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.

 

 

 

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After 9 Years of 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 who left the Jesuits after 9 years in formation to become a priest named Ben Brenkert. 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 priests. 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 people in the pews had to have been based on a web of lies.

It’s important as we read his essays and think through their implications for us 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 Ben 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,who 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. He makes his time in the priesthood sound like time 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 priesthood. 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 but 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-Hearted, 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-Hearted 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 Father’s Kind-Hearted 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 affect 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 priesthood. 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.

But 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 doesn’t 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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Patriarch Urges Prayer for 90 Syrian Christians Kidnapped by ISIS

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syria. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Custody of the Holy Land https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctsterrasanta/

ISIS murderers have captured at least 90 Christians from villages in Syria. It is unknown whether they plan to slaughter these people, sell them as slaves or use them for barter in prisoner exchanges.

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, asks for prayer for the captives, saying that ISIS terrorists are “full of hatred and venomous feelings” toward Syrian Christians and that they are “ready to do … horrible acts without any human feelings,” adding that it is “so easy” for the ISIS terroriests “to kill and to cut the throat” of non-Muslims.

From Catholic Daily News:

.- With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response.

“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24.

“It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.”

Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria.

The two villages attacked are inhabited primarily by the country’s ancient Christian minority.

Also known as “Hassake,” the Al-Hasakah region is located along the country’s border with Iraq, and is not far from Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidis were trapped and faced starvation after fleeing Mosul and surrounding villages when ISIS began its assault last June.

Although he said exact numbers of those kidnapped and killed are still not confirmed, the patriarch revealed that he maintains close contact with the area’s bishop, who says that the situation there has been “very, very tense.”

Patriarch Younan said that he has tried to get in touch with Al-Hasakah’s archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo, regarding the situation, but has not yet been able to reach him.

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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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Artforthegloryofgod by Sharon’s photo stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

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?

Yes.

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

AND

2. Those who also never told a lie

AND

3. Those who also never tried to hide their sins

AND

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

AND

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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

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

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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Ascension Press: Following Jesus to the Priesthood

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Ascension Press has released the beautiful video below to encourage young men to consider the priesthood. I am drawn to the raw honesty of these young men’s testimony. It also appeals to me that this is a video about vocation to the priesthood that focuses on God, instead of us.

Too much of our discussion about vocations focuses on attacks on the liturgy, women in the Church and other things that are supposed to make us more worthy of God. That leads to blaming, attacking and limiting one another. It creates self-righteousness and hurtful behavior that drives people away from Jesus rather than drawing them to Him.

Vocation to the priesthood really is about God and His call. We need to trust Him more and our prejudices and rages less.

Enjoy the video. It’s well worth the look.

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Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.

You would think that I had  barbecued a kitten.

I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.

I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.

Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.

I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.

My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?

I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.

I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium;  after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.

So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.

Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.

As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.

Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.

I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.

I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.

Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.

I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.

I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.

I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.

Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?

That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?

Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?

That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.

I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.

I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.

I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.

The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.

On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.

My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?

I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.

Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.

Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.

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God Give Us Holy Priests

If you don't like the liturgy, who's to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

If you don’t like the liturgy, who’s to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I’m a member of a group that meets on a regular basis to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Aside from the fact that this is a small indication that I want our Church to have more holy priests (which is what we pray for) what does this mean?

It means that I have this oddball idea that vocations of all sorts, including to the priesthood, come from God.

I say that this notion is oddball because that’s the impression I’ve gotten from a recent debate which has been happening both here on Public Catholic and on Facebook about the red-hot, all-consuming question: Is the priest shortage due to altar girls, and is bad liturgy due to the “feminization” of the Church?

Let’s consider, for a moment, why we have altar girls in the first place. The reason we have them is because the Church allows them.

Let me repeat that: The Catholic Church has altar girls because the Catholic Church allows altar girls.

The point I’m making by emphasizing that is simply that believing that what the Catholic Church allows is indeed allowable is consistent with being a faithful Catholic. In other, more direct words, If I say that I think altar girls do not harm vocations, I am not being a bad Catholic and I am not attacking the Church. I am saying that I agree with what the Church is already doing.

Now, to the larger question: Where do vocations come from? Do they come from a boys’ club mentality within the Church? Do they come from social/economic situations? Do they come from solemn liturgy? Where do they come from?

The fact that I join with other Catholics to pray for vocations should tip you off to what my answer to those questions is going to be. I think that vocations — of all sorts — come from God. I think that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations to the priesthood as we want these past decades is that God hasn’t been calling young men to the priesthood.

