Posted in category "Politics"

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 7 – The Improbable Activist

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 20, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

After the Stonewall raid, Ed Murphy went to work at Tele-Star, another gay bar.  The Tele-Star was raided soon after by police.  Murphy told friends that he refused to let police into the bar, so they had beaten him up very badly.  He was covered in cuts and welts, had bandages all over his face, his arm was fractured, and he was barely able to walk.  The beating may have been at the instigation of Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who must have been furious about not netting him at Stonewall.  Some officers may still have been angry that Murphy impersonated a police officer during the “Chickens and the Bulls” extortion schemes, and it was payback time.  Murphy was also raped by a black inmate during his jail stay.  Murphy said the police heard he “liked niggers” and that he hung out with and protected black teenagers and transvestites.  After Murphy was released from jail, he stopped informing for the NYPD.

Ed Murphy, 1978

In 1978, Ed Murphy “came out” as a gay man and stopped informing on the Mob to the FBI.  He was 52. Murphy claimed that he wanted to quit both his careers as a criminal freelancer and as an informer, and work for gay liberation.  He wanted to become a “good guy.” Ed continued working at gay bars, which were mostly mob run, so his association with members of the Genovese and Gambino families continued until his death in 1989. I don’t see how the Mafia would let an informer walk around and live; Ed would have ended up in a swamp, empty field, or vacant lot. Having Ed inform to the FBI was useful—he could have been fed information about certain people and his informing allowed the Mafia to keep tabs on FBI activity and plans.  Ed saying that he no longer worked for the FBI may have been true or a ruse.  Murphy did testify in 1979 that he had been an undercover agent specializing in gay bars and corruption for the New York State Select Committee on Crime.

In a May 8, 1978, Village Voice article by Arthur Bell, “Skull Murphy – The Gay Double Agent,” Murphy disclosed that he decided to come clean  because certain mobsters became aware he was an informer. “Everything I know is on file at law enforcement agencies for certain people doing investigations,” he told Bell. Look, I’m getting old. I’m getting out of this business, baby. I’m doing it for one reason. I want to see their asses kicked.”

I find it impossible to believe that Ed Murphy ratted on the mob for years and lived to walk away after testifying. He was low level and sullied enough that a gunman could put a bullet in his head and get away with only a pretense of an investigation. Who would mourn? Not the influential gay men and officials that he served and compromised. Not the NYPD. Instead, Ed continued to live and work in New York at mob-affiliated gay bars and clubs.  He solicited cash donations from businesses, many of them mob-owned, to help fund the Christopher Street Festival and annual gay pride day parade. More likely, much of the information that Murphy provided had to do with corruption and sexual antics by politicians, government officials, men in law enforcement, and others that would be embarrassing to be publicly aired. A friend reacted to Murphy’s pronouncements: “Even the criminal element has a code of ethics. If the Skull’s planning a trip to heaven, he won’t get there by hurting people.”

In 1972, Murphy founded the Christopher Street Festival Committee.  It was started to help the local merchants profit from Gay Pride Day and, to give people who felt uncomfortable marching a place to meet and mingle with other gay people.  When I was marching in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were thousands more people at the festival than at the parade.  The parade included primarily middle class and affluent white people. There were a lot of banners of community service or activist groups, including religious groups and some church and synagogue groups.  The original march in 1970 started in the Village and ended up in Central Park.

CCL at NYC Gay Pride March, 1988

By 1974, Murphy had persuaded march organizers to start the parade uptown and finish at Christopher Street.  His main motive was probably money, since the bars, clubs, booth merchants, and area businesses would rake in bags of cash from marchers and revelers.  But while making money was the biggest driver, I also feel that Ed wanted to include the thousands of people who didn’t march out of fear of family rejection, job loss, or just fear.  Many of them were black, Latino, and blue-collar whites. Murphy almost single-handedly ran and controlled the festival.  Most participants were happy with the crowd and the freedom to “be,” if only for an afternoon or night. “People often wondered where they money went,” said Candida Scott Piel, a long-time AIDS and gay rights activist who helped to organize the Pride parade and rally in the ‘80s. “But if your group ever needed help, or you were just someone in need, Ed was always there to lend a hand or find someone who could.”

