Showing posts with label Seminary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seminary. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oregon Priest Arrested for Sexual Abuse After Pursuing His Victim Dressed Only in His Underwear

In recent years, I've heard Catholics say, "I believe in the Catholic Church.  I mean, we're all sinners."  "The bishops have taken care of the sexual abuse crisis."  "The pedophiles have been weeded out.  They were just old priests, who went to seminary decades ago."  "Why won't the media leave us alone?  Can't we just move on?"  

No, we can't just move on.  Sexual abuse by Catholic clerics continues.  

Perez was arraigned in Marion County Circuit Court on Tuesday, appearing via video from Marion County Jail, wearing a black V-neck top with his hands secured in front of his waist. He faced allegations of first-degree sexual abuse, abuse of a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct, furnishing alcohol to a minor and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Father Perez was arrested after he chased a twelve-year-old boy down the street at midnight wearing only his underwear.  The priest had told the boy's parents that he was taking him on a trip to the mountains.  Instead, the priest took the boy to his rectory, got the boy drunk, waited for the boy to fall asleep and then assaulted him.  Thankfully, the boy was able to run away and find help.

Father Perez is not the product of some seminary past.  Like me, he was ordained in 2002, which as you might recall, was when sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church was on the front page of nearly every U.S. publication.  We baby priests were under a great deal of pressure.  We needed to be the new life, the new hope that the church needed.  We needed to provide people with the assurance that our generation would change the abusive culture that had been exposed.  We would make things right.  

In 2002, Father Perez was interviewed by The Oregonian.  He was praised for being the only priest ordained by the Diocese of Portland that year.  The following excerpts from that article show how Mount Angel Seminary formed Father Perez well.  He knew the right things to say in order to distract Catholics from smelling the predator in their midst: 

The sex scandals trouble him, but Perez says he is confident bishops are dealing with the problems. His new duties come first... "There are rules. There are so many rules," he said, walking back to the parish. "They taught us at the seminary -- we are not supposed to touch. I don't have any problems with that. I know my boundaries."
Rev. Angel Perez, in 2002 (via  The Oregonian

The 2002 article provides an accounting of Father Perez's Mass of Thanksgiving -- the grand Mass newly ordained priests celebrate in their parish.  Again, Father Perez said all the right things:

The new priest's hands were shaking. In the cavernous sanctuary of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Corvallis, hundreds of college-town Catholics waited to hear what the Rev. Angel Perez would say. In heavily accented but fluent English, he assured them he would be a priest for all, not just for the Latino parishioners. I will need your help, he said. "I said to them, my faith is very strong," he recalls. "That even though we have these problems in the church right now, these sex scandals, I really believe the Holy Spirit sustains us.  God is with us," he said, and stopped to look at his notes. Silence. In the pews, he heard one parishioner applaud. Then another, and another, until they all were clapping. For a moment, the anxiety that accompanies a new Catholic priest in 2002 went away.
Ten years later, that anxiety lives on in the communities of Woodburn and the victim's hometown, Salem.  

After losing the boy to a couple of good Samaritans, who took the boy to the police, Father Perez went to the boy's home at two in the morning and told his victim's parents, "I am just one who serves in the church, and I have sinned; don't stop believing in the church."

I won't stop believing in the Catholic Church.  I still believe that it is incapable of protecting its children from its priests.

The police report goes on to state that Father Angel Perez refused to leave his victim's home until "the mother forgave him and 'gave him her blessing.'"  

How Catholic of him: Go to confession.  Be forgiven. Go out and sin again.  I can only hope that no other parents have granted this same "blessing" to Father Angel in the past.

Rev. Angel Perez, Today.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Catholic Seminary's Website Contains Picture of Priest Removed for Alleged Sexual Abuse of Minors

     When recently visiting my alma mater's website, I discovered that St. Mary's Seminary and University of Baltimore is still using pictures taken during my first semester in 1998.  One photo includes a classmate of mine, who was removed from ministry in 2002 after he was accused of sexually abusing children.

     Very classy, St. Mary's.

     Perhaps the Catholic Church should divert some of the funds that it's using to fight LGBT rights into procuring pedophile-less pictures for its seminaries' websites.

St. Mary's Seminary and University
(Photo taken by me.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

On My Ten-Year Anniversary of Ordination to the Catholic Priesthood

On June 22, 2002, I was ordained a priest. 

Minutes before the ceremony, a squirrel met its demise at the intersection of a power line, junction box, and the cathedral’s roof.  The ensuing explosion left those in attendance in the dark.

Everything in the Catholic Church seemed dark in 2002.  Accounts of bishops concealing sexual abuse perpetrated by priests inundated the news.  Daily, revered clerics fell in shame.  Victims came forward, their long-suppressed pain and anger finally being given voice.  Those on the left blamed the pre-Vatican II, conservative and sex-suppressing seminary system that had formed the elder generations of priest-perpetrators; they blamed mandatory celibacy.  Those on the right made the post-Vatican-II progressives and their sex-embracing psychology their scapegoats; they blamed gay clergy.  Being both a victim and gay, I was angry, hurt, heartbroken, shamed, and frightened.  I'd wanted to run. 

