Roy Donovan reviews A Catechism of the Heart: A Jesuit Missioned to the Laity by Benjamin James Brenkert

A Catechism of the Heart: A Jesuit Missioned to the Laity – 23 July 2020            by Benjamin James Brenkert  (Author), Robert Waldron (Contributor)

This book is a deep cry from the depth of the depths within Ben to be heard and taken seriously by the powers that be in the Catholic Church – a Church that teaches that being gay is “intrinsically disordered” and that doesn’t allow gay priests to come out openly.  Many gay people couldn’t be bothered with such a Church and yet Ben gave 10 years of his life driven by the Spirit, listening to his call to the Jesuit priesthood, to create new ways forward in a Church that would treat all gay people as equals. It was as if the Spirit through Ben was giving the Church one more chance to do the right thing.

The pain of rejection resonates throughout yet his strong living relationship with Jesus Christ keeps on awakening again and again joy, positivity and the courage to name things as they are. His is a rare honesty that keeps on wanting to do the truth. Ben’s is a faith that does justice.

This book is a personal witness which leaves one in no doubt that the Church has got it completely wrong about gay people.  The Church is committing a sin against the Holy Spirit in not listening to people like Ben and in not allowing him and LGBTQ people to sit as equals at the Table.

It is my hope that in reading this book, we catch a glimpse of a very big God that can house every person on this planet and that in particular, we will welcome LGBTQ as equals to the Table.

Fr. Roy Donovan

(The book can be bought on amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Walmart.)

About the Author:   At the age of twenty-five, Benjamin James Brenkert—a young man from Long Island, a social work student, and an internet vocation to the priesthood—entered one of the historically boldest, influential, apostolic religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. Aged thirty-four, and a member of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in good standing, Brenkert was missioned to the laity by his last religious superior. Brenkert could not come out publicly as a gay Jesuit and support his LGBTQ peers who were being fired from various church employment and volunteer activities because of whom they loved.

Brenkert had never concealed his sexuality from his religious superiors, he knew all too well what was written in the Church’s Catechism about homosexuals. Still, he felt uniquely called to respond to God’s invitation to serve him in total love as a priest, something confirmed in him in prayer during his thirty-day silent retreat and affirmed to him by his religious superiors and peers throughout his life in the Jesuits.

In his Open Letter to Pope Francis in 2014, Brenkert wrote, “Pope Francis . . . I ask you to instruct the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to tell Catholic institutions not to fire any more LGBTQ Catholics. I ask you to speak out against laws that criminalize and oppress LGBTQ people around the globe. These actions would bring true life to your statement, ‘Who am I to judge?’”  In 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Obergell v. Hodges and in 2020, the United States Supreme Court expanded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite these landmark achievements in the public sector, LGBTQ Catholics still cannot receive communion and must always seek reconciliation. Their flourishing as part of their religious community is always frustrated.

Brenkert’s account of his life before, in, and after the Jesuits is interwoven with trials and tribulations, but remains always full of hope, written candidly and with bracing honesty. Brenkert offers readers the opportunity to join him on a theological and spiritual pilgrimage, one that ends with readers making a discernment. The world today is full of distraction, misinformation, and timidity, Brenkert’s pilgrimage is full of conviction, heartful, written with an eagerness to help people of faith and no faith at all find their true selves, all for the greater glory of God.

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