Conversion on the Beach: One Man’s Conversion to Christ Before ISIS Execution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

ISIS march 21 men onto a beach in Libya. Twenty of these men were Christians. One, a Chadian Citizen, was not.

He watched the Coptic Christians die for Christ. When the terrorist murderer demanded that he reject Jesus Christ as his God, he replied, “their God is my God.” He was then beheaded with his Christian brothers.

The joy in this story is that 21 martyrs to Christ entered heaven that day. They are praying for us now.

From the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of the Diocese of Bombay:

ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed, most of them were from the province of Minya(Upper Egypt). There was an inaccuracy in the number of Egyptian Hostages; there were only 20 Egyptians(Copts). Then who was this remaining one non-Coptic victim?

Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about this man. He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, “their God is my God“ so the terrorist beheaded him also.

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.

 

 

 

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.

History of the Crusades: Islamic Spain was NOT the ‘Ornament of the World’

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

The version of the Crusades being pushed by the media and much of our educational bureaucracy is not history. It is propaganda.

The idea that Islamic Spain was an Edenic “Ornament of the World” is obvious nonsense. I say that it is obvious for two reasons: The treatment of Christian populations throughout the rest of the territories conquered by Muslim invaders belies it. Even more to the point, the long-term and desperate war that the Spanish people engaged in to repel these invaders would not have occurred if these stories of conquered bliss were true.

Current history about the Crusades is deliberate propaganda that is being used as a political and social tool to bash Christianity. It is a lie that is so endemic that we heard it recently coming out of the mouth of the president of the United States.

Its purpose is to weaken Christian witness and tar Christianity in order to advance certain social and political agendas that are antithetical to Christian teaching. There is a lot of money at stake in this in the form of federal funding for things like embryonic stem cell research and Planned Parenthood.

The federal grant-making industry is the major industry and source of monies in several of the most prosperous zip codes in this country. It also dominates our most prestigious institutions of higher learning. It is fair to say that grantsmanship, rather than education, has become many of these institutions’ primary purpose.

For these reasons, Christian bashing is not only a social/moral/political evil: It is big business. In fact, it is the only business of large enclaves of prosperity and privilege that, at least so far, appear to be protected from the vicissitudes of a declining economy.

It is ironic that this declining economy is mostly due to the exportation of America’s industrial base to a Communist country. The irony lies in the fact that many of the apologists for this destruction of American industry and American jobs came from those same institutions of higher learning who continue to draw down the lion’s share of federal grant monies.

Enabling and encouraging Christian bashing in order to weaken the one institution that has any motive or chance of successfully standing for the ordinary people of this country is a rather obvious tactic for those who make their money from the way things are. Teaching ahistorical propaganda about the  Crusades as history is just one slice of this poisoned pie.

Despite the failings of its followers, Christian teaching is inclusiveness and that inclusiveness always wins out in the end. Christianity is a revolutionary force that proclaims that all human beings are made in the likeness and image of God. Christianity taught humanity that there is no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free. All are one in Christ Jesus. 

Everything — the end of slavery in the Western world, the ideals of human rights and the unique value of each individual human being, grew from that mustard seed.

A social order that is built on defining specific groups of people as not human enough and thus liable to be killed at will, that excludes almost the entire country from prosperity and that siphons the wealth of a great nation into itself while promoting ideas that impoverish and disenfranchise the larger citizenry will, by its very nature, be inimical to the true Gospels of Christ. More and more, our institutions, whether they are institutions of higher learning or business or government, are isolating themselves from the larger culture.

They seek to create a self-sustaining enclosed system of thought and funding that loops back on itself and is powered by federal money. What I’m saying is that these people only talk to one another. They reference one another. They have created a false history of the Crusades — among other things — to protect the money machine that shelters their cushy existence from ideological interference.

The greatest danger to this walled-in system of exclusion and privilege is free-ranging Christianity with its empowering respect for the human.

 

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings of 1400 years ago. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.


Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2015/02/history-of-the-crusades-muslim-conquest-of-christian-egypt-639-646/#ixzz3SIOIz3oD

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Pope Francis and Me: Praying to St Thomas More

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

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

Pope Francis and I have something in common. He asks St Thomas More to pray for him every day and so do I.

He also listed “15 diseases of the Curia” in the same address to Vatican officials. Among the “diseases of the curia” are spiritual petrification, existential schizophrenia, spiritual Alzheimer’s, funeral face and gossip.

I think all of us suffer from the same diseases to some degree. They are spiritual diseases of our times, and of the fallen human.

From Chronica:

Pope Francis has revealed that he prays to the English martyr St Thomas More every day.

In his annual end of year address to Vatican officials the Pope said that there is a prayer to the saint for good humour which he prays daily saying that a healthy dose of humour in our daily lives is very beneficial.

Pope Francis also outlined “15 diseases of the Curia” which included the diseases of mental and spiritual petrification; existential schizophrenia; spiritual Alzheimer’s and the disease of the “funeral face,” reports Vatican News.

The Pope said that “spiritual petrification” was when men “lose their internal peace, their vivacity and audacity, choosing to hide under papers and become procedural machines.

He also described “existential schizophrenia” as the disease of “those who live a double life” and endure a “spiritual emptiness” which cannot be filled with degrees or academic titles.

He explained to diplomats that “spiritual Alzheimers” was a “progressive decline of spiritual faculties” which “causes severe disadvantages to people”, making them live in a “state of absolute dependence” on their, often imagined, views.

The Pope also appealed to the officials not to give into gossip describing the sin as a form of “satanic assasination” of other people’s good name.

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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Pope Francis Calls Human Trafficking a Shameful Wound Unworthy of Human Society.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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Pope Francis: Without Fathers Young People Feel Orphaned

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

We have a nation of children who feel orphaned because their fathers are not in their lives.

Fatherhood requires something that a lot of people in our society have grown up thinking is immoral: It requires self-sacrifice and putting someone else ahead of yourself.

What it gives is something a lot of people in our society have been taught to think is worthless: Love and the incredible blessing of shielding and shepherding new life.

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300 Pakistani Muslims Attack Christian Boys School in Retaliation Against Charlie Hebdo

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by J. James Tissot Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by J. James Tissot Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Now this makes sense.

A publication in France published a cartoon that at least some Muslims find offensive. So, 300 Muslims in Pakistan attack a Christian boys’ school, injuring a bunch of unarmed Christian students.

Shouting idiotic slogans such as “We martyr for the prophet’s sanctity,” the mob attacked Panel High School in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This attacks follows another, more deadly one in Niger, where Muslim mobs, also “protesting” Charlie Hebdo,  burned down a number of churches and Christian pastor’s homes, killing at least 10 people.

I don’t know if the leaders of these attacks are aware that Charlie Hebdo mocks Christians, the Catholic Church in particular, far more than it does Muslims. I also don’t know if they are aware that the Christian response has been to argue back. I doubt it.

There is a pervasive air of ignorance hanging over behavior like this; ignorance, cowardice and sadism.

From The Christian Post:

Close to 300 Muslim students armed with iron bars and sticks attacked a Christian boys’ school in northern Pakistan, reportedly in retaliation to French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s controversial drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The attack left four Christians injured.

“It is very sad that Islamic radicals attack Pakistani Christians because of Charlie Hebdo. Christians condemn the blasphemous cartoons. It is a shame that even after 67 years since the birth of Pakistan, Christians have not yet been considered Pakistani citizens, but are seen as ‘Western allies,’” Nasir Saeed, director of the NGO Center for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, told Fides News Agency.

The attack occurred on Panel High School in the city of Bannu, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Muslim students apparently were able to jump over the outer walls of the school and open the gates before attacking the Christians.

The school has been closed down at least for two days, with additional security measures being considered to protect the students.

Last weekend, Muslim mobs burned down a number of churches and pastors’ homes in Niger, also in protest of Charlie Hebdo’s drawings. At least 10 people were killed in the clashes, with pastors in the capital Niamey revealing that almost anyone associated with churches was targeted.

Pope Francis: We Cannot Privatize Salvation

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

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

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