Culture Wars Feature Article

Robert Sirico and the Sins that Cry to Heaven for Vengeance

by Thomas J. Herron


 

 

 

“Greetings from Michigan! I'm blogging briefly from the rectory of St. Stanislaus parish before we go to lunch in Kalamazoo and I meet (among others) Fr. Robert Sirico (thereby confirming the darkest suspicions of Thomas Herron and other Culture Warriors. After our Scheming Neocon Catholic Lunch we will synchronize watches, split up, and do our bit to fatten ourselves on the Da Vinci Code, subvert the Church with Zionist sympathies, and act the Court Prophet for the glories of George Dubya Bush, Democratic Capitalism, and the American Way. All in a day's work for a simple-minded half-Protestant convert who does not fully grasp the mind of the Church.”

June 8, 2006, Mark Shea of Seattle, WA, noted Catholic convert and writer on his blog Catholic and Enjoying It!

“On Renton Hill, Robert Sirico proclaimed, ‘Who says God doesn’t answer the prayers of gay people?’”

Gary L. Atkins, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2003, p.206. (Gay Seattle was a winner of a 2004 Washington State Book Award and, as the author is professor of communication at Seattle University, was also a 2004 winner of the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Book Award of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).)

I suppose I have to understand it as the victory of the new electronic media over the old paper magazines like the one you’re currently reading. Because in these very pages, I discussed the Acton Institute’s president, Father Robert Sirico’s history in the space of a long article and nobody jumped. But when I did repeat these findings on my blog in cyberspace it caused two noted Catholic web authors to arrange a pie-eating contest at a restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan during June, 2006 at which Catholic acceptance of laissez faire economics and denouncing, while sitting across from the famous cleric who leads the Acton Institute. Judging from the girth of the two noted Catholic bloggers, one a local priest of the Kalamazoo diocese and the other a noted layman from Seattle, I suspect the photo must have been taken with a wide angle lens. Maybe no one reacted because people in eastern Pennsylvania are too subtle in their writings, leaving the readers to draw their own conclusions, when compared to folks out near Pittsburgh who call a spade a spade. In this instance, Randy Engel, who lives near Pittsburgh, asked the Vatican to investigate how a onetime gay activist can be ordained a Catholic priest and then maneuver from religious life to at least two dioceses to become the founder of an institute devoted to the advancement of free-market economic theories explicitly condemned by various popes.

Text Box: The Neocon Cabal meets in Michigan: 
Fr. Robert Sirico (middle, left) across the table from Fr. Rob Johansen (l) and Mark Shea (r).
 
Two years ago, in articles that appeared in two successive issues of Culture Wars, I expressed concern about whether some recent high profile converts or returnees to Catholicism were bringing in a trendy Evangelical theology known as premillenial dispensationalism which would dispose its adherents to supporting combined American and Israeli aggressive wars in the Middle East as a harbinger of the Second Coming of Christ. Did these individuals, along with conservative cradle Catholics, believe in “one, holy, neoconservative and Republican Church”? Needless to say this question generated some discussion on Catholic blogs, along with unfavorable comments, which I fully expected. One of the people I profiled was the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, a priest of the Kalamazoo, MI diocese as well as the founder and president of the aforementioned Acton Institute of nearby Grand Rapids. I included Father Sirico because I thought, from what I had read on the internet, that he was a convert to Catholicism, having served as a minister in two Protestant denominations. It turns out I was wrong again, and I discovered this when Randy Engel went public with her letter.

My comments on Father Sirico caused nary a ripple among traditional Catholics, hardly any more than did my internet source, the left-wing writer Bill Berkowitz did when he gave some background on the Michigan priest who was becoming a powerful intermediary between conservative Catholics and Protestants in the early days of the George W. Bush administration, with its original thrust for favoring “faith based institutions,” much as Dr. Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine, filled a similar role between the Bush White House and right-wing Catholics. Dr. Hudson, too, had an interesting history involving the sexual assault of a coed at Fordham University, and he had to resign his magazine and political connections when he was outed by the National Catholic Reporter in the summer of 2004. The fact that Father Sirico has an even more interesting history in Seattle and Los Angeles has, to date, not impacted his role as an intermediary between the younger Catholic clergy in this country and wealthy non-Catholics, similarly connected to the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. And this is where Randy Engel of Export, Pennsylvania entered the picture.

Ms. Engel was an investigative reporter and writer who had long published on the intersection of Catholic and pro-life themes with books on sex education, and the betrayal of the pro-life movement by the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference to her credit. Her most recent tome, The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, attempts to update and expand on the work attributed to Father Enrique Rueda of the Free Congress Foundation, The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy, in the early ‘80s. Shortly before the publication of Rite, which is almost as large as Atlas Shrugged (more on that shortly), Ms. Engel sent out an email to a number of conservative Catholic organizations which contained a February 7, 2007 open letter to the Vatican congregation regulating religious life, asking them to investigate the 1989 ordination of Robert A. Sirico as a priest of the Paulist congregation, his subsequent release from religious vows, and his incardination into two Michigan dioceses, as well as his current involvement in the establishment of St. Philip Neri House in the Kalamazoo, Michigan diocese with its ultimate goal of being accepted into the world-wide Oratorian congregation. This document gave a more extensive history of the life and works of Father Sirico than I had alluded to in my article, with numerous details of his highly publicized career during the 1970s as a leading gay activist in both Seattle and Los Angeles. It pulled no punches in saying that he should never have been ordained a priest in view of the Vatican’s long-standing directive on not ordaining homosexuals. It also raised questions about the true nature of the Kalamazoo oratory and recommended an immediate investigation and possible suppression if the allegations were borne out.

While there was no immediate public reaction to the Engel email there was a number of comments at the blogs of young, theologically orthodox American priests and laity which reminded their readers of the traditional Church teachings on “calumny and detraction” in light of a recent email concerning what a priest did when he was a minister “in another denomination.” Most interesting these comments didn’t identify the priest, or the denomination, or what where the specific theological points of this denomination. One priest attributed his vocation to Father Sirico, claiming he had previously worked at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, and went on to say that Ms. Engel should “be ashamed of herself” for sullying the reputation of good priests. Missing from this testimonial was the exact nature of the denomination in which Robert Sirico formerly exercised ministry, because if the nature of the Metropolitan Community Church was openly discussed, it would immediately counter the accusation that Randy Engel was committing detraction. Detraction, as we know from our catechism, means revealing the hidden faults of others for no good reason. There was nothing hidden about Father Sirico’s involvement with the MCC or the MCC’s position as the theological vanguard of homosexual aggression.

