There once was a time when people could trust priests. I know it’s tough to remember—especially since it was decades ago, if not longer—but I kid you not. Priests were among the most trusted members of any community in which they lived.
Of course, this was long before the stories of child molestation and sexual assault started to surface. Yes, there were likely priests fondling children and such, but it was much more discreet and, oftentimes, concealed by the church.
Actually, the church has been known to conceal quite a lot, even in the face of all these child sex revelations (for lack of a better word). And this has been going on for so long that eventually, the years pass quickly enough to dim the memories of past crimes and transgressions.
Irene Garza was a beautiful young woman and former Miss South Texas who was loved by many in her small hometown. The day before Easter, she decided to visit Sacred Heart Catholic Church to give confession.
No one ever saw her alive again.
Easter Sunday, Garza’s father finally reported her missing to police and a search ensued, one joined by numerous members of the close-knit community. Four days later, her body was found face down in a canal. An autopsy would later show that Garza had been raped while in a coma, suffocated and killed before being dumped in the murky water.
Near Garza’s body, police found a number of suspicious items. Among them were a candelabra—which authorities determined had come from Sacred Heart Church—as well as a Kodak slide viewer belonging to one of the priests there: Reverend John Feit.
Feit was immediately brought in for questioning and underwent numerous lie detector tests about the murder; he failed them all. Feit did admit to hearing Garza’s confession that fateful night, but claimed that he left the rectory shortly thereafter and last saw her standing outside the front of the church.
The cops weren’t buying it, though. In their official report, one of the interrogating officers wrote that “Feit was responding in a manner that would indicate beyond doubt that he was concealing facts and had guilty knowledge.”
The investigation continued and soon, police learned something very interesting. Mere weeks before Garza’s disappearance, Feit had been arrested for attacking a woman at another church a few miles from McAllen. In that case, he pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor aggravated assault and got only a slap on the wrist: a $500 fine and no prison time.
Pieces of the proverbial puzzle were starting to fall into place. And Garza’s family was certain they had found her killer.
Unfortunately, nothing would ever come of Garza’s case because—and bear in mind this is all hearsay—the church and the district attorney conspired to sweep this terrible crime under the rug, in a manner of speaking. Feit was insulated from prosecution and immediately transferred to Our Lady of Assumption monastery in Ava, Missouri.
He left the priesthood near the end of the decade and eventually settled in Arizona, where he currently resides. For years, the Garza case grew cold, despite the continued efforts of several family members to keep her on law enforcement’s radar.
A break finally came in 2002 when Texas Ranger Lt. Rudy Jaramillo and his cold case unit started investigating the Garza murder. After reviewing the case evidence, Jaramillo agreed that it pointed to Feit as the killer. The problem was that he had to prove it by finding something more concrete and substantial.
And that something came in the form of two surprise witnesses: Joseph O’Brien, a priest who once worked with Feit at Sacred Heart, and Dale Tacheny, a monk at the Missouri monastery where Feit was sent in 1963.
Tacheny also served as Feit’s spiritual advisor.
According to both men, Feit confessed to killing Garza and basically knew that he got away with murder. He also seemed to understand how the church protected him from prosecution, sparing him from a life behind bars and granting him freedom even he knew he didn’t deserve.
O’Brien was working at Sacred Heart when Garza disappeared and was found murdered, and he suspected Feit was trouble. “We knew he was dangerous, so we shipped him off to a monastery,” the priest told CNN recently. O’Brien also mentioned how Feit confessed to him directly about the murder. Unfortunately, O’Brien lied to police, told them he knew nothing and carried this terrible truth for decades before finally coming forward.
Tacheny first met Feit when he arrived at Our Lady of Assumption in Missouri and began to counsel him spiritually. Soon Feit confessed to Garza’s murder, but unlike his confession to O’Brien, this one was much more detailed.
Feit told Tacheny that he heard Garza’s confession that April night in 1960 and invited her to join him in the rectory. She did and that’s where he sexually assaulted her, fondled her breasts, tied her up, gagged her and put something over her head. Feit then smuggled her out of the church and took her home, where he kept her overnight.
On Easter morning, Feit wrapped Garza in plastic—still bound and gagged—and put her in the bathtub. She complained about not being able to breathe, but he ignored her pleas and instead went to church to hear more confessions. By the time he returned, however, Garza was dead. He quickly tossed her body into his car, drove to a nearby canal and dumped her there.
She would be found four days later.