But trusted others dissuaded me: "Don't make decisions in desolation." "The church and god have affirmed your vocation for eight years; you can't run from that now."  “Doubt is the vehicle to deeper faith and commitment.” "You don't need to come out of the closet; that's just pride tempting you." "It's not lying if those asking don't have a right to the information." "Your sexuality is a gift from god, in god's image, but if you act upon it’s 'disordered,' sinful." 

I dissuaded myself: "Jesus will work through my wounds, if I sacrifice everything."

During the ordination rite, an endless succession of priests passed on the priesthood by laying their hands upon my bowed head.  I knelt before them.  My kneecaps pressed through the thin cotton of my alb and ground against the hard floor.  After a few dozen hands had pressed upon my scalp, spasms began to shoot down my back.  I focused on the residual scent of incense in the air.  I breathed into the pain, the depression, for I deserved it.

Ruled by shame, I begged god for the strength to resist my "depraved" homosexual "urges."  Ruled by fear, I did nothing as the priest, who had assaulted me during confession and then sexuallyexploited me in college, placed his hands upon my head.   Ruled by redemptive suffering, I nailed my anger at him and all the corrupt priests and bishops to the cross.  There were no other options.  I accepted the only path prescribed to gay Catholic men: silent celibacy.

Thankfully, I no longer owe obedience to these clerics.  Ten years later, I am no longer a priest, no longer a Catholic.  The collective clerical closet in which I once lived is eight years abandoned. 

Others continue under that yoke.  I understand their plight, their fear.  It’s difficult to turn your back on the institution that “formed” you.  It’s terrifying to speak out against your superiors’ abuses.  It’s mindboggling to imagine a future beyond your career and community. It’s painful to witness cherished relationships end, as those, who cannot accept your truth, shun you. 

To those of you remaining, it is possible.  There is a life of health, peace, balance, joy, purpose, communion, love, and truth that exists beyond the Catholic church. 

Ten years after being ordained a priest, eight years after leaving the priesthood, and seven years after evicting the guilt imposed by my old religion, I can tell you that it does get better.  You can speak out about the abuse you endured.  You can build a new career.  You can make gather new friends and communities.  You can regain your mental health.  You can protest on the steps of your cathedrals.  You can find a creed or philosophy that brings you peace.  You can marry the man or woman that you love.  You can give of yourself to the world.

Not a day goes by that I regret leaving the priesthood and the church.  Ten years makes a difference indeed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann Get to the Heart of the Hatred Involved in Religious Homophobia

     In the video below, Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann get to the heart of how religion conditions gay persons to hate themselves.  So much of what Savage says speaks true to my past experience of being trained to hate myself as "God created me." 

     An example of this is in an Advocate article by John Becker, a married gay man, who went undercover and experienced the "ex-gay therapy" offered at Michelle Bachmann's husband's "clinic."  So much of what they told Becker is what I was told in Catholic seminary "formation."  I'm so grateful that I escaped.

     Back to Savage and Olbermann.  Savage is brilliant at turning homophobic arguments on their heads.  (The first half of the interview is about the Tony-winning The Book Mormon and marriage equality in New York.)  Start the video at minute 11:00 to get the point about the homophobia preached by many religions, Christianity in particular.

Here's a little bonus video: "I Believe" from The Book of Mormon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another (Conservative) Priest from My Alma Mater Goes Down

     Another priest, with whom I was in seminary, has been removed from ministry because of scandal.  And, I'm not surprised.  After seeing a classmate removed for having sexually abused minors decades ago, hearing about one of the most conservative fellows going down in an assault/adultery case, and seeing another one die after drinking himself to death, nothing surprises me anymore.  I'm just thankful that I got out when I did.

     Delaware Online reports:
     A Roman Catholic pastor of two city parishes -- including one that counted Vice President Joe Biden as a past congregant -- is being accused of embezzling more than $350,000 from the parishes.  
     The Rev. Cornelius J. Breslin, 59, who had been pastor of the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception until Wednesday, turned himself in at the New Castle County Courthouse and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges.  Breslin faces two felony charges of theft over $100,000 -- one for each parish -- and two misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records.  If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 32 years in prison, but likely would face far less -- including a sentence of probation -- given his lack of a criminal record and state sentencing guidelines.
     Adding insult to injury:
     St. Mary's, meanwhile, is one of the 28 parishes in the diocese facing a priest sex-abuse lawsuit. The plaintiff in the case is an anonymous "Jane Coe" who charges she was molested as a 13-year-old by the Rev. Edward Carley, who has since died.
     But the "good" news is:
     Krebs said Wednesday that he did not believe the alleged thefts by Breslin would have any effect on the diocese's bankruptcy proceedings -- because they involved parishes, not the diocese -- or the ongoing efforts by diocesan officials to reach a "global settlement" to resolve all outstanding priest-abuse lawsuits against both the diocese and its parishes. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Catholic Communion Wars: Archbishop Nienstedt Denies Communion to Gays