The fact that a lot of young American priests would immediately come to the aid of Robert Sirico should in no way indicate that I have drawn any inferences on their sexual orientations; it does however mean that the Acton Institute is having the desired outcome in Catholic circles for which the newly ordained Robert Sirico founded it with wealthy and influential corporate backers in 1990. These same young clerics, who are very loud in their support for the two most recent popes and express their theological orthodoxy by reintroducing Latin chants to their congregations while wearing birettas, turn out to be abysmally ignorant of the fact that the nineteenth century British Catholic, Lord Acton, was a theological as well as a political and economic liberal – as those terms were then defined – who almost got excommunicated by his archbishop, Cardinal Manning of Westminster, for expressing doubts of the newly defined doctrine of papal infallibility at the time of the First Vatican Council. Or perhaps they do know this – as well as that the Metropolitan Community Church is a gay denomination – but choose not to discuss it and accuse those of us who do of “calumny and detraction” as a way of derailing discussion.

But how did an Italian kid from the ethnically diverse Coney Island section of Brooklyn get to be the front man for a WASP “country club Republican” CEO-funded attempt to subvert Catholic social teaching? Well perhaps it’s not right to call these wealthy people from western Michigan WASPs, since they appear to be largely Dutch Calvinists, with a lot of the staff of the Acton Institute, according to their web site, having graduated from Grand Rapids’ Calvin College. Did John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion actually say that “God would prosper his predestined elect”? It may not really matter if he wrote that any more than whether Lord Acton actually said “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What matters is your theological or ideological idée fixe. Maybe it would surprise the great Reformer from the shores of Lake Geneva to learn that a Romanist cleric was hired by a group of his remote religious descendants on the shores of Lake Michigan, precisely because he wore a Roman collar and didn’t have any advanced theological or economics degrees to make him qualified to be president of an institution that deals with the intersection of economics and morals. 

But the history of how that Italian kid from Coney Island got to a position of responsibility in western Michigan is a story unto itself; a story that has to be told by reading in between the lines of the official Acton Institute biographical disinformation campaign. A case in point would be the current entry for Robert A. Sirico on Wikipedia. Up until the time Randy Engel sent out her open email to the Vatican, no one knew that Father Sirico has a brother, Tony, who currently plays the Paulie Walnuts character on HBO’s series The Sopranos. Tony Sirico has had a long history of playing Mafioso hoods. You could even say the role comes natural for him since he was jailed for twenty months in Sing Sing for extorting money from Manhattan night club owners. While in prison, Tony saw an acting troupe perform and decided he would give it a try when he got out. What the Tony Sirico biography used to state was that Tony Sirico, and therefore Robert Sirico, had a cousin in Brooklyn “named Santo ‘Buddy’ Sirico, who is an alleged Gambino family loan-shark.” That used to be in Tony Sirico’s biography at the wiki site until one “DickClarkMises” deleted the part about the ties to the Gambino family for lacking “citations”. Since successful TV shows spawn spin-offs, perhaps there is a new series in the making about Father Robert A. Sirico being the link between the Italian Catholic Gambino family of Brooklyn, with their many known enterprises, and the Dutch Calvinist DeVos family of Grand Rapids of the Amway direct sales pyramid. Both families (a) don’t take a ‘no’ answer from their customers and (b) don’t like government interference in their pursuit of profits. However “DickClarkMises” won’t let me use the current wiki entries on the Sirico brothers as a source for this statement.

Who you may ask is “DickClarkMises”? Is he just another handle from the shadow world of cyberspace? No, there really is a young man named Richard Clark and until January, 2007 he used to work for the libertarian Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama and, according to his own wiki bio, had run for a local office in Alabama as a Libertarian Party candidate. The Mises Institute publishes the daily libertarian lewrockwell.com web site which claims to be “anti-state, anti-war and pro-market,” and Mr. Clark, who has recently relocated to Boston to attend law school, has served as writer and editor for over 40 wiki entries of many libertarians, including Thomas Woods. Many of these individuals I had written about in my previous Culture Wars articles on the internecine wars on the right between neocons, paleocons, and libertarians, particularly my review of Justin Raimondo’s biography of the late libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, An Enemy of the State (“Intellectual Entrepreneurs” Culture Wars, July/August 2003, pp. 28-47). Robert Sirico had been down these roads in the ‘70s and ‘80s in the years before he studied for the priesthood, and his secular career after ordination is just a continuation of his devotion to right-wing economics. But more on that as we proceed. The interesting thing about Mr. Clark’s entry is that, while he makes no claim of expertise about the media, Mafioso character actors or Brooklyn crime families, according to the editing history at Tony Sirico’s wiki entry, “DickClarkMises” deleted the reference to the loan shark cousin when he rewrote Father Sirico’s biography and added a link to him in his brother’s entry.

Text Box: Father Robert Sirico
 
One of the things that we know about Italian kid from Coney Island is that he “went to school in a multicultural and ecumenical context, long before the words multicultural or ecumenical were employed in common parlance” and had as a neighbor a Jewish lady who had numbers tattooed on her arm from her time in a concentration camp, and who had baked him cookies when he was six years old. Father Sirico, always quick to make a Jewish connection in his talks, would make these remarks about the deprival of liberty at the retirement dinner of a clergyman who had become something of a professional role model for him, the Reverend Edmund Opitz, who was called by the cleric who had just recently founded the Acton Institute “one of the patriarchs of liberty-promoting clergy.” Reverend Opitz was connected with a prototype free market think-tank, the Foundation for Economic Understanding, in Irvington, New York which was founded in 1946 and had Henry Hazlitt, author of the laissez-faire best seller Economics in One Lesson on the board and would ultimately publish The Freeman, a prototype right-wing journal of opinion, which William F. Buckley would use as a model for National Review. Interestingly F.E.E. became the model for an international free-market organization which was founded by Fred Hayek, author of the contemporary best-seller, The Road to Serfdom, the following year, the Mont Pelerin Society of which Father Sirico is currently a member. Interestingly, Frank Knight and Ludwig von Mises named the society for the Swiss village where the conference occurred because they didn’t like the original name, “the Acton-Tocqueville society,” because it took its name from two “Roman Catholic aristocrats.” Fortunately the Acton label was free for Father Sirico’s use forty-three years later and despite anti-Catholic sentiment on the part of the great Mises, whose Human Action played a role in his conversion to free-market economics. This occurred, Sirico related in his speech on Reverend Opitz’s retirement, on his birthday while he was in his mid-twenties when someone gave him copies of books by Mises, Hayek, and Opitz. This conversion, as we will soon examine, long preceded his return to Catholicism and his study for the priesthood.

