Q&A with Scott Pomfret, author of Since My Last Confession
Scott Pomfret is an anomaly: a gay Catholic. When he decided to write Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir, a book about his experiences in his Boston church, it changed his life in ways he hadn't expected -- including being removed from his shrine. Westword caught up with Pomfret before his signing at the downtown Tattered Cover. Click here for details -- and look below to learn much more about his journey.
Westword (Amber Taufen): What inspired you to write your memoir?
Scott Pomfret: Fury. Sheer anger. In Boston in the early part of this decade, it became insreasingly hard to be both gay and Catholic, first with the pedophile priest scandal, which the Vatican trid to pin on gay priests, followed by Catholic Charities, the social-service arm of the Archdiocese of Boston, ending its adoption program rather than comply with state law that requires them, if they do any adoptions, to work with gay parents as well as straight parents. Then the Vatican ban on gay men entering seminaries and the opposition of Archbishop O'Malley-- very vocal, public, expensive opposition of the Archbishop -- to same-sex marriage. My anger about that kind of robs the Mass, my worship experience, of a spiritual element because I was just plain pissed. I had to find a way around that, and this book was that way.
WW: And did it help?
SP: It helped me to do two things: One, it helped me to laugh a little bit about some of the absurdities of Catholicism and my position as a gay man and a Catholic. And chasing down the Cardinal, which is kind of what the book’s about -- chasing him from public venue to venue -- was sort of cathartic in itself. I think that was a good thing, and certainly it got me back to the place where I got a spiritual element coming back into my Mass experience.
WW: How sad that they reacted the way they did.
SP: I call it my sad epilogue.
WW: Why do you think they had that reaction?
SP: First of all, I think there was a misconception on their part. They misconstrue something about the book industry, which is that they think that I had something to do with the cover or the book-jacket copy. That, unfortunately, much as I wish I did, I don’t. So I think they felt that in some ways I was exploiting the shrine and bringing it up for mockery. And in a way, I was and am, but it’s a healthy mockery. I regard the book as a Valentine to the shrine and everything it does and the friars in it, and most people who read it tell me that’s how they take it as well. But obviously the friars feel ridiculed. I don’t have any regrets, I think my intention was good.
WW: Have you found another church yet?
SP: My mom wants me to go in there for one last Friday Mass and kind of have a dignified exit, so I’ll probably do that to make my mom happy. But it’s unlikely that I’ll go back there long-range. In the two weeks since this happened, I’ve had a couple of invitations from other Catholic parishes in Boston, so I’ll probably find a home there. I’ve obviously become a lightning rod in the last couple of weeks, so I can’t imagine there’s a line of churches lining up to bring me aboard right now. But a couple have invited me, so I’m good with that.
WW: How's the atheist boyfriend doing?
SP: He’s a little upset that I’m doing all this traveling for the book without bringing him along. He claims I’ve stranded him. We’re doing great, and after they kicked me out, I said, "You’re not going to be a church widow anymore." But he was actually quite angry and was ready to storm the church and stage the sit-in.
WW: How did you actually meet him?
SP: We have the same story, which is that we met at some Catholic charity’s event for Catholic children. But in fact we met at a dance club and share an interest in gin and tonic.
WW: So what's the reaction to you book been like?
SP: I’ve actually had tremendous outpourings from other religious backgrounds, which surprised me. For example, Southern Baptists seem to find something particularly resonant, and I’m like, really? We have a totally different theology. A sense of exclusion from something you really believe in and love is something that’s really hit home for a lot of folks. I’ve had a number of people say, "I still don’t get it. Like, I don’t get gay Republicans, I don’t get gay Catholics. Why hang around for the abuse?" And the book is a 312-page answer to that question.
WW: And what's the gay Catholic community's reaction?
SP: Certainly from gay clerics, priests, I think I’ve tapped into some of the frustrations that they feel and provided some laughs so that they can kind of get over the resentment that builds up over time -- so that’s definitely been positive. I think some of the gay people at the shrine feel like, "Why are you bringing all this unwanted attention on us. We just want to go in there and pray."
WW: What about the gay community?
SP: It’s interesting. One of the things that was hard about writing the book is actually interviewing people and hearing the stories of their spiritual rejection, for lack of a better word. It’s one thing to hear that somebody’s priest told them when they were sixteen-years old that they’re going to hell in confessional. It’s one thing to know about that, it’s another to hear it from someone years later who still has slumped shoulders and tears up about the story. It made me question the whole edifice of the religion more. But that was matched up with really great people doing really great outreach, not only to gays and lesbians but to divorced people, women who feel excluded. And to me that reinforced my faith, because everything they’re doing is really motivated by what they believe.
WW: What do you want readers to know about your book before diving in?
SP: One thing I always like to say is, I’m not out there to preach. I’m out there more to reach people through laughter. My one goal is that I want gay people especially not to throw out gay spirituality with the sort of Roman Catholic bathwater. In other words, you don’t have to stay Catholic, but it would be great if you didn’t throw out the entire spiritual dimension.