So what? What else is new? Many have heard about the lavender seminaries and the ephebophile (NOT pedophile; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia) priests, yes, all those scandals, scurrying out of a musty closet like a swarm of moths in the latter part of the last century (and still today).
But in the early 1960s, right before Vatican II and the sexual revolution and all those massive societal changes, a Catholic priest, of course maintaining anonymity, published an article in the homoerotic publication Grecian Guild Pictorial.
The article is entitled "The Human Body - God's Work of Art." In some ways, the article is pretty much in line with the magazine's mission statement, "I seek a sound mind in a sound body." Yet the word "Grecian," however, could easily be read as an underground code for "gay." Grecian became a coded word for gay during the time period of this magazine: those who like the male body, the "body beautiful," resembling the "Grecian ideal ideal in its muscularity, symmetry, and grace." The association with the more openly homoerotic and bisexual culture of ancient Greece (and not just the physical aspects, but the emphasis on art and health as well as physical strength) was intentional.
Yet the magazine espoused lofty ideals that were in tune with the Cold War patriotism of that era: "Our goal is the development of a sound mind in a sound body that we may best service our God, our fellow man and our country." The divine in this magazine was usually approached through the principles of the New Thought,"power of positive thinking" movement that began in the nineteenth century: a healthy body can be gained by a sound mind; the right prayer-energy can heal. The editor does make a note before Father Ed's article that "the Guild, embracing as it does members of all religious faiths, has often presented the Protestant viewpoint of the human body and its relationship to God." One might wonder what the Protestant viewpoint was or is; perhaps a more liberal Protestant viewpoint (think United Church of Christ or even Unitarian) that abandoned a puritanical version of Calvinism and emphasized a view of the human body as essentially optimistic and progressive. That is, kind of a feel good, God loves you and everything about you type of attitude, or as William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience put it, "healthy-minded."
Is Father Ed, with his "Catholic point of view," in sync with any of the above ideas? He is aware that many readers will disagree with his article "in some of its aspects." Where does he fit in in this context, which leads to another, more interesting and ultimately speculative question: why did he join the Guild and submit an article for publication?
After acknowledging, respectfully, that others may not agree with him (more on that later), Father Ed proclaims that the "human body is undoubtedly God's most beautiful creation in the physical order." A "Protestant or New Thought" Grecian would certainly agree with him. And he's completely orthodox. God's creation is good. God became incarnate in a human body, and therefore there's nothing evil about our bodies. In fact, he implies that the body is even "further glorified" (but in what way?) because of the Incarnation. St. Augustine, despite his reputation of being "Mr. Sex Is Evil," would agree with him. The physical body itself is not evil; it's what you do with it that can cause problems. (Which problems supposedly started in the Garden of Eden, but we won't go there ... yet.)
Father Ed then makes the move I anticipated above, given his orthodox theology: the Catholic Church does not "consider the human body as something evil." He gives as evidence all those nude Renaissance pictures in the Vatican, both pagan (again, he's in sync with the Grecian ideals here) and Christian (forgetting that prudish Counter-Reformation popes covered them up) and the Church's condemnation of the "Arian heresy." Sorry, Father Ed, your facts are off here. The Docetic heresy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docetism) denied Christ's physicality; the Manicheans and some of the Gnostic sects also tended toward a flesh/spirit dualism, some more extreme sects even claiming that the Old Testament God, the Demiurge, was evil because he created the physical world.
So far, so good, That is, the body. But sex? Here's where Father Ed, despite joining and contributing the Grecian guild, proclaims the usual position of the Catholic Church. No extramarital heterosexual sex, no masturbation, and no homosexuality. The Fall of Adam has somehow corrupted our passions in these directions. Stay away from temptations and don't expose irrationally passionate youth to them (including those dirty movies).
Father Ed asserts:
Thus, just as fire is kept away from gasoline, so the senses of the young must be kept away from those suggestions which will inflame their passions.
Not much different from the sexuality espoused in Protestant tracts (despite the author's and editor's claim about a unique Catholic perspective) like evangelist Oscar Lowry's The Way of a Man with A Maid:
I would impress upon the mind of the young man, as well as that of the young woman, the necessity of self-control and chastity as the only way to secure those strong mental and physical qualities so necessary for worth-while success in life as well as for future paternal and maternal happiness.
Where does all this theology leave the Grecian reader? Worshipping a body as a sacred work of art, but leaving sex out of the picture, literally? The tension seems too strong to bear. And thus, it's left unresolved in the article. As a conclusion, Father Ed rather lamely opens himself to "further correspondence on this matter" addressed to him "in care of the guild." One wonders what further conversation, if any, occurred as a result of this article.
And thus, one might wonder if Quaintance's picture of a stunning nude with six-pack abs (not full-frontal, but the guy is definitely nude) holding a sword which is also a crucifix (look closely!), the ultimate sacred body, at the top of the article, really works here. The image can be interpreted chastely (or was it intended to be a chaste image in line with Father Ed's argument?), but really, that homoerotic image seems more like a "dangerous gasoline" inflaming the passions of those gay Grecians. He isn't doing anything overtly sexual in the picture, but is the naked Crusader really gazing at that crucifix? Is his head bowed in prayer? Something's really mixed up here. And that something could point to the eternal tension between the religious and the erotic. An either/or dichotomy tries to become a both/and. Still an impasse.
Another impasse, that ultimately speculative question I asked earlier: Did Father Ed like guys? Is it even a relevant question? I might argue it is relevant, because he did write the article for the Guild, which brings up other questions: Why did he join the Guild, with its publications containing a plethora of homoerotic beefcake pictures? In this article, was he trying to honestly sway some the readers to his point of view, even implying he was gay and was managing to keep it under wraps? And thus, as he ultimately a hypocrite, inflaming his passions with "dangerous gasoline" while preaching against said passions? Perhaps he might have found the Church's post-Vatican II, pre-Ratzinger position (before homosexuality was defined as an "objective disorder") on homosexuality with its ambiguous, relentlessly illogical position more to his liking: your nature is good, but if you act on what that nature causes you to do, you end up, somehow, doing something not good.
I would like to think Father Ed ended up coming out after Vatican II, even leaving the priesthood like may did, but I doubt it. Maybe he really lived chastely in accordance with Church teaching, maybe not. Still, he did pen an article that, in hindsight, given what we know now about its context, revealed a revolutionary juxtaposition: "Father Ed, A Catholic Priest and Member of the Grecian Guild."