But doesn’t this prove that Christians are the natural enemies of totalitarianism and allies of liberty and that conservative Catholics should abhor looking into Father Sirico’s ideological development? After all he was the friend of another Christian minister, the Reverend Opitz wasn’t he? Well the question might be what kind of a Christian Edmund Opitz was, as he first was a Unitarian minister and then switched to the Congregational Church, which after all are the two descendants of the original Puritans who split over the Trinitarian question when the Enlightenment hit Boston in the late eighteenth century. It appears that he was something of a theological liberal, or “not a theocrat of any variety” in Father Sirico’s words, whose major role was to recall the Puritan-Calvinist past on the successful entrepreneur being blessed by God when allowed the liberty to contract away from the predations of the state. This is something that is constantly found among people who call themselves politically conservative, dogmatically orthodox American Catholics: criticize someone who writes for National Review or another conservative or libertarian outlet on the grounds that what they’ve stated is against Catholic social teaching and you’ve got a fight on your hands. These self-described orthodox Catholics will side with National Review every time against Church teachings. By the way, when the Reverend Opitz died in February, 2006 at the age of ninety-two, Father Sirico wrote a tribute to him in that magazine. Being a clergyman, it seems, gives a distinct advantage in presenting ideologies to the masses.

So the ultimate biography of the Reverend Robert A. Sirico has yet to be written. However, some interesting facts have recently been surfacing faster than Richard Clark can do his imitation of Winston Smith for the electronic age and which can’t be dismissed as “unsourced rumors” concerning Mafia connected cousins in Brooklyn. Ms. Engel, for example, discovered that Robert Sirico served as an enlisted man in the Navy for the period of about a year during the Vietnam War era. Now for anyone who lived through this period as I did – I’m a year younger than Father Sirico – a one year hitch in the Navy is most interesting. Back then if you didn’t get a II-S deferment and go to college, the alternatives for most young men who graduated from high school was to be drafted for two years into the Army and sent to Viet Nam. If you could pass the aptitude tests, you could enlist in the Navy or Air Force and thereby usually avoid ground combat. However, enlistment in the elite services was for four years, not two. Why Robert A. Sirico was separated from the Navy after only one year remains an unresolved mystery.

What is not a matter of dispute is that Robert Sirico was estranged from the Catholic Church when the first official documentation on his career as a religious figure appears from 1972. Interestingly, he became a minister in the major city of the United States that is traditionally described as being the most unchurched; its residents largely described as nature worshipers who would rather spend their Sunday mornings hiking in the mountains or coastal rain forests than attending religious services. The territory of coastal California, Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia, and Alaska, between San Francisco to Anchorage had been christened “ecotopia” by Joel Garreau in his 1981 The Nine Nations of North America. But there were exceptions to the neo-pagan tree-hugger stereotype in the area between the Cascade Range and the Pacific Ocean, there were some representatives of earlier American Protestant revival movements. That is evidenced in the fact that Robert Sirico was noted as a miracle working twenty-year-old Pentecostal minister packing crowds into a downtown Seattle theater. Young Pastor Sirico was attracting Seattle priests and mainline Protestant ministers to his services in the theater. The fact that Sirico would not long remain a Pentecostal preacher can also be gleaned from information contained in a 2003 book by Gary Atkins, a professor of communications at the Jesuit University of Seattle, titled Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging. For some reason Richard Clark has not put this documented reference into Father Sirico’s wiki biography at present. “By early 1971,” Atkins writes,

the Reverend Robert Sirico had become a darling among Seattle’s charismatic ministers. Already an ordained Pentecostal minister though only twenty, he filled churches and even auditoriums at the Seattle Center. He led other ministers and priests in sessions where they called and sang in spirit-inspired tongues. He performed miracle healings on those who came to him. Seattle’s Charismatic Presbytery, an organization of about seventy clergy and laymen, praised him as ‘a spirit-filled young man whom God has blessed with a marvelous healing ministry’… It helped that he was handsome in a boyishly fervent way. His hair fell well-tamed and closely cut to his ears, different from his many tousled hippie contemporaries. His eyebrows could angle either passionately or thoughtfully. His smile and carved chin worked together in a single disarming grin (Gay Seattle, p. 161).

When Reverend Sirico came out of the closet as a homosexual and stated that he had been that way since he was thirteen, this did not go over well with his brother Pentecostals, who concluded that the miracles he performed were done through the power of the Evil One, after they attempted to perform an exorcism on him. Rather than quote the words of Christ in Mark 3:24-26 that “if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand… And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him,” Pastor Sirico didn’t defend himself or change his behavior; he simply left the Pentecostals and established Seattle’s first gay church, saying “the blessings of the Holy Spirit are being passed onto the homosexual community.” He also offered to “cast the heterosexual devil out” of one of his would-be exorcists (Atkins, p. 162).

Sirico’s congregation originally met in a local Methodist church in a gentrifying area of Seattle known as Renton Hill, which would become the first hub of that city’s gay community. Their pastor would plunge into the gay rights scene of the Puget Sound area and his community would ultimately become part of the Metropolitan Community Church founded in Los Angeles in the late ‘60s by another former Pentecostal preacher, Rev. Troy Perry, who also was expelled from that denomination and divorced by his wife when he declared himself a homosexual. As was stated earlier, the main reason why the young priests who are so quick to defend Father Sirico for statements and actions he made in “another denomination” can’t talk about what that other denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church, is that to do so would be to discuss what is after all the gay liberation movement at prayer. All that needs to be known about the MCC’s distinctive beliefs is contained in the title of Elder Perry’s autobiography, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay; in this case we’re not dealing with “believer’s baptism” of the Baptists or consubstantiation of the Lutherans when we discuss his church’s distinctive doctrines. Which I suppose is why when, these biretta-wearing young orthodox priests are alluding to Father Sirico’s former denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church must remain a church “that dare not speak its name.”  Pastor Sirico at the time of the founding of his gay congregation was under no such compunctions when he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that, “‘Homosexuality is real, and you can’t cast it out. And we didn’t crawl out of a sewer.’ Two men in bed together, he continued, was a holy experience – ‘to hold one another close and confess together, Isn’t God wonderful?’ Sirico refused to beg for understanding.” (Gay Seattle, p. 162) We may wonder if Mark Shea, a noted Catholic apologist who is a native of Seattle who grew up when Robert Sirico was making headlines in the P-I, could have been unaware of this history when he made that lunch date with the now Father Sirico in Kalamazoo in June, 2006 during the course of an evangelistic campaign at a local parish and proudly recorded the event on his blog while using it as an opportunity to throw some mud on Culture Wars.

Text Box: CATHOLIC AND ENJOYING IT!
 
Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!
Robert Sirico was never far from his Catholic roots during the ‘70s when he was a leading gay rights crusader in the Emerald City; one of his closest associates was, according to Gay Seattle, a former priest from Los Angeles. In retrospect it was probably inevitable that a clash between the American liberation movements of the ‘60s and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church would take place in southern California, home at that time to not only Hollywood but the military-industrial complex. Millions of Americans, like my father’s siblings and their large families, flooded the Los Angeles area to work in the aerospace plants from the Northeast and Midwest, and the number of non-Hispanic Catholics in those areas rose dramatically after 1940. Soon, Los Angeles became an archdiocese, and its new cardinal archbishop, James McIntyre, was also, like much of his flock, a transplant from New York City. At the Second Vatican Council McIntyre was a conservative who opposed the liturgical reforms being proposed; when he got back to the City of Angels he found that a group of nuns, the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, were in open revolt against the traditions that he loved. The media, with a story in their own backyard, presented it as a fight been an arch-reactionary cardinal and a group of independent-minded progressive sisters. What didn’t come out until later was that the IHM sisters had been psychologically conditioned in their dissent by followers of the American psychologist Carl Rodgers (c.f. Culture Wars, “Carl Rodgers and the IHM Nuns”, October/November 1999). For Catholics who remember the stories coming out of the L.A. archdiocese in the sixties, Cardinal McIntyre also had a nemesis in a local “radical priest,” a blond, boyish-looking Father William H. DuBay.

Father DuBay knew how to grab the headlines in Time, whose L.A. bureau chief was Robert Blair Kaiser, a former Jesuit seminarian, who had recently covered the Second Vatican Council for that magazine with such fervor that he ignored the fact that progressive Irish Jesuit scripture scholar Malachi Martin was conducting a torrid affair with his wife. The late Dr. Martin, who served as a religion editor of National Review, is now an uncanonized saint to much of the American Catholic conservatives and any negative references will bring forth hate mail as the editor of Culture Wars recently found out. Fortunately, these stories, which scandalized me when I read them as an early teen, now are up on the internet to aid my failing memory. And what stories they were! Milwaukee had Father Groppi, Boston had Father Shanley and L.A. had Father Bill DuBay who in 1964 called on the Vatican to remove Cardinal McIntyre as he had failed to support the Negro Civil Rights revolution. This declaration led to five transfers in two years followed by a call for a labor union for priests to collectively bargain with their bishops on salary, living conditions and ministry in a book titled The Human Church. McIntyre ordered DuBay to withdraw the book as it had no imprimatur. Unfortunately for Father DuBay, the Catholic head of the AFL-CIO, George Meany, had no interest in organizing priests. When L.A.’s radical priest threatened to sue the archdiocese, Time noted on August 19, 1966 there was, at that time, “little precedent” for such actions. Ultimately the cardinal suspended the rebellious priest. In view of the fact that Father DuBay would soon be a close associate of an individual who would someday become the head of the union-busting Acton Institute, the call for a labor unions for priests as being in line with Catholic social teachings is, in retrospect, most humorous indeed.

After his priestly suspension Bill DuBay drifted north to Oakland, California where he went to work as a counselor for the cultish Synanon drug and alcohol rehab organization. According to Gary Atkins, the new counselor didn’t like Synanon’s treatment of homosexuality as another addiction to be dealt with by very coercive means (Gay Seattle, p. 163). Heading northward again, DuBay ended up in Seattle, where he married the daughter of a local city councilman, Mary Ellen Rochester, in 1970; here his national prominence appears to have ended as a married priest is no longer in the power structure of the Catholic Church and is of no great value to the media and its controllers as a fifth columnist. From what can be gleaned from the internet, the now 73-year-old William H. DuBay is a successful technical writer in his native southern California and is apparently an agnostic secular humanist who publishes pieces in the libertarian Reason magazine, to which he writes emails or amazon.com book reviews, where he expresses distaste for religious people who claim to have “absolute truth.”  But according to Gay Seattle, Bill DuBay had a successful second career in the ’70s as a gay activist in that city when he teamed up with Pastor Robert Sirico to challenge sodomy laws and the psychological definition of homosexuality as aberrant in their bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Getting listed as a disorder in the DSM was an improvement for the then closeted Seattle homosexual community because, as Atkins notes, they used to be routinely lobotomized at the local state mental hospital. My copy of Gay Seattle, which I bought second-hand through amazon.com from a Washington state reseller, came with a book mark from the previous owner: a card with the twelve steps and twelve traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholism and drug abuse remained mainstays of “gay culture,” no matter how mightily people like Bob Sirico and Bill DuBay labored to change the image. 

While preaching at a Seattle Unitarian church in November, 1971 Bill DuBay came out of the closet about a year after his marriage, which of course ended it. He stated that he knew he knew of his homosexual inclinations at the time of his marriage, but marrying a woman was the thing to do for radical priests, along with claiming that the repression in the seminary made him emotionally neutered. Apparently DuBay has always been something of a problem to the official gay movement as he holds that the gay lifestyle is a free-will choice and not an inevitable genetic predisposition as the movement’s propaganda now holds. Indeed, in the early ‘70s, homosexuality would have been a logical choice for a revolutionary priest. DuBay went on to become a columnist for the national gay newspaper, The Advocate, and establish a gay-affirming Synanon-style drug and alcohol treatment center named Stonewall, which tellingly would be housed in a former Carmelite monastery on Renton Hill. Under DuBay’s command, the rehab “became its own sort of monastery” (Gay Seattle, p. 165), which has eerie similarities to Father Sirico’s “oratory” in Kalamazoo.

During the ‘70s, former priest, Bill DuBay and future priest Robert Sirico took a “culture” in Seattle that centered on what went on in the mens’ rooms of seedy basement bars on Skid Row and made it part of that city’s establishment by staging media events in an ultimately successful campaign. They presented the homosexual lifestyle as one more choice to the mental health professionals, courts, police, media and religious leadership of liberal Seattle. These events included the picketing of the home of the very conservative police commissioner, George Tielsch, who was imported from Orange County, California, to get the vice squad arrests stopped in the gay neighborhood. As a result, Pastor Sirico of the local MCC was incarcerated in October, 1973 for interfering with an arrest for homosexual soliciting and sang We Shall Overcome in the holding tank until one of his parishioners bailed him out (Gay Seattle, p. 200). The fact that both gentlemen could front as clergymen to the press, DuBay from his Catholic past and Unitarian present, and Sirico, with at that time no academic degrees but the public image of a cleric from the Pentecostal revivals and the ecclesiastical front of the homosexual movement, could give Seattle’s gays a dignified façade for what really went on in those seedy bars’ mens’ rooms. The lesson that Reverend Sirico never forgot is that being a clergyman gives you a public forum to front for an ideology, no matter how repugnant, even if his Seattle history is now officially consigned to the “soft Marxist” phase of his life.

Atkins’ narrative continues after both Sirico and DuBay had left the Emerald City. At that point, a new gay leadership that made connections with the politicians and business leaders emerged and pushing their agenda on a “privacy” right that worked so well with legalizing abortion to abolish the sodomy laws and get the gays covered by the equal opportunity ordinances as well as appeals to the Northwest’s tradition of “tolerance.” It worked fairly well in finding a libertarian exception to bedroom issues among liberal Democrats to their normal micromanaging of society; it worked to beat back an Anita Bryant-inspired referendum to take away the equal protection provisions for homosexuals in the late ‘70s. Ultimately with the gays entrenched in the power structures of big cities like Seattle, they would use the same equal rights ordinances to crush religious based opposition to homosexuals by churches and the Boy Scouts through hate crimes laws and speech codes. The image that gays were just like everybody else, only very entrepreneurial with discos, coffee houses and other businesses, with the exception of what they did privately in their bedrooms, lasted through the ‘70s and early ‘80s until the HIV/AIDS plague arrived.

