47 Republican Senators’ Letter to Iran: Here It Is.

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

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

The letter that 47 United States Senators sent to the government of Iran is below.

This letter has set off something of a firestorm and a potential Constitutional crisis. A massive number of people have signed a petition demanding that the signatories be prosecuted for treason amid questions of whether or not the Senators broke the law.

Meanwhile the senators who signed the letter and the president are standing firm. The news is that the letter will “not derail the agreement.”

Here is the letter in full. You can read the petition here.  There is a legible list of the senators who signed the letter at the bottom.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

4 the-letter-senate-republicans-addressed-to-theHere, from CNN,  is a list for Republican senators who signed the letter. Those who did not sign it are also listed.

Here is the full list of who signed:

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY

Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL

Senator John McCain, R-AZ

Senator James Inhofe, R-OK

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

Senator Richard Burr, R-NC

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA

Senator David Vitter, R-LA

Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY

Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS

Senator Jim Risch, R-ID

Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL

Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH

Senator John Boozman, R-AR

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY

Senator Mike Lee, R-UT

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH

Senator Dean Heller, R-NV

Senator Tim Scott, R-SC

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX

Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA

Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO

Senator James Lankford, R-OK

Senator Steve Daines, R-MT

Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD

Senator David Perdue, R-GA

Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC

Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA

Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE

Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Here is the list of those who didn’t sign: 

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME

Senator Bob Corker, R-TN

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

 

 

President Obama’s 2013 Statement on Nuclear Iran Deal

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

This is the statement President Obama’s made on the agreement with Iran in November of 2013. The six-month timeline has drug on a bit further than he predicted.

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Mr President, Whatever Happened to the People’s Right to Know?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful and inspiring speech before a joint session of the United States Congress last week.

The single most compelling thing about this speech was his commitment to Israel. I would give anything if American elected officials actually cared about America the way that he so obviously cares about Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu came before Congress to speak on behalf of Israeli interests. He told us that Israel would stand alone if it had to, but that the days when Jews silently and obediently marched into the gas chambers were over. Jews would defend themselves. He underscored this by bringing Elie Wiesel, the well-known survivor of the Holocaust, to sit in the gallery while he spoke.

The primary concern he raised during his speech was about a possible agreement between the United States and Iran concerning nuclear development in Iran. He is opposed to this agreement on the grounds that it not only will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it actually facilitates them in doing this.

President Obama went nuts in a public way in his opposition to the invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He felt — rightfully so — that the invitation was a partisan jibe at the White House by a Republican Congress. What he forgot is that he doesn’t have a vote in Congress. Congress can invite whomever they want to address them. The prez has nothing to say about it.

There was the usual tut-tutting in the press, most of it appearing to have been fed to it by the White House. Several members of the Obama Administration gave interviews trying to cast the speech as oh-so-damaging to America’s interests. Then the prez got 50 members of Congress to boycott the speech, making themselves look like party hacks in the process.

I believed at the time and I still believe that the reason the White House was so upset was that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech could very well have served the purpose of drawing the American people into the debate. I don’t think the prez cares all that much what Congress thinks, since Congress has consistently proven itself to be completely indifferent to matters of governance.

I think the president of the United States was upset because there was a possibility that the people of the United States might become informed about this potential agreement and voice opinions of their own. I also think that much of the press were his allies in trying to keep the people from hearing this speech. In other words, I don’t think his objective was Prime Minster Netanyahu talking to Congress. I think the president — and his hacks in the press and Congress — objected to the fact that the American people would hear him do it.

Think about that for a moment. The press is allied with the government to keep the people uninformed, because the President doesn’t want the American people meddling in their own government. That’s what I’m saying.

I’m going to stop this analysis at this point and take it up again tomorrow. I think the comments I’ve made about the run-up to the speech itself and the situation in Washington are enough for us to chew on today. They strike to the heart of the American malaise.

What are you feelings about this?

1. Has Congress abdicated its responsibility and allowed the president to govern as an elected dictator?

2. Do you wish that American elected officials cared as passionately about America as Prime Minister Netanyahu cares about Israel?

3. Was the president angry about the speech because he didn’t want the American people to hear a viewpoint that opposes his plans for this agreement with Iran?

4. Is the press colluding with the White House in keeping the American people in the dark about the agreement?

Those are serious questions. I want you to think them over before we move to the questions raised by the speech itself. We’ll talk about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said tomorrow.

 

What is Human? Abortionists Try to Explain That Killing is Not Killing.

