Warhol's Vatican Exhibition
Many are discussing and reporting about the Warhol exhibit scheduled for next year at the Vatican Museum. Since his death Catholics have been claiming him on account of his 'secret piety' which was only revealed after his death. Warhol lived with his mom, prayed with her, went to Mass nearly every day and often sat alone in church. He kept it secret.
His secret piety is becoming legend now. I think at one time I disputed his 'celibacy', and or chastity. Maybe he was successful at living like a monk - maybe not. Most people are not 'without sin' therefore I expect in his endeavor to remain celibate he may have not been perfect. Which is kind of my point in calling him an ordinary homosexual. Most people living in a secular milieu face difficulties in living a celibate life, especially those who work in the arts. I like what Michael Davis wrote regarding Warhol:
Religion kept Warhol from going over the brink. He attended Mass almost daily. Other days he would just slip into St Vincent Ferrer on Lexington Avenue, drop into the back pew and pray. He spent his Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters volunteering at a soup kitchen, and befriended the homeless and poor whom he served. He put his nephew through seminary. Though openly gay, he endeavoured to remain celibate throughout his life. When he refused to support the gay rights movement, many of his friends blamed his faith. - CHReligion keeps us all from going over the brink.
I'm not sure Warhol actually thought of himself as 'openly gay' - even though that was his reputation. I'm not suggesting he was into the identity politics we are today, I'm sure he knew he was gay. Just like anyone else - any other guy attracted to guys. He didn't have to join a movement. I doubt it was his religion which dictated that attitude, it was simply ingrained. Like his faith was ingrained - or confirmed - hence his attraction, devotion to Christ. It's actually very typical, or ordinary.
Another famous actor died this past week. I won't mention his name because nothing in his obituaries mentioned he was gay, nor did they cite a partner-survivor, though he had one. I admire his discretion - and yes, his honesty. How is that honest? Warhol sneaked to Mass, slipped out for visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The actor who just died never came out publicly, he kept his private life private, and in an interview talking about his faith, he revealed he was indeed faithful. Perhaps he kept his personal life private because he was faithful and didn't want to politicize his 'orientation'?
I believe there are many people like that. Hidden, ordinary people who often lead difficult lives, falling and rising, whose hearts are fixed upon the Lord.
I'm not so harsh in my analysis of Warhol as I once was. I think he was just an ordinary homosexual, unfortunately getting a lot of attention for his Catholicism and asexuality - now interpreted as celibacy. He can't be dismissed so easily.
Redux - Andy Warhol - a celibate Catholic?
That said, I'll re-post some comments I've written before:
Andy Warhol - a celibate Catholic? He sure was - he never married, and remained a Catholic all of his life. Warhol had a lot of problems - none beyond the reach of divine mercy, that is for sure, but he had issues.
Andy wasn't a model Catholic, but he seems to have been a 'faithful' Catholic.
Fact is, he really was gay and Catholic, before the hairsplitting on what all of that means began to be taken seriously, and subsequently sanitized and legitimized and normalized. Pier Vittorio Tondelli was a gay Catholic too - faithful by the time he died - before, not so much.
People: gay people who are Catholic, remain Catholic, even if they do not practice the faith or live in sin. Those whose conscience has been formed correctly do not try to say a sin is not a sin. Homosexual orientation is not a sin of course - but the behavior is. Some people who are active homosexuals are like that - hence they stay away from the sacraments. In doing so they do not say the behavior is not sinful - they know it is - and they know that they cannot act out and be a faithful Catholic. And in a very real way - they are faithful for that. Tondelli was like that until his actual conversion, and so was Warhol - to an extent. For all of the issues within the manufactured reality and public persona of Warhol, he remained Catholic - and most likely 'unintentionally' celibate. But chaste? Like a virgin? That may be what he said.
Perhaps what may be most notable about Warhol is that he did not try to promote homosexuality as something good or equal to heterosexual love and marriage. He did not try to promote sinful behavior as virtuous. In that respect he perhaps can be called a 'proud sinner' - although sitting at the back of the church during Mass pretty much cancels out any pride aspect. - Warhol
It's kind of strange how much Warhol is gaining so much attention for being Catholic, while today gay Catholics are marginalized for simply saying gay, or two men sharing a house pose a scandal to others, or a Lesbian can be denied communion at her mother's funeral, or a priest is labelled for promoting a gay-Catholic author who famously converted before he died. The ironies could be developed into a new litany - for private use of course.