FULL STORY

According to Atkins, the full story of Robert Sirico’s role in the religious life of Seattle was played out after he left town. For in those final years of Archbishop Connolly’s long reign, Dignity, the Catholic gay group, was gaining a foothold in Seattle and would come out in full force when the new archbishop, Raymond “Dutch” Hunthausen, arrived from Montana in 1975. Gay Seattle has a whole chapter on the Hunthausen-Wuerl controversy that rocked not just that archdiocese but the whole American Catholic Church in the late ‘80s. The sixteenth chapter is titled “On Catholic Hill” (pp. 272-293), and that is a story in itself.  When Seattle was laid out in the late 19th century it was thought that the state capitol would move there and so a neighborhood was called Capitol Hill. Actually it was the home of a large ethnic influx and was also called Catholic Hill with two Jesuit parishes, Seattle University, Catholic high schools for boys and girls, and hospitals making it the center of the Church’s institutional presence; the imposing St. James Cathedral sat on another hill downtown. The Catholics started heading for the suburbs by the ‘60s and the area was gentrified in the next decade with a large gay influx and this brought the question of the role of homosexuals in the Church to a head.

As I remember the American Catholic scene from the ‘80s, there was no one who inspired more loathing for those of us on the Catholic right than “Dutch” Hunthausen; after all he was an archbishop and not just a priest like Charles Curran or Richard McBrien. What’s more he was a pacifist who withheld part of his income tax to “Dutch” Reagan’s buildup of the military industrial complex and made very loud comments that the Navy’s nuclear submarine base in Bremerton was the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” So people who read Fidelity and The Wanderer cheered when Archbishop Hunthausen was subjected to investigations originating on the orders of Cardinal Ratzinger and involving Cardinal Hickey of Washington, D.C. The fact that we were in such haste to condemn him for his heterodox opinions, both theological and political, caused us to lose sight of the fact that he was really was a very devout, sincere man who drove a VW, ate in Mickey D’s, and lived in a room at the cathedral rectory. We cheered when Ratzinger sent out a Roman trained auxiliary bishop from Pittsburgh, Donald Wuerl, who was pointedly ordained by Pope John Paul II to “assist” Hunthausen with “special powers.” What those powers were, as Atkins shows in Gay Seattle, related to the archbishop’s beliefs about “compassion” for those who followed the gay lifestyle; he allowed Sunday night Mass at the Jesuit St. Joseph’s parish in the Capitol Hill neighborhood besides allowing the use of St. James Cathedral for the national Dignity convention held in Seattle in 1983. The gay liberation movement’s penetration of the Catholic Church dated from the ‘60s, as Gay Seattle shows, and involved a long march through the religious orders and their parishes and educational institutions, which involved the Dominicans, the Redemptorists, and most centrally the Jesuits. The reason the mainlining of the gay movement in the Catholic Church got further in Seattle is that they had a very sympathetic archbishop.

Unfortunately Donald Wuerl, who wrote an orthodox catechism to oppose a string of heterodox works in the ‘70s like Christ Among Us by ex-Paulist Anthony Wilhelm, was outmaneuvered by Hunthausen and other archbishops like Bernardin in Chicago, O’Connor in New York, and Quinn in San Francisco, and so could never exercise the special powers the pope had granted him in Seattle on the homosexual question. It didn’t help that the new auxiliary, as Atkins relates, came off aloof and princely in his dress and deportment in comparison to the ascetic Hunthausen and made demands to have the archdiocese rent him an apartment in the choicest condominium in downtown Seattle and renovate his office, plans which got leaked to the press. Ultimately, Wuerl got shipped back to Pittsburgh and didn’t reemerge to become archbishop of Washington, D.C. until after John Paul II’s death. Hunthausen got his full powers back as well as a coadjutor, Thomas Murphy, picked by Cardinal Bernardin. The Sunday night gay Mass at St. Joseph’s continued; however, now it was under the sponsorship of the archdiocese and not Dignity. By the end of the ‘90s, long after DuBay and Sirico had departed, Wuerl was back east, Hunthausen in Montana after early retirement, and St. James’s cathedral was, according to Atkins, used for the funeral of a local non-Catholic gay politician who had died from AIDS, with the drag queens from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attending in full habit.

Text Box:  According to Randy Engel’s open letter to the Vatican Congregation Pastor Sirico moved from Seattle to Los Angeles in 1975 and became the director of the Los Angeles Gay Community Center while continuing his ministry in the M.C.C., which had its mother church in that city. Sirico, during this time, would make gay history by performing the first same sex marriage at the First Unitarian Church of Denver, Colorado on April 21, 1975. During one of these years on his June birthday, he was given a gift of books of some of the laissez-faire authors he would mention in the 1992 retirement speech for Reverend Opitz that would cause his conversion to free market economics and away from his self-described “soft Marxist” phase.  However, the unretouched record of Robert Sirico’s life shows no deep commitment to any leftist philosophy – only a leading role in the homosexual movement of two cities. When gays were protesting police crackdowns on public soliciting and demanding repeal of sodomy laws, they were part of a general left-wing coalition against police brutality which included gays, feminists, black militants, campus radicals, anti-war activists, extreme environmentalists and other similar groups that were very much in evidence in the West Coast cities of this era. There was a press clipping in Engel’s letter about Reverend Sirico protesting a April 10, 1976 LAPD raid on a sadomasochist Leather Fraternity “slave auction” at the Mark IV Health Club in Hollywood which led to arrests for public nudity and paid sex acts in the club’s dungeons. Pastor Sirico, pictured in black suit and Roman collar, said the cops were “out to get” the gay community during a “harmless fund-raising event.” Perhaps even at this time, Robert Sirico felt that a new philosophy was needed to enhance homosexual liberation rather than the, by now, stale left-wing ranting about “police brutality.” The more thoughtful gay leaders would come to realize that there is a philosophy known as libertarianism that stated that the state had no authority in private exchanges between individuals, and so gay activists would be drawn to the libertarianism that serendipitously was developing an intellectual base in another California city, San Francisco, during the late ‘70s. 

