The Gay Sex Club Next to the Vatican Is the Saddest Place on Earth
Last month, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica discovered that the Vatican had paid $35 million for an apartment block housing the Europa Multiclub, which calls itself the “number-one gay sauna in Italy.” The media used the story as another example of the Catholic Church being so obviously gay that they should just come on out and admit it. As a former Catholic schoolboy who believed in God till I saw Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz, a Broadway musical about Liza Minnelli’s first gay husband, I wasn’t surprised. I remember my school’s baseball coach sexually assaulting students and my first-grade teaching assistant nearly losing her job after she had an alleged lesbian make-out session with a PE coach—Catholics and shady sex shenanigans go together like red wine and wafers.
Naturally, when I visited Rome recently, the Multiclub was on my sightseeing list, though I was a little nervous. The last time I had been in a bathhouse was my senior year of high school, when my friend Diva D and I went to one in Miami. We ran out of the building after 20 minutes because a guy claiming to be Gloria Estefan’s “background dancer” shoved Diva D, naked, into a locker. I’ve never forgotten the horror. Luckily, the sex club, as well as the Vatican-owned apartments, were located in Salustiano, a nice (read: bourgie) area that didn’t seem like it would hold any insane gays.
After a few minutes of procrastination, I swallowed my fear and buzzed the Multiclub’s entrance. A Tarzan look-alike wearing nothing but a white towel appeared and gave me a once-over—to see if I was hot enough, maybe?—then opened the front door.
Inside, I joined the line behind businessmen in suits carrying backpacks—the postwork closet-case crowd was just arriving, I guess—and examined the portrait behind the receptionist of two gay men jerking each other off in an empty disco, until the receptionist shouted at me in Italian.
“I only speak English,” I explained. “I’m an American on vacation.” Silence.
He looked at Tarzan as if I had said I were Amanda Knox visiting Rome to murder a few sodomites.
“So you’re new?” he asked.
The Holy War on Irish Wombs
It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a petition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalizing the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”
It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions—and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky—immigrants, shift-workers… anyone who is too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London—the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish parliament are trying to push through legislation that would allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.
Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.
I WENT TO THE LAST GAY CATHOLIC MASS AT THE UK’S CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION
Other than a few fauxhawks, better music, and the bishop wearing a rainbow-colored stole (the scarf thing that goes over their robes), gay Catholic mass in the UK is pretty much indistinguishable from normal Catholic mass. Being a gay Catholic may seem kind of contradictory to you—like being a Log Cabin Republican, a Muslim EDL members, or Skrillex’s new future garage track—but just because you like hooking up with guys doesn’t mean you can’t also like the Holy Spirit.
The “Soho Masses” at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption have provided a safe place for hundreds of LGBT Catholics to worship for six years, a service provided to the community ever since neo-Nazi David Copeland nail-bombed the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton Street in 1999. That was until last week, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, put an official end to the masses. After his recent fight against the introduction of gay marriage, it seemed to only add insult to injury, but it’s a story that has been widely misinterpreted by the media.
This Sunday, I went to one of their last masses before the dissolution, and the bishop assured his flock that they needn’t worry. “We may have been given an ‘Ite, Missa est,’” he said from behind the lectern, “but we can translate that, not as ‘The mass has ended,’ but as ‘Go forth, go forth and find God in your lives, however some people may describe those lives.’”
Mexican Catholics think Baby Jesus is so goddamn adorable they can’t resist putting him in all sorts of cute little outfits and costumes. This is especially true in December, when the veneration of Niño Dios (God Child) kicks into full gear. On Christmas Eve, families gather around their Nativity scenes to delicately place a figurine of the newborn Christ into his manger, where he will rest until February 2, the date of the Candlemas celebration commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary.