From August 30 to September 2, Dignity San Francisco and the San Francisco chapter of the Defenders will sponsor a retreat at the Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. The homepage of the Defenders website describes the retreat:
“Join us August 30 to September 2nd, 2013 (Labor Day weekend), for a joint retreat with Dignity/San Francisco at a retreat center near Sacramento. The first two days of the retreat we will be with those attending from the Dignity chapter, followed by a third day that will emphasize integrating leather and spirituality. The retreat will be lead by a Catholic priest who works with Dignity.” The Defenders are an integral part of Dignity, and have been affiliated with the group since 1981. The webpage of Dignity SF’s webpage also publicizes the retreat, and says the retreat master will be Father Tom Bonacci. Father Bonacci has led a number of retreats for DignitySF.
The Defenders describe themselves as “a Catholic leather club,” and the About Us section of their webpage says “The Defenders/SF is a club for individuals who value and wish to celebrate both their Leather sexuality and their Christian spirituality.” The webpage of Dignity USA says “The Defenders believe that the leather experience can, when integrated and spiritually informed, actually produce a richer spirituality for us, and for the Church.”
The Leather Spirituality section of the Defenders webpage elaborates on just how a “richer spirituality for the Church could be produced: “What we notice about our sexual experience as leather people is that much of what turns us on sexually has to do with such things as power exchange (dominance/submission); trust in s/m scenes where we feel the power of vulnerability and even fear, whether our own or the placing of another’s in our hands; and the intimacy of intense physical bonding which carries deeper meaning beyond the outward act itself. Words we use in the leather community such as “honor” and “respect” reflect that as well…. For us this has taken us into acknowledging the deeper meanings of our sexuality and its connection to the interior life. We choose to identify that dimension of our life as our spirituality. For us, that connection both grounds ‘spirituality’ in a healthy, freely given sexual life and acknowledges our capacity in sexual activity to have deep and soaring, even ecstatic, experience…”
References to the Defenders in the leather community provide still more detail, as well as concrete examples of the richness of “leather spirituality.” The San Francisco Leather Alliance webpage identifies their 2008 Man of the Year as a Mr. Steve Ward. Mr. Ward also has an entry at Zoominfo.com, where he is identified as the president of the Defenders. After giving a number of Mr. Ward’s affiliations with leather organizations, Zoominfo notes “Steve has been awarded as the Bay Area Leather Alliance Man of the Year for 2008, and will be the Leather Marshall for San Francisco Pride this year. In his spare time, Steve enjoys working on community-building efforts with his collared boy, Jonathan. He also has a second boy under consideration at this time. Steve has a mission this year to become a great Leather Daddy.”
According to the Defenders webpage, their current president is a man named Marc Fuentes. In 2008, Mr. Fuentes served as a panelist in a Spirituality and Kink symposium, sponsored by the s/m organization the Society of Janus. The symposium was moderated by Steve Ward. The symposium addressed the question “Do you ever wonder if there could be a spiritual aspect of Leather or kinky sex and play?” Mr. Fuentes biographical entry reads for the symposium reads:
“Marc is an officer of the Defenders/San Francisco, and has been a member of the Roman Catholic LGBT organization Dignity for 20 years. He has served on panel discussions of spituality and Leathersexuality for the Defenders, Dignity, LLW, LLC, and LDG. In September he married his partner of 15 years, a minister, and is Fathering two men. All the men in Marc’s life are deeply rooted, spiritually .”
Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center is one of the four retreat centers listed in the Evangelization and Catechesis section of the diocese of Sacramento’s webpage. There are a number of retreat centers under the archdiocese of San Francisco, so the choice to hold the retreat in the diocese of Sacramento might seem surprising unless one knows that Dignity is not allowed to meet on any property of the archdiocese of San Francisco.