That’s what I believe.

Now, why would God do that?

I can’t and I won’t speak for God except to say that, based on my many dealings with the Almighty, I do not believe it is because the Church has failed to keep its womenfolk in their place.

There are a few other, extremely serious, lapses such the the clergy sex abuse scandal (remember what Jesus said about those who harm “these little ones?”) the in-your-face heterodoxy in parts of Catholic education (witness the walkouts from Catholic high schools over gay marriage, the kissing of Ceasar’s ring via the HHS Mandate by Notre Dame, the banning of the Knights of Columbus, which was later overturned, from Gonzaga’s campus, etc) and other serious problems that might be where the blame lies. If you want to look and play the blame game, that is.

In my opinion, all these examples and the many more I could name are not the problem. They are evidence of the problem. And that is something that seems to be opaque to most people who get into these discussion. It’s what I call mission drift.

A symptom of it is the propensity for Catholic parishes to sit down and write out “mission statements” for themselves. These things usually end up being a paragraph or two of blah-blah-blah committee-speak that nobody reads and no one, no matter how clever, would be able to figure out how to apply to an individual walk with Christ. More to the point, the fact that these parishes think they need a mission statement speaks to a deep ignorance of Scripture and who they are as Catholic Christians.

These mission statements are a clear indication that the parish has forgotten that it already has a mission statement and that this mission statement was given to it by The Boss.

Here’s the Christian mission statement, in Jesus’ own words:

Everything in heaven and on Earth is under my authority. Go and make disciples of all nations, preaching the Gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And I will be with you until the end of the world. 

I believe that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations as we’d like — and I include vocations in front of the altar to family and childrearing as well as vocations to stand behind it — is that we haven’t been following the mission that Jesus Christ gave us, and our Church is wasting far too much of its energy dithering over itself instead of getting out there and bringing people to Christ.

The Catholic Church is a highway to heaven. It was not created for priests. Priests were created for it. And the purpose of both the Church and the priesthood is to be a certain, readily accessible conduit of healing grace and faithful teaching that will convert the world. The Church, along with all the rest of us, is the light of the world. But it is hiding its light under the bushel of concerns about such things as are the womenfolk getting out of hand and is the liturgy just so and if it’s not just so, how do we put the womenfolk in their place so it will be just so.

The Church spends entirely too much time worrying about the Church and not enough time worrying about how to bring Christ to the world. When princes of the Church can seriously try to say that what they think of as bad liturgy and the lack of vocations to the priesthood is due to “feminization” in a Church that is wholly and absolutely governed by men, and when they can then go on to try to pin this on a few little girls, things are waaayyyyyy out of kilter in the curia.

The Church needs to stop gazing at its own navel and look outward to a world that is dying for lack of the Gospel. From pole to pole, dateline to dateline, people are perishing for lack of a minister who will bring them the Word of life.

And what is our Church leadership doing about it? Haggling with one another over how to water down the Gospels concerning marriage so that they can be comfortable with a culture that has lapsed into apostasy while they watched, and debating whether or not altar girls and whatever it is that bugs them about the liturgy is due to an excessive input from people with double X chromosomes.

I have to be honest here. I am sooo disgusted with the lack of leadership concerning the conversion of the world. I am sooo tired of hearing men who absolutely should know better trying to act out their inner sexist by blaming the troubles of the Church on altar girls and “feminization” which, I guess, means letting women have any say at all in the work of the Kingdom.

These guys need to look at themselves. Their job — their vocation — is to preach Christ. If they would do that, the vocations would sprout up like a field of wheat, ready for the harvest.

Preach Christ and Him crucified. Bring Him to lost people in the slums, the snow, the jungles and the desert sands. Bring Him to the deeply lost and sneering souls at the intellectual gatherings and the universities and the oh-so-perfect social gatherings they are trying to redefine Church teachings to please.

My message to the men who run our Church is a simple one: Preach Christ and Him crucified.

If you want vocations, Preach Christ.

If you want to convert the world, Preach Christ.

If you want to do the job God has called you to do, Preach Christ.

And while you’re at it, stop blaming the womenfolk for your failings.

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Cardinal Burke’s Woman Problem

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke 1

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

I’ve written about this before. 

There was a reason why I entered my anti-God period. It had a lot to do with violence against women and the indifference of the church — meaning the whole of Christianity — to that violence. 

I spent 17 years, wandering in the spiritual wilderness over this. When Jesus basically reached out and scooped me back into His arms, I was confounded. The unconditional, ecstatic love that He showered on me was a complete contradiction of Who I had thought He was. 

