Paul Tiesse – Spirituality and Religion

“I still say my prayers at night.”

In grade school and high school [religion and sexuality] wasn’t an issue, because they weren’t up there preaching against homosexuality. We didn’t even know what [homosexuality] was. Nobody ever mentioned it in the religion classes or otherwise, as far as I can remember.

The Jesuits are very liberal, most of them are. I’ve never really had a lecture from the church saying homosexuality is wrong. I mean, you’ll get the AP releases, and the pope saying this, or that, or whatever. But this new pope [Francis]—you’ve probably seen him—has said recently that the church shouldn’t be focusing so much on these issues. You have to remember too, in freshman religion, we studied the Bible, but the Bible wasn’t taught to us, “it’s the literal word.” It was a book of symbolisms. Like when Moses made the Red Sea bloody, or whatever sea it was, that was probably clay from the sides which turned the water red during certain periods of time. Things like that. We weren’t really taught that, “The Bible says this,” and “You have to do this, and this, and this.”

I never have been a person who has taken the Bible literally. It’s a book of stories to teach you lessons, or to maybe help you live your life. Like most people, especially Catholics, you really don’t read the Bible. You’re not like the fundamentalists, who have it with them everywhere, studying it, and everything. Some Catholics probably do, but we never did. I have never read the whole thing. When you go to church, the Epistles reading [is] usually two readings from the Old Testament, and then the Gospel is the New Testament, so you get enough Bible teaching from that. Nothing that I can ever remember has said, “Do not lie with another man,” although supposedly it’s in there. My thing with the Bible always is, “Well, okay. You can pick and choose: because here you are eating shrimp, or you’re eating pork, or you’re wearing multi-woven fabrics, and etc., etc. You didn’t kill your wife because she wasn’t a virgin.” You know, they pick and choose. To me the Bible has never been a big deal.

A lot of people say, “Oh, I was Catholic, but I’m not Catholic anymore.” Being Catholic was more of a cultural, almost like an ethnic, thing. Going to grade school, we went to church every morning. I experienced funerals and everything. You didn’t have to, but my mom wanted us out the door and we went to church. You would sit by class at the church. I was an altar boy. I never had anything but good experiences with nuns and priests. I could be unusual in that aspect. I’ve never had any really bad encounters with them. There’s been some weird stuff, but nothing bad, and especially nothing sexual.

Being Catholic is almost cultural in terms of your holiday celebrations. Just in terms of the rituals of life: baptism, death, and things like that. So to me, even though you say, “Oh, I’m not Catholic anymore . . .” Once you’re baptized in Catholic, you’re always a Catholic. You might not practice anymore. I think if you were brought up in certain households, it’s just part of a ritual. I only go to church maybe once or twice a year. Still, I have my rituals. I still say my prayers at night. And I suppose, even if there isn’t a God, or whatever, it still makes you feel good to say prayers. You have somebody to talk to, at least in your mind. You know what I’m saying? It’s just part of your life.

The Jesuits didn’t really condemn anything. A lot of the Jesuits I’m sure were gay. In fact, the president at Seattle Prep died of AIDS 10 years ago. I think a lot of it is just unspoken. You don’t speak about it and there’s no problems. If you start talking about it, then it becomes an issue. [Laughs.] You know, you just kind of go on life and, whatever, as long as you don’t hurt anybody.


[In my 30s] I would pray to God saying, “Can’t you change me, or make me . . . ?” You get to a certain age and you wonder, “Gosh, what are you supposed to do?”  You’re trying to at least talk to God in your mind, in terms of what your life should be like. I don’t really remember any priests, or nun, or anybody coming up to me and saying, “What you’re doing is wrong.” But I don’t flaunt myself either. It’s not that I’m ashamed of anything, but there’s no reason to. Being gay is just one part [of my life].


Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 15 November 2013.