Given these new witnesses and their shocking accounts of Feit’s guilt, Jaramillo was convinced he could get a warrant for the former priest’s arrest. He approached the county district attorney, Rene Guerra, and presented his evidence. Unfortunately, the D.A. was not convinced.
Guerra claimed that neither O’Brien nor Tacheny were credible and demanded more solid evidence that would result in what he called a “slam-dunk conviction.” In his opinion—and despite numerous others having different views—O’Brien was a senile old man who lied to police and Tacheny did little more than present evidence fed to him by Jaramillo.
It didn’t matter that McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez found O’Brien “very credible” or that Tacheny told his story to San Antonio Police detective George Saidler months before Jaramillo ever heard of him. Guerra would not issue a warrant for Feit’s arrest.
In 2004, a grand jury finally did hear Garza’s case again, only Feit was never called to testify. Neither was O’Brien or Tacheny, even though transcripts of their testimony were supposedly shared with jurors. Sadly, O’Brien died a year later and the grand jury decided not to indict Feit.
There would be no justice for Irene Garza, but her family has not given up hope. They still believe that someday Feit will answer for his crime. And since he was once a “man of God,” I hope he understands that while a human court may not get him, a certain archangel named Satan might.
We all pay the piper eventually. It’s just that for John Feit—who is elderly and basically has one foot in the grave already—the price will be especially high.
Some disturbing news has just come from London where a British soldier was hacked to pieces and killed by two alleged Islamic fundamentalists in broad daylight.
And it was so shocking—and so surreal—that even I couldn’t believe it at first.
The attack happened on Thursday near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a working-class and multicultural area in the southern part of the city. The victim—whose family has asked that he not be identified—was apparently a soldier returning from duty in central London when he was suddenly struck by a car on a busy Woolwich street.
Two men armed with knives, cleavers and a gun leapt from the car, approached the injured solider and did the unthinkable before pedestrians even knew what was happening: they started stabbing, cutting and slashing him to bits. One witness said it seemed as if they were trying to remove the man’s organs.
“These two guys were crazed,” the witness known only as James explained. “They were just not there. They were just animals.”
What happened next, though, was even more bizarre.
With the bloody corpse of the dead solider still lying in the street—and with dozens of witnesses struggling to make sense of the gruesome scene—the men did not flee or even attempt to leave. Instead, one of them approached a bus and started asking people to take his picture and to film him.
An unidentified man on his way to a job interview stumbled across the scene, whipped out his phone and started filming. Before he could react, he was approached by one of the killers, who still held the cleaver and knife and was covered in blood. Of course, to say this freaked the cameraman out would be an understatement, but the killer did his best to put him at ease.
“No, no, no. It’s cool,” the killer told him. “I just want to talk to you.”
At this point, the blood-soaked murderer went off on a tirade that went something like this: “You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we can all live in peace… We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone… The only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily.”
Easy for him to say after slaughtering an innocent person in the street, but there’s more. The killer noticed some women walking by and apologized to them for having to witness such carnage. He also said, “But in our lands, our women have to see the same.”
You can view coverage from the scene by going HERE, but I warn you. The images are kind of graphic.
Police received the first call regarding this terrible crime around 2:15 p.m. and it took them nearly half an hour to respond. Once they arrived, though, the killers apparently rushed them and both men were shot and injured. They now reside in local hospitals where they are being kept under armed guard.
Authorities are investigating this horrific attack and searched an address in Lincolnshire in connection with the killing, but few details have been shared with the public. A clear motive also has not been established, but based on some of the killers’ comments, it seems they object to British interference and “warmongering” in Muslim countries and felt an extreme act like this was the only way to bring attention to this issue.
Yet another case of Islamic fundamentalism, I suppose, but one that members of the Muslim community themselves have condemned. A prominent and radical leader in the British Muslim community—Anjem Choudary—had this to say of the attack: “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life; it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act. The fault lies solely with the sickening individuals who carried out this attack.”
And if nothing else, this is the thing we must all remember: Islam wasn’t responsible for this slaughter; two crazy Muslims were. It’s like that old saying that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” From an American perspective, this is what seems to be happening in terms of our perception of Islam, but this certainly should not be the case. There are crazy people everywhere, in every country and in every religion. And it’s them we should blame when their actions harm others, not the religion they blindly follow or twist to their evil purposes.
