It is with great delight that today I welcome Dr Richard Wagner to talk about his latest book, his renowned website (Dr Dick’s Sex Advice– with an edge, “don’t ya know!”), and his future plans.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Richard, (or Dr Dick as he is widely known in erotica circles), via the editors of Oysters and Chocolate, when they kindly recommended me as a possible subject for interview in Richard’s Erotic Mind series.
To my great good fortune, Richard did indeed interview me, and two podcasts of that interview can still be found floating around in the ether, if any of you are brave enough to listen!!
Now at last, many years later, I can return the favour!
As regulars to my website will know, I reviewed a number of books over the summer. The first of these was Richard’s book, Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church.
Yes- you’ve understood the title correctly! And yes- you are right again- this is not an erotic book. I was fascinated by it however, for I had long wondered (and not been nosey enough to ask), how Richard had made the journey from Catholic priest, to one of the world’s foremost educators on sexual health and promoter of healthy sexual attitudes?
My full review of Richard Wagner’s work can be found on Oysters and Chocolate– but I’ll give you a quick, extremely potted, background of the book before I launch in with this weeks’ interview!
Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church, by Richard Wagner PhD.
I am not a religious person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do my best to be kind and well meaning- traits which surely should be the backbone of any religious faith? Sadly however, you only need to have a minor grasp of the world around us, and indeed the history of more or less every religious movement, to know that this is not the hard and fast rule the idealist would like it to be. A fact underlined by the remarkable sequence of events documented by Richard Wagner in his book Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church.
In 1981 Father Richard Wagner released his PhD Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance. This, the very first study of its kind, written by a self-confessed celibate gay priest, revealed what many of us will have long suspected, that the Catholic Church, an organisation that has long persecuted the gay community, has a large number of homosexuals within its ranks; be they lowly or higher up the greasy pole.
Richard’s study was intended to be an honest account of how homosexuals were coping with their hidden sexuality within the confines of their calling; with a view to helping and guiding those individuals, and the religious community in which they served.
The publication of his PhD, which was written with the full knowledge of Father Wagner’s superiors, and indeed, with the support of many of them, sparked a massive backlash, which was exaggerated by the media.
The result was a slow, confusing, and frustrating destruction of his religious career. An astonishing, isolating, soul-destroying, and frankly exhausting 13 year battle of words, letters, and meetings with the church began. Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church details those letters and meetings, analyzing a series of events which eroded, and ultimately destroyed, Richard Wagner’s clerical life.
Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church is an intense look at a portion of the mindset of the Catholic Church from within- it isn’t pretty.
So, once again may I welcome Richard to my blog today, and kick off the interview with the most obvious question in the circumstances!
1. What finally sparked your need to write your account of the frankly baffling treatment you received at the hands of the Catholic Church hierarchy? Was it a form of personal therapy, a desire to show this particular religious institution the damage they are doing to themselves with their conflicting and damaging views, or were there other reasons?
The manuscript was finished in 1994, but I sat on it for years. I simply couldn’t bring myself to look for a publisher for fear it would actually be published and I would have to relive the whole experience.
Clearly I was still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Then, several years ago, I decided that I was ready to face the trauma once again. I dusted off the manuscript and reread what I had written all those years earlier. I decided to write a lengthy Forward to the original manuscript so that I could publish both the story of my dismissal from my religious community, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, as well as the complete text of my dissertation, which set the whole controversy in motion.
As I was working on the Forward I discovered something very startling. Up until that point I was convinced that my 13-year struggle with the Oblates to save my priesthood and ministry was the pivotal experience of my life. But as I delved deeper into my feelings and recollections about this difficult period in my life, I realized that I was wrong about that. I discovered the real turning point in my life, the experience that would inevitably set me on a collision course with the Church, happened many years before the controversy that I recount in my book. I realized that being sexually molested at age 14 by the priest superior of the seminary I attended back in 1964 was event that actually changed the course of my life.
Once I realized the importance the molestation had on everything that followed afterward in my life, I knew I had to tell my story. Publishing my book it would be a catharsis of a lifetime.
2. What first made you decide to write the PhD that sparked the early controversy that was to morph into the chaos that was to follow?
My religious community assigned me to this post-graduate program at The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. I was to secure a Ph.D. so that I would appear more of an authority when they sponsored me in an upfront gay ministry, one of the first in the history of the Church at that time. No such thing exists anywhere in the world today.
You see, there was this brief window of opportunity in the late 1970s and early 1980s when all kinds of theological breakthroughs seemed possible. It even looked like the Church might reconsider its public stand on homosexuality.
