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Does The Vatican Have A Special Retreat Where It Secretly Tries To ‘Cure’ Gay Priests?

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Add this to the Vatican’s latest spate of PR disasters surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage. 

A former priest who says he was fired for being gay revealed on Monday that the Vatican maintains a former convent in northern Italy where it secretly sends priests to “cure” them of homosexuality. This news comes after Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a high-ranking priest who worked in the Vatican, was fired after he came out as gay on Friday – the eve of the Catholic Church’s synod on the family. The Vatican blamed not his homosexuality but his “irresponsible” timing for the sacking. (And, of course, there was the Kim Davis meet-and-greet with Pope Francis.)

“There exists a convent where priests who manifest inappropriate sexual tendencies are sent to reflect,” Mario Bonfanti the former priest, told an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. “It’s a place where they help you to rediscover the straight and narrow. They wanted to ‘cure’ me but I refused to go,” the 44-year-old added.

That former convent, in Trento, known as the Venturini Institute, “was set up in 1928 by Father Paolo Venturini to offer residential accommodation for clergy who suffer from any number of maladies from depression and addiction to pedophilic urges,” the Daily Beast reports. 

Bonfanti, who says he refused the Vatican’s direction to go to the Venturini Institute, and was let go even though he says he was not in a relationship, says the facility offers “treatment” for homosexuality to get priests “back on track.”

The head of the Institute, Father Gianluigi Pasto, says, “We don’t speak of our work but it is well known to many bishops and dioceses. They know what we can offer.”

Pasto did acknowledge, according to the Telegraph, that priests can visit if they are suffering from depression, alcoholism, or “problems connected to sex.”

“Priests come to us for a period of formation and personal reflection. At the moment we have neither gay priests nor paedophile priests here. Certainly our job is to welcome everybody,” Pasto offered.

Calling the atmosphere at the Institute, “extraordinarily sinister,” the Daily Beast detailed a horrific episode.

“In 1983, an elderly homosexual priest by the name of Armando Bison, who was there for ‘treatment,’ was killed in a bizarre incident during which two men drove a wooden crucifix into his skull.”

“Of course,” writes Barbie Latza Nadeau, who reports from Italy for the Daily Beast, “the environment is more civilized now, but Bonfante says that priests who came out as gay in Italy before Pope Francis was elected in 2013 were sent to the Venturini institute to be treated with a type of multi-faceted ‘retraining’ that mixes psychoanalysis with meditative prayer.”

In other words, harmful “conversion,” “reparative,” or “ex-gay” therapy.

 

Image by Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia via Flickr and a CC license

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Stalked by Nazis: How Extremists Tried to Stop Me From Reporting on Their Violence

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Since last year, the neo-Nazi group 2119 has committed acts of violence targeting Jews, Black people, LGBTQ+ people and other perceived enemies.

I began reporting on 2119 in an effort to expose its actions. As I investigated the group’s leadership and activities, and publication of a two-part project neared, neo-Nazi threats against me escalated. Online harassment led to phone calls and doxxing, which devolved into death threats and, most recently, visits to my home.

My ordeal began in November, when 2119 called me out by name in profane Telegram posts laden with racism, antisemitism and homophobia.

RELATED ARTICLE: Inside the neo-Nazi hate network grooming children for a race war

Soon, I began receiving threatening phone calls and voicemails. Someone took pictures of me with a telephoto lens, private investigator-style, and posted them online. A pizza delivery showed up at my doorstep, unrequested, courtesy of 2119. And earlier this month, matters culminated with six avowed white supremacists standing in front of my house, holding burning traffic flares, their arms up in Nazi salutes. One held a sign warning me of “consequences.”

Harassment and even death threats are, unfortunately, an occupational hazard for journalists on this beat. The leader of the neo-Nazi terror group, Atomwaffen, unhappy about being the subject of a ProPublica story, conspired with others to carry out a swatting attack — a tactic in which the perpetrators place bogus calls for the purpose of eliciting a law enforcement response to the victim’s residence — on journalist A.C. Thompson.

