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Black Collar Crime: Findlay Catholic Priest Michael Zacharias Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minors

Michael Zacharias

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Michael Zacharias, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay Ohio, stands accused of grooming and sexually assaulting minors for years. (I attended high school in Findlay in the 1970s. Several of my friends attended St. Michael’s.)

The Toledo Blade reports:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, alleging that he groomed and sexually assaulted minors for years, beginning in Toledo.

Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith said the Rev. Michael Zacharias, 53, is believed to have groomed and sexually assaulted minors since the late 1990s.

The Northwest Ohio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force took the priest into custody after he presided at a 7 a.m. Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Father Zacharias faces charges of coercion and enticement, sex trafficking of a minor, and sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion, according to court documents.

….

Agent Smith addressed the media at a morning news conference outside the priest’s residence on Greendale Avenue in Findlay, which abuts the parking lot of the parish grounds. He said the criminal complaint filed against the priest includes accounts from two victims, but his department believes there have been others.

….

“It’s imperative that those other individuals out there come forward,” he said on Tuesday. “Your contact with us will remain strictly confidential.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo announced that Father Zacharias was put on administrative leave effective immediately upon hearing word of his arrest. This means he cannot exercise public ministry, administer sacraments, or present himself as a priest. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while an allegation is being investigated.

Bishop Daniel Thomas responded in a statement:

“I am profoundly shocked and grieved to learn of these charges against one of our priests,” he said. “The Church cannot and will not tolerate any such behavior and takes any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of a cleric with the utmost seriousness. As we await the outcome of the criminal investigation, our prayers go out to anyone affected by this situation.”

The diocese indicated that these are the first allegations raised against Father Zacharias.

Father Zacharias was ordained in 2002, according to the diocese.

He is most recently the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017. The parish serves about 3,300 households, and is affiliated with St. Michael the Archangel School, which covers preschool through eighth grade.

The diocese identified his previous assignments as St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Toledo as a seminarian between 1999 and 2000; St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio as an associate pastor between 2002 and 2007; St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Van Wert as pastor between 2007 and 2011; St. Joseph and St. Ann Parishes in Fremont as pastor between 2011 and 2017; and St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017.

Investigators allege in court records that he began to groom two male victims, currently ages 32 and 26, while he was a seminarian and they were students at St. Catherine of Siena. One met Father Zacharias in the sixth grade, the other in the first grade, according to the complaint.

Each described to agents drug addictions that began in their teen years, and alleged that the priest would help fund their drug habits by paying them for oral sex. This began while they were underage and, in the case of one of the victims, continued until as recently as July.

The complaint indicates that these exchanges occurred at times in parish rectories, including Father Zacharias’ diocese-owned residence in Findlay.

The complaint also indicates that in the case of the victim with whom he was in touch as recently as July, Father Zacharias would request and at times pay for videos in which he performed sex acts on the victim and in which he confessed to grooming the victim. The complaint references multiple text messages between the victim and the priest.

….

Father Zacharias was one of several ordinands who spoke with The Blade in 2002, reflecting on their vocations amid seismic revelations of widespread clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as reported by the Boston Globe.

Then-Deacon Zacharias said that his cohort of priests would bring with them an understanding of sexuality as a part of who they are.

“In the past I don’t want to say they denied it, but it seems as though they were told, ‘You’re going to be a priest, you’re going to be celibate,’” he told The Blade then. By contrast, he said contemporary seminarians were taught to have healthy and appropriate relationships.

Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn responded to the news in a statement on Tuesday.

“I am distraught by the news of the arrest of Father Michael Zacharias,” she said. “These allegations are not taken lightly, and the Findlay Police Department and our community at large will support the full and thorough investigation by the FBI. Such abuse of power, and perversion of sexuality is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any organization, individual, or society.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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In His Own Words: Jaisen, the Catholic

catholicism

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Regular readers may remember that a Catholic commenter by the name of Jaisen, real name Jason Jones, left comments on Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing, Should a Christian Attend a Same-Sex Wedding?, and Why I Hate Jesus.  I deleted a number of his comments, after warning him that I would do so. Finally, I banned him, blocking his IP address at the server level. So he could continue to leave comments, he used an IP service that gave him a new, unblocked IP address. I banned about 10 IP addresses.

I did approve several  comments, thinking that his vitriol would be instructive. Jaisen objected, saying that by doing this I have presented a skewed, incomplete picture of him. He’s right, so here is all his comments, in all their glory, forever and ever, Amen. Consider this post to be The Last Will and Testament of Jaisen, the Catholic. (almost 5,000 words)

Comment 1

From a quick read of your article it sounds as if you were in it for all the wrong reasons to begin with. I say that not to belittle your story, it’s just the impression I got. I don’t wish to argue, just recommend a few things. If you ever again have a yearning to know Jesus again, start at the beginning, not the 1500’s. Read the writings of first, second, third, etc., century Christians, e.g., St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus and others. True orthodoxy and orthopraxy resides in their writings. One of my favorite current authors is Scott Hahn; I highly recommend him. Peter Kreeft comes highly recommended as well. And if you ever again go in search of a church that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find a spiritual home like none other in the Catholic Church. Her doors are always open to you and yours. May God bless you on your journey!

Comment 2

Thank you for your kind, intelligent, well thought out reply. If I may reply (somewhat in jest), which of the 45,000+ divided Protestant denominations who are incapable of doing anything in one accord, let alone praying, should I credit for churning out money hungry, calumnious atheists? Please keep the bloviating to a minimum—I’d hate to miss anything relevant due to speed reading.

Comment 3

Actually, I only said one thing regarding Protestantism, Bruce being the case-in-point. Not sure to what else you’re referring. “But pretending that Catholicism doesn’t have huge problems, is putting a blindfold on your face.” I never said it didn’t. But one thing I can say is that the Church doesn’t promote things that are anathema to biblical teaching as various denominations so proudly do.

Sgl tried to help Jaisen:

Jaisen, you may think your comments are original and insightful, but every few weeks, someone exactly like you comes by, and drops nearly identical comments.  imagine a school teacher, and the number of times they’ve heard the same excuses for why the homework wasn’t done.  imagine a lawyer or judge hearing the same excuses for how the check was lost in the mail.  well, that’s bruce’s blog when people like you drop by, make a shoot-from-the-hip observation based on no reading of his story and rigid stereotypes about atheists.

as i understand it, in peace negotiations and marriage counselling, one of techniques is to require each side to state the position of the other side (not agree with it, just state it) in a fashion that the counter party says “yes, that is an accurate statement of my position.”  because too often, the different sides don’t actually understand the other side, and are too busy arguing to actually listen.  this technique forces them to listen.

the fact is that bruce and many of the readers here understand your position very well, since many/most were strongly religious, often for decades.  yet you do not understand bruce’s or anyone else here’s position at all.  and from your tone, it’s very clear you have no interest in learning about anyone else’s position and how they arrived at it.

hence, despite the fact that you think you’re a special little snow flake with just the exact pearls of wisdom that bruce needs, in fact you’re merely a dot in a blizzard of wanna-be apologists that drop by, spout predictable platitudes from an extremely small bingo-card of religious propaganda, and then expect ooohs and ahhhs of adoration for you enlightening us.   sorry, but you’re boring and predictable and frankly obnoxious.  the fact that you can’t see this only makes it even more a waste of time for all of us.