My decision to study the sexual attitudes and behaviours of gay Catholic priest in the active ministry was an effort to help the Church do just that. I figured the Church would have a much easier time readdressing the issue of homosexuality in society if it could learn from the homosexuals in its midst. The gay priests I interviewed were consciously dealing with their dual identities, and for the most part they were being successful. I imagined that these men and others would one day lead the way for the rest of the Church.
This completely backfired on me. The Church was neither ready nor willing to publicly acknowledge the numerous gay priests in its ranks. The support of my religious community immediately evaporated, my research vilified and I was shunned and my character assassinated. In the end my vocation was lost.
3. It is not an obvious step, going from Catholic priest to sexual adviser- how and when did that transition come about?
Heck, I know I’m a bit twisted (ok, a lot twisted) but I think, in a perfect world, clergy and religious people would make ideal sex advisors. Of course, that perfect world necessitates not only a reverence for human sexuality, but also a celebration of it.
You probably know that there was a time in human history when sex and spirituality were intimately intertwined; where the mysteries of the divine were best understood in graphically sexual terms. (Give me that old time religion!) All of that, of course, was rent asunder with the rise of the Christian dispensation.
In another interview I gave recently, I said that we as individuals as well as we as a culture suffer from the lamentable mind/body dichotomy that has been foisted upon us by the prevailing religious opinions of the last two millennia.
So, curiously enough, despite what some see as the enormous leap from priest to sexologist, I feel there’s an unbroken continuity between where I started and where I am now. Sex is my “ministry”. Does that make sense?
Yes, that does make perfect sense; I hadn’t really thought about sex in the terms of the oldest religions- but it was indeed at the centre of many pagan beliefs, and may well still be (I confess my own knowledge cannot confirm that!)- oh, and of course you aren’t twisted (she adds hastily!!!)
4. Does your fabulous website continue to give you as much fun and satisfaction as it did when you started it all those years ago?
It does! In fact, it gives me even more satisfaction now than when I began to collect my syndicated advice column and give it a home of its own.
I recently posted my 300th podcast. That’s quite a milestone, if you don’t mind me patting myself on the back. The Dr Dick Sex Advice site had become one of the largest resources on the net for sex education, enrichment and entertainment.
I am exceptionally proud of the quality programming I bring to my international audience. Over the last five plus years I’ve presented a variety of extraordinarily informative, enriching and entertaining interviews, enlightening Q&A and even some fun product reviews. I can’t think of another place on the net that offers this sort of diverse sex positive programming. And all of the content is absolutely FREE.
Mega congratulations!!! 300th podcast!!! That is fantastic honey- I trust there will be many more to come!
5. You have various other strings to your bow? Why not take the time to tell the world just how multi talented you are Dr D!
As I alluded to above, I have and adult products review site that I started a couple of years ago. The Dr Dick Review Crew and I review all sorts of adult goodies — sex toys for sure, but also condoms, lubes, herbal products, fetish gear as well as educational and enrichment videos. The address is: http://www.drdicksextoyreviews.com/
I’m doing some counselling with survivors of clergy sex abuse and some consulting with their advocates.
I’m writing on the issues of sex and religion for a new site I launched earlier this summer: http://gaycatholicpriests.org/. There’s an accompanying blog too. Look for that link in the header.
As well as all that – Dr Dick is frequently to be found on the Oysters and Chocolate website with his popular advice column.
5. Future plans? Spill the beans honey!
As you probably recall, I wrote a manuscript for a book about death and dying; I wrote it about 15 years ago. I’m convinced that it is some of the best work I’ve ever done. Alas I couldn’t find a publisher.
Recently, the company who published Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest has offered to publish the Managing Our Mortality; An Interactive Workbook For Enhancing The End of Life manuscript too. This is marvelous news! But there’s some updating to do on the manuscript, remember it’s been 15 years. I’m trying to find a sponsor for this project. If I could free myself up from some of the other stuff I have to do to make a living, for even a couple of months, I could have this manuscript ready for publication in no time. I plan to dedicate the book to my yet unknown benefactor. Any generous souls out there?
I have certainly had the privilege to read your manuscript on how best to cope with death and dying- and you are correct- it is a very well written, constructive piece of work which is moving, sensible and practical- if there is anyone out there who is interested in viewing this work, I can honestly recommend you do so!!
I will also say- even if Richard doesn’t want me to- that he has written a very very good religious children’s story….get in touch with him if you wish to know more…
On that note, I would like to thank Richard, aka Dr Dick, once again for taking time out to come and visit us today. Don’t forget to check out his amazing website.
Big hugs, DD!!! xx
Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church, is available as an e-book or in print, and can be found at all good retailers including Amazon.com and Amazon UK.