Every year Murphy would come by the Conference for Catholic Lesbians booth on Christopher Street to say hello, see how we were doing, and make sure that no one from the commercial vendor booths was bothering us. Eventually he would end up at one of the nearby bars, like Two Potato, holding court with a group of young guys. Prior to the Festival, Ed took part in the Pride parade.  He would ride with a group of young men in a Cadillac convertible. A picture from the 1984 parade shows him all dressed up in a blazer wearing a blue sash with the words, “The Original Stonewaller.”  His hands are raised as if in a benediction to the crowd.

Ed Murphy, NYC Gay Pride March, 1984

Ed Murphy’s life after Stonewall had taken a surprising turn after his previous incarnations as a juvenile delinquent, WWII soldier, armed robber, gay bar bouncer, pro wrestler, pimp, house detective, fairy-shaker, and informant: he became a community activist.  During the 1970s and ‘80s, Ed Murphy was known for charity work with homeless street youths, drag queens, prostitutes, people suffering with AIDS and the mentally handicapped.  He was named New York State’s volunteer of the year in 1977 for his work with people with developmental disabilities.

Ed Murphy would round up his friends and treat people in residential facilities to parties for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and summer picnics.  He would dress up as Santa Claus for Christmas, and in his all-purpose tramp-clown outfit for the other occasions. “He’s a marvelous man,” said the coordinator of volunteer services for one of the homes.  “Whenever we need something in a pinch, Ed Murphy is there. It doesn’t matter if it’s shoelaces or an excursion.” Murphy did whatever needed to be done to make Christmas special.  “One year we wanted to have a house for Santa Claus to sit in, but we didn’t have no money,” he recalled. “So a couple of the guys go down to this yard on 10th Avenue and rob some lumber. After the party, they put it back, but the owner comes into the bar and complains. I asked him what he’s yelling about, its only got a couple of nail holes in it.  The next year, he donates the lumber for free.”

From his job as a doorman/bouncer, Ed collected a group of fellow bar workers, patrons and ex-cons who help him with the parties.  “We’re here with Eddie,” said a man who pushed a cart full of presents for the residents told a reporter.  “The guy’s a nice guy, and, like, he loves people. I been in a few institutions myself, so I know what that means.” Murphy had an informal group of 50 bars, most of them gay bars, to help provide food, drinks, and gifts for the parties. “We don’t accept money,” Murphy said. “We’ll ask one bar for hamburgers, another for soda, and so forth.” He got bakeries to donate to AIDS hospices and old age homes.  He even got Detective Jim McDonnell from his “Chickens and Bulls” days to do some volunteer work when he retired.  Murphy surprised McDonnell with a plaque at an awards dinner.

After Stonewall, Ed Murphy appears to have made a complete transition from a thug who threatened gay men for money; to a burly, bewhiskered Santa Claus who distributed gifts and treats to bring joy to people who would have had neither.  What happened to Ed Murphy? Why did people never mention his role in the “Chickens and the Bulls” or even his alleged blackmail role for the mob at Stonewall?  It was the ultimate irony to see the man the cops were after during the Stonewall raid for financial crimes at the head of the Gay Pride parade proudly wearing the sash proclaiming, “The Original Stonewaller.”

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 6: The Stonewall Raid

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 19, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals

Once the New York Police Department learned that the stolen bearer bonds were tied to the Stonewall Inn, they set out to shut down the club and arrest Ed Murphy.  In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a few hours after Judy Garland’s funeral, the police raided the club.  The force was led by Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, and carried out without the knowledge of the local precinct which was suspected of being on the take. Even though they were after Murphy, the police officers were brutal to the patrons.

