Cromey Online

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

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Sex and This Christian

Serious Christians today (2015) by and large see sex as good, beautiful and part of God’s creation. Even conservative Christians believe this. The rub comes in deciding how the sex is expressed. Liberal Christians want the freedom to express their sexuality freely.  Conservatives put boundaries on sexual expression. They want virginity until marriage. Masturbation and viewing pornography are considered bad. Homosexuality is sinful. Sex is ruled out for widows, widowers and adult unmarried people. Some groups prohibit birth control and abortion.

Jesus said nothing about specific sexual acts. St. Paul thought sex was to be controlled and urged Christians to marry. He also wrote things that seem to be anti-homosexual. As the Christian Church developed, its theology and ethics took on Greek notions that things of the spirit were good and things of the flesh were evil. The Roman, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches took on this duality. Abstinence, celibacy of the clergy and rigid demands of marriage became commonplace. Virginity and marriage were controlled because they were tied up with inheritances of land and money. The Reformers did allow the clergy to marry. All of this evolved over centuries and influences many churches today.

In our Anglican and Episcopal tradition, clergy and lay people make their own decisions on how to be a Christian and how to express our sexuality. I was born in 1931 and grew up thinking masturbation, pre-marital sex and homosexuality were sins. I knew homosexuals and people who had sex and were not married. It never occurred to me to treat them in any way than with friendliness, consideration and love. I was a virgin until my wedding night in 1952 and so was my wife. I had masturbated, petted to orgasm and was delighted with my fantasies about sex. I felt vaguely guilty about this pre-marital sexual activity. When I married I vowed full faithful monogamy to my wife and she did to me.

My wife and I adjusted well to our new sex life. We put off having children until after I graduated from seminary. From the earliest days of my marriage I noticed that I was sexually attracted to other women. I held my sexual attractions in check. We had three daughters whom we cherished. After seven years of marriage I began a series of adulterous affairs starting in New York and continuing in San Francisco where we moved in 1962.

What was I thinking? First, I just felt guilty and tormented, but went on having sex with other women. Discussions of a new morality were in the air in the 1960s were. Sexual love should be expressed should be expressed. Sex is a way of sharing love. Jealousy was out and old fashioned. Husband and wife sharing was said to be commonplace. The church should change its attitudes, which no longer applied. The church did not change much. Divorce for lay people and clergy became accepted. The rules about abortion were relaxed in the Episcopal Church. Homosexual sex became more accepted.

My wife and I divorced in 1969. For eleven years I was a bachelor in San Francisco and had many women lovers. I have never been attracted sexually to men. I enjoyed those days. I did not want to marry again. My ethical principle was to enjoy my sexuality, be loving and caring with the women and live in the moment. I had no trouble ethically with having lots of sex and not being married.

I took good care of my daughters, visiting with them corresponding, by letter and telephone and having them with me for a month in the summers. I paid all my financial responsibilities for child support.

In 1981 I was elected rector of Trinity Church, San Francisco. Fortunately, I met and soon married Ann. It seemed wise that I was married while pastor to a congregation. Ann and I pledged full faithful monogamy to each other. I am terribly jealous of even a hint of her having sex or even sexual feelings toward other men. Ann is also concerned about my relationship with other women. We have been faithful for the almost 32 years of our marriage. (Writing this in May of 2015)

I have no deep religious or theological feelings about my behavior. It is all rather practical. My life works best now being in a full faithful relationship with Ann. I am not trying to please God or Jesus or live by a doctrine.

I am glad that I come from the religious tradition of the Ten Commandments. They are part of what shaped who I am. Fortunately, I believe in forgiveness after I have blundered into sin and evil. I am happy with who I am formed by my religious and Christian traditions.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


 How could the Boston Judge allow only people who did believe in the death penalty sit on the Boston Marathon killer jury and excuse people who were opposed to the death penalty? I suppose Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life appealing this stupid and cruel death penalty.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
& Other Lessons from the Crematory
Caitlin Doughty
2014  W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.

Don’t be afraid of death; it will only kill you. Author Mortician Caitlin Doughty reminds us that most people are afraid of death, of dying, of decomposition and of whatever happens after death. At 21 our author began work in a crematory in Oakland, California. Work was hard to get. She describes how she moved from fear and disgust around dead bodies and her own fear of death to a desire to help people understand death and dying, and accepting the utter reality of death.