After all, Americans like Reverend Jim Jones and David Koresh were Christians, and we know what happened to them. Jones led hundreds of his congregation members to South America and convinced them to participate in a mass suicide that claimed 908 lives. And Koresh persuaded his fellow Branch Davidians to participate in a siege against agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, one that ended in the deaths of the cult leader, 54 adults and 28 children.
It’s the PEOPLE who bring evil into this world, not their RELIGIONS. At least that’s not what their religions intend to happen. Unfortunately, no one can control how people will act, even when those acts claim to have some basis—albeit a misguided one—in religious doctrines.
Have we learned nothing from the Crusades?
Believe me. As an American—one who experienced the horror of attacks like the ones on September 11th (and had friends deeply affected by the losses of loved ones they suffered on that fateful day)—it would be all-too-easy for me to blame Islam and to label every Muslim as a potential terrorist. However, doing so would not be fair and certainly would not be accurate.
I have Muslim friends now who would never do something so terrible, especially something that would cost innocent lives. And you know why? Because they are good, decent people and because at its heart, Islam is not a religion of evil; it’s a religion of love.
In this context—and having heard nothing new in the London case (at least not yet)—I leave you with a quote from a song that may not seem to apply, but whose message is undeniably applicable to our species at large. It comes from the late, great pop superstar Michael Jackson and his duet with Paul McCartney in 1982—the hit single “Ebony and Ivory.”
There is good and bad in everyone. We learn to live, we learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive.
It’s about time we started doing just that, don’t you think?
It’s always funny to me when someone claims to see the image of Jesus Christ on a normal, everyday object: a lightning scar on a tree, a corn flake floating in a bowl of milk or even a well-placed stain on a shirt.
Four years ago, Krantz used the drop cloth when he painted his shutters. It continued being useful through more than 50 jobs, all the time gathering more and more paint.
Recently, Krantz pulled out the folded cloth and tossed it on the floor. That’s when he saw something that forever changed his life: the image of Jesus Christ looking back at him.
“I can’t deny this,” he told reporters later. “This is what it is. It looks like Jesus Christ.”
His girlfriend Julie sees the image as something else: hope.
“I’m not sure why, but everybody needs some hope in life,” she said. “And I hope that this is something that will give him hope.”
Either way, Krantz considers this as more than a coincidence and now plans to frame the image and keep it in his home. With any luck, it will guide him as he continues to live a life of goodness and faith.
Personally, I didn’t see much in the drop cloth until I saw Krantz describe it in a newscast. And though it still seems a little far-fetched, perhaps some of you “true believers” will view it differently.
Check it out for yourself and if you do see Jesus there, please do me a favor and say a little prayer for me. It’s not easy being a heathen!
Following Pope Benedict XVI’s recent resignation as head of the Catholic Church, 115 cardinals from around the world convened in Vatican City to start the new pope selection process, also known as the conclave. Through numerous votes and discussions, they will continue working until a two-thirds majority select their next leader.
As of Tuesday evening, however, no new pope had been chosen. This was immediately conveyed to the public when black smoke poured from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. White smoke is used when a new pope is elected, but for now, the wait continues.
Today, the cardinals will reconvene and continuing working towards some agreement on who their next figurehead will be. I use the word “figurehead” because to me, that’s exactly what the pope is. Granted, I’m not Catholic and it likely means more to people who practice the religion, but I’m sure my perspective is shared by more people than you might think. And like many of you, I hope these guys select a new pope soon.
Actually, I have a few suggestions that might make selecting a new pope easier. Voting will always be necessary, of course. But instead of waiting for a two-thirds majority, I suggest narrowing the field to three or four strong candidates, building a ring similar to those used in mixed martial arts competitions and letting the finalists duke it out until only one is left standing as the new pope.
It shouldn’t be that difficult since most of these guys are older. One shove to the ground might be all it takes to dislocate a hip and ensure some other cardinal wins the title.
Another option could still use the “death match” format, but would instead include weapons. My first thought is to have all the candidates swing those smoke-bellowing urns at one another. And if you fill them with some kind of toxic substance, only those capable of withstanding the gas attack would advance to the next round.
Arm wrestling or rock-paper-scissors might also work.
Sadly, none of these suggestions will be considered since tradition is so important and the slow, ancient selection process is already underway. Since the new pope will eventually resign, retire or die, though, there’s always a chance one of these methods could be used later.
Until then, I have but one thing to say to all the cardinals currently in deliberation: pick a pope and send some white smoke up that “pope pipe” already! We could have thrown a rock and hit a great candidate by now!