Stonewall Raid, 1969

They started the operation by sending in two policewomen “posing” as lesbians and two plainclothesmen.  The undercover women were from Chinatown’s Fifth Precinct.  They were chosen because of their sizes (one large, one petite) to be a butch-femme couple.  Pine became worried when the two policewomen didn’t return.   “They didn’t come out of the bar,” Pine said. “Time passed.  It seemed unnatural.  We didn’t realize they were having a good time.  It got to the point where we thought they were in trouble or had forgotten what they were supposed to do.” Ed Murphy recalled, “the two cops were drunk…Even the policewoman was half-crocked.  She was a Polynesian broad. And she’s been coming there as a dyke.”

In an interview with the SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment) History Project, Ed Murphy recounted his own memories of the Stonewall Raid.  An excerpt was published in the June 1989 SAGE newsletter.  “I was one of the two men employed as bouncers at Stonewall on the night of the celebrated raid,” Murphy said. “I was told that the monthly payoff to the cops from Stonewall was $1200 plus frequent cases of booze.  The Inspector got his $1200 payoff the very night of the raid, using his chauffer as bagman as usual.  Every gay bar paid.”

“Stonewall was an after-hours premises, not a bar. It had two big oak doors rather like doors to a monastery.  Inside that were steel doors.  Inside the premises there was a Wishing Well in the middle of the dance floor and upstairs the “mob” retained a room.  A Polynesian policewoman was already inside when the doors were slapped shut against the raid.”

“Maggie (Jiggs) is said to have thrown the first beer can at the police. Marcia picked up dog shit and threw it in a cop’s face.  Maggie got out with the money…She put the money under her apron, told the cops, “I just sell cigarettes here” and got away with the money so the cops didn’t get any. Meanwhile, Frankie, the other bouncer, and I were handcuffed by the cops.  In the melee we jumped into a cab.  Turned out to be a gay cabbie who sped us off to Keller’s Bar.  There the S&M crowd had keys that fit the handcuffs.”

Stonewall Riot, 1969

The SAGE newsletter editor noted that Ed Murphy had recently died.  He described him as:  “a long-standing, compassionate and vociferous member of the gay and lesbian community. His leadership and strength were constant and are sorely missed.”

If the main objective of the Stonewall raid was to arrest Ed Murphy and haul in a load of incriminating evidence, it was a total failure.  There was no mention of whether the “upstairs room” was searched.  Ed slipped away even though he was handcuffed.  It makes you wonder if the police were totally incompetent or if Murphy was tipped off to the raid by a source or even one of the police who infiltrated Stonewall before the raid.  Fury at both the police and the Mafia fueled the crowds. One of the goals shared by the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front, two groups that came out of the Stonewall protests, was to get organized crime out of gay bars. That didn’t happen immediately.  Bars, clubs, pornography, and other gay-related businesses were far too lucrative for organized crime to give up easily.

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 5: Stonewall Shakedowns

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 18, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City started life as Bonnie’s Stone Wall, named after the autobiography of Ruth Fuller Field (1864-1935), The Stone Wall.  Although it was written under the pen name of “Mary Casal,” the book was extraordinarily frank in its descriptions of lesbian love and sexual attraction.  In 1967, the building was reopened as a gay bar by “Fat” Tony Lauria, the son of a Mafioso and several partners.  One of them was Matty “the Horse” Ianniello, the acting boss of the Genovese family.   Ianniello was widely acknowledged as the Genovese capo who controlled most of New York’s gay bars and clubs.  The New York State Liquor Authority refused liquor licenses to any bar that catered to open homosexuals. This created an opening for organized crime to run bars without licenses and pay off police.

Matty “The Horse” Ianniello

The Stonewall, 1960s

The Stonewall Inn was a dump. The bar had no running water; glasses were washed in a bucket.  Urine soaked the toilet floor. There were no fire exits.  But The Stonewall Inn had a special draw: it was the only gay bar that permitted dancing.  From an upper room and back entrance, the Stonewall also offered drugs and male prostitutes. One of the bartenders, a chubby blond drag queen named Maggie Jiggs, presided over the main bar, and sold drugs in addition to Stonewall’s watered drinks.  Ed Murphy was the burly doorman-bouncer. Murphy had been a ubiquitous presence in gay bars since 1946.  He was still closeted in 1969, but he had sex with young men and pimped them out for tips.  Murphy was said to have worked with Gambino Family associate Mike Umbers, a pornographer, to pimp teenage boys to wealthy men. Umbers reportedly had a minor role in the “Dog Day Afternoon” botched bank robbery.  Umbers pressured John Wojtowicz to pay back his loan to the mob by robbing a bank.  Wojtowicz borrowed the money to pay for his wedding and sex change operation for his wife, Liz Eden. Wojtowicz claimed that the idea to rob a bank came from a Chase Manhattan executive that he met in a Greenwich Village gay bar.

