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.
About the Author
Benjamin James Brenkert is a New York-based writer. He is completing his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Robert Waldron has been honored thrice with first place awards from the Catholic Press Association for his articles on modern spirituality and has received four grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is also the author of twenty books, three of them well-received novels.