Comment 4

Here’s Bruce’s first reply to me, a first time reader:

“When priests stop molesting boys and diddling teenagers let me know.”

Bruce’s second, passive aggressive sub-comment to me:

“My reply to Jansen was meant to be snarky and dismissive.”

Apparently Bruce thinks pedophilia is limited to one religious or even non-religious affiliation.

I admitted that I quickly read his long, fluffy blog and that what I said was just the impression I got from quickly reading his own words (such as there not being enough money for him in ministry). I kindly made some suggestions in a non-aggressive manner and wished him well, yet the above comments were the bigoted responses I received. No invite to read more of his articles to broaden my brief view of his position, no equivalent suggestions to purvey to understand what led him where he is now, no olive branch to lure me along his own “enlightened” path. Just the same old tired, worn out, divisive atheist hyperbole. With such a brief and hateful introduction, now I can affirmatively say thank goodness this man is no longer a pastor with such a horrible attitude towards those with different views. That’s the kind of Christian who gives us all a bad name and drives people away from faith, including themselves (obviously). But at least you all have each other to wallow in your bigotry
and hate-filled vitriol together.

As for your own reply to me, change my name to yours at the top and ditto, pal. You guys can pretend to be all intellectually superior and further isolate yourselves all you like, but don’t expect any respectful crosstalk when that’s all we ever get from you. My apologies for wasting your time; a four paragraph response to someone you know nothing about filled with such judgmental presumptions kind of speaks otherwise, but hey, whatever floats your boat. And FYI, the Church and all of Christendom have been dealing with your type and your shallow arrogance for over 2,000 years now, but do feel free to let us know when YOU come up with something original.

Sgl tries to help Jaisen again:

you were in it for all the wrong reasons to begin with”

a shoot from the hip character assassination of bruce, despite your protestations to the contrary

“True orthodoxy and orthopraxy resides in their writings.” “a church that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find a spiritual home like none other in the Catholic Church”

demonstrating that you think you and your church have the one true religion, and everyone else got it wrong.  almost every sect makes the same claim.  while this is “suggestions in a non-aggressive manner”, it’s also rather haughty.  anyone who’s read church history, or read about the inconsistencies in the bible, or the scholarship of how the bible came to be, would label those statements as rather bold to say the least.

“Apparently Bruce thinks pedophilia is limited to one religious or even non-religious affiliation. “

“blaming the church for the flaws of men is an appropriate response to my inviting you to read something you may not have read before? Aside from the obvious calumny and bigotry … “

ahh, yes, the “get out of jail free” card; all flaws are due to fallen men, but somehow it’s still the true church.  while pedophilia is certainly not limited to one religion or institution, it’s the catholic church that has covered this up for decades, and continues to stonewall any reform.  hardly an institution that “takes seriously the teachings of jesus.”  sorry, but pointing this out is not bigotry, it’s speaking truth to power.  the fact that you continue to believe in the church, and probably continue to tithe, and not hold your leaders accountable, is why the problem persists.  and why bruce and many others will take them or their adherents seriously when they claim moral superiority.

so, at every turn, all you’ve done is blame bruce (or me, or atheists), and have not once accepted any criticism of your church or yourself.  and you’ve made excuse after excuse for your behavior and the church’s behavior.  a more appropriate, (perhaps christian) response, would have been to apologize for jumping to conclusions, admit that the church has some serious moral failings that bother you also.   hence, i’m done talking with  you.  if bruce wants to let you continue to comment, that’s his choice.

Comment 5

Bruce,

Apparently you’re not familiar with the concept of speed reading. Typically, it results from being in a hurry and having little time, hence my not reading any of your other linked articles. As they say, “common sense isn’t so common.”

So, blaming the church for the flaws of men is an appropriate response to my inviting you to read something you may not have read before? Aside from the obvious calumny and bigotry (which continued in your recent reply), that’s some serious rash judgement on your behalf and even more revealing of your character.

My original post wasn’t intended to be an attack on your character, but wow, I’m not sure how you pastored anything that long with such thin skin! And seriously, how could your comment about poverty not stick out to me like a sore thumb? As believers we’re called to poverty of spirit and worldly possessions, two things you clearly have no desire for. That’s a rather obvious advantage of the priesthood–being more concerned with God rather than the things of this world and the flesh. But that’s neither here nor there; that deeper theological virtue/significance didn’t even occur to me until you got so butthurt about it.

It’s truly odd seeing such an entitlement mentality from a man of the previous generation. I suppose that’s a manifestation of such self-interest, among the other obvious things. I read your rather lengthy post out of curiosity, not fealty. So I’m sorry, I don’t owe it to you to read anymore. I’m honestly not even interested anymore after your passive-aggressive rants against my imaginary assault on your character and your continued antagonizing sarcasm.

Again, it wasn’t my intent to ridicule your past, and my invite to explore the Church and the writings of her fathers was sincere. I offer you my deepest apologies for causing you such a spike in your blood pressure, inadvertently “stirring you up.” Be sure to have your Catholic sons and daughter-in-laws come on here and read the bigoted, vitriolic, anti-Catholic, hyperbolic comments about their faith that you spill so freely on unsuspecting passersby. While it’ll be unwise coming from someone who has gone their entire life without fully comprehending it, I’ll wait with bated breath for your post about Roman Catholicism, as I’m sure they will as well. I’m sure it’ll be a real call to interfaith communication.

Peace be with you.

Comment 6

SGL,

Yes, I admitted it was a “shoot from the hip” impression. Solid work, Captain Obvious. Oh and thanks for the advice on proper Christian response, but no thanks. That’d be like taking advice from a mouse on how to be a good lion.

If I didn’t believe the Church teachings and authority were absolute, I wouldn’t be there. That would just make me another watered down hypocrite. See, that’s the difference between an opinion and a conviction, the subjective and the objective. If I wanted a watered down version, I’d return to one of the countless sects who work tirelessly to reinvent the wheel while pretending the first 1,500 years of Christianity doesn’t exist. But hey, anyone who’s ever read about the inconsistencies of the Bible might understand that it’s not a book, but a collection of books, hence the supposed inconsistencies.

And yes, flaws come from the failures of men. The Church doesn’t flaunt those things in pride parades or preach them from the altar as do various liberal churches from their pulpits. The Church is not a man; someone so great at pointing out the obvious should clearly be able to see that. Nor does the Church sit idly by ignoring the failings of past men in her ranks. Clearly you can read, so maybe you could peruse some current, relevant articles on the matter. And yes, implying that the Church teaches, promotes, advocates or accepts such deplorable acts is both bigoted and ignorantly ill-informed. I thought atheists were supposed to be champions of freethinking, not false witness? Thanks for correcting my belief.

If you care to understand the failings of men, meditate on the sins of Adam, Cain, Abraham, David, and especially Judas Iscariot. For the sake of argument, if you believed in an all-knowing God, does logic not tell you that He knew what these people would do but used them as an example of the failings of men anyway, both pre- and post-Church establishment, in an effort to signify those who would try to infiltrate yet fail (Judas)? And yet, Judas’ office was filled, apostolic succession was implemented, the primacy of Peter was obvious, and the Church remains, despite the failures of men.