Did Ed Murphy continue the blackmail schemes at the Stonewall Inn that he utilized earlier during “The Chickens and the Bulls” scandal?  Was he working with members of organized crime families to blackmail gay men?  Was he protected by the FBI as an informer?  All the evidence seems to point that way.

In his 2004 book, “Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution,” historian David Carter debunked the myth that the New York Police Department’s raid on Stonewall was intended solely to harass gay patrons. Carter studied the 1969 police files on the raid and interviewed the man who planned and led it, Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine.  Pine recalled that months earlier he was called into the office of his commanding officer to discuss stolen bonds.  Interpol had noticed that an unusual amount of negotiable bonds were surfacing in Europe and had requested that the NYPD investigate. Were the bonds legal or counterfeit? Who was behind it?

NYPD Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine

The NYPD investigation found evidence that the Mafia was involved along with some Wall Street employees who frequented the Stonewall Inn. Carter suggested that Murphy supplied members of the mob with names and personal information that could be used for blackmail.  The police concluded that bonds had been stolen by a closeted Wall Street executive at the bidding of gangsters operating out of the Stonewall Inn.  Lucian K. Truscott IV, the writer who covered the Stonewall Riots for the Village Voice, wrote an article for the New York Times in 2009, “The Real Mob at Stonewall.”  Truscott related that “Deputy Inspector Pine had two stated reasons for the raid:  the Stonewall was selling liquor without a license, which it was, and it was being used by a Mafia blackmail ring that was setting up gay patrons who worked on Wall Street, which also seems likely.”

The victims were set up for Murphy by the good-looking bartenders and waiters at Stonewall.  The waiters would get friendly with customers and ferret out personal details. If the customer was connected or had a big job on Wall Street, the man was a good mark.  “It’s really so insidious,” said one Stonewall regular, “when you’re talking to somebody that you find nice—he’s being nice, pleasant finally.  Eventually you tell him where you work, and then all of a sudden this happens.  It’s just so awful.”

Some victims had their wallets stolen by prostitutes.  The blackmailers researched which men might be vulnerable to extortion.  The Stonewall Inn also maintained a membership list. Anyone who wanted to be admitted needed to sign a book.  Wise patrons used fake names, but lots of others used their real names.  Blackmailers used these membership lists, plus the information pumped by waiters, to identify well-placed homosexuals in the financial industry.  Closeted Wall Street employees were probably threatened by Murphy.  I can see him promising to protect their anonymity, in exchange for financial instruments that the mob wanted.

The Mattachine Society of New York, the city’s first gay rights organization, had experience with Ed Murphy during “The Chickens and Bulls” extortion scandals a few years earlier.  They alerted their members and others who purchased their gay bars guide that Ed Murphy was active at The Stonewall and to be wary of him. “MSNY has also been informed that Murphy has an interest in the Stone Wall, a club on Christopher Street, and several other gay clubs in New York…We caution our readers NEVER to use your real name when cruising, NEVER to give your address to a questionable bar or club, and remember, that trick or hustler you’ve just picked up may be “working” for management!  We urge you, if you’ve been intimidated or blackmailed in the past, to report it to the D.A.’s office, or to M.S.NY.”

