Our Beautiful Pastoral Pope Preaches and Teaches the Gospel in Naples

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

I love Pope Francis. Nuff said.

YouTube Preview Image

Pope Francis’ Groupies Surround Him

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez https://www.flickr.com/photos/chilangoco/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez https://www.flickr.com/photos/chilangoco/

Every public figure has groupies of one sort or another.

Pope Francis looks more startled than I’ve ever seen him when he’s surrounded by his groupies.

YouTube Preview Image

Sprinklergate: Is it Real, or Is It Politics?

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

I’ve been sick as the proverbial dawg these past few days. I managed to put together a couple of posts, but then I fell back into bed and pulled the blankets over my head.

I’m not feeling all that great today, either, but I have roused myself from my coughing and hacking and moaning and complaining long enough to realize that there’s another oddball “scandal” about the Catholic Church leap-frogging around the internet.

From what I gather, a cathedral in San Francisco (of all places) attempted to use a sprinkler system to encourage homeless people to vacate the steps leading into their building. Or some such.

Needless to say, the story has fueled the tanks of Catholic bashers. It’s also brought out quite a few disappointed and sad comments from faithful Catholics, as well. The story seems to be all about whether or not the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of San Francisco should be keel-hauled and sentenced to extinction over Sprinklergate.

I haven’t read too much about a couple of issues that I think are somewhat pertinent.

First, the Archbishop of San Francisco is engaged in a battle over the future of the Catholicism in that great city, i.e., whether or not the Church will be run by its own teachings or by secular authorities and the mob actions of “activists” who don’t agree with those teachings. This particular argument is about homosexuals.

Second, digging up dirt on someone who opposes them is a standard tactic of the gay rights movement. Demands for  civil and human rights for gay people are just. Homosexuals have been subjected to unjust discrimination and violence for a long time.

But that does not justify advancing this cause by denying the human rights of other people. Far too often, the gay rights movement has advanced its cause by the ignoble method of organized and manufactured character assassination of those who oppose it.

Using character assassination as a method of political bullying is an effective tactic. It harms, sometimes destroys, the ability of the person who is attacked to put their ideas forward in a credible manner. It also serves as a warning to anyone who might be inclined to join them that they, too, will be destroyed. In this case, it sends a signal to other bishops to duck and cover or be personally attacked as well.

I’m not going to take a position on Sprinklergate in this post, but I am going to raise a simple question: Is the whole scandal and the sudden media focus on this rather obscure action by the cathedral an example of attacking the Archbishop because he’s standing for Catholic teaching?

I’m not saying that turning the sprinkler system on homeless people to get them to move off the church steps is a good thing. What I’m saying is that the reason it has been so widely reported may very well be politically motivated.

Archbishop Cordileone has been attacked, picketed and and smeared ever since he took office in San Francisco. These attacks are because  he has taught actual Catholic teaching as regards gay marriage. This latest series of attacks are precisely and directly because he has been doing his best to create a Catholic Church in San Francisco (again, of all places) that is actually Catholic.

In a back-handed way, Sprinklergate is a compliment to Archbishop Cordileone. If this is the best his opponents could do, then he must be an honest man.

There are other issues about Sprinklergate which need to be discussed. But that really is the topic for another post.

My point here, dear Catholics, is don’t be so quick to join in with public lynchings of our clergy when those public lynchings are so obviously linked to actions by that clergy to defend the teachings of the Church in a Catholic-bashing world.

Now, I’m going back to coughing and hacking, moaning and complaining. As soon as I feel up to it, I’ll write another post talking about other overlooked issues in Sprinklergate.

Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The city of Washington, DC has passed two laws that directly attack religious freedom.

The first is the ironically titled Human Rights Amendment of 2014. According to Catholic News Agency,

… the Human Rights Amendment of 2014, forces religious schools to recognize persons and groups who might conflict with their stated mission and allow them use of their facilities and benefits. For example, a Catholic school would be forced to officially recognize an openly-gay student group and could not deny them use of its facilities.

The second is the equally mis-titled Reproductive Health Non-Discrmination Act of 2014. Again, according to Catholic News Agency,

… the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014, prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees over their “reproductive health decision making.” Thus, a Catholic or pro-life group could not make employment decisions based on their employees’ decision to act contrary to the mission – such as procuring an abortion, for example.