Also, while I did apologize for my haste, why should I apologize for an accurate conclusion? And yes, I admit that many men and women have failed the Church. The Church, however, has not failed us. Hence the 2,000 year old unchanged doctrine, dogmas and theology. Some of us prefer an unchanging truth, some an evolving truth. But by nature, only one is the Truth.

Comment 7

Bruce,

I started off saying you were in it for the wrong reasons based on your own words. That doesn’t mean you didn’t believe you were in it for the right reasons (that would be a character attack), but whatever those reasons were, look where they led you. Which doesn’t mean you can’t be led back, but your present circumstances are what they are. I make no judgement of your apostasy, heresies or blasphemies; that’s for you and God to sort out. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

And while I appreciate SGL’s heartfelt approach to “help” me with his ad hominem laced sarcasm, I’m clearly not the one heading or following some sort of self-help group; not my thing. I prefer to surround myself with those who challenge and build me up, not wallow with me in the various miseries of life. But hey, to each his own. Here’s looking at you, SGL:

“Frank, honest, open, and passionate discussion about religion, Christianity, and Evangelicalism is encouraged and welcome. However, I do expect atheists not to attack, badger, or denigrate people who still believe in God.”

I appreciate that you’ve read Hahn, Merton, Day and the Church Fathers, but again, I didn’t know that until I was not-so-gently corrected. No need to get your feelers wrapped around the axle. I guess my actual assumption would be that you didn’t comprehend them. Which is correct based on your current view of things. Here’s a more approachable response:

“Jaisen, I invite you to check out this blog and this article and this book about why I’ve come to said conclusions. Perhaps they’ll shed a little light on my reasons, past and present. If you ever have the hankering to walk away from your faith, the doors of atheism are always open to you.”

(See, you wouldn’t have sounded like such a bigoted, closed-minded, crotchety old internet warrior that way, and we might have pursued a somewhat meaningful dialogue.)

I never once said anything about “my one true church”. I don’t prescribe to such Protestant personalization lingo (neither does the Bible). The Church isn’t mine. Jesus isn’t mine. Salvation isn’t mine. They belong to everyone. So I guess one of us truly is big on assumptions, but it isn’t me, my friend. I invited you to explore and experience “the” Church; her doors are open to all.

Now if I wanted to engage someone on the theological or financial practices of the church, it wouldn’t be with someone who has no grasp or comprehension of her place in the world and how she came to be. Personally, I prefer solid food to milk. But if I wanted to discuss megachurches bashing opulent palaces from the pulpit, all the while surrounded by endless empty rooms on weekdays with all the homeless in their cities, multi-millionaire televangelists, and prosperity preachers applying their teaching to the people of Ethiopia, then maybe I’d ask you. Surely you have something insightful to say about such practices after so many years being surround by or included in those groups. However, I have no need of discussing such fruitless institutions because common sense tells me they are just that.

Nor do I prescribe to such fallacious logic as equal rights for gays when they’ve had the same right to marry as the rest of us all along: one woman, one man. It’s their choice not to do so. I refuse to advocate such relativistic ideas of murdering your own children before they take their first breath, or going against God’s will to procreate by urging young women to unnaturally poison themselves with a pill a day while preaching against polluting “Mother Earth.” I’ve never been a fan of such hypocrisies, especially cheering on science that promotes things it can’t objectively verify or recreate (evolution, the Big Bang, the gay gene, etc.) while overtly deriding and denying biological science that clearly shows life begins at conception, as well as how the climate changes and there isn’t squat we can do about it. (Duh.) Not to mention being a self-professed liberal, socialist father of someone with Down Syndrome, two ideologies that openly advocate dismembering such persons before
birth. But it’s a free country, you can put your “faith” in whatever you like and still call yourself a “freethinker”.

As for women in the priesthood, I follow the teachings and the precedents set by Jesus and his Apostles, as does the Church. As I said in my original post about orthodoxy and orthopraxy, it can be found in one place, which is why I’m there. I went searching for right teaching and right practice just like you. I found them. My faith is bigger than mere misinterpreted symbolism or junk science. You’re always welcome to come experience it as well, but I find it’s best experienced without the litany of pretexts.

As a side note, to know who you are you have to embrace where you come from:

“Unfortunately, there are many people, Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians in particular, who have a hard time playing well with others. They often use a passive-aggressive approach towards me and the non-Christian people who frequent this blog. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated and will result in a permanent ban.”

Also:

“Please do not confuse my directness and pointedness with me attacking you or your religion. This is a grown-up blog, so crying that I offended you or “attacked” your religion will fall on deaf ears.”

Should I petition you to ban yourself from this blog, or should I just take the personal attacks and denigration of my faith (shit, as you call it) from you and your like-minded, dictator-like followers…like a grown-up?

Comment 8

Hey, that’s fine if you don’t want to publish my comments there, Dear Leader. If I were in your shoes I’d hate for my readers to see me get owned by a guy who’s only been a Catholic for two weeks, too. Gotta love you socialist liberals with your vast open-mindedness, tolerance and hate of censorship (or is that just libertarians?). You can even smell the hypocrisy through the internet!

Comment 9

Dale,

Thanks for your comment. Clearly you’re confused. First, I’m not an adherent to Islam who’s goal is to return the entire world to the 7th century (the Stone Age). Second, easy on the Sci-Fi channel, buddy. Seriously, those are some interesting and imaginative, dare I say child-like ideas you shared, but none of them go together. Third, I’m not sure what the average reading comprehension level is for Bruce’s reader’s, but the last thing I was trying to do was evangelize him or help him “re-beleive”. I simply stated that if he ever had a desire to know Jesus again (see my original post), the doors of the Catholic Church would always be open to him. Personally, I went to Mass several times without reverencing the cross or the Eucharist, so I know from personal experience that you can explore an idea without adhering to it. I like to call that “open-mindedness”. It’s a crazy concept, I know. Fourth, perhaps you could write an expose on liberals politicizing and institutionalizing religious matters to fit their skewed versions of Christ’s teachings, aka, relativism, and how that isn’t a legitimate form of Christianity. Finally, I’m actually a big fan of Santa Claus. Not the man as you know him to be though, but as Saint Nicholas, the guy who punched the first heretic in the face at the First Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. Ah, the good old days!

Comment 10

Yeah, Bruce. You really got me! Glad I could expose you and your self-glorifying narcissistic need for censorship to prove your tolerance and open-minded enlightenment. Ban me, delete my posts as you said you would. As of right now you can’t even stick to that promise. Seriously, don’t flatter yourself anymore than you have already. It’s really just gross at this point. Enjoy your isolation, but do try to pull your head out to take a breath once in a while. It makes it much easier to “play well” with the grown-ups. ; )

Comment 11

Becky,

You get what you give. Please do point me to where I said I knew “the TRUE church” or where I tried to convince Brucey Bruce of his error. Best of luck with that. Do enjoy Mr. Goebbels’ censored blog. (If you’re reading this, he thinks he got me again. They’re so cute at that age.)