Dick Leitsch, Mattachine Society

In their March 1968 newsletter, the Mattachine Society described their role in aiding the New York City District Attorney’s office with information that led to the arrest of several blackmailers.  They also made a point to identify one of them—“Edward F. P Murphy, an ex-convict who is alleged to have been the head of a national ring which recently was active in extorting money from homosexuals…has served prison terms for larceny and for carrying deadly weapons, and was arrested for impersonating an officer, and for extortion…”

Ed Murphy was never charged in the Stonewall shakedowns or stolen bonds.  Neither the men who stole the bearer bonds nor the men who sold them were ever charged or punished.  However, the incident led to a crackdown in the financial services industry, and many gay men lost their jobs or careers and were ruined.  The head of the Mattachine Society, Dick Leitsch, gave this statement before the New York State Assembly at its “Hearings on Homosexuality” on January 7, 1971:

“Last year, following a wave of thefts from Wall Street brokerage houses, the State issued an order that all employees in the financial industry be fingerprinted.  Because of this, many old and trusted employees had to be let go, because bonding companies will not insure known homosexuals and the fingerprint checks turned up evidence of old arrests.  Banking and many other fields requiring bonds are off-limits to homosexuals because of this policy of bonding companies.”

This act capped a decade of exploitation and degradation of hundreds, if not thousands, of gay men and youths by Ed Murphy.  He was protected by the FBI, the NYPD, the Mob, the New York State Select Committee on Crime, and his own fists, friends, and personality.  He got away with it.  In a tremendous irony, the Stonewall raid to arrest him for blackmail instead morphed Ed Murphy into a gay liberation legend.

 

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 4 – Secret Lives: J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 17, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

Ed Murphy told me: “J. Edgar Hoover is one of my sisters.”

In 1983, I was shocked to hear Ed insinuate that the late FBI director was gay and liked to dress in women’s clothes. Even among very gossipy gay men, I never heard a breath of rumor that the late FBI director liked guys and was also a transvestite. Similarly, in the 1980s at Dignity/NY, I learned that the ruthless society lawyer, Roy Cohn, had contracted AIDS, not cancer of the liver as he claimed. Ed may have known about Hoover from firsthand stories he heard, and likely had pictures to prove it. I’m not clear if Ed Murphy’s claims are from the time of the “Chickens and the Bulls” blackmail period, or, whether the Mafia had compromising photos of Hoover and his associate director and companion, Clyde Tollson, from years before.

Clyde Tollson and J. Edgar Hoover on vacation

In his explosive 1993 book, “Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover,” author Anthony Summers claimed Hoover denied the existence of the Mafia and never pursued them because the Mafia had blackmail material on him. One of the photos was said to show Hoover blowing Clyde Tollson. The knowledge of Hoover’s homosexual activities may have kept gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello safe from FBI scrutiny.

Author David Carter wrote in his 2004 book, “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” that when FBI agents joined the “Chickens and the Bulls” case, they found a photograph of J. Edgar Hoover “posing amiably” with one of the ringleaders and discovered information that Clyde Tollson was being blackmailed by the extortion ring. Both the photograph and documents disappeared after the FBI joined the investigation. David Carter thought Ed Murphy was the man posing with Hoover. Journalist and author Burton Hersh said that it was Sherman Kaminsky. It may be that Ed Murphy’s decades of work in Mafia-run gay bars, and his involvement in male prostitution and blackmail gave him access to knowledge and photos, which not only kept him safe from the Feds, but out of jail in the “Chickens and the Bulls” case.

Elwood Hammock, one of the chief extorters in the “Chickens and the Bulls” case also said that J. Edgar Hoover was homosexual as detailed in a memo dated May 19, 1966, from Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in Charlotte, N.C. to Director, FBI. The memo describes a taped telephone interview with an unnamed woman the evening of May 18, 1966. It was conducted by FBI agent Charles S. Miller of Durham, N.C.