Other examples abound: Journalist James LaPorta, for one, learned his name was on a hit list in the possession of a neo-Nazi accused of plotting race war. In another case, a journalist received a death threatfrom the leader of a Nazi group called Feuerkrieg Division to try to discourage them from reporting on his group.

I first ran across 2119, also known as Blood and Soil Crew, while combing through Telegram chats in December 2022. They’ve been firmly on my radar since the spring of 2023, when I began to tally up racist and antisemitic incidents and attacks made in 2119’s name. Starting in late October 2023, my editor let me spend significant time investigating what — and who — 2119 truly is.

Almost as soon as they became aware of my reporting, the 2119 members responded with hostility and threats in a naked attempt to stop me from reporting on what had become a multi-state campaign of racist, antisemitic and homophobic violence.

Four days before Thanksgiving, an anonymous Telegram channel published my professional headshot, home address and phone number.

This wasn’t the first time such a thing has happened during my many years covering neo-Nazis, and other extremists. Online posts that include my personal information have been a semi-regular occurrence for the past four years. What was notable this time is that 2119 members immediately amplified this doxxing, highlighting it to like-minded extremists on their Telegram channel.

The accompanying note included a complaint from 2119 that “the bastard above” — me — had “been found out to be harassing our boys.”

Over the next two months, their tactics would become ever more extreme — and strange.

‘You’re being watched’

Just before New Year’s Eve, I received a phone call from a restricted number at dinner time. Someone identifying himself as “Bozak” warned me that I was “being watched by international bricksters.”

I already knew by that time that “Bozak” was 2119 member Aiden Cuevas, but the caller hung up before I had an opportunity to confront him.

I understood this “bricksters” term as a reference to an antisemitic attack last summer in Pensacola, Fla., where another 2119 member, Waylon Fowler, threw a brick through the window of a Jewish center while two rabbis sat inside having dinner.

Written on the brick: a swastika and the words “No Jews.”

A couple minutes after the “Bozak” phone call, the same person made a transparent attempt at misdirection by calling back and leaving a voicemail. He claimed to be Thomas Rousseau, leader of the white power group Patriot Front, and again warned: “I’m letting you know that we have people on standby. You’re being watched. Quit messing with us.”

In early January, early on a Sunday afternoon, an unidentified 2119 member placed an order for a pizza delivery at my house. It’s clear a 2119 associate was parked down the street with a camera and a telephoto lens because, the following day, a 2119 member posted a photo on Telegram that shows me standing in my doorway.

The experience was unsettling, but their efforts at intimidation only confirmed in my mind that we had a story that was worth telling. Just as any investigative journalist would do in the course of reporting a story, I called the subjects to offer them an opportunity to be interviewed and to ask them questions.

I began calling 2119 members — and their parents. The response was an odd mixture of silence, defiance, confessions and pleas for understanding.

‘We’ll keep shooting’

But one particular interview — with Mathew Bair, a Marine Corps veteran who, at 34, is roughly twice the age of most of his fellow 2119 members — stood apart.

Bair readily confirmed much of my reporting about 2119’s activities and goals. And unlike some of his younger cohorts, he was unapologetic, even appearing to take pleasure in confirming some of the most unsavory aspects of 2119’s racist and antisemitic intentions.

As we came to the end of the interview, I dropped what I expected to be one of the most difficult questions.

I asked Bair about a video he had posted showing a flier with the words “Shoot your local judge” that includes a URL to the 2119 Telegram channel.

Bair danced around the question. He initially attempted to deflect by suggesting that the reference was to a specific firearm model — a Taurus Judge.

Regardless, he told me he wasn’t concerned about how a potential victim might interpret the message.

He might have left it at that — an ambiguous, vaguely worded threat shrouded in plausible deniability.