Love,
The truth hurts

Comment 12

Instructive? Well in that case, you’re welcome. It’s flattering to know you’re patiently waiting to approve or delete my comments so you can say, “Aha, gotcha.” It’s almost…biblical.

Comment 13

SGL,

Well-played there, Saul Alynski. “Oh no! Someone has different values than us, we have to destroy them to show them how much more open-minded we are than them!” Silly hypocrites.

Comment 14

Nothing different than a heterosexual marriage? Well, besides the fact that there’ll be no communion with God later on or any procreation (a commandment, not a suggestion), there’s also zero complimentarity. Sure, it fits. But that doesn’t mean you should stick it there. Apply that logic to a cigar cutter sometime.

And clearly, the difference between attending a Hindu marriage and a same-sex “marriage” is that homosexuals aren’t trying to change the definition of a Hindu marriage, which is why it’s a direct attack on Christian marriage. One would think someone who spent 25 years in ministry could understand such a simple concept. But I guess that explains why you’re no longer there.

But seriously, how much more demeaning to women and human life could it be? Seriously, a vagina that brings forth another human being is somehow EQUAL to some guy’s stinky anus? You’d have to be a real nut job liberal to believe that garbage.

However, if you prefer wiping someone else’s excrement off of your manhood even though you courteously gave them an enema beforehand, more power to you. That’s your business. Just don’t pretend you’re something you’re not or that marriage is yours to profane. Being a homosexual doesn’t make you a sinner, nor is it any different than any other sin. It’s the act of sticking your penis in another man’s stink hole that makes you a sinner. Go try that BS with Islamic marriage and find out who the real bigots are when they toss your ass off the top of a building or hang you in a public square.

Comment 15

Bruce Almighty,

While I enjoy giving you something to do, I do not appreciate you polluting my comments. You may be the dictator of this blog, but when your precious liberal government takes over the internet that’s all gonna change, mister.

All jokes aside, yep, that’s the man I am. Speaking the ugly truth no matter how bad it may be. Nothing I said is untrue. Sure, the wording is a bit colorful, but I was just taking it down to the level of the playing field that I’m on. It’s a great way to avoid being called a lying, censoring, hypocrite. Which is much more than I can say for yourself, Mr. Goebbels.

Comment 16

Beckers,

Please step down from your hypocritically judgmental high horse and explain for me how describing the birds and bees of homosexuality (or rather the birds and the birds) is mean, hateful and vicious. Perhaps I could show you the aftermath of an abortion and you could say the same thing about me while highfiving the abortionist who did it. That’d be rich.

Comment 17

Beckers,

You do understand how the homosexual act works, right? The penis is repeatedly inserted into the place only meant for removing bacteria ridden human waste, and then they say, “Love is love!” And poof, a unicorn is born 9 months later.

But seriously, from the female perspective, how do you feel about so many people like Brucey Bruce who devalue your female anatomy and worth by proclaiming your vagina to be equal to a man’s anal sphincter? Do you agree or disagree with them?

(Bruce, don’t act like you didn’t at least giggle a tiny bit before you went all Goebbels on this comment.)

Nice skunk analogy. This blog smells like hypocritical censorship and someone who speaks from experience. That would actually explain a lot about Dear Leader’s homosexual devotion. How about a blog explaining what it’s like being part of the 54%, Brucinda?

Comment 18

Bruce,

Of course you hate Jesus. You spent 25 years as a false teacher imitating John Calvin instead of Him, dishonoring His mother and denying the divinity of His body and blood. Reinventing the wheel and recreating His image without any authority, and then wondering why it didn’t work out. And then it’s supposed to be some great surprise that you “lost the faith” and that other “fundies” act exactly as you do now, only still attached to the evangelical mold that you propagated for so long. Is it really a great surprise to you that you were filled with grace at baptism (the other two didn’t count by the way, clearly), only to watch that grace diminish over the years through your denial of the priesthood, confession and Eucharist, leading to this obvious and glaring state in which you find yourself? It’s clear as day to me. Even the demons believe and shutter. Yet even still your pride reigns in you, the same pride that yelled at Catholocism from the pulpit for years now yells hysterically, “You’re attacking my character!” That same pride that led you away from Jesus tells you that you know who He is now better than ever and you’re going to pollute everyone else’s idea of Him, just from a different pulpit. All the while pretending it’s not your intention to tear down anyone else’s faith. Can you smell the hypocrisy? Pride truly is the root of all evil. However, the only unforgivable sin is to go to your grave denying the Trinity and all that it entails, not the sin of homosexuality (another false teaching you no doubt helped to spread). As I said before, the doors are always open to you. Grace can always be restored. You may hate the Jesus that you helped create, but the real Jesus still loves you.

P.S. This Jesus you speak of sounds a lot like every liberal and socialist of the Democratic Party. Which reminds me, aren’t you all three?

Comment 19

Nothing I said was vitriolic, Bruce. If the truth is vitriolic to you, then maybe a good dose of self-examination is in order. *Pro-tip: We do that before receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

Comment 20

Yeah Bruce, I’m no match for your ability to press a “delete comment” or “ban user” button on the internets! Your intellectual prowess is far too superior for the likes of me! My prayers go out to those questioning or doubting folks who stumble upon your snares. And of course I keep reading; even Catholics need entertainment! I rather enjoy your reverse-shaming tactics–they teach you that trick at seminary?

Comment 21

Carmen,

“And you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am going to vomit you from my mouth.”

Comment 22

Poor fella, those buttons aren’t working anymore. Here’s an idea, instead of hiding behind your keyboard, how about addressing the points I made? No? Well…I guess that’s just the kind of man you are! You’ve brought shame upon your fundamental atheist church, good sir! Sound familiar?

Comment 23

Careful, Bruce. Carmen might call you nasty. She’d probably call you a coward as well if she could see the rest of my comments which you so conveniently delete. Super comeback, by the way. Way to bring your A-game.

Comment 24

To be clear, are you referring to what assholes do at the physiological level, or at the more emotional, liberal worldview? I’m sure you’ll have a great answer as you’ve clearly cornered that market.

Comment 25

Oh, I get it. You only want to have a dialogue with people who think at your level. No room for dissent or alternate opinions. Roger that. Enjoy your “open-minded, free-thinker” society. Or would that be “me-thinker”? Doesn’t matter. Have a hypocritical day!

Comment 26

Aww, Beckers. Bruce is pretending he’s open-minded while deleting my comments, editing them to make him look smarter, etc., aka, hypocritical to free thought. I never said anyone was lost on here in any of my comments, but hey, you stated the problem there when you said, “I have to assume that…” While you’re welcome to your assumptions and putting words in my mouth, it doesn’t make your assertions any less false. It’s really just par for the course at this point. Bruce’s opinion of how Christians should act is not only irrelevant, it’s also the reason why so many leave: We’re not called to be pandering, politically correct, over-feminized beta-males who won’t stand up for the teachings of Christ. THAT is why so many people lose their faith, because it simply does not work that way. Bruce will delete this comment because he doesn’t want any of those questioning and doubting folks to wonder onto his blog and find somebody actually saying something that makes sense. That’d be bad for business.

Comment 27

The Bruce does not like to appear too predictable, so the Bruce abides.