UPDATE: After what seemed like an eternity (especially to us non-Catholics), white smoke poured out of the chimney at the Sistine Chapel, which means a new pope has been selected. The lucky guy is none other than Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from my father’s home country of Argentina. Pope Francis (as he is now known) is 76 years old and is the first pope selected from the South American continent, as well as the first non-European pope of the modern era. Congratulations, Pope Francis!
“Strength of mind and body are necessary,” the Pope told Vatican officials earlier. “Strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
The Pope’s last day will be February 28th. At that time, cardinals will meet to select their next leader.
Once he retires, it is believed that Pope Benedict will retreat to a monastery and spend the remainder of his days in prayer and quiet contemplation. He is currently 85 years old.
In my opinion, Pope Benedict is making a very intelligent and informed decision. And he’s right: today’s world needs a Pope with the energy and fortitude to press on despite increasing violence, deteriorating morality, accusations of priests molesting children and the multitude of other “sins” that saturate our civilization.
I’m no Catholic, but I sincerely hope a new leader emerges who can not only address the needs of this population, but also legitimize the religion to young people. And based on some of the horrible crimes being committed by our youth today, they obviously need it.
Farewell and good luck, Pope Benedict. I may be agnostic, but that doesn’t mean I lack respect for someone many consider to be the “light of the world.” I just hope that light can be reignited before the world slips further into darkness.
Jacquie Hagler and roughly 15 of her closest girlfriends were having a jewelry party when suddenly, a man wearing a ski cap and a bandana across his face burst in. With gun in hand, he demanded the women give him all their money.
At first, guests thought the intruder–later identified as 24-year-old Derick Lee–was part of some elaborate prank. One woman even brushed the gun aside and claimed it was nothing more than a water gun.
Things changed once Lee showed them the gun was loaded.
“I’m not joking,” Lee told them as he held the weapon to a woman’s head. “I’m going to shoot someone, give me your money.”
With no concern for her own safety, Hagler quickly took action, stood up and said, “In the name of Jesus, get out of my house now.”
Lee ignored her initial exclamation and again demanded everyone’s money, so Hagler repeated herself with a little more force behind her words.
“In the name of Jesus, get out of my house now!”
Before Lee could react, Hagler’s guests joined in and within minutes, they all began chanting “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
Apparently this was enough for Lee, who quickly turned and fled the house without stealing anything or harming anyone. Police arrested him a short time later and he is currently being held on $200,000 bond.
I’m not sure what impelled Lee to leave at the mention of Jesus’ name, but obviously it struck a chord with him and convinced him that robbing or shooting these spiritual ladies was a bad idea. Perhaps he went to Sunday school as a child and believed punishment on Earth to be preferable to an eternity of punishment in Hell?
Regardless of Lee’s motivation, I must admit that it’s nice to hear of a would-be criminal having a change of heart because of religion. And if he eventually decides to clean up his act and leave his criminal career behind, all the better.
At least there’s hope for Derick Lee. And it’s never too late to leave the darkness for the light. I’m sure even Jesus would agree with that.
In a new book published on January 17th, New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright shares the results of a three-year investigation into everyone’s favorite tax-exempt religion, Scientology.
Feel free to replace “religion” with “cult,” if you like.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief is a no-holds-barred, behind-the-curtain look at the most controversial religious organization since the Branch Davidians. And that’s saying something. Believe me.
The primary plot line centers around award-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), who left the Church of Scientology in 2009 and has since become a self-proclaimed whistle-blower against them. Wright first detailed Haggis’s allegations in the 2011 New Yorker story “The Apostate,” which serves as the backbone for Going Clear. But there is plenty of other Scientology information as well, including interviews with past and present members of the controversial church.
Haggis is at the forefront, though, and rightfully so. He spent more than 35 years in Scientology and only left after the church supported “Proposition 8,” a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California. If anyone knows what’s going on, it would have to be him, right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
According to Haggis–and I will do my best not to spoil anything for those of you interested in reading Wright’s book–the church forces children to work long hours, in clear violation of child labor laws; threatened to “out” John Travolta for being gay, whether or not it was actually true; and regularly abuses members both verbally and physically.
Haggis even calls out church leader David Miscavige for abusing his flock.
As you might imagine, Miscavige and the Church of Scientology deny Haggis’s allegations and have come out against Wright’s book, but it’s hard to know who’s really telling the truth. I think the church is a cult that could eventually be dangerous, and I believe these allegations (or at least a good portion of them) are likely true, but that’s just me. It’s equally possible that the Scientologists are being honest.