Still, I was faced with a conundrum. If the men who claimed so stridently that they, and they alone, spoke for God, were telling the truth of things, then what place did I, a female person who actually felt that I was a full human being and not some smidge of what’s left of a human being after the preachers got done limiting me and my life down to what they thought was acceptable, what place did I have in any church that bore the name of Christ?

The Jesus I met seemed to me at that time to have very little to do with the mean-spirited, woman-despising message I had been given by His spokesmen. I loved this Jesus I encountered, and, right from the first, I trusted Him. But that other Jesus — the one who supported the double standard and thought women and girls should live their lives in the circumscribed margins of life that these men of God set out for us, who basically wanted us pushed aside, that Jesus I had been told about and bashed with, I mistrusted and feared to my core. 

I was so confused that I prayed and asked God directly if He hated women. This wasn’t a test. It wasn’t an argument. It wasn’t even much of a prayer. It was a plea and a question from the bottom of my shattered heart. 

I don’t always or even often get direct, immediate and discernible answers to my prayers, but God answered me then. I’ve been walking my walk with Christ on rock-solid certainty of that answer ever since. 

I realize that the Church does not recognize personal revelation except in very rare and well verified circumstances, and that even then these personal revelations are not binding as a matter of faith on the people of God. I think that’s a sound practice. 

I also think that this position on personal revelation makes Cardinal Burke and me just about even so far as this woman question is concerned. I had a personal revelation that God loves the female half of the human race and that He’s not so happy with His preachers who say otherwise. The good Cardinal evidently has had a personal revelation of some sort that the many and manifold problems of the Church are due to those of us who have two X chromosomes. 

In the Gospel according to him, the priest shortage is due to the existence of altar girls. His explanation for this is that boys don’t like to be around girls. Even aside from the fact that we are talking about adolescent boys, a good many of whom seem to rather like adolescent girls, that is absolute nonsense. 

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the priest shortage; the cultural upheavals — the sexual revolution, dissolution of the family, the priest sex abuse scandal, birth control — of the last 50 years chief among them. In addition to the huge changes in society, a major reason for the priest shortage is due to the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody will talk about.

As most Catholics over the age of 12 have probably observed, a good many of our priests are gay. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of potential applicants than straight men. Also — get ready for this Cardinal Burke — straight adolescent boys don’t really want to spend their time with gay men. They just don’t. Call it homophobic. Call it adolescent sexual insecurity. Call it whatever you want, but there is one thing for sure about it: It’s not due to altar girls. 

In another report, I read that Cardinal Burke is decrying the “feminization” of the Church. In his view, men don’t go to church because there are too many women there. 

Uh huh. 

Men just hate being around women. I’ve noticed that all my life. They don’t like the way we smell. They don’t like our soft hands or higher voices. And they really can’t stand the way we look. 

I guess that Oklahoma parishes are just unduly macho — or maybe that’s sissified, I can’t figure it out exactly — but we’ve got a lot of men sitting in the pews every week. And quite a few of them are sitting beside their wives, daughters, mothers and, yes, even their girlfriends.  

I’m not sure how Cardinal Burke plans to run his Church if he and those who think like him manage to turn it into a Spanky and Our Gang Woman Haters Club House, but my personal opinion is that if they succeed in chasing off the women, they might think about closing up shop. 

Jesus did not found a boys club. He founded a universal Church that welcomes everyone. When Our Lord walked this earth, He went out of His way to treat women with honor and dignity that men of that place and time found scandalizing. 

God sent me to the Catholic Church and since the One Who owns the whole deal told me to be here, I’m staying. But I’m not going to listen to anybody, no matter what kind of hat they wear, who says things like altar girls are the cause of the priest shortage and that this Church with its all-male priesthood which makes all the decisions is too “feminized.”

Frankly, between this kind of thing coming from American cardinals, and the doh-si-doh about marriage coming from Germany and Belgium, I’m beginning to wish somebody would pull the plug on these guy’s mikes. 

I’ve struggled with this all my life and I can tell you that ramblings like those from Cardinal Burke were a big part of what kept me walled up in what I thought was self-protective armor against a God I believed hated me. 

You’ve gotta be careful, you men of God, telling half the human race that God thinks less of them than He does the other half. Aside from the enormous harm you do to the souls of the people you are supposed to be shepherding — and this little dance with misogyny is massively damaging to both men and women — you are defaming the Lord. 