But instead he veered back to the more direct interpretation, mentioning that he is “close” to where an anti-feminist extremist went to a federal judge’s home New Jersey, in 2020, and fatally shother son.

Then, he casually tossed out the phrase “just like you live in the Raleigh/Durham area, right?”

As it so happens, I don’t live in that area. But the implication was clear: I could be a target, too.

A couple of days later, on Jan. 21, Bair forwarded a message from a private Telegram channel complaining about my reporting.

“Jordan Green, you have a healthy respect for a Taurus Judge now, yes?” the message concluded. “Keep phishing for minors and we’ll keep shooting our local Judge.”

A Telegram post forwarded by Mathew Bair on Jan. 21, 2024 contains an implied threat.

One might be tempted to chalk this up as nothing more than online bluster. But gun violence directed at journalists is very real. This became apparent when shots were fired into the home of an online news publisher in Tennessee last April.

Concurrent with Bair’s warning, an anonymous Telegram account patronized by avowed extremists doxxed me again — this time with the photo of me standing in my doorway when 2119 sent a pizza to my home.

A couple weeks later, the account posted more personal information about me, accompanied by a note: “It’s not over, yet. More to come soon.”

They weren’t lying.

Around 5 p.m. on Feb. 10, six Nazis approached my house on a quiet, residential street in Greensboro, N.C. They held burning traffic flares as they raised their arms in Nazi salutes.

Photos show that at least three of the men are subjects of my reporting on extremism.

Among them: Sean Kauffmann, leader of the Tennessee Active Club, stood in the middle holding a sign warning about a “consequence” for exercising freedom of the press. Flanking Kauffmann were David William Fair, leader of the Southern Sons Active Club, and Jarrett William Smith.

The three men have a history of glorifying and pursuing violence.

Kauffmann and Smith met through Terrorgram, a loose collective of Telegram channels that extol mass shooters, while promoting graphic violence and wildly flagrant racism, in 2019.

Smith, then a soldier in the Army, advised Kauffmann on how to hide firearms from law enforcement when Kauffmann was worried that the police would take them due to a custody dispute with an ex-partner.

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, sheriff’s deputies responding to a domestic violence incident in 2021 encountered Kauffmann waving around an assault rifle and later “received information that Kauffmann stated he was going to get into a shootout with police.”

Smith was arrested and charged with distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction in 2019, a couple months after his exchange with Kauffmann on Telegram. The government alleged that Smith shared information with others on Facebook about how to make improvised explosive devices and suggested to an FBI informant that then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) would make a suitable assassination target.

During his prosecution — for which he ultimately pleaded guilty and served 14 months in prison — federal prosecutors presented evidence that Smith stated in a text message that it was on “my bucket list to KO an antifa member” and advised other Telegram users on how to get away with committing arson against a Michigan podcaster.

The channel that helped organize the flash rally in front of my home followed with an eerie sequel. The subsequent post showed some of the protesters posing with a historical marker commemorating the Greensboro Massacre. The sign marks the site where a coalition of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members fatally shot five civil rights and labor activists near a public housing community in 1979.

The caption in the Telegram post emphasizes the point that the shooters were acquitted during state and federal criminal trials by arguing that they acted in self-defense.

The message to me isn’t subtle.

Jordan Green is a Raw Story investigative reporter who covers domestic extremism.

Image via Shutterstock

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‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

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The Biden campaign is responding to a report from Politico detailing how Christian nationalism is intentionally being injected into the plans a right-wing think tank, part of a “conservative consortium,” is drafting for a potential second Trump presidential term.

“Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and has remained close to him. Vought, who is frequently cited as a potential chief of staff in a second Trump White House, is president of The Center for Renewing America think tank, a leading group in a conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term,” Politico reported Tuesday. “Vought has a close affiliation with Christian nationalist William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who has advocated for overturning same-sex marriage, ending abortion and reducing access to contraceptives.”

