Primiano plans to publish book

By Ryan Mulloy
September 19, 2002

Dr. Leonard Norman Primiano, a religious studies professor, is in the final stages of writing a book, originally part of his dissertation work, which has taken him 12 years to write. Primiano studies contemporary religion and has an interest in contemporary Catholicism. The book is a study of the issue of gay and lesbian Catholics.

“I’ve been studying an organization of Catholics who meet for mass,” Primiano said, “but who are also gay and lesbian, and they want to be accepted by the Catholic Church.” The Catholic Church teaches that their lifestyle is immoral, but the book examines this organization of followers who want to be accepted as practicing Catholics.

The book takes a look at a movement of Catholics called “Dignity,” who has been around for many years, with chapters in almost every major American city. In 2003, the Philadelphia chapter will be celebrating their 30th anniversary.

Primiano covers this issue in contemporary Catholicism, along with the group’s position in the church. “It’s about the story of this issue, but I’m simply reporting what they have to say and reporting the church’s perspective.”

“No one has done a book about this group or these people.” Primiano wondered if there would be any interest in the topic, but feels today that with scandal in the church, though pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same thing, the idea of this movement has become somewhat of a hot topic.

With this organization being underground, getting to its members for interviews was somewhat difficult. “It’s extremely controversial. I had some phone numbers, but I had to talk to people that were in the organization.” Gradually, the list of phone numbers continued to grow.

In his book, Primiano interviews members of the organization, but does not reveal their names, keeping the book very discreet. “In some cases, some of these people are still in jobs, so you cannot identify them by name or even describe them. You really have to be careful about that stuff.”

Interviews for the book began over 10 years ago with Primiano spending three or four hours with each person. While Primiano began interviews with these Catholics so long ago, he waited until the end of the writing process to go back and find them to see how far they have come and who is still around.

“Some of them have nothing to do with the organization anymore, some are still involved and some have died, which is really a shame. I would loved to be able to talk to them now.”

There were some people who did not want to be interviewed at all. One of the people that Primiano interviewed years ago has changed and told Primiano that he dreaded talking to him, assuming that he was looking to take advantage of him.

Going back to talk to his subjects has proven to be quite an advantage, according to Primiano. “Now that I’ve been able to go back, that’s great. You usually don’t get that in a study and it’s published. To be able to look at [the study] historically to see how they’ve changed or what they have to say, I think that adds something valuable to it.”

Primiano, who is under contract to the Indiana University Press, hopes to finish the book sometime this semester. The Indiana University Press has a publishing series on religion in America, which will showcase Primiano’s book, one of the first books in the series on contemporary religion.

Next summer, Primiano will be writing another book about a late religious folk artist, whom he lived with for a week in Newfoundland, Canada. She also spent some of her time using hooked rugs as a form of art expression. Primiano is working on a biography about her and is working on the showing of her rugs, hoping to even bring them to campus sometime in the spring.

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Ryan Mulloy

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