Because God doesn’t hate women and He doesn’t want us at the back of the bus.

I know. 

I asked Him. 

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The Hard Teachings: Are You Going to Leave Me Too?

 

If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will no have life within you. Jesus Christ

The Eucharist was a scandal. Many of Jesus’ followers left Him when He explicitly told them I am the bread of life. 

It is popular today to cast Jesus as a Casper Milquetoast god thingy of our devising. According to popular cant, Jesus’ sole purpose in becoming human was to tell us that, hey, I’m ok and you’re ok. Do what feels good and so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else — unless of course it’s euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research or abortion, in which case, it’s a “human right” to kill somebody else — so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else that you’ve decided it is a denial of human rights not to kill, it’s fine by me.

Jesus’ living teaching about the mercy of God toward the weak and helpless, in particular women, when He said let him who is without sin cast the first stone has been transmuted to mean I can commit any sin I want and the Church is sinning if it says my sin is a sin.

The Eucharist was a hard teaching, a scandalizing teaching, on that day when Jesus first taught it. Many people left Him because of it.

But Jesus didn’t follow after them and try to smooth things over. He didn’t say C’mon back. I didn’t mean it that way.

His reaction — if you have deluded yourself into believing in the Casper Milquetoast Jesus of modern pop theology —  was downright unChristlike.

Stop grumbling among yourselves. He said. It is written, They will all be taught by God.

Then, he doubled down on his teaching about the Eucharist: My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink … Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. 

Finally, He turned to His disciples and said, Are you going to leave me too?

Not, notice, please, please don’t leave me; I was only speaking metaphorically.

He looked at them and without equivocation acknowledged that they were as scandalized by this teaching as those in the crowd, but, again, without wavering one inch on that hard teaching, asked them the real question that He asks each of us: Are you going to leave me, too?

It was a line in the proverbial sand. Stay or go, He was saying, but the teaching will not change.

He asks us, all of us, including our cardinals and bishops, this same question today.  Are you going to leave me, too?

Will the hard teachings of our Christ Jesus, Who was anything but a Casper Milquetoast, be too much for you?

Today’s Catholics wuss right by the hard teaching of the Eucharist. We’ve got that one down.

But the other hard teachings about the sanctity of marriage and human life, about the reality of hell and the fact that yes, Virginia, there is a satan, are too difficult, too embarrassing, too demanding of us in this post-Christian world.

We want to whittle Jesus down, to wear away His rough edges like a bar of soap, until we have a slippery little g god who won’t make things so tough on us. We want our silly addlepated little wimp of a self-made god who won’t trouble us in our desire to be accepted and loved by everybody, including those who are unknowingly following satan when they attack Him.

We want Christ without the cross, eternal life and salvation without redemption and conversion.

It hurts me! Sinners cry. It hurts to be “judged” a sinner just because I break these eternal rules. It rankles and angers me that anyone would think that the things I want to do are wrong.  So, stop saying that. In fact, tell me that what I want — whatever I want — is good and virtuous.

If the Church obliges, it will condemn these people to hell.

It will also condemn itself to inconsequence.

It is one thing to teach that this Church of ours is the cornerstone, that it was built on Peter the rock and that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. It is quite another to arrogantly assume that the Church may change the basic teachings of the faith and teach that which is contrary to what Christ taught and that it will be A-Ok because Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against us.

The first is faith. The second is presumption.

Jesus did not mean whatever this Church does is holy because the Church does it. His great Apostle, St Paul, said quite clearly, God is not mocked. 

John the Baptist told the Pharisees, when they went into the wilderness to refute him for his preaching, that everyone — including them — was in need of redemption. He then smashed their self-justifying claims of exemption from following the laws of God. Do not say we are sons of Abraham, he told them. God can raise up sons of Abraham from these very stones. 

Jesus said it best, of course, when He said, A servant is not greater than his master.

That applies to those who wear the mitre just as it does to the rest of us.

Perhaps the hardest teaching in that day of hard teachings when Christ the Lord made clear beyond misunderstanding what the Eucharist really meant, was the answer He gave to those who walked away. It is written, they will all be taught by God. 

We have been taught by God made flesh. This is not some wimpy, politically correct little g god of our devising. This is a God who was reviled and attacked, mocked and betrayed and yet did not yield. This is a God who consented to be beaten, tortured, mocked, and horribly murdered; Who took on the bottomless alienation of all sin, Who became Sin, in order to buy us back from our perdition.

Are you going to leave me too?

That is the question.

It’s up to each one of us to decide what we will answer.

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