sexual beings, too. Most priests, bishops, deacons, ministers, mullahs, and rabbis in the world religions are sex-positive in their outlook. We enjoy ecstasy, orgasm, pleasure, and joy in our sexuality. We love to kiss, fondle, and embrace. We enjoy fucking, sucking, and licking.

“We teach others to enjoy their sexuality, too. Joy and pleasure are not the first thing one thinks of about Christian clergy. The pious priest and puritan parson railing against the adulterer, masturbator, and single mother are familiar. Many scream against abortion and birth control. But they are a minority with a good press. Recently, Roman Catholic priests have given sex a bad name by being accused and often convicted of child molestation with altar boys and teen-age girls and women under their pastoral care. Celibacy, a lonely bachelor life and poor training in human relations have caused this blight on the Christian ministry. Sadly most Christian clergy do not speak or teach publicly their sex-positive views. We hint and smirk but fail to be open about our sexuality. . . .”

That passage reminds me of a conversation I recorded in his San Francisco Institute with Wardell Pomeroy, Ph. D., one of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey’s closest co-workers, while doing research for a paper I published in the German psychoanalytic journal “Psyche”. I quote from my verbatim transcript of that tape-recording when we got around to the etiology of homosexuality:

“‘You’re asking the wrong question. The real question is: ‘Why isn’t everybody bisexual?’ Discussion of that question elicited from Dr. Pomeroy a casual but categorical statement which may well stun and scandalize most Americans. In the best of all possible worlds, with everybody, free of neurotic complications and social taboos, just doing what comes naturally, he said, ‘I think most people would be [Kinsey] twos’ - bisexual, but more hetero- than homosexual.’ Nota bene: he did not say ones - almost but not quite exclusively heterosexual. ‘If you look at other mammals, particularly the higher mammals, you find exactly that. Homosexuality is rampant and available, but they end up procreating and having young. So, mostly twos. I think that’s the way it would be with the human animal.’”

As you’d expect, Robert has his own blog - and here you’ll find more information about his book “Sex Priest”.

Robert and Ann Cromey plan to visit Berlin this September. I look forward to that treat enormously.

1 Comments:

Blogger Not Your Usual Missionary Position said...

I'd like to thank Paul Moor (where in MS, darlin? Ahm from Kosciusko, birthplace of James Meredith and Oprah Winfrey and my lover-man esposo is from Tha Delta areas of Lexington and then Greenwood--Lordamercy that's it's GreenVILLE an' I'm mistaken--then Jackson) for his true and heartfelt words about the man I'd ask God to be my big brother, if life truly worked that way for only-chirren.

Here in Panama, so far from Robert and Ann is just heartbreaking. For I am one of those worriers who believes St Paul (or whoever) left out worry as a charism and Robert and Ann get so much of my loveworryprayers.

I spent a yearplus at Trinity as a seminarian intern. The story of my getting there is a grand Robert one, when he told me to show up the next day at a particular time (never mind that I had class at that time and had to cut it--and then, God forbid, was LATE!!!!) and "come court me and see if I'll consider it." (HIMSELF, the darling, doesn't remember this story but I do--VIVIDLY--because it was so delightfully audacious--who could resist pleading one's case as courting, bein' from Tha South an' all? There had not been a seminarian at Trinity in at least a generation but I KNEW that I needed Robert to teach me how to "do" and live social justice while being in the midst of the madness of a parish and a diocese and a worldwise Communion gone totally nuts--and all its OTHER craziness. (Tell me, again, Robert, why we do this crazy stuff when the Church is so fucked up? I just THOUGHT the Dio o' Cal was dysfunctional until coming to Panama. Holy fuck! Brigid, Brendan, Columba, Ita, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, help us all.)

I gained as much knowledge in that one year as I did in 3 years of seminary. And I, too, gained the friendship and love of these two special people, God have mercy on them always. When my to-be esposo came to CA to visit, he JOINED Trinity and, at that time, had not even a thought about selling his business, house, and packing up his life and moving to San Francisco but he said he'f finally found a "real" church with a "real" priest and that was where he was going to belong, even if he only visited once a year--as many do for xmas or Easter. Within six months he was in CA and at Trinity. Robert is his hero, mentor, friend,and role-model--all this from a man who just doesn't do this sort of thing.

HOWEVER, as much as I love Robert's books, it's Ann's story I want to read and hear!

Thank you, again, for your tribute to one of the Church's and the world's finest human beings.

Peace
oonie in Almirante

2:26 PM  

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