Queer and Catholic
by Mark Dowd, DLT, 224pp, £14.99
Mark Dowd quotes St Augustine towards the end of Queer and Catholic: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” In the preceding pages, he has traced the twists and turns of how his cradle religion grew into mature personal devotion, and how he has reconciled his sexuality with his faith – essentially by seeing Church teaching in this regard as an aberration, founded on fear, prejudice and repression, that will, one day, crumble.
However, though it contains numerous skirmishes with doctrine, this is not a comprehensive argument with authority – it is a memoir. The short opening chapter packs in a grim episode of bullying, some early homoerotic stirrings caused by a Persil advert, and a nail-biting series of exams that see Dowd secure his release from years of further bullying by gaining a place at St Bede’s grammar school in his home town of Manchester.
Things continue at the same lick throughout. His parents were working-class, devout, traditional Catholics. It was a rocky road, but they never deserted him. As Dowd recognises, aficionados of the Catholic misery memoir will be disappointed. Later on, he spends a year as a Dominican novice, before jumping ship and commencing a very successful career as a journalist and documentary-maker. Several love affairs are retold in soul-bearing detail.
Queer and Catholic could probably have done with one more gentle sweep of the editorial brush-and-comb, but not at the risk of its ebullient, tender spirit. As the book draws to a close, Dowd is testing his vocation once more, helping the poor in the mountains of El Salvador.
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