There just aren’t enough hard, cold facts. It’s all been hearsay.
Of course, some of you might suspect even this to be part of an elaborate cover-up to keep members and ex-members quiet. And trust me. I wonder the same thing.
I think my biggest concern is this: What if Scientology represents some kind of evolutionary leap for religious cults?
Instead of a bunch of hippies and other misguided cast-offs moving to South America and drinking cyanide-sweetened Kool-Aid, we have a well-organized, sophisticated, thoroughly enmeshed network of seemingly normal, successful people. Their membership is growing every day. And they have Tom Cruise, too.
It’s hard to argue with that.
To be honest, I hope that everything we hear in the media about Scientology is wrong. And I hope the truth comes out soon so all this mystery and suspense will finally end.
We don’t need another Waco or Jonestown. Of that I’m sure.
No Scientologists were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
In 1993, Claude Gilliland III was convicted of sexually assaulting his estranged wife. He served four years in prison for the crime. But earlier this week, the congregation of New Heart Family Worship Center in Cleburne, Texas voted for Gilliland to be their next senior pastor.
Talk about redemption.
When I first heard this story, I was as shocked as many of you may be as you read this post. However, there are always two sides to every story and in Gilliland’s case, his side is pretty compelling.
Gilliland and his wife went through a nasty divorce in the early 1990s and she claimed that he had raped her, an accusation he has always denied. Unfortunately, Gilliland could not afford a lawyer and eventually ended up behind bars. Since his release four years later, he has been an upstanding citizen with a clean record.
The church’s retiring pastor, Carl Roye, hired Gilliland, who immediately informed him of his past and gained a strong supporter. Roye believes that Gilliland is a good, godly man and continues to stand by his replacement.
“The whole thing about the church is forgiveness,” Roye said recently as he referenced the Bible. “David was an adulterer and a murderer. Paul the apostle was a murderer and God forgave them and used them in a great way.”
At this point, the only potential complication for Gilliland’s ascension to senior pastor is the fact that some congregation members were unaware of his “dark past” before they voted. The church’s youth pastor has already resigned following this revelation (no pun intended).
Personally, I think Gilliland should stay on as senior pastor because some of the most spiritual people in history were far from perfect. Pastor Roye even pointed out a few from the Bible. To me, only those who have experienced sin are qualified to speak against it. This eliminates hypocrisy and makes truth and understanding easier to attain.
And let’s face it. Gilliland’s wife could have been full of shit and even if her accusation was true, he served the sentence imposed on him for the crime. Now he wants to make a positive change and I say more power to him.
Congratulation, Pastor Gilliland. I, for one, wish you well.
Last August, Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin of Missouri made headlines when he said that pregnancies resulting from “legitimate rapes” were rare because women’s bodies had the ability to “shut that whole thing down.” The backlash he experienced shortly thereafter has eased off a bit, but now Akin’s chances in the upcoming election are not as good as they were prior to this ridiculous claim.
Now it appears that another GOP candidate is joining the “how big of a jackass am I” campaign that Akin began this summer.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said during a debate with his opponent, Democrat Joe Donnelly. “And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Believe it or not, but this is a candidate that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney endorsed in a campaign ad that continues to run in the state. And despite advice from his team to distance himself from Mourdock, Romney has yet to comment on this new embarrassment.
Judging from the latest polls, none of which I put much stock in, Romney is either tied with or leading President Obama. But if his GOP colleagues continue to make ignorant and offensive statements, I am sure it will seriously hurt his chances of becoming the next Commander-in-Chief.
And for that, I could not be happier. Keep those comments coming, GOP peeps!
Like many Muslims in his part of the world, Abdullah Ismail joined in protest over the poorly made but highly controversial film, “The Innocence of Muslims.”
Ismail is from the Punjab province of Pakistan and joined in a flag burning near the capital city of Lahore. He complained of feeling sick from inhaling the fumes of all the American flags being burned and was taken to a local hospital, where he later died.
I know the concept of karma comes from Hindu and Buddhist traditions. And I prefer to believe in John Lennon’s philosophy of instant karma, which is exactly what poor Mr. Ismail received. Had he not been burning American flags, this never would have happened.
Irony is inescapable. And karma can be a bitch.
I sincerely hope other anti-USA protesters learn a valuable lesson from Ismail: no matter who your God is, he/she/it is not lacking a rather dark sense of humor.