Comment 28

Exciting! Will this upcoming post be about how the judgmental Dear Leader doesn’t like to be questioned or challenged?! Or about how if you stop by Bruce’s corner of the internet to invite him to your church and wish him well you’ll be derided and disparaged (against Dear Leader’s comment rules I might add)?! I’ve yet to see your thoughtful reply to Mr. Ed up top addressing his heresies and omission of Matthew 28:19; will it be about how I should undermine my own convictions by respecting the heresies of others?! I’m sure whatever the topic it’ll be super intellectually stimulating without a thread of truth about anything I’ve said, or the fact that I’ve simply responded to you and your antagonizing readers with the same lack of respect shown me. Not to mention any attempt to correct you (you REALLY hate that!) or your libel will show up as “Comment Deleted.” Can’t wait!

*The sarcasm in this comment is in no way an endorsement of the author of this blog’s hypocritical views of other’s convictions.

Comment 29

Bruce. Wow. You’ve figured me out. I didn’t know you were such a huge fan of my work on the Daily Show. I’m flattered! And what is with the truck driver comments?

But seriously, you like to point fingers and accuse me of things I haven’t done. I may have been a bit frank with you, but let’s be honest, you get what you put out there. Yes, I was very much surprised at your first reply to me as I was very polite; hardly a pulling down of the pants and claiming imminent domain on your living room floor. I also thought I was interacting with an adult who might have some interesting insights based on where you’ve been and where you are now. I even had a couple of theological questions, exercises as you call them, that I was hoping to throw your way regardless of your position. You can’t pretend you’re all polite and thoughtful based on your initial reply to me and breaking your own blog rules by allowing others to attack me; your actions speak otherwise.

I never said anyone was wrong or attempted to push my views on others. Anything definitive I’ve said towards you was meant solely for you. Clearly it doesn’t take much to rile you up, which was the goal. As I said, you get what you put out there. Sure, I could’ve just been the better man and let your childish, libelous comments stand alone. I probably should have because it’s been a colossal waste of time typing out responses only to have them deleted so that you can control the narrative and paint me to be the foot stomping fundamentalist beating up on the atheist.

Sure, I’d love to have a meaningful dialogue with Ed about unitarianism as it’s not something I’ve ever studied. Or with David, to explain the empty facade you’ve created for me. Both of them seem like reasonable human beings. However, you are Bruce and you are god of this here blog and unless you agree with what’s being said and how it’s being said, it’s not happening. So what would be the point in trying, am I right?

And to answer your question, I respect the office of the Pope, and yes, I do respect the current Pope. I doubt he has time to worry with the thoughts and actions of every individual in the world, but as you can clearly see by glancing over your comments section, he wouldn’t be able to read my comments in context: You’ve deleted most of them, creating a pretext. So your point is moot. The Pope doesn’t claim to be the thought police as so many anti-Catholics claim anyhow. Hell, he’d have to battle with you for that position!

Let’s ask you a similar question. I assume you respect your Catholic children? I wonder if they read your comments about their faith what they would think? I wonder if they’d think you’re the polite and thoughtful interfaith communicator you claim to be? I suspect they’d be disappointed to say the least.

No hard feelings, Bruce. I wish you well, too. As I said at the end of my very first post, may God bless you on your journey. (And yes, I know it’s silly to you because you don’t believe in God, but that doesn’t make Him any less real for me or the billions who think otherwise.)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Black Death of the Church

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A guest post by MJ Lisbeth

It sickened and killed its first victims in China. Italy was the stage for its European arrival; from there, it spread to Spain, France, Germany, England, Scandinavia and the Balkans. Urban dwellers of means fled to their countryside manses. In the meantime, leaders insisted that things were normal, blamed their enemies and racial groups who were already experiencing suspicion and scorn, and, perhaps worst of all, recommended “treatments,” “cures” and other courses of action that, they claimed, had remedial powers but, in fact, had no empirical foundation.

So far, this sounds like an outline of the COVID-19 trajectory and the response to the pandemic, doesn’t it? Would that we were living in such interesting times, to paraphrase an ancient Chinese (!) curse. Instead, this recounting of a pandemic feels, if anything, more like the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The chronology I outlined in the first paragraph is, in fact, a rough sketch of the Black Death’s trajectory—with a slight variation. Nearly everyone who has studied the 14th Century spread of the plague agrees that it started, or at least was first noticed, in east-central Asia: somewhere in what is now Mongolia or, perhaps, westernmost China. Those same scholars say that it spread along the “Silk Road” and maritime trade routes while the current pandemic most likely spread in planes, trains, cars and buses.

What is all-too-depressingly-familiar, though, is the response of rulers—and said leaders’ relation to a “higher” authority. In late-medieval Europe, the church was all but inseparable from monarchies and the noble classes. Likewise, the heads of state in the United States, Russia, Brazil and other countries glean much of their support from vocal religious groups who, in many cases, deny the findings of scientists, ignore the recommendations of health care professionals and eschew intellectual inquiry. Thus are we advised that COVID-19 is “just a flu” that will “pass” with warm weather or the re-election of the leader making the claim. The US President bellows his prescription of injecting one’s self with cleaning products over the warnings of one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, much as medieval authorities prescribed chopping up snakes and rubbing the pieces on one’s body (the snake, associated with Satan, was supposed to attract and draw away the “evil” of the disease) or drinking potions made from a unicorn’s horn. The President also insists that religious fundamentalists, vital to his re-election, can congregate, sing, dance, hug, kiss and share meals with hundreds of other fellow worshipers, just as the medieval Church continued to encourage mass gatherings, a source of its power.

That same symbiotic relationship between political and ecumenical authorities is a reason why the former can so easily blame people who are not part of the dominant culture or religion for the pestilence spreading across the land—or for any number of actual or imagined evils and tragedies. In a world where Jews were said to poison wells, kidnap and kill Christian children and perform all manner of evil rites, it wasn’t hard for the Church and Court to promulgate the belief that Jews caused the plague—and to justify murdering them. Likewise could, and did, the President marshal the xenophobic resentments of his supporters to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu,” just as leaders of other countries could, and did, blame the epidemic on religious and racial minorities or LGBTQ and other “deviant” people. The “Leader of the Free World” also fuels (or at least does nothing to tamp down) rumors that members of those same groups—or his political enemies—run pedophilia rings that—you guessed it—kidnap innocent white children and force them into unspeakable acts .

(In my admittedly-amateur reading of history, I’ve noticed this: When deranged minds and empty hearts fill clerical robes, gaudy uniforms or expensive suits, they use—or encourage others to use—the need to protect the supposed innocence of their children or purity of their women to rationalize all sorts of thuggery.)

If the parallels I’ve drawn, so far, are grim, I can offer a more hopeful comparison. While the Black Death brought the worst kinds of religious bigots out of the woodwork—as the COVID-19 pandemic is doing in the US—it also was, arguably, the first event to cause some people to question the authority of the church, and even the power of their god. It’s almost impossible for anyone in a secular Western country to imagine just how deeply monarchs and secular officials were in thrall to Church authority. (The closest analogues we have today are probably countries such as Saudi Arabia that are ruled by one interpretation or another of Sharia law.) While religious authorities held sway over secular ones at least until the Enlightenment, their influence lessened, however gradually, beginning with the Black Death.