     About 25 college students and community members at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., were denied communion by Twin Cities Roman Catholic Archbishop John C. Nienstedt because they were displaying rainbow buttons and sashes in protest of the church's stand on gay relationships. The conflict between the archbishop and the group, mostly students from the Catholic St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, occurred during evening mass Sept. 26.
     The archdiocese long has denied communion to members of the Rainbow Sash Movement, who wear the colors to mass in protest of the church's stance in opposition to homosexual relationships. Its leader, Brian McNeil, said the action at St. John's was not connected to his group.  Archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath said the church has told McNeil's group "for years you cannot receive communion if you wear the rainbow sash, because it's a political statement, a sign of protest. Going to the communion rail is the most sacred part of our faith, the eucharist. We don't allow anybody to make political statements or any kind of protest."
     I'm wondering if the archbishop denies communion to people who wear pink ribbons in support of breast cancer research or wear yellow ribbons in support of the troops and the wars in Iran and Afghanistan.  Or what of the Catholics who might have a shirt on protesting the death penalty, abortion, or war?  Or what of anyone wearing red, white, and blue to Mass?  Most of his congregation must go communion-less on the fourth of July. 
     St. Benedict theology junior Elizabeth Gleich, PRiSM vice president, said, "We were making a statement during the eucharist, and many have disagreed with that. But when we have no other way of dialoguing with our church, no other way of telling him how we feel, how else to do it than in liturgy?"
     Ms. Gleich, I'm sorry to tell you this, but when you have "no other way of dialoguing" with your church, it's time to leave and seek your religious peace elsewhere.
     "Jesus didn't play politics with communion," Harry Knox, the HRC's religion and faith program director, said Tuesday in a statement. "He offered his body and blood for everyone."
     Mr. Knox, according to the theology and history I learned in seminary, Jesus' actions were, by their very nature, political.  By offering "his body and blood for everyone" -- not just Jews, not just gentiles, not just free, not just men, not just rich -- he challenged the political hierarchy of both the Jewish establishment and the Roman government.  Jesus of Nazareth reached out to those on the margin and was marginalized himself as a result.  Archbishop Nienstedt, his fellow bishops in Iowa, throughout the nation, and the folks in the Vatican continue to marginalize not only LGBT Catholics, but are going after non-Catholics as well.  

     When was the last time we saw a bishop in the United States literally offer up his body and blood for something greater than himself?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Catholic Father Alejandro Flores, Ordination Class of 2009, Gets Four to Fifteen for Sexual Assault of a Child

     Pope Benedict XVI says repentance is more effective than structural change within the Church to counter sexual abuse by priests.  Using an indirect historical analogy, the pope on Wednesday recalled the words of XII century Saint Hildegard, according to whom "a true renewal of the ecclesiastic community is the result less of structural changes than of a sincere spirit of repentance and an active path towards conversion."  Saint Hildergard at the time was fighting the criticism by German sects "proposing a radical reform of the Church in order to fight abuses by clergy," Benedict told 7,000 pilgrims at his weekly general audience.  (The Sydney Morning Herald, September 8, 2010)
     The rhetoric coming from bishops, cardinals, and the pope about how the Catholic Church has repented, reformed itself and is no longer ordaining pedophile priests, all the claims that priest-perpetrated sexual abuse was a problem for elder generations of priests and that newly ordained undergo improved psychological procedures to weed out abusers, and all the reassurances that the church knows best how to reform itself have once again been proven false.

     On Wednesday, Father Alejandro Flores, 37, priest in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, and a member of the ordination class of 2009, changed his previous plea of not-guilty to guilty.  His crime: sexually assaulting a boy  over the past five years, beginning when the boy was eight years old.  He also hit on the boy's older brother.  Which means, Flores was sexually assaulting his prepubescent child-victim, while Flores was in seminary and going through the church's rigorous "formation" that is supposed to weed out abusive candidates.

     Here's the kicker.  Five years ago, then-seminarian Flores was spotted engaging in what is known as grooming behavior by the the diocese's vocations director.  Twice, the diocese delayed Flores ordination, but in the end, he was ordained anyway.