Both of these two laws are direct attacks on both religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms. That is why I say that their titles are ironic. They do not guarantee human rights and freedom from discrimination. These laws themselves are attacks on the basic human right of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination of religious believers.

To read a fact sheet on the two laws, go here.

There are two resolutions in the United States Senate which would overturn these laws. Congress has 30 days to review the bills, which are slated to become law on April 17. As noted in the Catholic News Agency article,

The Archdiocese of Washington supports these two resolutions, which, they say, “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government” and “result in discrimination against religious believers.”

The Knights of Columbus, the United States bishops’ conference, the Catholic University of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have joined the Archdiocese of Washington in the call to pass the resolutions.

I do not know if Georgetown University has joined the opposition to these laws. If they have not, I would like to know why.

Congress clearly has the power to overturn these laws. The question, as always with Congress, is will they use their power for the purpose it was given to them, or will they set this up as another partisan fight in order to align voters for the ’16 elections?

Congress needs to hear from their constituents as to why they are not doing any of the things that got them elected in the first place.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued the followed press release concerning the resolutions in Congress on March 18:

Religious Freedom at Stake

U.S. Senate Must Stand for Religious Freedom in Nation’s Capital

March 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today the Archdiocese of Washington, along with a large and growing coalition of religious institutions, faith-based organizations, and pro-life advocacy organizations within the District of Columbia, welcomes the introduction of two resolutions disapproving the unprecedented attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital through the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA).

HRAA, by removing conscience protections in the law, would prevent religious educational institutions from operating according to the tenets of their own faith with regard to human sexuality, and RHNDA would force religious institutions and other organizations to hire or retain employees who publicly act in defiance of the mission of their employer. Both laws subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and result in discrimination against religious believers.

The Archdiocese of Washington has long respected home rule for the District of Columbia and, therefore, advocated for our religious rights with the D.C. Council throughout the legislative process. Despite this, the Council passed these acts. The archdiocese’s appeal to Congress to restore these constitutional rights is the only legislative recourse that remains. The Council of the District of Columbia transmitted the new measures to Congress on March 6, initiating a thirty-day congressional review period.

The archdiocese is grateful for the resolutions introduced today in the U.S. Senate and is hopeful for swift action in both chambers of Congress within the remaining days of the congressional review period.

###

 

 

 

Go Look in the Mirror. That is the Only God You’ll Ever See.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.

This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.

I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.

This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.

But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.

It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.

He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.

That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.

I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.

But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.

This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.

This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.

Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.

Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.

That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself  that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.

We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.

He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.

I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.

Did he go to hell? 

I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?

My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.

Probably, he said.

I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.

One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.

You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.

A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.

I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.

My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.

I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.

There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.

Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.

The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.

Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see. 

Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.

Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.

It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.

If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.

Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?

Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.

If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.

Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.

But it doesn’t end there.

We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.

Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?

Or …

Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?

What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?

When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.

Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?

How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?

The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?

Or …

Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?

 

 

The Popes and the Sister Speak Against the Death Penalty

Our popes have spoken with a consistent voice against the death penalty. I agree in general with Pope Francis’ comments on life sentences. Life sentences should be reserved for capital crimes and people who simply cannot be allowed to walk free because that would endanger the public safety. However, I do not support ending life sentences altogether. 

My favorite line in these videos is when St Helen Prejean said, “Gospel of Jesus stretches us.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Pope Francis on the death penalty and life sentences.

YouTube Preview Image
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Tadeusz Gorny

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Tadeusz Gorny

Pope Benedict XVI on the death penalty, as well as in favor of marriage.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange https://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange https://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/

Sister Helen Prejean on the death penalty and the crucifixion.

YouTube Preview Image

Catholic Bloggers Unite Against the Death Penalty. This Catholic Blogger Says Wait a Minute.

The map is from 2012. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by m01229 https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/

The map is from 2012. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by m01229 https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/

I’m always the outlier. No matter what the question, as soon as the crowd starts yelling Huzzah!! I’m the one standing slightly aside, saying “wait a minute now.”

I guess that means it’s no surprise that I’m the one saying “wait a minute now” about Catholic bloggers joining together in opposition to the death penalty. Not, mind you, that I favor the death penalty. And I certainly support Catholic bloggers getting together in support of Church teaching. I think that kind of initiative is long overdue.