One reason the church lost some of its authority was attrition: Priests and bishops were no more immune than illiterate field laborers to the ravages of the bubonic plague; soon, there weren’t enough prelates to conduct masses or other rites. Nearly all religious institutions act from a premise they dare not articulate: It’s harder to keep people in the fold when you can’t gather them. That, I believe, is why some religious groups, particularly Evangelical Christian and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregations, are pressuring or even defying local officials who have banned or restricted large gatherings.

Oh, and in some places, there weren’t enough attendees to keep churches open—even though the Catholic church, like most Christian churches today, doesn’t have a requirement equivalent to that of the minyan. And, even though the social pressure to attend mass was much greater than it is today (save in some conservative homogenous communities), some people stayed away. Although they knew nothing about how the plague was transmitted, much less of epidemiology in general, they noticed that, most often, people got sick when they gathered in large groups. (That, of course, is the reason why affluent urbanites fled to more pastoral settings.)

There is also evidence that some might have stayed away from church—or simply waned in their commitment to it—because they wondered, if only to themselves, about a God who visited such suffering on people who did nothing to deserve it:

For God is deaf and deigneth us not to hear That girls (children) for their guilts (sins) he forgrint (destroys) them all.

William Langland embedded those lines in Piers Plowman, his epic poem that is an allegory of the narrator’s quest for a “true” Christian life—or, if you like, a thinly-veiled critique of a medieval Catholic church that, too often, exploited the Black Death to stoke smoldering hatred of Jews, gypsies and other “infidels.”

Similar developments are unfolding today. While the most extreme congregations of Christianity and Judaism have shown that they are willing to disregard the health and safety of others in the name of “religious freedom,” the pandemic seems to be accelerating a trend, particularly among the young, away from organized worship and religious institutions. They don’t expect prayer or other rituals to protect them from COVID-19 any more than they believe that it’s “God’s will” for them or anyone else to suffer and die from it. If the churches and synagogues never open again, Gen X-ers and Millennials probably won’t miss them. They—and their more educated and rational elders—are leaning in so they can listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx over the bellowing of self-appointed (or selected-by-the-Electoral College) messiahs.

During the past few months, all sorts of parallels have been drawn between the 14th Century Black Death and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some should serve as warnings, but others—such as the erosion of faith in religious institutions—might offer some hope for the future, as long as we allow ourselves to get there.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Closer to Home

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

He made it—just barely—out of Sobibor. So, it was no surprise that any time a former Nazi was found, or a new revelation about the regime and the Holocaust emerged, he took notice.

Louis is gone now. Though I can’t imagine what he endured, in the camp or in his nightmares and flashbacks, I feel I’ve become like him, in a way. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, I can’t help but to notice when some clerical predator is exposed.

Or what he and his brethren left in their wake.

Since “coming out” about my abuse two years ago, I have met others who had to endure similar horrors, whether from priests, professors, professional colleagues, parents or others in positions of authority. I have also learned about lives, families, communities and institutions that were destroyed as a result.

Some of the institutions will be missed. Others, however, deserved, like Hitler’s regime and its agencies, to be swept into the dustbin of history.

Perhaps the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Rockville Centre and Camden won’t disappear any time soon. There can be little doubt, however, that they’ve lost their powers, including their abilities to harbor and enable priests who preyed on people’s trust.

Last week, within the space of a couple of days, they declared bankruptcy, citing the financial strain of lawsuits from sex-abuse litigation. They are, of course, not the first dioceses to take such action. But their going into receivership is significant because of their relative prominence. Camden, in New Jersey, is directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia which, in 2015, was tied with Chicago as the second-most Catholic city in the US. (Boston, New York and Pittsburgh were tied for first.) Rockville Centre, comprising the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk, is one of the largest dioceses (by population) in the nation—and the largest, to date, to declare bankruptcy. It’s also directly east of the Diocese of Brooklyn, of which it was a part until 1957.

Camden’s and Rockville Centre’s proximity to two of the largest and most Catholic American cities is reason enough to take notice of them. Equally important, though, is another characteristic they share, and I know all too well.

The parish in which I, as an altar boy, was abused by a priest, is in the heart of the Diocese of Brooklyn. In other posts, I’ve talked about the church’s centrality in my old neighborhood: Nearly everyone attended it, and I, like many of my peers, were pupils in its school. Many kids were encouraged, or even forced, to become altar boys or participate in other church activities; I, and some other kids, volunteered for such things because our families or other people in our community didn’t have the time, or didn’t know how to give us the kinds of non-material support we needed. (For some kids, that support was material.) Our parents worked long and hard (our fathers at paid jobs, our mothers at uncompensated tasks) but, because they married and birthed us when they were very young (or for other reasons), didn’t know how to deal with anything besides fawning obedience. They did not know how to respond to the kinds of tiredness, sadness, or bewilderment children experience, sometimes because for no other reason than they don’t have the language or other means of expressing it.

What I didn’t know, of course, was that at the time I was growing up, we were part of a way of life that was dying: The cops, the firefighters, the factory workers were moving their families to Rockville Centre and other places on Long Island.

And to New Jersey, where I moved with my family when I was twelve. Our new church was part of the Diocese of Trenton, the northern neighbor of Camden diocese. The city of Camden, once home to RCA and Campbell’s soup, was in steep decline. But the surrounding communities in its diocese flourished as bedroom communities to Philadelphia, from which cops, firefighters and factory workers moved.

There, and in the Rockville Centre enclaves, their parents worked even harder to pay and keep up their houses and car payments. That meant kids were, perhaps, even more isolated and alienated than they would have been in South Philly or South Brooklyn — and, in those pre-Internet days, with fewer ways of reaching others who felt the way they did.

A lonely or alienated kid is to a sexual predator—whether a priest or some other authority figure — like tinder to a forest fire. So, if a kid feels isolated in an urban enclave, imagine what it must be like in a suburban town, with the family’s breadwinner(s) commuting for several hours a day in addition to the time he/she/they work.

Fortunately for me, I did not get involved with our new church, beyond attending mass, after my family moved to New Jersey: I become more involved with Scouting (which I joined before our move) and school-related activities. But other kids who weren’t drawn to such things (literary magazines, photography clubs, sports teams and the like) were probably even more stranded than their peers in the neighborhood my family left. So, some of them might have been even easier prey for predacious priests than I was.

Although I have never met them, I thought about those young people when I heard that the Dioceses of Camden and Rockville Centre declared bankruptcy — just as I imagine my late friend Louis thought about inmates at Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz whenever a former Nazi was found in Cleveland or Argentina or some other place far from where they committed their horrible crimes.

In short, the bankruptcies of the Camden and Rockville Centre dioceses were personal for me — just as the capture of John Demjanjuk was for Louis, my late friend.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Billions of People are Christian so Christianity MUST be True

one true religion

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

One of the arguments Evangelical Christians use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity is this:

 “Bruce, billions of people are Christians. Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? The sheer number of Christians makes it highly unlikely that Christianity is untrue, right? However, history is replete with examples of people sincerely believing things that were later found to be untrue. Millions of people have been slaughtered by zealots sincerely committed to beliefs that were untrue.