“(BLANK) stated that on or about 4-10-66 (BLANK) ELWOOD HAMMOCK (BLANK) New York City. She recalled that ELWOOD was intoxicated at the time, and he was discussing various personalities in whom he and his confederates were interested. During the course of this conversation, he stated to her that J. EDGAR HOOVER was a homosexual. He stated also that he, ELWOOD HAMMOCK, and (BLANK) who she later learned was (BLANK) allegedly had telescopic movies or photos of a blond, blue-eyed young man who resided in either Georgetown or Bethesda, Maryland. It was not clear to (BLANK), but she gathered that this young man was guarded by two Doberman pinscher dogs, and she gathered by inference that this young man was an alleged friend of MR. HOOVER. She stated she was shocked when ELWOOD made such a fantastic allegation, and she informed him that it was utterly impossible and untrue. She stated that (BLANK) was an inveterate liar, and she placed no substance in his statement. She stated she admired the Director greatly, recognized what he had done for the country, and as she thought about the matter more, she decided to repeat ELWOOD’S conversation to a Detective (BLANK) of the New York District Attorney’s staff with whom she had been working.”

The person who had the most damaging information about J. Edgar Hoover was Susan Kaufman Rosenstiel, the 4th wife of liquor magnate Lewis S. Rosenstiel, chairman of Schenley Industries, Inc. Rosenstiel, a bisexual, was a former bootlegger who was a close associate of mobsters Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. He was good friends with power broker attorney, Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover. He endowed the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation with $1 million in 1965. Lewis Rosenstiel’s lifelong involvement with mobsters came to light only in 1970, when the New York State Legislative Committee on Crime determined that he was part of a consortium to smuggle liquor during Prohibition.

Lewis and Susan Rosenstiel had an ugly, contentious divorce before Lewis Rosenstiel moved on to Wife #5. Rosenstiel spent almost half a million dollars trying to concoct evidence to use against his wife in divorce proceedings. He may have turned to his friend, J. Edgar Hoover, for help. At least, this is what Susan Kaufman thought, believing that the FBI director helped stack the cards against her in divorce court. In retaliation, she told anyone who would listen that Hoover was a cross-dresser and homosexual.

Meyer Lansky & Lewis Rosenstiel

During their divorce, Rosenstiel’s 4th wife, Susan Kaufman, alleged that Rosenstiel hosted orgies at the Plaza hotel where he supplied “boy prostitutes” for certain guests. Kaufman would later make the same claims under oath for the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime in the early 1970s. Most of Kaufman’s testimony to the Committee was behind closed doors and remains sealed. Her claims are shocking, but both the Crime Committee Chairman, John Hughes, and his Chief Counsel, Edward McLaughlin, found them credible. McLaughlin remembered her as an excellent witness:  “I thought she was absolutely truthful. The woman’s power of recall was phenomenal. Everything she said was checked and double-checked, and everything that was checkable turned out to be true.”

Roy Cohn on vacation

Larry Summer’s book, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover,” describes one night in 1958 where Susa  n Rosenstiel witnessed a sex scene with her husband, Roy Cohn, J. Edgar Hoover and two teenage boys in a suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Hoover was in drag, “wearing a fluffy black dress…lace stockings and high heels, and a black curly wig. He had makeup on, and false eyelashes. Roy introduced him as “Mary” …It was obvious he wasn’t a woman; you could see where he shaved.” They had some drinks, and the teenage prostitutes arrived. They went into the bedroom and “Mary” undressed, taking off his dress and pants and leaving on a garter belt. He lay on the bed, “and the boys work on him with their hands. One of them wore rubber gloves…Then Rosenstiel got into the act with the boys. I thought, “You disgusting old man.” Hoover and Cohn were watching, enjoying it.”

If what she described happened, it would be easy to imagine that Meyer Lansky and others in organized crime had blackmail photos of Hoover in a dress or getting serviced. Susan Rosenstiel quoted her husband as saying, “because of Lansky and those people, we can always get Hoover to help us.” Hoover was a blackmailer himself. “He was the biggest fuckin’ extortionist in the country,”

Ed Murphy told Arthur Bell in a 1978 interview.  “He had presidents by the balls. He had a record on everybody and his brother.”Not everybody believed Susan Kaufman’s stories. Robert M. Morgenthau, the U.S. Attorney in New York, found her claims baseless. So did famous attorney William Hundley, at that time working in the U.S. Justice Department. “Susie Rosenstiel had a total axe to grind,” Hundley said. “Somebody who worked for me talked to her. It was made up out of whole cloth. She hated Hoover for some alleged wrong he had done. Plus the story was beyond belief.”

