Lately, you cannot pick up a newspaper or click onto a Web site without encountering another mortifying story involving a priest, his penis and a child. We have turned our collective eyes away from terrorists and are now obsessing over men of the cloth. We have stopped asking, Where's Chandra? and are now asking, Is Griffin spending too much quality time with Father O'Brian?
Well, I'm here to defend our holy fathers. The fact of the matter is, Catholic priests have given me some of the best blow jobs of my life.
"Do you really think this is OK?" I asked Father Bill, in Chicago. We were sitting in his black Crown Victoria, parked on Mayrose Street. A street, I might add, that is not altogether unpopulated, especially at 10 at night. "It's fine," he told me. "We'll just look like a couple of guys waiting for somebody to come out of a store."
But I wasn't so sure. "Maybe we should just pull around, you know, in back of something."
He smiled and I was struck by how warm and sincere his smile was. Then I remembered, well of course. What else would it be? The pine tree-shaped air freshener that hung from his rearview mirror gave the car a pleasing, artificial scent. Somehow, this aroma suited him. "Would you feel more comfortable if we parked in the alley?" he asked. I told him I would. Father Bill put the car in gear and drove around the block. That's the great thing about Chicago: It has alleys.
I was fascinated by Father Bill. He was a handsome man in his mid-40s and when we met in the bar, I would never have pegged him as a Catholic priest. In fact, he looked suspiciously like a software developer I once dated. "Are you in software?" was my opening line to him, my come-on.
He rested his drink on the bar and turned to me, sliding sideways on the stool. "As a matter of fact," he said in a leading tone of voice, "no. But I could be if you want me to." I did smile at his charming offer to shape-shift for me. It showed that he had a playful personality. But I told him no, that was OK, he could just be whatever he was. And because I am from New York and not Chicago, I pressed the issue. "So what are you then?"
He chuckled to himself and glanced down at his hands. The answer was, it seemed, a private joke between him and his fingers. I looked at his thumb for a clue. He didn't look like a construction worker or a typist.
"I'm a Catholic priest," he said.
I thought he was maybe joking, going for shock value. But after I sat down and had a few more drinks, adding to the 15 or so already coursing through my veins, it turned out to be the truth. He was a real, live Catholic priest -- the kind that knows lots of old ladies by first name. When I pressed him, he was even able to quote from the Bible. His memory was astonishing. He signaled the bartender and ordered us another round. He was drinking something red, which I teased him about. "What's that, the blood of Christ?" He smiled at this. "Not quite. Just a Cape Codder."
"I thought you guys weren't supposed to go to gay bars. Or be gay, for that matter." Or drink, but I didn't say this.
Here he laughed wickedly. "Oh, we do a lot we're not supposed to do. Trust me." And who wouldn't trust him? A priest? And that's how I ended up in his car, now behind a restaurant in a scummy alley in Chicago.
"I'm sorry," I told him. I said this after my penis refused to become erect. I was mortified by my impotence, at 26, but also didn't want to disappoint Father Bill. He was such a nice guy. "I've had way too much to drink," I told him.
He pulled his face up from my lap and sat back against the seat. He said, "You know, you should really go to rehab."
This was a stunning thing to hear, especially from a man who had, not an hour before, bought me five drinks. "Really?"
"I think so," he said.
I decided that perhaps he was being passive-aggressive, sort of punishing me in some clever priest way for being too drunk to get hard, thus spoiling his free evening. "And why is that?"
He said, "Because there's something in your eyes that makes me think now that this is not a one-time event, like you told me at the bar? When you apologized for being 'loaded.' I think that's the word you used. Because you had a lousy day at work? Anyway, now something -- call it instinct -- is telling me you do this a lot. Like every night."
He was right, of course; my drinking was quite out of hand. And the fact that he was now able to see this impressed me. "Well," I said. And then we sat silent in the car and I noticed he didn't have air conditioning or a CD player and this humble fact made me feel tender toward him. I felt strangely connected to him at that moment and became instantly aroused.
He noticed. And this is when I got one of the best blow jobs of my life. Along with, at the end, a piece of paper with the name of a rehab hospital scribbled on it. "It's in Minnesota. It's the best. Lots of celebrities go there."
He seemed to think that this would be something that might impress me, and he was sadly correct. The possibility of seeing Elizabeth Taylor or Robert Downey Jr. in withdrawal would be enough to make me want to go to rehab whether I was a drunk or not.
I left him then, parked there on the alley. He offered to drive me home, but I told him my apartment was only a few blocks away.