“Vought,” Politico adds, “is advising Project 2025, a governing agenda that would usher in one of the most conservative executive branches in modern American history. The effort is made up of a constellation of conservative groups run by Trump allies who’ve constructed a detailed plan to dismantle or overhaul key agencies in a second term. Among other principles, the project’s ‘Mandate for Leadership’ states that ‘freedom is defined by God, not man.'”

READ MORE: Alito Fears ‘Bigot’ Label for Americans With ‘Traditional Religious Views’ of LGBTQ People

There are other far-right Christian nationalists in play.

“Trump is also talking about bringing his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a vocal proponent of Christian nationalism, back into office,” the Politico piece notes. “Flynn is currently focused on recruiting what he calls an ‘Army of God’ — as he barnstorms the country promoting his vision of putting Christianity at the center of American life.”

In 2022 PBS NewHour described Flynn as being “‘at the center’ of [a] new movement based on conspiracies and Christian nationalism.”

“He has drawn together election deniers, mask and vaccine opponents, insurrectionists, Proud Boys, and elected officials and leaders in state and local Republican parties.”

READ MORE: McEnany Meltdown: Biden Beats Reagan, Trump Dead Last in New Scholars’ Survey

The Biden campaign’s senior spokesperson Lauren Hitt responded to the Politico report, saying in a statement, “This is straight out of the Handmaid’s Tale. Nationwide abortion bans, attacks on same-sex marriage, and restrictions on contraception – this is the horrifying reality being openly discussed by Team Trump and the likely architects of his second term agenda.”

“Every day Donald Trump openly supports an agenda of restricting Americans’ freedoms, dividing our country, and attacking our rights. That’s what he will do as president. It’s not who we are as Americans. Like they’ve done election after election,
Americans will reject Donald Trump and his out-of-touch extremism again this November.”

The Hill adds the Biden “campaign also pointed to a New York Times report that said Trump told advisers and allies that he favors a 16-week ban on abortion, a story that the Trump campaign pushed back on but didn’t contradict.”

USA TODAY’s White House correspondent Joey Garrison first reported Hitt’s statement.

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‘BS’: Top Dem Senator Goes on Offense Against Republicans

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U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) is calling “BS” on Senate Republicans – and calling them out by name – over their continued failure to pass the Senate’s massive border and military funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan bill that he helped craft.

Sen. Murphy’s first target: top Trump MAGA surrogate Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who told Fox News, “The left want an open, insecure border. The conservatives and common sense independents, we want a secure America. That means you have to control your back door.”

Murphy did not hold back.

“Bullshit,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote on social media Tuesday. “We reached a bipartisan compromise to give the President enormous new powers to control the border. Almost every single Republican – including Sen. Scott – voted against it because Trump told them to keep the border a mess because it might help him politically.”

READ MORE: Alito Fears ‘Bigot’ Label for Americans With ‘Traditional Religious Views’ of LGBTQ People

Senator Murphy’s second target was U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who claimed, “The recent bill would have been worse than doing nothing by codifying [Biden’s] open border policies into law.”

“Bullshit,” Sen. Murphy again responded. “The bipartisan border bill that Sen. Johnson’s party asked for and then voted against because Trump said so would have

ALLOWED
THE
PRESIDENT
TO
SECURE
THE
BORDER.”

Next, the Connecticut Democrat called out U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn  (R-TN). writing, “also bullshit.”

Sen. Blackburn had claimed, “Even Secretary Mayorkas has said what’s happening at the southern border ‘certainly is a crisis.’ It’s past time the Biden administration put a stop to this madness. CLOSE the border.”

Sen. Murphy added, “Senator Blackburn knows the bill would have actually allowed the President to close parts of the border when crossings get too high. But who would book Republicans on cable news if the border was actually under control? That’s why they killed it.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

RELATED: ‘We Aren’t Monsters’: Top Senate Dem Slams Josh Hawley for Not Wanting to Help Kids

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