The story does sound fantastical. How could the head of the FBI–and a notorious blackmailer himself–get himself into a position where he was held hostage? Perhaps it was a trade-off. Hoover had his secrets protected and access to male prostitutes. In return, organized crime didn’t need to worry about the FBI nosing too deeply into their operations.

Coming Tomorrow:  Chapter 5:  Stonewall Shakedowns

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 3: The Chickens and the Bulls

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 16, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

The blackmail scheme of “The Chickens and the Bulls” as the New York City Police Department called it, or “Operation Homex” to the FBI, is now unknown or forgotten by most lesbian and gay people and activists. The name refers to an extortion ring of cops and criminals that preyed on prominent, closeted gay men in the 1960s. Corrupt police officials and police impersonators known as “Bulls” used young male prostitutes called “Chickens” to blackmail wealthy, important, or closeted pillars of the establishment across the country.  The ring victimized thousands of men, including politicians and government officials, military officers, film, TV and entertainment celebrities and producers, prep school and university professors, headmasters, and trustees, surgeons, scientists, business executives, and Catholic priests. Most of the “chickens” were teenage runaways from homophobic or abusive family backgrounds. They survived by turning tricks in the back of trucks parked on waterfront piers, seedy hotels, or getting pimped out to strangers.

This is how the scam worked:  a man would travel to a large city, like New York or Chicago, where he would procure the services of a male prostitute. The prostitute would be solicited at a gay bar, in the bar of a hotel, or in the hotel’s men’s room. Sometimes the Concierge of the hotel was involved. Once the blackmail victim and his prostitute were alone in a hotel room, one of two things would happen; the prostitute would steal the man’s wallet and run out of the hotel, or the “Hotel Detective” would burst into the room and demand cash for not arresting the visiting victim. The stolen wallet would be turned over to the ringleaders, who with their corrupt law enforcement associates, would compile information on the victim.  If the “John” was rich, famous or from a prominent family, two members of “law enforcement” would travel to the man’s home or place of business and threaten him with public exposure – even arrest – unless they were given cash to make the case disappear.  The men paid rather than have their homosexuality disclosed.  One such encounter, heavily redacted, was described in an FBI memo:

“(BLANK) is a guitar player with (BLANK) and while in New York City in 1965 picked up and committed oral copulation on (BLANK) at the Hilton Hotel, 34th Street. Upon (BLANK) return to California, he was approached by an individual named (BLANK)…who posing as a New York City police officers, extorted an unknown sum of money from him.  The extortion again was a result of threatened public exposure and/or incarceration for a New York City homosexual act.”

As the NYPD and the FBI pursued their investigations in 1965 and 1966, they found that the blackmail ring operated in large cities around the country and had a fluid cast of about two dozen chickens and bulls. One of them was Edward Murphy, who was the house detective for the Hilton Hotel on 34th Street in New York.  “DETECTIVE AT HOTEL IS HELD IN EXTORTION” the August 5, 1965, New York Times headline blared.

“A 39-year-old house detective at the New York Hilton was arrested early yesterday as the leader of a gang that had extorted a total of $100,000 from “rich playboys and executives…The house detective, Edward Murphy, was held in $7,500 bail for a hearing August 13.  He was charged with extortion and impersonating an officer.”

Rep. Peter Frelinghuysen, 1960s

Among the men that Ed Murphy identified as victims of the blackmailers were Congressman Peter Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Admiral William Church, cousin of the powerful senator Frank Church (D-ID), and head of the New York Naval Yards in Brooklyn.  An FBI memo described the night Rep. Frelinghuysen picked up a chicken:

“(BLANK) stated the Congressman was very scared and he told (BLANK) that he was a doctor and that his wife and kids were out of town. The Congressman invited (BLANK) to his house to have a drink. (BLANK) went with the Congressman and after arriving at the house, the Congressman told (BLANK) to take off his clothes and make himself comfortable. (BLANK) undressed and the Congressman undressed.  Both had a couple of drinks and the Congressman then committed two perverted sexual acts upon (BLANK).”