Speaking of serendipitous things, I did mention that I wrote a review of a biography of a major player in the American libertarian movement, Murray Rothbard four years ago. The author of that biography, Justin Raimondo of San Francisco, is an openly gay man who operates the antiwar.com web site and is a frequent contributor to paleoconservative journals like The American Conservative and has been a leading supporter of Patrick Buchanan’s various presidential campaigns. Like Father Sirico, Mr. Raimondo was a homosexual from the New York City area who moved west in the ‘70s. Raimondo goes on to mention in his book, An Enemy of the State, that in the late ‘70s San Francisco became not only a gay Mecca but a libertarian one as well and that the wealthy Koch family, who made their money in oil, founded the think-tank for that movement, the Cato Institute, in that city during this era. Rothbard and Raimondo, among others, relocated to San Francisco, and a nationally established Libertarian Party was headquartered there. The LP started to become a force in California gubernatorial and local elections and there were high hopes that it might achieve takeoff velocity as a viable third-party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. However, as Raimondo relates, this was not to be because the libertarian movement was rent by factionalism that destroyed its ability to reach out to mainstream America; this factionalism led to the Koch family defunding their institute and Cato consequently moving to Washington to be yet another think-tank on the “K Street corridor.”

LIFESTYLE LIBERTARIANS

What caused the factionalism was what Justin Raimondo called the intransigence of “lifestyle libertarians,” particularly the California gays who were coming into the Libertarian party in disproportionate numbers and demanding that their issues, like abolition of marriage or same-sex unions and gay adoptions, be made the first priority of their new party. This led to the disenchantment of lifetime movement people like Murray Rothbard, who soon departed San Francisco, and homosexuals like Raimondo, who could see the bigger picture of concentrating on rolling back the federal government presence in the political and economic spheres of life, a subject on which Middle America would concur with the Libertarian Party. So the libertarian movement lost its moment to become the authentic voice of the highly taxed American middle class due to the “lifestyle libertarians” of San Francisco for whom legalization of gay marriage, stopping vice squad arrests, repealing sodomy laws, lowering the age of consent, legalizing drugs, and the rest of the issues they pushed when they were “soft Marxists” were still paramount for them when they moved to the right. And during this period Robert Sirico was doing more than reading Human Action and The Road to Serfdom. Randy Engel has another newspaper clipping from that era showing that he was head of a gay libertarian group in San Francisco. Besides knowing what assistance a Roman collar can give your ideology, the newly converted laissez-faire advocate would also see from the implosion of the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute’s departure after the loss of the Koch money, namely that your institutions need wealthy benefactors whom you shouldn’t upset with making extreme demands which need to be implemented instantaneously.

How Reverend Robert Sirico came from being a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church on the West Coast to being ordained a priest in May, 1989, as a member of the American religious order devoted to media, preaching, and Newman Club chaplaincies, The Paulists, is still a little murky. From his published statements it appears that Sirico regained his childhood faith and went to confession after reading the tracts of the apologists for free market economists. When I first investigated him, his biography at the Acton Institute’s web site said that he received a B.A. in economics from University of Southern California and did work at the University of London, although that web site now does not give an undergraduate major. When in February, 2006 I inquired of the website that handles USC’s degree verifications, I received a reply that Robert A. Sirico had attended that university from 1979 through 1981 and received a bachelor’s degree in May, 1982. His major was English. And then the ever-helpful Richard Clark, as if he was somehow privy to my inquiries, gave Father Sirico’s complete educational history at the wikipedia entry; unfortunately his entry would raise still more red flags to anyone who knew anything about Catholic priestly ordinations.

Robert A. Sirico did indeed study English at the University of Southern California, having first received an A.A. degree from Los Angeles City College in 1978, or around the time he was involved with the gay center and M.C.C. in that city. He really did study literature at a college of the University of London in 1980. And the wiki entry does verify that he did receive a Masters of Divinity from the Catholic University’s Theological College in 1987. The only problem in that Mr. Clark states that Father Sirico wasn’t ordained until 1989, and Ms. Engel has information that he was, as a seminarian, stationed at a Paulist parish in Minneapolis in November 1987. As most priests are awarded their M.Div. degrees upon completion of their theological education concurrent with their ordination, we may ask why was there a delay in Robert Sirico’s case? Perhaps his ordination was delayed as he was doing research in the “soft Marxist” attitudes among priests and seminarians. “During his studies and early ministry, his Acton biography notes, “he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems.” Is this the real reason, or did the Paulists know, with his background in the leadership of the gay movement, that Sirico’s ordination was specifically forbidden under the 1961 Vatican guidelines? Was a dispensation required, or were they required to shop the ordination around to a friendly bishop? Whatever the case, Father Robert A. Sirico, c.s.p. didn’t keep the Paulists initials after his name for very long.

We do know definitely that the newly ordained Paulist priest Robert A. Sirico was assigned to the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is run by his order. We know this from a tape recording of talk given at the Center, originally copyrighted in 1989, by two Paulists on the staff, Father Sirico and Father James Fisher, titled “Who Was Ayn Rand?” That the tape was made proves that the lecture wasn’t just for the benefit of Catholics or inquirers in Grand Rapids: the tape is still offered as a clearance item by a Christian Libertarian group, The Advocates for Self Government of Cartersville, GA, on their website. The Wikipedia entry for this group, which was edited by DickClarkMises in 2006, notes that it was founded in 1985 by Fresno, CA businessman Marshall Fritz, who personally introduces the tape of Fathers Sirico and Fisher’s talk by saying it is offered by the Advocates for Self Government for the use of Christian Libertarians for them to defend their religion to their brother libertarians and their ideology to their fellow Christians. If the tape was made in 1989, the year of the original copyright, it would show that the newly ordained Robert Sirico’s Catholic seminary training had absolutely no impact on his intellectual outlook. He was still pushing Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” in Christian form, which he had learned when he was the minister of a gay church.

Mr. Fritz may be best known as the founder and chairman of a group known as The Alliance for the Separation of School and State. In good libertarian fashion it offers you the opportunity to sign a simple declaration which states “I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education.” As a point of full disclosure the names of Thomas J. Herron, Philadelphia, PA and E. Michael Jones, South Bend, IN and other noted orthodox, conservative Catholics are on Marshall Fritz’s list. But does the libertarian goal of getting government out of the education business really comport with Catholic social teachings? No, it does not. What the Church has always taught is that the parents are the first teachers of their children. Due to economies of scale, division of labor and the fact that the parents may not be competent in every subject, people have been entrusting their children to schools since the dawn of civilization to be taught by others. The Catholic Church says that it should be involved with the doctrinal and moral training of Catholic youth but that government also has a legitimate role to play in the process in seeing that schools are properly funded and functioning, particularly in secular subjects, in order to make sure that the next generation is properly trained to become productive citizens for the common good. To ensure that common good, the Catholic Church would hold that the state, to complete this important work of education, has the right to tax all its citizens to support schools, even those without children or whose children are not of school age. The fact that in America today, due to Supreme Court misinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution, we have a monopoly of government funds going to state sponsored schools that indoctrinate more than educate does not negate the fact that the state does have a legitimate role in the education process. Abusus non tollit usum. I hope that’s the correct phrase as I never had Latin in my entirely Catholic school education, but I wouldn’t expect Father Sirico to help me out; in the tape that Marshall Fritz says is a help to Christian Libertarians, he calls Ayn Rand an original philosopher.