Of course, I never saw Father Bill again. I left Chicago and moved back to New York and went on with my life and my drinking until my drinking was my life. Then one day I opened an old datebook and came across his scribbled note. I'd apparently tucked it away for later, forgetting. And then later came. And I called the number on the paper and checked myself into rehab, which, in fact, did save my life.
So you could say he was a scumbag priest who drank, went to gay bars and picked up guys to have sex with in cars. On the other hand, he did save a life -- mine. So while I'm sure there are many priests out there who have helped many people, I wonder what percentage of them can actually claim to have saved a life. Surely God is going to look at his checklist and say, "OK, we've got this series of blow jobs here, which is gay. Which, you know, I technically can't allow. On the other hand, you did save a life. So ..." clap of the hands, "get into the minivan, you're going up."
The other memorable Catholic priest blow job occurred when I was much younger, just 14. I suppose this would be the height of fashion now, to receive a blow job from a priest when you are a teenager.
His name was Father Christopher and he was a priest at the local Catholic church where I grew up. My mother wasn't Catholic -- my family wasn't particularly religious -- but she loved Catholic symbolism and she loved the services. She was a poet and a painter, so perhaps the rituals appealed to her dramatic side.
Father Christopher was the associate of a priest my mother knew and I sort of had a crush on him because he was young and almost hunky. He looked like he should be out on a grassy field in a pair of shorts kicking a soccer ball and not inside, wearing a black smock dress and lighting candles.
My mother attended church most Sundays, and sometimes, out of boredom, I would go with her. I seldom attended the service, instead preferring to walk around the empty offices that extended from the church itself, looking up close at the naked Jesus attached to the cinderblock walls with 8-inch bolts, the inspirational posters that were so corny they made me laugh and the various implements and accoutrements of the Catholic religion that I found strange and fascinating. I especially loved the brass tithing tray with the long black broom handle on the other end. I wanted, desperately, to steal it and hang it in my room above my bed.
Often on my explorations, I would pass by Father Christopher and we would exchange a nod and a glance. The first few times, I thought his glance meant, I'm watching you so don't steal anything. But then I began to detect something else in his eyes. Something that reminded me of my dog, Brutus. It was hunger that I saw. And being a hungry, attention-starved teenager myself, I gave him back the same look he gave me.
It happened when I went into the men's room. I'd passed him in the hallway and then turned left and gone into the bathroom with the sole purpose of peeing. But a moment later, the door opened and in walked Father Christopher. My first thought was, He thinks I'm going to smoke in here. And while I did, from time to time, steal cigarettes and smoke, that wasn't what was on my mind. But instead of scolding me, he simply walked up to the urinal next to mine and peered over the metal wall at my penis.
It was such a sudden, unexpected thing. Truly, you really can't say what you'd do in such a situation until you're suddenly there.
I pretended not to notice and then when I was finished peeing I looked at him and said, "Hi."
His eyes were glazed over with some sort of mad glue and he could not stop staring at my crotch. He was clenching his jaw, I could tell by watching the muscles twitch. And he was sweating, which was odd since the building was always freezing, like a meat locker. His hands were in his pants and I saw then that he was playing with himself.
OK, twist my arm. I was 14, bored, angry, horny, lonely and for various reasons my threshold for strangeness was very high, so I simply dropped my pants and stepped away from the urinal, facing him.
And this turned out to be my first excellent blow job from a Catholic priest.
He sobbed after I came and I felt terrible. I didn't feel terrible for me. I mean, it wasn't like he was somebody I trusted who molested or betrayed me. He was a hunky young guy in the wrong career who got my rocks off. For a straight guy, it would be like being 14 and having one of the centerfolds from Playboy step out of the magazine and hand you a bottle of mineral oil. Like you'd complain? Like you'd go, Oh my God, you've damaged me! On the other hand, I was unusual. I was an unsupervised youth, old for my age, not a virgin. I wasn't a good Catholic boy. If I'd been a good, trusting Catholic boy and this shit happened? Well, then my attitude might have been to round up all the Catholic priests and feed them to a pack of pissed-off Hells Angels.
But standing there watching, I felt terrible for Father Christopher. He sobbed and he shook and looked, there on his knees, like he was about to split into pieces. He, the priest, was vulnerable and ruined for that moment. And I, the 14-year-old, felt kind of thrilled and kind of like, what do you expect? You worship a naked man on a cross all day? This shit's bound to happen. There seemed to be nothing to do but step around him and leave and when I tried to do this, he reached up and grabbed my arm. "Please," he said.
I knew what he was asking. "Never," I told him. "I will never tell anybody."
And I didn't.