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by mike krzeszak https://www.flickr.com/photos/portland_mike/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by mike krzeszak https://www.flickr.com/photos/portland_mike/

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Money Talks, Facts Walk in Oklahoma’s Three Horse Economy.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Oklahoma has a three-horse economy. Here it is in three words:

Agriculture.

Military bases.

Oil.

If you closed down those military bases and lowered the price of crude, Oklahoma’s three horse economy would dry up and blow away like a tumbleweed, bouncing before the wind.

Oklahoma has been riding the crest of an oil boom for years now. This has led to policy decisions at the capitol which will be disastrous for Oklahoma’s people in the long run. The reason they will be disastrous is that these decisions were based on the fantasy that Oklahoma’s current prosperity is a reflection of the genius of lawmakers and their half-brained policy decisions rather than the price of the black gold that comes out of Oklahoma’s red dirt.

Okies don’t like things that hurt the oil industry because the oil industry is the plate that everyone in the state feeds off of in one way or another. Not everyone is black gold rich. But just about every paycheck that gets cashed is related in some way to agriculture, military bases or oil.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The dumbest dog in the kennel knows that.

That’s the reason why the Oklahoma State Geological Survey has been oh-so-quiet about the cause of all those confounding earthquakes that have been shake-rattle-and-rolling the state in recent years. There’s a link between the broken glass from those quakes and the hand that feeds us. In fact, it appears that the hand that feeds us is also the hand that is rocking the earth we stand on.

There seems to be a link between all these Okie earthquakes and fracking. Fracking is a practice of the oil industry, one that makes it more profitable and that adds $$$ to Oklahoma’s money bins, both private and public. We’ve got an oil boom and an earthquake boom and it appears that one of them is causing the other. It also seems that the industry that puts food on our collective table and jingle-jangle in our pockets is rocking and rolling the foundations on which our homes are built.

I’ve read concerns that all these little quakes are building up to a big boy that will really do damage. If that happens, Oklahoma will be in the national news again. It seems that we never get noticed unless we are bombed, beheaded or blown away. If we end up rubble-ized by an earthquake shakedown, I imagine we’ll get noticed again.

A couple of years ago after one of our killer tornadoes, the national media wondered why Okies don’t build more storm shelters. They raised the legitimate question as to why we don’t have storm shelters in our schools. The legislature was unable to address these significant concerns that relate to the public health and safety because of pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, who, as anyone who knows anything about Oklahoma politics is aware, runs Oklahoma state government.

Now, it appears that somebody (any guesses who???) has been deep-sixing scientific data linking our earthquake boom (pun intended) to our oilies. I don’t need a psychic to know who’s going to win this argument.

When you’ve got a three-horse economy, you don’t shoot one of the horses.

From Newsweek:

For years, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) avoided acknowledging that Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquakes had anything to do with the oil and gas industry, even while federal scientists fully acknowledged the link.

According to new reporting from EnergyWire, OGS’s reluctance to point fingers may have been due to the industry itself.

In 2012, U.S. Geological Survey officials said that a step in the hydraulic fracturing process—the disposal of vast volumes of salty, chemical-laced wastewater by injecting it deep into the ground—was related to the massive spike in Oklahoma earthquakes. OGS, however, responded by criticizing their “rush to judgment.”

“Since early 2010 we have recognized the potential for the Jones earthquake swarm to be due to the Hunton dewatering [oil and gas project],” Austin Holland, an OGS seismologist wrote to USGS science adviser Bill Leith in 2013, according to documents obtained by EnergyWire. “But until we can demonstrate that scientifically or not we were not going to discuss that publicly.”

According to EnergyWire, Holland was called into meetings with his boss, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, and oil executives, to discuss the link.

From StateImpact:

Despite long-held suspicions that the state’s earthquake surge was linked to oil and gas activity, the Oklahoma Geological Survey stayed silent amid pressure from oil company executives, EnergyWire reports.

For this and other interviews, State Seismologist Austin Holland acknowledges “intense personal interest” from energy company executives, but told reporter Mike Soraghan it never affected his scientific findings:

But Holland and OGS have been the voice of skepticism in the scientific community about connections between oil production activities and the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the state.

From grist:

Oklahoma has been experiencing an earthquake boom in recent years. In 2014, the state had 585 quakes of at least magnitude 3. Up through 2008, it averaged only three quakes of that strength each year. Something odd is happening.

But scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey have downplayed a possible connection between increasing fracking in the state and the increasing number of tremors. Even as other states (Ohio, for example) quickly put two and two together and shut down some drilling operations that were to blame, OGS scientists said that more research was needed before their state took similar steps.

Now, though, emails obtained by EnergyWire reporter Mike Soraghan reveal that the University of Oklahoma and its oil industry funders were putting pressure on OGS scientists to downplay the connection between earthquakes and the injection of fracking wastewater underground. In 2013, a preliminary OGS report noted possible correlation between the two, and OGS signed on to a statement by the U.S. Geological Survey that also noted such linkages.

 

FBI Warns Law Enforcement that ISIS is Recruiting American Teens

 

This photo was taken in London, 2006. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tjebbe van Tijen https://www.flickr.com/photos/7141213@N04/

This photo was taken in London, 2006. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tjebbe van Tijen https://www.flickr.com/photos/7141213@N04/

From CNN:

Washington (CNN)The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a joint warning to law enforcement across the country about the concern over a growing trend of girls and boys wanting to fight with ISIS in the wake of the detention of a 17-year-old Northern Virginia teen last week, according to a law enforcement official who has read the report.

The source says law enforcement is tracking “lots of cases” like that around the country and they’re growing increasingly concerned about the issue.

Netanyahu’s Speech: Is Beltway Partisanship Going to Get Us Killed?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by KAZ Vorpal https://www.flickr.com/photos/kazvorpal/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by KAZ Vorpal https://www.flickr.com/photos/kazvorpal/

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress this week.

The president of the United States went into full bully mode before this speech saying that the invitation was a partisan move to embarrass him. In the end, he managed to embarrass himself, and at least 50 of his fellow Democrats in Congress.

First, administration operatives chewed on the invitation to the Prime Minister. We’ve been treated to all sorts of press questions because Congress didn’t consult the president before issuing the invitation. There was tut-tutting about the prime minister trying to affect American policy with this speech.

That last complaint seems a bit coy considering the amount of lobbying that is thrown at Congress by foreign interests every day. That lobbying is hidden from the American people, but its affect on foreign policy is bound to be enormous. This speech was out there where we could all hear it. It brought we the people into the discussion, and that, I think, is the real reason the president was so irate.

When efforts to force Congress to withdraw the invitation failed, the president went to work on Democratic members of Congress. Most of the Ds who sit in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives had the good sense to show up for the speech. They behaved like representatives of the people dealing with serious issues. However, at least 50 of them staged a grade school boycott.

This boycott accomplished nothing good. It’s primary affect was to pour gasoline on the partisan fires in our government and deepen the disrespect in which the American people hold Congress. It revealed just how bizarre and reality-deprived the thinking of these people has become.

I realize that they are inside a pressure cooker and that the whole world outside that pressure cooker is just a figment of memory to them. But their behavior about this speech, as well as the behavior of the entire Congress on most other issues, reveals more than a little bit of delusional thinking.

Did they really think that this puerile plan to boycott the speech of a head of state of a friendly nation was a good idea? Have they no sense of responsibility to the American people and our need for at least the appearance of a sane and functioning government?

We’ll get to the particulars of the speech itself in another post. For now, I want to address this partisan flap over the fact that the speech was made.

The first question is a simple one. Was the invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu a partisan political move on the part of Congressional leaders?

Rather than answer that, I’ll ask another question: Does Congress do anything that is not a partisan political move?

The next questions are, was President Obama within his rights to throw such a hissy fit about the invitation, and were the Democratic lawmakers right to boycott the speech?

The answer to those questions are no, and no.

Congress does not need the president’s approval when it invites someone into its house to speak. Congress can — as should be abundantly clear, after this speech — do that anytime it wants.

President Obama was not only out of line, he looked petulant and weak, pulling out all the stops to derail this invitation.

The Democratic members of Congress who chose to boycott the speech revealed themselves as blind party loyalists rather than representatives of the people. There is no requirement for anyone to agree with what Prime Minister Netanyahu said. Neither he nor President Obama has a vote in either the House or Senate of the United States.

As representatives of the people who should be engaged in making decisions about these serious issues, members of Congress have a responsibility to listen to the head of state of an affected nation who is also our ally. This speech was an opportunity, both for them and for the American people, to think more deeply about our position in that part of the world.

These members of Congress boycotted the speech because of party politics. I don’t have the words to appropriately characterize how shallow and callous that is.