Gay Seattle CoverThat the two Paulist priests were using their talk at the Grand Rapids Catholic Information Center as a venue to reach a wider audience of Christian Libertarians is an abusus non tollit usum that never got addressed. Compared to his elder confrere, Father Fisher, the newly ordained Robert Sirico is an intellectual lightweight who basically is confined to cheerleading by claiming that certain of Rand’s novelistic characters are Christ figures, “John Galt is Jesus Christ!,” or making catty comments about the state of Notre Dame’s philosophy department when a clip of Phil Donahue’s interview with Ayn Rand was played. Yes, Donahue is a pompous bore and fallen-away Catholic but he retained enough of his Catholic school training to try and pin Rand down on her atheism and hyper-rationality. What comes out in the tape is that Father Fisher may have been the key to Father Sirico’s brief Paulist vocation. He states by way of background that he discovered Atlas Shrugged in a used book store while he was doing a retreat at a university in Arizona in 1963 and quickly devoured the thousand plus pages. Fr. Fisher felt that Rand was a first-class philosopher and novelist and told his Paulist brethren about her besides lecturing about her philosophy, Objectivism, at the Berkeley and Clemson Newman Centers where he was assigned. Since the Paulists had the Catholic Center in Berkeley as well as a parish in San Francisco it ad since Father Fisher spoke as a Christian follower of Ayn Rand to libertarian groups in that city, it’s safe to assume that he met the then Reverend Robert Sirico of the Metropolitan Community Church, newly converted to laissez-faire doctrines, and impressed on him the “ominous parallels” between Rand’s philosophy and Christian doctrine, borrowing from the title of a book by one of her chief disciples. This comparison linking the Lord to John Galt and Howard Roark was the third of Father Fisher’s talks on the tape.

Father Fisher was prescient enough see that the Reagan Revolution, which had occurred by 1989, and Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution, which was yet to come, both had their base in Rand’s atheistic theories glorifying the wealth producer. In the tape, Father Sirico’s major contribution is to show that an argument for design for the existence of God can be made compatible with the Randian centrality of reason. In other words, Sirico accepts basic Christian doctrines when they can be shown to be congruent with Objectivism. Besides that, Father Sirico claims that Aquinas, whom Rand respected as an Aristotelian, got his ideas from Maimonides, who was just like the Jewish lady in Coney Island who baked him cookies as a child! Father Fisher, however, situates Rand among contemporary Jewish pseudo-messiahs like Marx, Freud and Einstein, who have abandoned the certainty of the Old Testament prophets about the existence of one, true God for more mundane matters like capitalism and rationality.

There is no indication that either of the Paulists knew that Rand’s philosophy of man alone in a godless universe is hardly original with her and ultimately little more than a plagiarism of Nietzsche and Heidegger, something that had already been done by Rand’s French contemporaries, Satre and Camus. Father Fisher may or may not have known, but he comes off as at least an educated and literate person; Father Sirico, on the other hand, comes off as his intellectual inferior, a man who seems to have acquired his knowledge as part of ideological indoctrination with no deep philosophical or theological studies in his past. If that is the case, how did Robert A. Sirico, with an undergraduate degree in English and no graduate studies in economics, philosophy or theology get to become the president of an institute designed to show the compatibility of free market economics with Catholic social teachings to future generations of Catholic priests and seminarians? Well, for that we must follow the secular career of Father Sirico, which was starting in Grand Rapids in the days he was briefly a Paulist and at the Catholic Information Center of that city.

Because Father Sirico had the burning desire to correct the misconceptions about free market operations that he found among clergymen of all denominations he co-founded the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids in 1990. The fact that a Catholic priest would choose the name of a 19th century theological liberal who was almost excommunicated for doubting the wisdom of the definition of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council has already been noted, we have already learned that the name Acton was considered but discarded by the Mont Pelerin Society so it was in the public domain on the right’s political spectrum. We may wonder what Pope Pius IX would have thought if he had seen that a branch of an institute dedicated to his liberal nemesis, Lord Acton, was opened near the Vatican late in 2006 to proselytize the Catholic clerics studying in Rome. For that is what the Institute does, according to what DickClarkMises wrote at Acton’s wiki entry, “The Institute organizes conferences and events targeting [sic] religious and moral leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, university professors, and academic researchers.”

It is presumably with this mission statement in mind that Paulist Father Robert Sirico petitioned to be secularized and incardinated into the clergy of the Grand Rapids diocese. Unfortunately, the bishop of Grand Rapids did not want Father Sirico in his diocese as a secular priest. He did, however, become incardinated into the Lansing diocese and was assigned to a rural parish which we may assume allowed him a short commute to his job in the newly founded Acton Institute. When the chancellor of the Lansing Diocese, James A. Murray, was appointed bishop of Kalamazoo in 1998 he took Father Robert Sirico with him and allowed him to be incardinated into that diocese. Feeling a call to return to religious life after leaving the Paulists, Sirico established a religious house in that city, in addition to being the pastor of a Kalamazoo church, St. Mary’s, that only offers Mass on two days during the week. The religious foundation is St. Philip Neri House, and it describes itself on its web site as attempting to gain admittance to the worldwide Congregation of the Oratory or Oratorians, which was founded by the aforementioned St. Philip in Rome in the Counter-Reformation era, and which had two of its members ordained by Bishop Murray in 2006. So it would appear that after a lifetime of wandering about the country, Robert Sirico has put down firm roots in western Michigan. And to answer the question of why he would prefer cities where the winter weather is dominated by the words “lake effect snow” of the sort he did not experience in Seattle or Los Angeles, we would do well to remember what was said by an Irish bank robber who was also a native of Brooklyn. When they asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks he replied, “because that’s where the money is.”

Western Michigan, home of the DeVos family, the Meijer family, and other Dutch Calvinists, is where the money is if you want to be the Catholic roman collar promoting the gospel of capitalism. The DeVos family and the Acton Institute were major players in the early initiatives of the George W. Bush administration to off load government functions onto “faith based” agencies and served as the center of a network of Republican office holders and right-wing religious figures like James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Seattle. Berkowitz related in 2001 that four years previously 94 per cent of Acton’s $1.8 million budget was funded with grants from wealthy right-wing individuals, corporations and foundations such as Scaife ($100,000), Olin ($50,000), and Bradley ($40,000), plus the DeVos Family Foundation ($50,000). And as mentioned above, the Dutch Calvinist DeVos family of Grand Rapids, founders of the Amway sales pyramid, are represented on the board of the Acton Institute and other similar groups such as Wilmington, Delaware’s Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), as well as playing a major role in the Michigan Republican Party. Betsy DeVos, a former member of Acton’s board of directors, is also the former chair of the Michigan Republican party as well as the wife of the unsuccessful 2006 G.O.P. candidate for governor of that state, Dick DeVos. Admittedly 2006 was not the year to be a Republican candidate in almost any state, as the unpopularity of President George W. Bush and his endless wars in the Middle East were causing the voters to take out their frustrations on anyone associated with that party. It also may not have helped Mr. DeVos that his wife made a public statement about the economic problems of Michigan that may not have gone over well with voters there, even if it was totally consistent with the published statements of the Acton Institute. What Betsy DeVos stated in an April, 2004 press release was, "Many, if not most, of the economic problems in Michigan are a result of high wages and a tax and regulatory structure that makes this state uncompetitive." The DeVos’ are leading advocates of school choice initiatives and apparently support various evangelical Christian causes.