In the political realm, we see this all the time. President Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew us into the Vietnam War. President George Bush and his lackeys lied about weapons of mass destruction, and used this lie to start a war with Iraq. Adolph Hitler, a Christian man, along with his fellow Nazis, spun a lie about the Jews and the superiority of the Aryan race. Germans embraced this lie, resulting in the death of millions of people. In each of these illustrations, the lie was believed by the masses.

What does Christianity offer to people? It purports to answer the “big” questions of life, especially the question of life after death. There is no question that Christianity gives hope, meaning, and purpose to billions of people. However, just because millions of people find hope, meaning, and purpose in Christianity doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

catholic one true church

Christianity is an exclusive religion. Some sects within the Christian tent (i.e. Catholicism) claim exclusivity for their particular sect. Some churches take this exclusivity a step further and claim that they are one of the few true churches (i.e. Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God). A Christian is a follower of Jesus and his teachings. At some level, the Bible must be embraced as truth. Otherwise, how can a person know they should follow Jesus or what the requirements are to be a follower?

Since Christianity is an exclusive religion, all other religions are considered false. All other gods are no gods at all. According to Christians, their God, the God of the Bible, the God who reveals himself through creation and conscience, is the one true and ever-existing God.

It is this certainty about God, the Bible, sin, salvation, and life after death that draws millions of people to Christianity. Every Easter, millions of people will gather together to proclaim their belief in a God-man named Jesus. In him, they find the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. Surely the sheer magnitude of worldwide Easter gatherings stands as proof that Christianity is true!

There’s just one BIG problem with this seemingly insurmountable “fact.” There are other sects that have millions/billions of worshippers too. There are millions of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists who believe their God is the true God or one of the many gods in the universe. Take a look at the numbers for the major religions of the world:

top 15 religions in the world

Let’s play fill in the blank:

Millions/Billions of people are __________ (fill in with one of the above religions). “Surely they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

I hope you see that the number of believers/followers doesn’t necessarily mean a religion is true. It is quite possible for a religion to be totally manmade and yet have millions/billions of adherents. This is easily proved.

When I think of a manmade religion, I can think of no better example than Mormonism. Joseph Smith invented the Mormon religion, yet 15+ million people are practicing Mormons. There are over 29,000 Mormon congregations in the world and over 88,000 Mormon missionaries go from place to place making disciples for their God. Surely, this is proof that the Mormon religion is the one true faith and the Mormon God is the one true God, right?

Wikipedia gives a concise summary of how the Mormon religion started:

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. Founded by Joseph Smith, the faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates he said he found buried after being directed to their location by an angel. The book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. Smith dictated the book of 584 pages over a period of about three months saying that he translated it from an ancient language “by the gift and power of God”. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.

Smith later wrote that he had seen a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ in spring 1820 in answer to his question of which denomination he should join. Sometimes called the “First Vision”, Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings was reportedly the basis for the difference in doctrine between Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and that of orthodox Christianity. Smith further said that in answer to his prayer the Lord instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported having several angelic visitations, and by 1830 Smith said that he had been instructed that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church.

Mormonism is a wonderful example of American entrepreneurship. Founded on the lies/delusions of Joseph Smith, it is now one of the largest religions in the United States. There is no truth to the founding story, yet millions of people believe it. This is clear evidence that it is possible for millions of people to believe something and it be totally false.

one true religion

How do you know that Christianity is any different from Mormonism or any of the other religions of the world? As I have clearly shown, the number of people who believe is not proof that any particular religion is true.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Masked in the City’s Bible Belt

williamsburg bridge

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I think I’m recovering pretty well from my bike accident. Heck, last Tuesday I even rode the 5 miles to my follow-up CAT scan. I hope it will confirm that I’m as well as I think I am!

The day after, I went for another, longer, bike ride. I needed it because, well, I’m a nearly-lifelong cyclist. Also, I wanted not to think about the CAT scan and to think about other things: It was a couple of days after the anniversary of my mother’s death.

Now I’m going to tell you something you may have figured if you’ve read my previous articles: I live, and grew up, in New York. Even though parts of the city, through gentrification and hyper-development, are becoming more homogenized, it is still a city of stark contrasts. It’s still possible, in some areas, to enter a completely different world simply by crossing a street.

This is especially true in Brooklyn, one of the city’s five boroughs. Today the name is practically a brand that, to much of the world, signifies hipness (if in an overly self-conscious way). If you spend any time in the waterfront neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, it’s easy to understand why: In cafes along Kent, Bedford and Driggs Avenues, where I rode, young men and women in tight jeans wash down their $15 slices of avocado toast (!) with $20 craft beers or cocktails.

These young people, nearly all of them childless, are hated or resented, or at least mocked, as “entitled millennials” because, for one thing, nearly all of them come from other parts of the United States and thus, in the eyes of some, can’t be “real New Yorkers.” (I would argue that is exactly what some don’t want to become. But that’s a subject for an entirely different article.) Also, many of them, even before the pandemic, didn’t seem to be doing any work to support themselves. The money for their avocado toast and drinks—and the condos in which many of them live—comes from elsewhere.

One thing I have to say for them, though: When they weren’t eating or drinking, nearly all of them were wearing masks. Of course, they weren’t covering their faces with those generic blue, white or yellow hospital masks: Some, I am sure, created their own face coverings, while others had them made by artisans or designers, whether in the neighborhood or elsewhere.

As I pedaled down Driggs, I rolled under the Williamsburg Bridge overpass as a train rumbled and clattered across. Many see the bridge as a sort of Mason-Dixon line, if you will, dividing North from South Williamsburg. One could also argue that Nostrand Avenue, where East Williamsburg begins, performs the same function. Like the line that separated the Union from the Confederacy, the areas north and west of the “lines” are richer, whiter and more educated (at least in a certain sense) than the areas on the other side.

My ride didn’t take me into East Williamsburg, though I ride into the area often. I will mention, however, that it is the last remnant of Williamsburg’s Puerto Rican community, which dominated the area for four decades or so after World War II. I did, however, spin my wheels south, into one of the two New York neighborhoods that most closely resemble a prewar shtetl.

I am talking about the part of Williamsburg below the eponymous bridge. The description in my previous paragraph is not an exaggeration: If you were to find yourself on the southern part of Driggs, or on Lee Avenue, late on a Friday or on Saturday, you’d have the place to yourself.

Since I was riding there on a Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t alone. The thing is, I was one of the few non-Hasidim in the area. Normally, I don’t mind that: At worst, I am ignored and can ride or go about whatever else I’m doing, undisturbed. On the other hand, the fact that I was cycling through the neighborhood on the day before shabat, I couldn’t help but to notice that I, and the other goyim in the area, were the only ones wearing masks. None of the Hasidic men and women covered their faces.

I noticed the same phenomenon as I pedaled further south, into Brooklyn’s other Hasidic enclave: Borough Park. There, I was even more isolated: I was, literally, the only goyim (all right, I’m an atheist; but in that community, any outsider is goy!) pedaling, walking or otherwise passing through the area. But that was not the only reason I felt as if I stuck out even more than I did in South Williamsburg: I grew up at the edge of Borough Park, where it borders Kensington. Half a century ago, when I was an altar boy (and manque transgender), the neighborhood was more or less evenly divided between Italian-, Irish- and Polish-Americans. Most of the men, including my father, were blue-collar workers who did as much overtime as they could so they could send me and my peers to the neighborhood’s Catholic school, which closed about 15 years ago. And we all went to the same church—which remains open mainly because of Hispanics who work in the neighborhood—on Sunday.

