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

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea

Pope Francis on the death penalty and life sentences.

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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.

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Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange

Sister Helen Prejean on the death penalty and the crucifixion.

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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

The map is from 2012. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by m01229

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.

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Our Rock Star Pope is More Popular than Ever

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea

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

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Vatican Acknowledges that ISIS’ Threats Against Pope Francis are Real

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Edgar Jimenez

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.”

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

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

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.




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Pope Francis Condemns the ‘Intolerable Brutality’ of ISIS

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Price of Clean Hands: He Died for Refusing a Bribe

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Arlington County

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Arlington County

Officials who take bribes are committing a crime against just and stable government. Considering the enormous harm that unjust and unstable governments do to vast numbers of people, this is, in a very real sense, a crime against humanity.

Countries that are mired in the corruption of bribe taking find themselves unable to defend their citizens against criminal organizations such as Boko Haram.

This is the story of one young Congolese young man who refused a bribe and paid with his life. The Vatican calls him a Christian martyr.

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Do You Qualify to Attend the Father Dan Stoning Party?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Artforthegloryofgod by Sharon's photo stream

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Artforthegloryofgod by Sharon’s photo stream

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other because Jesus Christ has also forgiven you. St Paul

My goodness we’re all perfect and holy.

We’re also fragile. Oh, so fragile.

I went off-line for the Sabbath and when I come back, what do I find? A veritable meltdown of comments both here and on Facebook declaiming that, since I plan — and yes I do plan to do this — to

Accept Father Dan Letourneua and his new bride as my brother and sister in Christ and,

I absolutely wish them all the best and,

I hope that they have a long, holy, happy marriage with a great, big Catholic family,

I am … what? … failing at my job of hating sinners to death????

Let me tell you something folks, it is a fortunate thing that you are not God, because if you were, every single person on this earth would go straight to flaming hell for lack of forgiveness.

And frankly, I find the cries of how badly Father Dan has “hurt” the people of his parish to be a bit … ummm … what’s that word? Oh yes, the word is ridiculous.

The people of this parish are supposed to be irreparably hurt because they found out that priests are human beings who commit sins? They didn’t know this?

Father Dan did not rape a child. Father Dan did not use a woman as a concubine for years and refuse to marry her while he went around ripping off the priesthood. Father Dan fell in love and sneaked around and got married outside the Church. Then he spent a few months running and hiding and living a double life. The good people at St Joe’s found out that their priest had a big, fat secret life.

Is that a sin?


Is it our place to stone him for this? I don’t think so, or at least not most of us. There may be exceptions.

Here are the people who are qualified to attend the Father Dan Stoning Party:

1. Those people who never did anything stupid, sneaky, foolish or wrong because of falling in love


2. Those who also never told a lie


3. Those who also never tried to hide their sins


4. Those who also never spent months and years in fear that something they’d done would be found out


5. Those who also never went to a priest in confession expecting mercy and forgiveness and got mercy and forgiveness.

If you can tick off all these things, then you might have cause to go at Father Dan. However, you will be sinning — you know sin, like what Father Dan did — if you do.

There’s that Jesus guy and His admonitions about forgiveness, etc. You remember those words “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” Or, how about, “by what measure you judge, that measure shall be used to judge you?”

Think carefully before you pick up those stones, grab that hammer, erect that cross for Father Dan. The execution you’re planning may be your own.

How many of the people at St Joseph’s Old Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City have gone to Father Dan in confession and received mercy and forgiveness from him? How many people at all the parishes where he’s been have gone to him in times of trouble or hurt and received support, love, mercy?

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. We have a priest who has sinned and then lied about it and got caught in his lie.

Let those holier-than-thous who never sinned go at him.

Everybody else needs to get real.


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OKC Priest Commits Marriage. Is Removed from Parish.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

I know I’m supposed to get all in a lather about this.

But, frankly, I think it’s ok-ish.

Father Dan Letourneau, who until recently was the pastor at what we Okies call St Joseph Old Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City, has been outed as a married man. It seems that last November, Father Letourneau secretly got married. He then tried to hide it and continue his work as a priest. He succeeded in this until just recently, when the Archbishop found out about his marriage.

Archbishop Paul Coakley, Archbishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma City, had this to say about the situation:

This is obviously a very serious violation of the commitments, obligations and duties of priesthood. I deeply regret his decision and the impact this has had on the Catholic community and the people he has served. I will continue to pray for Dan and for those who have been hurt by his actions.

Obviously, Father Letourneau should have been a big boy about this and left the priesthood before he tied the knot. But, I’m far more sympathetic than appalled by this turn of events. I would imagine that the embarrassment and humiliation are scalding for both Father Letourneau and his wife.

It’s painful, having your life with its human stuff paraded around in public, and that’s all this is: Human stuff. On a scale of one to ten, this “crime” barely makes a one. This is a personal and, on a human level, understandable, situation made of normal human emotions and normal human fear of fessing up.

Love makes a fool of all of us from time to time. It certainly has me.

The deeds are done and nobody was hurt except Father Dan and his bride. The months of lying and sneaking must have been miserable for both of them. His time as a priest is over. Now they can begin their lives as husband and wife out in the sunshine and for real.

Personally, I’m all ok with Father Dan and his bride. I wish them a long, happy, holy marriage and a great big Catholic family.


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Libyan Bishop Stays with His Flock

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This is an excellent news video from Salt and Light.

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