     The Chicago Tribune reports (My comments are interspersed):
     Flores, 37, a native of Bolivia, started abusing the boy over a five-year period in 2005 after befriending members of his family, who were parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church in West Chicago. Flores was posted there as a seminarian and deacon while working toward ordination.  Assistant State's Attorney Deb Bree said Flores' crimes took place during the time church officials were deciding whether to elevate him to the priesthood.
     During an internship, Flores told his supervisor that as a child he had been the victim of sexual abuse at a Bolivian orphanage. That supervisor, the Rev. Burke Masters, vocational director for the Joliet Diocese, saw Flores alone in a car with the victim in 2005 and told him it was not appropriate to be alone with young boys, according to authorities.
      But he wasn't sent for counseling to deal with his inappropriate boundaries with children.  He was told it was "not appropriate."  Nor was he wasn't sent to counseling to better understand the dynamics of having been sexually abused as a child.  The counseling came when:
     Diocesan officials also later learned that Flores had viewed male pornography on a church-owned computer. The revelation again pushed back his ordination, Bree said, as Flores was sent for counseling.
     Doug Delany, a Joliet Diocese spokesman, said that with hindsight, Flores would not have been ordained. But he said the delays were part of what he called "extraordinary caution" exercised by Bishop J. Peter Sartain before deciding to elevate Flores.  "We were told he was ready for the priesthood," Delany said.
     Here again, the church passes the blame onto those who "told" the diocese that Flores was ready for the priesthood.  Still, it was Bishop Sartain who laid his hand on Flores at the ordination ceremony.
     Flores told the bishop that he had viewed pornography only once, Delany said. 
     That was probably the only time he masturbated, as well.
     And Flores' sexual abuse as a child did not necessarily indicate that he was a pedophile, the spokesman said.  Meanwhile, Flores maintained a relationship with the victim, now 13, and his older brother, now 18.
     Thankfully, someone other than the diocese's vocational director saw Flores alone in a car with a boy:
     Flores was ordained in June 2009 and remained at Holy Family, but his actions were drawing the attention of a man dating the victim's mother. The boyfriend said he saw Flores and the boy "in a suspicious position" in Flores' parked car, and in November the boyfriend found the boy and Flores in the bedroom of the boy's St. Charles home, Bree said.  In January, the victim's mother alerted Joliet Diocese officials to her suspicions.
     Once again, this story shows how the Catholic church is incapable of dealing with issues of sexual abuse.  Flores should have been investigated after being caught (by his superior) alone in a car with a possible victim.  But the church failed the victim and favored the seminarian.

     After the boy's mother came forward this January, the church did the right thing in handing Flores over the law, but that was after five years of abuse, during which time Flores was supposedly undergoing the best pyscho-spiritual counseling and formation that the church has to offer.

     Pope Ben, what good is your church's repentance, when the structures in place have consistently proven inefficient in preventing sexual abuse?

                   The Newly Ordained Priest                                       The Newly Convicted Pedophile

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vianney Renewal Center (Club Ped) Exposed, Fr. Mustache Missing

     When priests in the Midwest are accused of sexually abusing children or sexually exploiting adults under their care, one of the places they are sent is Vianney Renewal Center, near St. Louis, Missouri, which is run by the Servants of the Paraclete.

     This center has been the recent target of a news investigation by KSDK, after a previous employee spoke about the center's pedophile residents, many of whom avoided prison by going to Vianney.  These priest-perpetrators are allowed  to wander unsupervised, to hang out in a jacuzzi, and to view the pornography of their choosing.

     After I came forward to my archbishop with sexual abuse allegations, my perpetrator, Fr. Mustache, was quietly sent for a psychological assessment at a place for priests who'd failed in their celibate commitments.  The place was in St. Louis.  

     I know that Fr. Mustache admitted to the archbishop that my accusation was true, but how this was worded, I don't know.  He may have played the perpetrator-tested "the kid seduced me card."  When I inquired about what he'd said, the archbishop barked that it was none of my business.  He had professional boundaries to maintain, of course, in order to protect Fr. Mustache, who'd violated all of my personal boundaries, repeatedly.  

     Fr. Mustache's admission came during the first few days of February 2004.  He was allowed to return to his campus ministry position until mid-March, before he was sent to St. Louis for his assessment.  During those months, he had access to the college boys that I'd seen him grooming just as he had me.   After Spring break, he returned to ministry without anyone knowing he'd been whisked off to St. Louis.  I don't know what the mysterious place in St. Louis concluded in Fr. Mustache's assessment.  I was told by the archbishop's go-between that it was none of my business.

     The last time I saw Fr. Mustache was in May 2004 at the annual archdiocesan summer gathering of priests.  Trapped between two priests in the middle of a pew during evening prayer,  I fought off a panic attack when I saw him leading the gathered clerics in music at the front of the chapel.  At the dinner that followed, Fr. Mustache received a standing ovation from his brother priests when the archbishop thanked him for his campus ministry leadership and promoted him to a position having something to do with being the head of Catholic identity in the schools.  The only priests not standing were those in my priest support group, who knew the truth of what had been covered up.

     This morning, I looked up the phone number of one of my old support group friends on the archdiocesan webpage, where I discovered that Fr. Mustache is no longer in his campus ministry position.  He's currently receiving mail c/o of a religious order in St. Louis, MO.  I don't know where he is or what he's doing there.

     I'm fairly certain that I wasn't his only victim. 

    If you are also a victim of Fr. Mustache, please, feel free contact me at  You are not alone.

Here are the KSDK reports on the Vianney Renewal Center 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ex-Gay Christian Adam Hood Condemns Homosexuality while Wearing a Gold Ascot, What Is There to be Learned from This?

     Adam Hood, of the fundamentalist Christian group Recycle Your Faith, is the star of a recent set of videos about homosexuality being "one of the worst forms of depravity."  Hood is a self-proclaimed ex-gay, who was saved by Jesus and made straight by what he calls a miracle.  