My “now, wait a minute” in this instance is based on those confounding truths that reality often imposes on idealism when public policy is the question. This reality is multifarious, and I’m mentally and physically tired this morning. So I’m going to abandon long-winded explanations and number my thoughts. Here we go.

  1. Any question of public policy has to be decided based on one object: A just and stable government is always the greater good.
  2. There are people who cannot be allowed loose in the larger population. To do so would be to ignore government’s responsibility to provide for the public safety.
  3. The death penalty is not usually necessary to achieve this aim of a just and stable government in advanced societies which are capable of keeping people locked up.
  4. Innocents are convicted of crimes, including capital crimes, that they did not commit.
  5. When innocent people are executed by the state, the death penalty becomes an egregious wrong. It not only does not provide for the public safety, it abrogates it in this instance.
  6. Thus the death penalty is not necessary in most instances in advanced societies, and in the case of innocents who are wrongly convicted, it is a grave moral injustice.
  7. However, (you knew this was coming, right?) if, for whatever reason, it is not possible to keep killers off the streets, then the death penalty becomes a necessity. (Go back to point one.)
  8. Also, there are instances, when murderers murder for political or philosophical reasons, where incarceration may be a means and method for them to spread their murderous politics and philosophy further and enlist others to murder in the name of that politics or philosophy.
  9. Certain members of Boko Haram/ISIS/Islamic Brotherhood/Taliban/etc fit the criteria of number 8. Certain Bolsheviks fit the description of number 8 at earlier points in history.
  10. When people in our prisons use their prison time to enlist fellow prisoners in a murderous pact which they then unleash on the civilian population once they are freed, then simply incarcerating these people becomes a violation of point number 1.
  11. What to do? Do we use the death penalty selectively on people who murder for politics or philosophy? That is a dangerous business which will — I guarantee it — be abused. Once you allow government this type of power to selectively kill, government will — once again, I guarantee it — get around to using it on anyone who annoys those in power.
  12. We must, as a matter of guaranteeing point number 1, think clearly and without our usual social lies about points 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 when constructing laws about the death penalty.

This numbered list is my way of saying, “now wait a minute” about the death penalty. I oppose the death penalty. So far as I know, I am alone among the Catholic bloggers in having the votes and the scars to prove my opposition to the death penalty. In addition to questions about the death penalty, I have had to vote on many laws that changed the lives of millions of people. It is an awesome thing to hold that kind of power in your hands. It changes how you look at questions like this.

I oppose the death penalty within the parameters of the basic principle that a just and stable government is always the greater good. I oppose the death penalty so long as opposition to the death penalty does not endanger the public health and safety. I oppose the death penalty whenever there are just alternatives. In practical terms, that means I oppose the death penalty in almost all circumstances in Western society.

But I know full well that there are situations that make the death penalty necessary. I’m on record in support of the death penalty for Jihadi John. My reasoning has nothing to do with the horror of his crimes. I am calling for the death penalty for Jihadi John for two reasons. One, allowing him to live in prison leads to the recruitment of other murderers. Two allowing him to live in prison makes him a living martyr, an on-going symbolic reference point for those of his murderous philosophy.

Jihadi John, and all of ISIS, commit crimes that are not just crimes against the persons on whom they inflict them. They commit crimes that are crimes against the structure and fabric of civilization and humanity as a whole. That is what a crime against humanity constitutes. It is a crime that attacks the bedrock of human civilization and that destroys and diminishes all of humanity in a real and rending way.

I believe that those who commit crimes against humanity, in particular the leaders, figureheads and mouthpieces of such crimes, should be put to death. I also think that their bodies should be consigned to the sea in unmarked locations. They deserve no monument, no memoriam.

I am opposed to the death penalty. I am one of the few death penalty opponent bloggers who has actually voted against the death penalty in my role as an elected official and taken the hits that go with that action. When I say that I oppose the death penalty, I mean it, and I can prove that I mean it. However, I have to say “wait a minute” when we talk about a mindless and blanket end to the death penalty in all circumstances.

A just and stable government is always the greater good. Thumb through history, look around the world, and you will see what happens and how many innocent people die when governments are unjust and unstable. Unjust, unstable government is a killer on a mass scale. Given modern communication and weaponry, unjust and unstable government is a scythe, mowing down whole populations in short periods of time.

For that reason, when I consider blanket responses to questions of public policy, I am often forced to say, “Wait a minute …”

The death penalty is no exception.

