August 21, 2008

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Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir, by Scott Pomfret (2008, Arcade Publishing, 288 pages)
By Lisa Parsons news@hippopress.com

Scott Pomfret, who lives and works as an attorney in Boston, opens this memoir with a vignette about competing rallies at the Massachusetts Statehouse in February 2004. Pomfret is shouting himself hoarse for civil rights. Opponents are waving signs that say “Homosexuals Are Possessed by Demons.” After Pomfret accepts a throat lozenge from a Haitian anti-gay-rights chanter, and offers her water (she declines), he reflects on his frustration: “How in God’s name could a refugee who presumably came to America for its freedoms and opportunities wish to deny freedoms and opportunities to others by amending the constitution to forbid gay marriage?!” He spends the rest of the book examining, defending and living out his own contradictions: as his boyfriend puts it, “Why do you keep going to a church that hates you?” Because it’s not that simple, is the short answer, but don’t settle for that. Pick up Scott Pomfret’s highly readable account of sorting it out, which loosely centers on his plans to confront Cardinal Sean O’Malley on gay rights.

Pomfret is also, oh by the way, co-author (with his boyfriend) of gay erotic novels — a fact that causes him a tad of social awkwardness on occasion — and his flair for good story-telling is evident here. He’s changed names and the order of events to protect privacy, and I’m guessing also in the interests of dramatic punch.

Pomfret’s conclusions apply well beyond his specified realm. Replace the words “gay” and “Catholic” with whatever you want in this near-the-end quote: “All of us gay Catholics ought to stop waiting for others to confer power on us. However worthless you feel, and however worthless you are made to feel, others cannot take away God’s love for you or the godliness within.” Finally reaching this realization, he’s able to be both gay and Catholic on his own terms. And what that means is, well, “Satirists commonly caricature people of strong faith as people whose minds are closed,” he writes, but the members of his gay-lesbian spirituality group “exemplified … that faith comes to those whose minds accept both doubt and possibility.” This he is doing and he sounds the stronger for it. I’m not a gay Catholic and I didn’t seek out this book, but of all the ones stacked on my desk recently, it held my interest the best, and I enjoyed it because — did I mention I’m not a gay Catholic? — it spoke to me. The power thing, the defining-yourself thing, the doubt and possibility business, and the fun Pomfret has with telling the stories of himself and people around him — I’m guessing this could speak to a lot of people. A-Lisa Parsons