     He delivers his message adorned in a gold ascot.
Image via Towleroad
     The first begins with the quote:
     A recent study shows that 92% of non-Christians ages 16-29 associate Christianity with being "anti-homosexual."
     Hood begins by saying that 100% of "outsiders" should view Christianity as anti-homosexual, because his bible is "so clear."  He speaks with pleasure and pride about how anti-gay his understanding of his god and his bible is.  

     Later, he goes into the typical "sin isn't right just because it feels good" Christian moralizing.  What he forgets is that according to Christian morals and scripture pride, judgment of others, and self-righteousness feel good, too, but indulging in these sins, while in a video wearing a gold ascot, is apparently okay.

     Here is an example of some of Hood's reasoning:
     [Homosexuality]'s a sin that God [sic] will damn.  If they stay in that sin, they will be damned to hell and rightly so, because they need to be quarantined because they will continue in their rebellion and try to bring that gangrene into heaven. God's [sic] not having it, okay?
     This type of thought in certain religious people and their religious institutions is the basis for all the anti-gay laws in the world.  If their gods will quarantine gays by dropping them into hell, then building their god's kingdom involves quarantining/segregating/burning gays here on earth.

     Hood also blames homosexuality on boys having been fatherless or sexually abused by a man, which are both myths.  There are plenty of homosexuals, who had loving fathers and/or were never sexually abused.  It sounds like he's going to one of my old Catholic counselors.  Also, very Catholic are his self-projected conclusions about what is natural and unnatural.

     Hood continues in a second video telling the story of his drug addiction, affinity for fame and wearing costumes, and his involvement in witchcraft, all of which took place while he was gay.  

     His conversion came when a homeless man read his mind and exposed his worries about going to hell.  This triggered a mental breakdown, during which orderlies were tying Hood down.  In that moment, he prayed and found peace in Jesus.  He was checked into a psych ward, where he believed that a possessed man in the next room was going to tear him apart.  When Hood "whispered" Jesus' name, the possessed man went mad.  Then, Hood became a "hardcore, on fire Christian" stating, "I mean martyr me for Jesus" Christian.  

     Hood admits that he had been on every drug you can imagine.  He never mentions detox and his mental breakdown as possible reasons for the mind reading power of the homeless and for possessed patients trying to silence his prayers.  No, it's all because he was gay.

     Hood then talks about the "miracle" of his god giving him "natural affection" for a woman.  Notice that he doesn't say "sexual attraction."  He talks about his first orgasm in his wife on their wedding night, how he screamed Jesus' name.  He talks about how much he loves women, loves his wife's body, and loves women physically.  But, he never says that he loves them sexually.  

Kate Winlet via WHYfame?
     I remember speaking like this, back in high school, college, and seminary, while trying to pass as straight.  As long as I talked about how much I appreciated the physical beauty of women's bodies, how much I verbalized that Kate Winslet was gorgeous, and how much I loved my numerous female friends, then I wasn't gay.  It didn't matter that, when it came to sex, I wanted men.

     Here is Hood's description of being part of the "gay community" and how it felt:     
     Probably at the lowest pit of my drug run, I ended up in the gay community in San Francisco, and, um, was a pretty well known club celebrity in the city, um, here in the city, and, um, dressed up everyday in the most extravagant wow costumes.  I felt like it was family.  You know, the gay community offered you celebrity.  It offered you affirmation, even men would pay attention to me.  Well, growing up my dad wasn't at home, I didn't have that.  But I didn't understand these things while I was in it.  I thought it was the rightest thing for me to be doing.  I thought that was who I was, and it was even righteous and holy.  I really did.
     This sounds just like my experience of seminary and priesthood, which promised me family/brotherhood, made me a parochial celebrity, inundated me with affirmation and the attention of men that I called "Father," and allowed me to dress up in extravagant costumes.  I was surrounded by people that assured me what I was doing was righteous and holy and believed that it was the rightest thing.

     In many ways, I see myself in Mr. Hood.  We shared the same struggle of trying to reconcile our homosexuality and religion.  Where he went down the dark rabbit hole of drugs that exists in a certain circles of the gay population, I went down the rabbit hole of sexual abuse, power, and manipulation in certain circles of the Catholic priesthood.  

     Our experiences of these cultures were tainted with pain and scandal, but that doesn't mean that every member of these groups is depraved or abusive.  I make strong statements on this blog about the hypocrisies and hatred that religious persons espouse, but I also know that not all religious people share these odious beliefs.  Sadly, Mr. Hood is not one of those people.

Here are the videos.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Catholic Church in Nebraska Advocating for Counselors to Refuse Treatment to Gays

     The Catholic Church in Nebraska is lobbying for the state's licensed counselors to be able to drop LGBT patients/clients if the counselor holds religious beliefs disapproving of their client's sexual orientation.