Our Rock Star Pope is More Popular than Ever

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

He’s bald, lives in a dorm, rides around in an old car, has one lung and a spreading waistband.

And he’s a rock star.

In fact, he’s the rock star on the planet today.

He is also living proof that love, goodness and the joy of Christ Jesus are what people want in this world.

Pope Francis, with his gentle ways and loving heart has taught us all a little bit of what Jesus meant when He used the word “shepherd.” I don’t know about you, but of all the rock stars and celebrities who are forever trying to get in front a camera, this is the only one I would give just about anything to meet.

Pope Francis isn’t just the world’s rock star, he’s my rock star.

Recent surveys show that Pope Francis’ popularity just keeps climbing. I think the reason for this is simple, and it has nothing to do with his “progressive” views. This is a man we feel we could go to and tell him the worst thing we ever did, or the worst thing that was ever done to us, and trust that he would respond with love and the forgiveness of Christ.

That is what draws people to him. He may stick his foot in his mouth once in a while. And he may not cut a dashing figure in his black shoes and simple zucchetto, but he’s everybody’s heart throb, just the same.

People everywhere, whether they will admit it or not, hunger for the love and forgiveness that only comes from Jesus. Pope Francis is a conduit of that love. He represents the hope of forgiveness and acceptance before the throne of God. He is Christ’s Vicar, and the love of Christ shines through him.

That’s why he’s a rock star.

From Crux:

Nine in 10 US Catholics now say they have a favorable view of Francis, including nearly 6 in 10 who have a “very favorable” view, according to a report released Thursday from the Pew Research Center to mark the second anniversary of the pope’s election.

… Among the findings:

  • Seven in 10 adults see the pope favorably, up 13 points from his election two years ago

  • Those who have an unfavorable view of the pope hovers at 15 percent, climbing just a few points from a low of 11 percent last year

  • And those with no opinion on the pope has dropped from a high of 30 percent to 15 percent

Vatican Acknowledges that ISIS’ Threats Against Pope Francis are Real

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez https://www.flickr.com/photos/chilangoco/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez https://www.flickr.com/photos/chilangoco/

Commander Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police force says that talks he’s had with Italian and foreign colleagues have convinced him that ISIS’ threats against Pope Francis are real.

He also said that Pope Francis is “fully aware of the risk,” but that Pope Francis is “the priest who does not want to lose touch with his flock” and that is “only concern is for the faithful.”

From Breitbart:

The head of the Vatican police force, or “Gendarmerie,” Commander Domenico Giani, said this weekend that the Islamic State (ISIS) threats against Pope Francis are “real” and not just media propaganda. “This is what emerges from the talks I have had with Italian and foreign colleagues,” he said.

Threats against the Pope and the Vatican go beyond the institutional Islamic State, said Giani, and extend to the risk of lone wolves, “which are more dangerous because they are unpredictable.”Giani has stood at the helm of the Vatican police for the past nine years, but he now faces an especially tense period in the face of the dramatic news coming from the Middle East and North Africa and explicit ISIS threats against the Pope and Rome.

According to the commander, Pope Francis is fully aware of the risk but “is not compromising the style of his pontificate, based on closeness to the people, that is, on personal contact with the greatest number of people possible.” Even as Pope, he said, Francis remains “the priest who does not want to lose touch with his flock.”

After 9 Years Ripping Off the Priesthood, Gay Priest Leaves, Blames Church for His Life of Lies

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Priests are human.

I think I established my belief in the humanness and fallibility of priests a couple of weeks ago. I managed to outrage a lot of people by not being all that surprised or all that outraged by the fall from grace of one of our local priests. To be honest, I was a lot more surprised by the anger people felt toward him than by his action.

Based on the reaction to that post, I’m buckling my seatbelt in preparation for this one. Before I begin, I want to caution you. This post is about the self-serving ramblings of a gay man named Ben Brenkert who left the Jesuits after 9 years in formation, but before his ordination. He has published essays blaming the Catholic Church for what he views as the moral failing of being Catholic. He plans to go to the Episcopalians, and his essays basically condemn the Catholic Church for not becoming Episcopalian too.

He reveals all sorts of scandal-causing things about his former brother seminarians and priests that he knew. He also reveals himself to have lived a reprobate life. By his own admission, this man didn’t believe what the Church taught. He  lived a libertine life while in the collar. His every interaction with the laity had to have been based on a web of lies.

