Roman Catholic Jacuzzi: a rant, and rave for the queers
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Michael Bullock’s Roman Catholic Jacuzzi is shallow wade through a piping hot cesspool of a familiar shame. The very same shame that is instilled in many queer folks: young and old, who find themselves passing through churches, pulses through the veins of the institution from which it was spawned. It more than pulses, it reverberates.
What Michael Bullock witnesses one night at the Stone Creek Inn (in) his novel Roman Catholic Jacuzzi is a marvelously twisted and compelling account of the ways that institutions exert power over individuals. It is also a painful reminder of how they will continue to do so for decades. However, Bullock's message is nail biting: usurp the overbearing and inherent sovereignty of an intangible power. This message culminates inside the confines of a treacherous jacuzzi: a reminder that because someone prompts loneliness, it doesn’t mean it’s me they find familiarity in.
By embracing controversy, Bullock revels in honest and powerful reclamations of the altar boy. This reclamation has its own mysticism, putting the “victim” and the “predator” in a pot to boil. The jacuzzi demonstrates a repression of sexuality and body by people who have offered themselves to the Roman Catholic Church. This is done in an exchange for complicity, a perceived purpose of spreading love and prosperity to those who are deemed to need it.
These priests are taught to derive power from the feeling of giving themselves up. They most certainly have. This notion that one must sacrifice themselves in order to live life holy... But what about feeling like something was taken from you? It, too, certainly was. No one wants to be taken from. Under a certain pressure, one may feel to take back. In the Roman Catholic Jacuzzi, the priesthood lives under these systemic circumstances. Here, it seems someone must always be taken from, instilling lies and institutional stability, which is the real shame.
For the case of Roman Catholic Jacuzzi, what is good or bad and what is cause or effect stays on the nightstand of closeted priests. In a brilliant effort to put practice to their queerness, the congregation congregates once a year to find what they were told they have no right to. That sexuality in which they keep under lock and key, and they find it together. The priests keep themselves quiet, and in that silence they find safety from a disembodied power that promised to support their lives by giving them purpose.
Michael Bullock left me gagged, my tongue with the taste of bite-their-dick-off empowerment I am absolutely starved for when I remember times I was told that I had no right to be what I am. With the queerness of the world shining through us, my queer siblings and I find a way to have every right to exist, and we do it together. The only difference between us and Bullock’s Roman Catholic priests is that we grant ourselves the permission to do it every single day. We do it because we know that is the way to spread love into a world too dark.