In my old neiIn my old neighborhood, none of the residents was wearing a mask. However, in a neighboring community, populated mainly by Bangladeshi Muslims, nearly everyone — male, female and otherwise — was.

I would like to think that the denizens of my old neighborhood would have covered their faces, if for no other reason than their reverence (really, a combination of fear and obsequiousness) for authority. The funny thing is that, for all of that they (and I, at the time—after all, I was an altar boy) unquestioningly obeyed our church and school, we knew enough to listen to secular authorities when they knew better. Unfortunately, my old neighborhood—along with South Williamsburg and a few neighborhoods dominated by Evangelical and Pentecostal churches—are this city’s “Bible Belt,” if you will. They believe that the power of their beliefs will protect them when the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci won’t. And even if their fealty to the Word of their God doesn’t keep them from succumbing to COVID-19, they believe that God (or Yahweh) “wants” them “now.”

Some pundits have, accurately, observed, that in the US, the choice to wear a mask—or not—during the COVID-19 pandemic breaks along political lines. In my city, though, it has more to do with religious faith—which, ironically is the political “fault line” in the Big Apple. My ride showed me on which side of the line I live.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Findlay Catholic Priest Michael Zacharias Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minors

Michael Zacharias

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Michael Zacharias, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay Ohio, stands accused of grooming and sexually assaulting minors for years. (I attended high school in Findlay in the 1970s. Several of my friends attended St. Michael’s.)

The Toledo Blade reports:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, alleging that he groomed and sexually assaulted minors for years, beginning in Toledo.

Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith said the Rev. Michael Zacharias, 53, is believed to have groomed and sexually assaulted minors since the late 1990s.

The Northwest Ohio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force took the priest into custody after he presided at a 7 a.m. Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Father Zacharias faces charges of coercion and enticement, sex trafficking of a minor, and sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion, according to court documents.

….

Agent Smith addressed the media at a morning news conference outside the priest’s residence on Greendale Avenue in Findlay, which abuts the parking lot of the parish grounds. He said the criminal complaint filed against the priest includes accounts from two victims, but his department believes there have been others.

….

“It’s imperative that those other individuals out there come forward,” he said on Tuesday. “Your contact with us will remain strictly confidential.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo announced that Father Zacharias was put on administrative leave effective immediately upon hearing word of his arrest. This means he cannot exercise public ministry, administer sacraments, or present himself as a priest. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while an allegation is being investigated.

Bishop Daniel Thomas responded in a statement:

“I am profoundly shocked and grieved to learn of these charges against one of our priests,” he said. “The Church cannot and will not tolerate any such behavior and takes any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of a cleric with the utmost seriousness. As we await the outcome of the criminal investigation, our prayers go out to anyone affected by this situation.”

The diocese indicated that these are the first allegations raised against Father Zacharias.

Father Zacharias was ordained in 2002, according to the diocese.

He is most recently the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017. The parish serves about 3,300 households, and is affiliated with St. Michael the Archangel School, which covers preschool through eighth grade.

The diocese identified his previous assignments as St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Toledo as a seminarian between 1999 and 2000; St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio as an associate pastor between 2002 and 2007; St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Van Wert as pastor between 2007 and 2011; St. Joseph and St. Ann Parishes in Fremont as pastor between 2011 and 2017; and St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017.

Investigators allege in court records that he began to groom two male victims, currently ages 32 and 26, while he was a seminarian and they were students at St. Catherine of Siena. One met Father Zacharias in the sixth grade, the other in the first grade, according to the complaint.

Each described to agents drug addictions that began in their teen years, and alleged that the priest would help fund their drug habits by paying them for oral sex. This began while they were underage and, in the case of one of the victims, continued until as recently as July.

The complaint indicates that these exchanges occurred at times in parish rectories, including Father Zacharias’ diocese-owned residence in Findlay.

The complaint also indicates that in the case of the victim with whom he was in touch as recently as July, Father Zacharias would request and at times pay for videos in which he performed sex acts on the victim and in which he confessed to grooming the victim. The complaint references multiple text messages between the victim and the priest.

….

Father Zacharias was one of several ordinands who spoke with The Blade in 2002, reflecting on their vocations amid seismic revelations of widespread clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as reported by the Boston Globe.

Then-Deacon Zacharias said that his cohort of priests would bring with them an understanding of sexuality as a part of who they are.

“In the past I don’t want to say they denied it, but it seems as though they were told, ‘You’re going to be a priest, you’re going to be celibate,’” he told The Blade then. By contrast, he said contemporary seminarians were taught to have healthy and appropriate relationships.

Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn responded to the news in a statement on Tuesday.

“I am distraught by the news of the arrest of Father Michael Zacharias,” she said. “These allegations are not taken lightly, and the Findlay Police Department and our community at large will support the full and thorough investigation by the FBI. Such abuse of power, and perversion of sexuality is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any organization, individual, or society.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

She Knew Me

guest post

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

For the past month, I’ve been recovering from a bike crash.

After getting stitched up in a local hospital, I was transferred to a larger facility with a trauma unit. Just after I arrived, a doctor asked me a series of questions about my health: No, I’ve never smoked. Yes, I drink: one or two glasses of wine or beer with supper, and spirits on rare occasions. No serious or chronic illnesses. Two surgeries: the first, twenty-five years ago, for a deviated septum; the second, fifteen years later, to align my genitals with my gender identity.

Thankfully, no one raised an eyebrow over my last answer. I think he, and the nurses in the room, realized that I was speaking slowly because I was tired and in pain, but that I was coherent. Ironically, that may have been exactly what raised that doctor’s alarm when I unequivocally answered one of the mental-health questions: Yes, I have attempted suicide. But, I explained, not recently: I tried to kill and caused other kinds of harm to myself because of some experiences—including sexual abuse—in my childhood.

The doctor called in someone else —a psychiatrist, I believe. They asked, several times, whether my accident was not an accident. I insisted that my mishap was just that: an unfortunate circumstance. One of the nurses, a native of a Caribbean island, looked into my eyes. She interjected: “No, she wasn’t trying to kill herself. And she’s not going to try anything like that now.”

The other nurse in the room—also from the Caribbean—nodded. The doctor and psychiatrist stopped their conversation and note-taking. The psychiatrist glanced toward them, then at me. “I don’t think she needs to be under watch,” he declared. The doctor scribbled something, which I took as agreement.

Then he asked whether I wanted a chaplain. No, I’m not religious, I explained. I didn’t mention my atheism because I didn’t want to risk a debate for which, at that moment, I didn’t have the energy. I glanced back at the nurse who advocated for my sanity. She looked at me, knowingly.

Two days later, I went home. The nurse and I have stayed in touch. “It was a priest, wasn’t it?”

She didn’t have to pose it as a question. She knows; I think she knew it that night we met in the trauma center.

I’d like to know how she knew. Or do I already know?