It’s important as we read his essays and think through their implications to remember that this is the diatribe of an angry, self-serving and very dishonest young man. However, I think what he has to say is based on an actual situation. Most of our priests aren’t like this. But some of them are. It’s time we dealt with the truth of that.

It seems that Mr Brenkert decided nine years into his “formation” as a Jesuit priest, that he just couldn’t take it anymore and had to go be an Episcopalian. The reasons he gives are a bit, shall we say, self-serving.

It seems that he wants us to believe that he was working to reform the Church from the inside on issues such as gay rights. According to him, he “struggled” throughout his time in the “upper middle class lifestyle that religious life gave me” to allow distribution of condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa, end mandatory celibacy, bring about the right of women to ordination, and communion for divorced and remarried couples.

Of course, in the meantime, while he was “working” for his good causes, he was also living the gay high-life-inside-the-collar. By his own admission, he had affairs, including affairs with his superiors, whom he said “groomed” him for sex, and participated in the “fraternity of men” whose priestly life was compromised by gay bars and visits to “the 4th house” where … all sorts of things happened. He tells us he saw straight Jesuits fathering babies and gay Jesuits fondling each other in vans and on the way to retreats. His stories make his years in the Jesuits sound like time spent in a bordello.

While in St. Louis I met a fraternity of men just out of similar novitiates, whose newfound freedom led them to gay or straight bars, but also to “the 4th house” where we would all gather for libations and pizzas. I was shocked by how much drinking went on that first year. I was more shocked by the stories I’d hear of younger Jesuits fathering babies, and gay Jesuits fondling each other in vans on the way to retreats.

These men were gay Jesuits whom the Church and the Society of Jesus embraced, gay men who according to the church’s teaching were still objectively disordered, intrinsically deviant from the natural world and social order.

Was the Society of Jesus doing us, or the LGBTQ community, any favors by keeping us?

…  There were the gay Jesuits who were so closeted that they hid behind conservatism, leaving the Jesuits for formation programs in dioceses across the United States. There were gay Jesuits who were put in clerical prison for embracing undergrads too long, and others who attended Sexaholics Anonymous, or whose personal collection of pornography was mistakenly played during high school lectures.

I myself was groomed for sex by several older Jesuits. I saw the vehement internalized homophobia of some Jesuits, and knew of certain gay pastors removed from jobs so that less out and more passable gay Jesuits replace them at gay-friendly parishes.

There were gay Jesuits who traveled the world to scuba dive or taste French wine. One gay Jesuit offered to marry me as I departed the Society of Jesus. I lament that these gay Jesuits remain silent while their gay or lesbian lay colleagues are fired from jobs and brought closer to poverty.

FWIW, I’m glad this young man has decided to leave the Jesuits. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place. He was ripping it off.

However, his posts raise a couple of questions that I think Catholics need to think about. The first question revolves around the fact that this guy does everything except directly “out” people. He coyly gives the initials of men with whom he had affairs. How tough is it going to be for those who want to do so to figure out who these guys are? He gives enough details about at least one superior that it would be pretty easy to track him down, too.

Once when I told my acting superior Fr. S. about M.B.’s advances he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why resist? To him you’re so exotic.” I surmised that I was exotic because of my good looks and charm, but was that an excuse to break my vows and give in to M.B.’s aggressive advances?

Even more to the point is his expressed desire that gay priests “come out.”

I spent many years praying and reflecting about the growing orthodoxy in the younger generation of Jesuits. I came away intolerant of religious hypocrites, especially closeted, celibate gay men, gay men who should be the first homosexuals to come out of the closet, yet remain the last.

The threat of being outed hangs over gay priests like the sword of Damocles, and Mr Brenkert is pulling on the cord that keeps it from falling. Notice, he specifically threatens celibate gay priests, not the boys who break their vows.

That leaves us, the pew sitters, with a big, fat question: What are we going to do if somebody outs Father Kind-Heart, our parish priest?

I know I’m going to get a verbal clubbing for saying this, but I won’t do much of anything, except call Father Kind-Heart and tell him that I appreciate all he’s done for me, and that I will stand by him in this trial.

I’ve done the same thing many times when one of my political colleagues got their head caught in a vise of some sort. I’ve gone to courthouses and sat with them while they were on trial; I’ve stood by them when everyone else was throwing mud; I’ve told people to stop gossiping to me about them.