This was another clash in these politician’s dangerous and absolutely vicious game of king-of-the-Hill. What’s sobering is that American foreign policy in this tinderbox part of the world appears to fall into that same category. The terrifying question of a nuclear Middle East with its deranged politics and mass murderers without limits seems to be just another battle in the great Congressional game of using the power of their elected offices to win the next election for their political party.

Yesterday’s boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech by at least 50 members of Congress is not just another symptom of this partisan illness. It is an indication that the business of constantly jockeying for the next election has reached a lethal level.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech exposed the fact that the partisan gamesmanship has advanced to the point that it now controls what our Congress does in matters that concern issues such as nuclear war, with its potential for global annihilation. We are looking at an on-going holocaust in the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks for a tiny nation that clings to existence on the edge of a region of the world that has, quite frankly, gone mad.

The partisan wars are so out of control that our elected officials now use issues that could threaten the survival of much of the human race in their game of king of the Hill. The question of a nuclear Middle East is not a parlor game. Make no mistake about it, the issues that Prime Minister Netanyahu raised in his speech are issues of survival, and not just for Israel.

I am not saying that I agree with everything Prime Minister Netanyahu said. He is the leader of another nation. His interests do not coincide entirely with those of the United States. But he raised important issues that should be discussed in Congress and throughout these United States.

Should the Congressional leadership have used their power to invite a head of state to address their house to one-up the prez? No, they should not have done it to one-up the prez.

They should have done it because we the people have a need to know more about American policy in the Middle East. Too much of it is cloaked and kept away from the American people. It’s a sad day when we need the speech of a foreign head of state to bring the people of this nation into the conversation. For these reasons, I don’t have any problem with the invitation beyond the partisan motivations behind it.

We really need to demand better of our elected officials. We need more transparency in our government, more open discussion of real issues. We also need and deserve public servants who serve the public, not partisan brinksmanship.

If this country was not so strong, it could not have survived the past decades of bad governance. However, it has been greatly weakened by a long series of bad presidents from both parties and the abdication of responsibility by Congress.

If beltway partisanship replaces the good of America among our elected officials, even in matters this grave, it is going to get us killed.

Here’s a list of those who have admitted they took a powder on the speech. It’s from CNN:

At least 50 Democratic House members and eight senators who caucus with the Democrats said in recent weeks they wouldn’t attend the speech, many in protest to a move that they say is an affront to the president.

Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) had originally said he would skip the meeting, but changed his mind on Tuesday.

A full list of the Democrats who confirmed they missed the speech follows:

SENATE – 8 members

Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)

Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)

HOUSE – 50 members

Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)

Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.)

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.)

Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.)

Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)

Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas)

Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.)

Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.)

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.)

Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.)

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.)

Rep. John Conyers (Mich.)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.)

Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.)

Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.)

Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)

Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.)

Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.)

Rep. Marcia Fudge (Ohio)

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.)

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)

Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.)

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.)

Rep. John Lewis (Ga.)

Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)

Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.)

Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.)

Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

Rep. Jerry McNerney (Calif.)

Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.)

Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.)

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas)

Rep. Donald Payne (N.J.)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)

Rep. David Price (N.C.)

Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.)

Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.)

Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.)

Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.)

 

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.

Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress: An Overload of Truth

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

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

The Obama Administration has engaged in unseemly behavior, trying to block Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.

I say it is unseemly because Congress is a separate body of government and it is their right to invite anyone they want into their house to address them. That simply is not the President’s call. I’m going to leave all the policy considerations alone, and leave it at that. I know how the Oklahoma House of Representatives would react if the Governor tried to tell them how to run their house. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful speech that, frankly, was an overload of truth in our national capital. I say that because I sometimes get the feeling that our government is more concerned with manipulating and lying to the American people than it is with governing this great nation.

However, it is important to remember that he is the Prime Minister of Israel, not the United States. That doesn’t make anything he says untrue. But it does shift the concerns he raises.

As a side note, I think that the applause was at least in part a response to the president’s attempt to tell Congress not to allow Prime Minister Netanyahu speak. As I said, that is bound to rile just about any member of Congress, regardless of their party affiliation.

I’m going to write about this speech in detail in the next few days. But, in the meantime, I want you to hear it in its entirety and judge for yourself without me or anyone else telling you what to think. These are grave issues. The fate of the world rests on them. Americans are their government. So think carefully. Think deeply. Think prayerfully.  Think without partisan blinders.

To read the transcript of the speech, go here.

This is a video of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, in full.

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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 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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