     The Freemont Tribune reports (my comments interspersed):
     Jim Cunningham, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, says psychologists, therapists and other licensed counselors should be able to refuse to treat or refer clients because of religious or moral convictions. But, he says, the proposed addition of sexual orientation to anti-discrimination rules makes it unclear whether that's allowed.  "Our concern had to do with services that we would not be able to provide because they would promote or enhance or validate conduct that is contrary to our religious beliefs," Cunningham said.
     Will those patients who've been divorced, do drugs, are alcoholic, used birth control, supported the death penalty, or committed any sin of the eyes of morally superior Catholic "counselors" also be dropped ?  And what of those living together before marriage, or having sex before marriage, or even masturbating?  What about those who don't go to Mass every Sunday?  Where does it end?  Does a client have to share and adhere to every religious belief of their counselor in order to be helped?  Will those priests who raped children be counseled by Catholic therapists?  Is not child-rape against Catholic teaching?

     All the pastoral counseling training that I had, in Catholic seminary and Clinical Pastoral Education, taught me that a counselor's role is to be present to the patient, to help the patient to feel understood, and to work with and enable the patient to find solutions that work for them.  The counseling relationship is not about what the counselor needs to justify his/her own religious or political philosophy.  That is called countertranference and is a violation of a patient's dignity, trust, boundaries, and well being. 

     But those with the decision making power in Nebraska are leaning towards a compromise which allows  Catholic counselors to drop clients if they refer them.
    Nebraska's top medical officer, Dr. Joann Schaefer, is pushing three state credentialing boards to allow counselors to refer patients elsewhere without concern for the controversial issue _ what's called a whole-patient referral. That would mean a counselor with a moral or religious objection would have to find a referral for the patient, although it wouldn't have to be the most appropriate one.  "It's what I feel is the fairest to the patient," Schaefer said.
     Fair to the patient?  It's all about the counselor?

     Catholic counselor: "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones, that you are suicidally depressed, that your family has rejected you, that your church has rejected you, and that you have been fired because you are gay, but now that I know the truth about you, I can no longer serve you.  Here's a referral to someone who will treat your kind.  Good-bye."

     And, Mr. Jones walks out the door.  Unable to take one more rejection, he steps in front of a bus.  

     Yes, that's definitely for the betterment of the client
     But Schaefer's suggestion _ a compromise she says is based on discussions with the boards and others _ has drawn the ire of several professional associations. They say whole-patient referrals would violate their code of ethics.  "We believe that a therapist has the right to refuse service based upon religious or moral convictions," said Terry Werner, director of the Nebraska chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "However, they absolutely must provide a thorough and comprehensive referral. Anything less than that, in our minds, is in violation of our code of ethics and is not in the best interest of the client."
     I find this discrimination completely asinine.  What's next, will Catholic counselors and others, who want to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs, put signs in their windows that say "No Gays Served" or "Heterosexuals Only."  

     The only good that would come of this discrimination is that LGBT persons will no longer be subjected to the damaging ex-gay therapy that many counselors project onto their struggling patients.

     I once had a Catholic therapist, who was highly recommended by my diocesan superior, counsel me to "recover my lost heterosexuality."  He claimed that being sexually abused by the pediatrician during puberty was what caused me to become gay.  The doctor had infected me with the gay.  This counselor downplayed the fact that all my sexual attractions, from as long as I could remember all the way back to preschool age, were to other males and that my entire life's history of sexual fantasies and wet dreams were about males.

     At twenty-three,  this therapist "counseled" me to recall possible attractions that I had to girls when I was in preschool and grade school.  He told me to force myself to think about these attractions and try to recover them when I masturbated.  And they wonder why there's a priest-pedophile sexual abuse scandal?   
*Bump to Towleroad on the story lead.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pope Concludes Year for Priests by Demanding Forgiveness, Admitting No Personal Wrongdoing, and Focusing Inward

     The Catholic Church's "Year for Priests" came to close at a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict, the Enabler, earlier today at the Vatican. As anticipated, the pope mentioned "the abuse of little ones" and promised "to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again."

     However, he offered no plan other than more of the same:  prayers to his god and promises to weed abusers out of the seminaries (a.k.a. in Vatican-speak, get rid of the gays).

     He took no personal responsibility for his role in covering-up and mishandling abusive priests and bishops that enabled pedophile-priests to rape and assault children.

     Focusing on his own needs and the needs of the abusive clerics and bishops instead of the victims, benevolent Ben begged "the persons involved," meaning those raped, abused, and bullied by priests and bishops in their god's name, to forgive the church. 

     Because nothing says pastoral care like demanding the forgiveness of those who've been abused and raped.

     “We, too, insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” Benedict told thousands of priests and faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for celebrations marking the end of the Vatican’s Year of the Priest.
     The pope’s remarks did not substantively go beyond what he had already said in a letter to Irish Catholics in March and in a private meeting with victims of sex abuse on Malta in April, but it was the first time Benedict had mentioned the crisis from Saint Peter’s Basilica, the heart of the church itself, and on an occasion focused on priests.
     “In this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light — particularly the abuse of the little ones,” the pope said.
     He added, “In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers.” The pope did not mention any specific actions the church was planning to take to combat abuse, as some had hoped, and victims’ groups said Benedict’s remarks did not go far enough.