If I’m going to jump on somebody, it will be when they’re standing upright and can swing back. I just don’t care for the old lynch mob mentality of kick him when he’s down.

That doesn’t mean that I think priests should be free to rip off the priesthood and turn the Church into a gay bar. I also don’t think that straight priests should have women on the side. It simply means that I’m not going to let someone with a political agenda use me for a club to beat a man who has never been anything but kind of me in all the time I’ve known him.

I’m talking about me and what I will or will not do. Because I am not God. I am limited to me and what I am going to do. That’s all I really control. And I will stand by the Fathers Kind-Heart when they are maliciously attacked in this way.

Make no mistake about it, if your parish priest gets outed in this fashion, malice is the motive: Malice toward the Church, and malice toward the priest.

The other question I want to raise is, how does this situation affect the Church’s ability to take stands in favor of the Gospel in today’s post-Christian America?

In my opinion, the effect is devastating. As Mr Brenkert tells us in his blabby coming-out posts:

Some of these very gay men are presidents, principals and campus ministers at any one of the Jesuit colleges, universities or parishes throughout the world.

A number of our most revered Catholic institutions of higher learning have become a scandal to many pew-sitting Catholics. Priests on the beat, which are parish priests, often avoid controversial issues such as gay marriage that might get them attacked by the gay community. Even bishops run and hide from high school students over gay marriage.

How much of this stems from the fact that these priests, like Ben Brenkert, don’t believe what the Church teaches? How much of it is due to the fact that they are, like him, enjoying the cushy ‘upper-middle-class life,’ and their access to what Pope Francis has called “a gay lobby” inside the Church? On the other hand, how much of it is simply that they are afraid of being outed if they take stands that run contrary to the gay rights movement’s “teachings?”

This is a serious issue. In this day and age of Christian bashing and Christian persecution, we need shepherds who will inspire and lead us.

I don’t much care if a priest is gay or straight. But I do care if he believes in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I care very much if he is a genuine and sincere son of the Church and if he has the courage and guts for the job he’s undertaken.

I am glad that Ben Brenkert decided to give up his life of lies and leave the Jesuits. He should never have been admitted to the seminary in the first place, and he should have been asked to leave as soon as his problems asserted themselves. The Episcopalians pay their priests well, so he should be able to continue living a good life there.

As for my Church, he’s done us a favor by leaving. We need priests, but we need holy priests. Men who are ripping it off should make honest guys of themselves and take up another line of work.

I know that the priesthood is cushy. It provides a very good life and all kinds of respect and adoration from the people of God. It’s easy to live a double life and keep the good folks in the pews in the dark. However, in the final analysis, these men are not getting away with anything with their phony lives. God is not mocked, Scripture tells us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Priests who deliberately live a life of ripping off the priesthood are in fact, ripping off themselves. They spend their lives consecrating the Host and lifting the Body of Christ into the air with hands that are fouled with grave sin. That they become hardened into this and it doesn’t bother them does not mean that they are out of peril. It means that God has let them go. He has given them over to their sin.

I wrote a post that inflamed sensitivities a few weeks ago because a priest here in Oklahoma City had gotten married in a civil ceremony a few months back and then got caught. He’s now going through the process of dealing with all that. To me, the situation was simple. He did it. He got caught. He’s now facing the consequences and will hopefully begin to live an authentic life as a husband and, in the future, a father. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to you is to get caught in your sins.

Which brings me back to gay priests and other gay men who may decide to out them to those of us in the pews. My feeling about this is the same as it was about the priest who got married. If he was a good priest to me, then that’s all I am going to concern myself with. I will support and stand by this poor pilgrim while things move forward. Hopefully, this will never happen, but if it does — and I really think it may be coming — we need to let the Church handle whatever discipline needs to be done and remember that these men are human beings. Don’t kick them when they’re down.

If you want to argue with or even yell at a priest, go do it when he’s full of himself and getting adored by his parish. Don’t join the mob that wants to hit people when they’re hurt.

We Catholics need to stop pretending that we don’t know that a large number of our priests are gay. We need the same standard for all our priests, gay or straight. That standard is authentic Catholic witness in their lives and authentic Catholic teaching in their leadership. We need holy priests. We need Shepherds.

 

 

 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X