Her book is full of stories of pain, disgust, hilarity and sensible ideas for all of us to look death in the face. She urges people to make preparations, make a will, make a burial plan, appoint someone to be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out when you die.

Doughty takes us behind the scenes of the funeral industry, making morticians human and humane, caught up unwillingly in corporate greed and yet caring for the bereaved. She tells of the lives of men and women who remove the dead from homes and hospitals, prepare bodies for embalming, viewing, burial or cremation. She criticizes much that happens in the death industry.

A scholar of death practices, she takes readers to a number of tribal and primitive after-death ceremonies. There is also an extensive bibliography of books related to death, burial customs and grieving.

I think this is a valuable book worth reading by all who plan or do not plan to die. Doctors, nurses, clergy and seminarians will benefit from this book by learning what happens when life ends. Today we leave it up to the funeral industry to make our choices about what happens to our dead bodies. Those choices should be our families’ and ours. Caitlin Doughty calls us to be responsible for our bodies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


End of Life Options

I believe California legislators should enact the End of Life options as soon as possible. The End of life option is a dignified way for people to be in control of their pain and quality of life. We should have the right to end our lives with drugs. This is a loving, caring and rational way to take responsibility for our lives and deaths.

Traditional religious arguments opposed to such legislation are filled with contradictions. The commandment, Thou shalt not kill (or murder) is the basis for many arguments. Proponents say we should not allow people to die with dignity because it violates God’s commandment.

The official Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian positions are against capital punishment. Yet most catholic and protestant Christians approve of capital punishment.

Religious groups are usually against war. Yet they support young men and women when they go into the military and are trained to kill others.

These same groups support paying federal taxes when they know that a huge amount of tax money goes to support war, arms and killing. When we pay our taxes we support killing.

It is sheer hypocrisy to approve of killing others but refuse to let an individual person die with dignity.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nico de Ruig died yesterday. He was a funny, pious and caring man. He was the altar guild, head of the acolytes and parish character. I watched him when he served at the altar. His eyes bled tears at some of the hymns, he choked up and wept openly as the words spoke to him or reminded him of lost friends, his childhood or never to be know secrets or sorrows. Nico was a recovering alcoholic and proudly announced his clean and sober anniversaries at the prayers of the people on the appropriate Sunday.

He was a proud gay man too. He loved to dress up and show off, laugh and gossip, and work hard at the church, St. John’s. He always wore women’s blouses, sometimes, plain, flowered and in a variety of colors, reds, blues, greens and chartreuse. He was brave and bold enough to dress as he pleased. He loved brooches and pins, which glittered and dangled. He wore a ring on every finger, “just as Queen Victoria did.” He told Ann and me that one day when we visited him at the Laguna Honda Hospital Hospice where he died.
I was a bit shocked when I met him when we first came to the church. After a very short time he was just plain Nico. His dress and jewelry was as natural as the light of day and the pink at sunset. He had wispy white hair, a high forehead and ready smile for all.

He lived at the Canon Kip low cost housing building. He was a sailor in the Dutch Merchant Marine. He enjoyed his travels and pleasures of the ports, like a good sailor should. He had a raunchy but restrained sense of humor.

He knew bookkeeping and held that position for a time at St. John’s. He laced his talk with French terms like “enchante.” He was full of surprises and good humor and hard work. Rest in Peace, Nico.


To the Christian Century

Katherine Willis Pershey keeps her marriage vows by sharing with her husband that she is attracted to another man. She worked out her platonic relationship with the cooperation of her husband. (A Long Obedience, January 21, 2014.) When I did pre-marital counseling before performing a wedding, I had a section entitled, How to Stay Faithful. Couples must learn early to be open and honest with each other in all things like sex, money and feelings about the in-laws.

Secrets kill; the more secrets one has in a relationship, the more danger there is to lie and dissemble. I urge the couple to tell each other about their previous sex lives, their fantasies and dreams about people to whom they feel attracted.  When couples start early being open and honest about their lives, a man may be ready to talk to his wife about being attracted to another person. Then they can set boundaries to the platonic relationship and avoid adultery.