     My other favorite moments came when Ben used the biblical cliche of the priest being a shepherd and using his rod and staff to guide the vulnerable, stupid flock to their god (Psalm 23).  He mixes his psalms and then quotes Fr. Mustache's favorite, Psalm 139, speaking of "the 'darkest valley' through which the Lord leads" his followers. Who better to understand a priest's use of his rod and staff and Jesus' dark valley than those raped by priests? 

     Nothing says "god loves you and is always with you" like having a priest's rod ripping up one's childhood and adolescent "dark valley."  

     Ben returned to Psalm 23's rod/staff imagery, and speaks of the use of the rod to fight and punish heretics to lead them back to the correct path of the church. Yes, priests should use violence to keep their stupid flock in order. It worked for Georg

     It's a historical fact that shepherds used their rods to break the legs of their wandering sheep to prevent them from getting away. What a loving image and how respectful of free will! (I once had a classmate in seminary get scolded for talking about this violent image during a homily.  A shepherd breaking his lambs' legs to control them roving was off limits, but a father slaughtering his innocent son on tree was beautiful.)

     Continuing with the Psalm 23 imagery, Ben focused on the anointing of one's head with oil and relates it to the eating of Jesus body and blood at the Mass, in which the priest stands in the person of Jesus. What is more sexual than rubbing oil all over one's head and talking of eating someone's body?

     The conclusion of Ben's grand homily to close the Year for Priests and address the sexual abuse/rape scandal in the church was an inward focus on his own needs and the needs of his priests:
     Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.
     It's all about Ben. It's all about the priests and their wellsprings.  I think they've sprayed enough.

     I'd like to declare this coming year "The Year for Those Fucked by the Church," but it seems that Pope Ben, self-serving bishops, and pedophile priests celebrate that one every year.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Catholic Gaydar, Weeding Gays Out of Seminary or Helping them through?

     During my last year of seminary, a professor informed my Theology of Ministry class that there was an ultra-conservative theology being floated around Rome by then-Ratzinger, now-Pope Benedict, that espoused the theological claim that homosexual men could not properly stand in person of Jesus and thus failed to imitate his celibate sacrifice.  Ratzinger claimed gay men were so intrinsically disordered and gay sex so depraved that giving up evil gay sex for good holy celibacy was not a sacrifice, but a necessity.  Therefore, gay men could not imitate Jesus' straight celibacy and gays could not be validly ordained priests in the Catholic Church.

     When my professor asked the nearly twenty of us what we thought of that train of thought, nobody answered.  Nobody moved.  Everyone sat frightened, worried that if he spoke, he would be labeled a depraved sodomite.

     A few months later in January 2002, the sexual abuse scandal in Boston hit the papers.  Again, gays were the scapegoats, constantly being equated with pedophiles and blamed for the evils of the church.

     A few months later, after I was ordained a priest, Ratzinger's gays-can't-be-validly-ordained-priests theology was floated around Rome in document form.  The U.S. bishops went nuts, frightened by the prospect of all their gay priests suddenly being removed from ministry.

     I got depressed, knowing that my days were numbered in the priesthood.  Any day the powers that be could throw me out on the street with nothing, because I was gay and my sacrifices, the love and intimacy that I had given up to serve the people of my parish, had been deemed worthless, meaningless.  I had offered up to god in sacrifice a possible relationship with a close friend that I'd fallen madly in love with.  My heart was broken and bleeding, and Cardinal Ratzinger's brood of homophobic ladder-climbers were saying that gays couldn't sacrifice.  They had no clue.

     The bishops managed to keep the document from being promulgated, but Months after Ratzinger's rise to the Papal throne in 2005, Pope Benedict released a document that barred gay men from being admitted to the seminary.  Thankfully, I had already left the priesthood, for matters of conscience, justice, truth, and dignity.

     Father Sweeney said the new rules were not the order of battle for a witch hunt. “We do not say that homosexuals are bad people,” he said. “And sure, homosexuals have been good priests.  But it has to do with our view of marriage,” he said. “A priest can only give his life to the church in the sense that a man gives his life to a female spouse. A homosexual man cannot have the same relationship. It’s not about condemning anybody. It’s about our world view.”
     The gays-can't-properly-image-Jesus theology of Ratzinger is now mainstream, which means those espousing it will claim that it was always part of church teaching.  Why aren't gay priests leaving in droves?

