Feb 25, 2015

The Secret Scandalous World of Gay Jesuits

I just came across this superb expose of the secret world of gay Jesuits - written by former gay Jesuit, Ben Brenkert, who at the age of 35 left both the Jesuits and the Roman Catholic Church in protest against it's treatment of LGBTQ people. This is really powerful stuff and resonates so much with my own experience in the 80's, when I was doing theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. I was quite shocked at the time by the number of young gay Jesuits going over to San Francisco's Castro District on the weekends to 'pick up tricks'. There were also numerous affairs among the seminarians themselves and distinguished faculty members living openly with their partners with the full knowledge of their superiors. One of my closest gay Jesuit friends, a few months short of ordination, accepted a dinner invitation from his Provincial (of the California Province) to discuss his doubts about his vocation. The invite was at the Provincial's private apartment with spacious views of San Francisco Bay. After dinner, the provincial attempted to seduce my friend, which was a decisive moment of awakening for him. He left the order shortly thereafter. At the same time, I also put all aspirations for the Roman Catholic priesthood behind me and walked away. I just could not see myself living a double life of duplicity and deceit, just as  much as I knew I was not called to celibacy. Priesthood - in some fashion - yes, to that I had felt called all my life, but celibacy and a closeted existence - as the church demanded of all gay persons - this I felt was immoral. And so I walked and never looked back. The peace and joy of this refusal have been with me ever since.

What is most moving about Brenkert's expose is his heartfelt call to his fellow gay Jesuits to 'come out,' and to stop enjoying the comforts of a privileged existence in exchange for their silence and passive support for injustice. He also has some rather trenchant comments about the 'Francis defect', in contrast to the much touted 'Francis effect'. 

Read the full article and accompanying comments here at the Daily Beast.  Warning: Some of the comments below the article are profoundly ignorant and hate filled, just as some are warmly supportive. 

At every new stage of formation, I met more and more gay Jesuits who were happier sipping scotch, ordering cigars, opera tickets, and shoes, publishing books or holding secret masses with LGBTQ sympathizers (that followed unsanctioned liturgical rubrics) than publicly confronting the injustice experienced by members of their community. Their silence pained me. Why won’t these gay priests just come out?

I believe these gay Jesuits won’t come out because they live comfortable lives, with access to so many things, like the latest technology or villas abroad or tenured positions at universities, not to mention the unlimited gas cards that make domestic travel really easy.

Confessions of a Gay Jesuit: How I Was Forced To Leave My Church—And Calling
Ben Brenkert wanted to be a priest, but confronted by the hypocrisy and prejudice of the Catholic Church he had to quit. Here, in a powerful, heartfelt essay, he explains why.

Today, at 35, I am a gay seminarian who still needs human touch. For me the best place is the Episcopal Church. Some day I will be a priest, hopefully married with children. That’s what I’m looking for, love; it falls under the rubric of modern love. I am a modern gay Christian in search of love, one who still wants to become a priest.
From 2004 to 2014 I was a Jesuit, a member of the Society of Jesus in good standing, an order gone global by the election of Pope Francis I. I left the Jesuits because I left the Roman Catholic Church. I would not be an openly gay priest in a Church that fires LGBTQ employees and volunteers. I left in protest: How could I be an openly gay priest who fires LGBTQ employees and volunteers?
Here’s my story; it is an experiment with truth telling, as much as it is about justice for LGBTQ Christians and non-Christians, men, women and children who have been deeply affected by the millennia of anti-gay theology and hate speech espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. The effects of this violence linger today.
My story takes on closeted gay priests, Jesuits or not, and tells them to come out. My story ends by radically calling upon Pope Francis I and his brother Jesuits, indeed anyone who has fired an LGBTQ employee or volunteer, to reinstate them today.
Since I was a teenager, 15 years old, I longed to be a priest as seriously as others dream of a vocation or a career: to become a doctor, a teacher, a writer. Just because I was gay, I felt it was no reason for me not to pursue my dream.
I grew up in Valley Stream, a suburban village on Long Island, the son of an FDNY fire inspector and a mom that worked for Nassau Downs Off Track Betting. More than anything else we were a Roman Catholic family who ordered our lives around the life of the Church, as much as we did big Italian meals and Broadway shows.
Mine was a decent childhood, but at home I could never fully be myself, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality burdened any genuine relationship between my parents and me and my four siblings and me. This is still true today. 
In 2002, at 22, after seven years of happily discerning a call to become a Roman Catholic priest, I almost threw in the towel. I’d had enough dinner meetings with bishops and priests from the Diocese of Long Island and the Society of Mary (the Marists) to know that I could not be an openly gay man in their course of study. No one ever spoke to me about the subject of sex or sexuality: This drew enough red flags for me.
“I’ll never ever go back into the closet. I’ll never again be a scapegoat for anyone’s war with culture, not nature.”

Feb 15, 2015

Near Death and the Afterlife in Crime Novels

I recently posted a review at my other blogsite of a delightful crime novel entitled, First Grave on the Right, by author Darynda Jones. This book was the first in a series that numbers eight novels by now and still counting.

The central character is a young woman detective with psychic abilities named Charley, who can 'see dead people'. These are usually wandering souls who have recently suffered some grisly end and come to Charley to appeal to her to find and catch their killers - whom they usually know. It's quite a witty, entertaining plot device, but Ms. Jones has imbued this gimmick with a certain subliminal spiritual world view - which is why I liked the book and chose to review it. Imagine the convenience when the victims of a murder can tell you 'who dun it.' 

The review can be read here at Crime Scene Reviews/

Jones calls upon many of the insights gleaned from Near Death Experiences over the years, including a loving light that draws souls into its embrace. Her post-deathly friends, who come to her with various problems, are first attracted to Charley's own light, which is a reflection of the more Infinite Light that awaits them when their final tasks on this earthly plane have been completed. And it is Charley who helps them make the transition to the infinite beyond, to let go and surrender to the Light. It's a lovely spiritual world view and it's presented gently, unobtrusively and with a good deal of humor and romance thrown into the bargain. One can take this spiritual perspective or leave it, the author leaves you free. Wisely, she has made it non-sectarian. There are no angles or Sacred Hearts in sight - or iconography from any other known religion. But the sense of an unconditional love pervading the universe - breathing its presence just behind the terrible events of a violent and unjust world - gives a unique perspective to this crime novel. It is a vision of hope beyond suffering and despair, and though lightly done, it makes these crime novels a unique contribution to the genre. Suffering is not the end. Beyond all contradictions, there is the Light, lovingly calling us into its embrace. 

Don't judge these books by their lurid covers. They are more than empty 'chic-lit' romances.