BATTLING THE “ISLAMOFACISTS”

Not only is Betsy DeVos a good Republican official who supports the Bush White House party line, a member of her family directly profits from doing battle with the “Islamofascists” in the Middle East. Ms. DeVos didn’t just marry into money. Her father, Edgar Prince, was also a capitalist who made automobile components in Holland, Michigan. Her brother, Erik Prince, attended the conservative Hillsdale College in that state, which is known as a center of conservative thought, even if its late president, George Roche, had to resign when his daughter-in-law committed suicide in 1999 after a 19-year-long affair with him. Erik was commissioned a Navy officer and served in their elite SEAL commando unit, skills he put to good use when he founded Blackwater USA, which is listed by the Department of Defense as a “military support contractor.”  In former times Blackwater’s “military support contractors” would be known as mercenaries, and it was four Blackwater employees whose corpses ended hanging from a bridge in the Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah on March 31, 2004. While many libertarians would no doubt celebrate the rise of mercenaries as privatizing yet another of the state’s functions, it would appear that Republican logic dominates Erik Prince’s Blackwater enterprise and so the Bush administration sent in the public sector, U.S. Marine Corps to sack Fallujah the following November in Operation Vigilant Resolve as punishment for killing the “contractors,” in what was called a war crime in former times.

But, back from Iraq to Michigan and to the intersection of theology and economics which Father Sirico’s Acton Institute covers, what do all those wealthy individuals, corporations, and foundations who bankroll it get for their tax-deductible dollars? Do they need essays on the primacy of private sector philanthropy over statist solutions to helping the poor? Well no, Acton’s outreach isn’t directed to the wealthy, it is as Richard Clark stated in its wiki entry, designed to evangelize clergy and seminarians with the free market gospel. And despite what Acton’s clerical president says about reaching seminarians of all faiths “from Mormons to Muslims,” the evidence shows that it’s an outreach of people with basically a Calvinist worldview to the Catholic clergy and seminarians. The first overseas Acton Institute office isn’t in Mecca, Salt Lake City, Jerusalem, Geneva, or Benares; it’s in Rome. And that would be a good investment for these capitalists, who would know that the Catholic Church has condemned “Manchesterian liberalism” since Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Rerum Novarum. Since the Church was equally fervent in her condemnation of Marxism and socialism, there has been an attempt by socially conscious people, particularly Catholics, to develop a “third way,” often called Christian Democracy, which tries to articulate an alternative to the extremes of statism and the free market. These people probably understand that they can’t get educated Catholics to accept the atheistic ravings of Randian Objectivists, who worship the wealth producer and condemn the poor as responsible for their own lot. They might also know that spokesmen for Catholic social teachings from the past, like Msgr. John A. Ryan and Michigan’s own Father Charles Coughlin, no matter how they battled each other in the past, would immediately recognize the liberalism that Father Sirico fronts for as incompatible with Church teachings. No, instead of confrontation and rejection, what the backers of the Acton Institute wanted was a slow perversion of Catholic social thought, which could be brought about most effectively by getting a priest to work on the subversion of the minds of young clergy and seminarians. And who better to run the operation than a proven pervert who converted to laissez-faire thought before he ever entered a Catholic seminary? As the story of Cambridge apostles like Sir Anthony Blunt makes clear, homosexuals make the best traitors. They’re already used to living double lives. The only thing that has changed since the 1930s is the ideology that the homosexuals are now promoting.

Thanks to Father Sirico’s efforts as a homosexaul activist in the ‘70s, gay “marriage” is now the cutting edge social issue in places like Indiana. As just one indication of the corrupting effect that Sirico’s Acton Institute has had, Circuit City fired 3,400 employees in March, saying they made too much money and would be replaced by new hires who would work for less. Steven Rashaid was one of 11 Circuit City employees fired in Asheville, North Carolina, where he made $11.59 an hour. What would Catholic priests like Charles Coughlin and John A. Ryan have said about this? Most probably that it was an instance of withholding wages from the laborer and, as a result, a sin that cried to heaven for vengeance.

And why aren’t any Catholic priests saying that now? The short answer to that question is Father Robert Sirico, who has become the master at combining the seduction of Catholic economics with the economics of Catholic seduction. If you want to know why a man with Father Robert Sirico’s flagrant background has staunch supporters among otherwise orthodox, traditional young priests, you need only examine the Acton Institute’s web site, which offers travel stipends to conferences and fellowships to young scholars who are willing to study the wonders of free market economics as congruent with their religious traditions. The Acton Institute website makes the mechanics of seduction clear enough. The big question, however, is how did a man with this type of background ever get ordained a Catholic priest back in 1989? What does this say about the Diocese of Kalamazoo and its bishop? How separate are church and state in western Michigan? Who runs the show there? The Vatican or Betsy DeVos?

It has been nearly a month since Ms. Engel sent her letter to the Vatican requesting a full investigation of the history of Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute. An independent investigation of the Acton Instute is not based on detraction (It is not detraction when you quote from a book that won the Washington State and Jesuit book awards in 2004.); it is long overdue. Sirico’s homosexuality was hardly a momentary lapse; it was a career, and in an uncanny way, Sirico has maintained a certain consistency throughout his life in spite of its apparent vagaries and the obfuscations put up by libertarian gatekeepers like Richard Clark in wikipedia. The main thing that the libertine cleric of the Metropolitan Community Church in Seattle and the libertarian Catholic priest from Grand Rapids have in common is a career based on promoting sins that cry to heaven for vengeance, whether it be sodomy in the ‘70s or depriving workers of a just wage in the ‘90s and beyond. At this point all we can hope is that eventually those cries will be heard and answered.CW

Thomas J. Herron is a frequent contributor to Culture Wars.


This article was published in the May 2007 issue of Culture Wars.


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Click on the following link to listen to a May 2007 interview of Randy Engel and Tom Herron entitled (Rev.) Robert Sirico and Sins that Cry to Heaven: The Real History of Sirico and the Acton Institute.


 

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