     Here are some of the priestly job interview questions:
     “When was the last time you had sex?” all candidates for the seminary are asked. (The preferred answer: not for three years or more.)  “What kind of sexual experiences have you had?” is another common question.
     I was asked these questions by my future director of seminarians, when I was alone in his rectory and after I'd been pumped full of liquor.  I was also asked, "The director of seminarians in Peoria sleeps with his seminarians, what do you think of that?"
     “Do you like pornography?”  Depending on the replies, and the results of standardized psychological tests, the interview may proceed into deeper waters: “Do you like children?” and “Do you like children more than you like people your own age?”
     Early on in my interactions with said director of seminarians, I was told that having been a victim of sexual abuse might disqualify my from becoming a priest.  In 1995, the church was still operating under the assumptions and myths that those abused would automatically become abusers and that gays were pedophiles.  What projection!
     It is part of a soul-baring obstacle course prospective seminarians are forced to run in the aftermath of a sexual abuse crisis that church leaders have decided to confront, in part, by scrubbing their academies of potential molesters, according to church officials and psychologists who screen candidates in New York and the rest of the country. 
     Of course, they are focusing on gays.
     But many of the questions are also aimed at another, equally sensitive mission: deciding whether gay applicants should be denied admission under complex recent guidelines from the Vatican that do not explicitly bar all gay candidates but would exclude most of them, even some who are celibate. 
     Scientific studies have found no link between sexual orientation and abuse, and the church is careful to describe its two initiatives as more or less separate. One top adviser to American seminaries characterized them as “two circles that might overlap here and there.”  
     That doesn't make any sense.  Any person who knows simple geometry knows that if two circles overlap, they overlap once.  They can't overlap "here and there."  It's called a Venn Diagram.  Not only does the church disregard science, but also grade school math.
     Still, since the abuse crisis erupted in 2002, curtailing the entry of gay men into the priesthood has become one the church’s highest priorities. [Right up there with saving souls.]
Venn Diagram via 
     They will fail.  The church is a culture based upon secrecy.  From the confessional to the Vatican's secret "historical" archives, from the bishops' second set of (secret) files kept on each priest that were exposed in sexual abuse lawsuits, to spiritual direction, and from seminary formation to the oaths priests sign before ordination, the church's clerical operates on secrecy.

     Priests are adept at manipulating the system to keep things on the down low.  Whenever a conversation goes somewhere that a priest wants to keep confidential, the Sacrament of Reconciliation or spiritual direction is initiated.  Thus, the conversation becomes privileged and protected under the seal of the confessional.  In these privileged conversations, seasoned priests form naive priests and eager seminarians to manipulate the system.  I learned, by example, that this is best done when it's just the director of seminarians and a college boy, sitting in front of a fireplace, after-dinner liquors in hand, following two or three cocktails (Real priests drink scotch.), dinner, and a couple bottles of wine, with Father's bedroom door cracked open, just in case.

     This was how I was prepared for my interviews with psychologists and the seminary board before I was accepted by my diocese for seminary.  I was told by the director of seminarians, who was a canon lawyer, to flat out lie if asked directly about being gay.

     Truth is relative in Catholic clerical culture.  I was told it's only lying if the person asking for the information has a right to the information. We can all see how this seed of "wisdom" has played out in the sexual abuse/rape scandal.
     Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist at Catholic University who has screened seminarians and once headed a treatment center for abusive priests, said the screening could be “very intrusive.” But he added, “We are looking for two basic qualities: the absence of pathology and the presence of health.”
     I'm not the "expert" that Rossetti is, but also having spent time in a treatment center for priests, nuns, religious, and ministers damaged by the church, I would venture to say this: the entire church system is ill and pathological.  It's based on fear, control, masks, and lies; not truth.  

Venn Diagram via
     Pathological people will seek out a pathological system.  Catholic gays are conditioned to believe they are pathological, so what better place to turn for redemption and acceptance than the celibate pathological priesthood?

     When I was ordained a Catholic priest in 2002, the vast majority of the guys in seminary were gay.  I estimate 80-85%.   The exact number is impossible to know, because no one could be publicly honest, even if he was celibate. Furthermore, the truth of one's orientation was "privileged" information that others had no right to, so lying about one's orientation was as automatic as one's gestures during Mass.

     Since coming out of the closet and leaving the priesthood, I've heard numerous accounts of others leaving because they are gay and stories about those who stay, slowly drinking themselves to death, or having sexual relations on the side, while publicly condemning gays. Combined, these stories number about 25 as confirmed gay, one confirmed bisexual, and only two confirmed straight guys (one who left to get married, one who's having an affair).  Any diocese that claims to have no gay priests or seminarians is lying.
     In the densely populated Diocese of Brooklyn, officials are confident of their results in one respect. “We have no gay men in our seminary at this time,” said Dr. Robert Palumbo, a psychologist who has screened seminary candidates at the diocese’s Cathedral Seminary Residence in Douglaston, Queens, for 10 years. “I’m pretty sure of it.” Whether that reflects rigorous vetting or the reluctance of gay men to apply, he could not say. “I’m just reporting what is,” he said.
     Sorry to break it to you "Doctor" Palumbo, but you're just reporting what they want you to see.  You've been punked.

     Pope Ratzinger's document barring gay men from seminary is a sham, a political distraction meant to take the heat off of the true sins of dysfunctional mother church.  Closeted priests (like Ratzinger) form seminarians to work the system and teach them how to answer questions about sexuality so that one passes as straight.  Ratzinger knows this happens.  The bishops know this happens. Those is power want gays to keep getting ordained, because manipulating the closet is a time-tested method of control.  Bully the fearful gays into obedience.  It's all part of the clerical caste system.

     Sadly, gay Catholics will continue entering the priesthood in droves, because when someone believes that their god is calling them to something holy, the rest is just detail.
Venn Diagram via me.