Ultimately, Rep. Peter Frelinghuysen paid $50,000 in blackmail money. When Admiral Church was approached by NYPD James McDonnell to testify before a grand jury, he was initially “arrogant and abrupt.”  Church told McDonnell that he wouldn’t accompany him back to New York, but he would drive up the next day.  Instead, he drove to a motel in Maryland and committed suicide. Admiral Church’s shakedowns had started several months after being robbed of his wallet by a chicken at the Astor Hotel in New York. He had handed over $5,000 to the blackmailers before he put a bullet in his head. Most of the victims were wealthy enough to pay off the blackmailers. In a New York Times article published on March 3, 1966 – “Nationwide Ring Preying on Prominent Deviates,” a celebrity believed to be Liberace is described.

“A TV celebrity, a twinkling star who has millions of female fans all over the world, refused to take the witness stand. However, he did tell investigators that he had paid blackmailers more than $20,000. “I can afford to lose the money,” he said, adding: “I hope they die of cancer.”

The case of the “Chickens and Bulls” began with an arrest of a man impersonating a detective at Grand Central Station in New York. 34-year-old John Aitken was the bogus detective. The arresting officer was NYPD detective James McDonnell.  During his interrogation back at the 17th precinct, Aitken said that, in exchange for a light criminal charge, he would reveal details about an extortion ring that had shaken down dozens of prominent closeted homosexuals, most of them married with families.  He talked for hours, and McDonnell was amazed at the names he revealed and the money the ring had collected.   Aitken’s tips led to the arrest of Ed Murphy by Detective McDonnell at the Hilton Hotel.  According to McDonnell, Murphy had been arrested with a counterfeit detective’s shield in his possession. Some of the cops at the station house were ready to take Ed into a back room and give him a beating for passing himself off as one of them.  But McDonnell intervened to protect Murphy and recruited him as an informer.  “I told Murphy I’d be straight with him and he trusted me.”

The leader of the blackmail ring was 51-year-old Chicago Police detective John J. Pyne.  Pyne joined the Chicago Police Department on September 24, 1938, and served until June 24, 1966, when he was arrested by the FBI.  The agents found a drawer filled with police badges and identification from almost every state in the country, together with arrest forms and extradition warrants in Pyne’s Chicago home.  They also seized an Olympia typewriter from Pyne’s residence whose keys matched various typewritten documents and warrants. He was charged with conspiring to use interstate transportation and the mails to extort money from gay men. According to FBI memos, Pyne was the “big man” who received 10% of all extortion money.

“PYNE is described as a white male American in his 50s, 5’11” and of medium weight, grey hair, of Irish descent, distinguished looking, who drives a 1966 bronze Bonneville and who lived close to O’Hare Field Airport in Chicago, Illinois,” the FBI memo stated.  “PYNE is further described as the nephew of former Mayor Kelly of Chicago and as (BLANK) utilized by the gang. PYNE is reverently referred to by gang members as “JAY P.”

Pyne was responsible for seeing that all gang members get out on bond if arrested, securing the services of an attorney for them, furnishing them with authentic and fraudulent police identification credentials and/or warrants. He used his contacts within police departments around the country to get badges and documents that his gang could use in extortion attempts.  Pyne was ruthless.  According to the FBI memo, when Pyne learned that one or two of his extortionists had had sex with their victims, he contemplated killing those accomplices to keep them quiet.

Sherman Chadwick Kaminsky, 38, Elwood Lee Hammock, 48, and George Michael Gentile, were Pyne’s chief extortionists.  Once they were caught, they revealed the full scope of the operation and helped the FBI nail Pyne. Kaminsky went under the alias of Paul Vargo and had “salesman” listed as his occupation. Kaminsky said he was “born and raised on the streets of New York.”

Sherman Chadwick Kaminksky, 1966

His working partner was 27-year-old John Fellenbaum, a six-foot bodybuilder whose beefcake physique was an attractive lure. In most instances, Fellenbaum beat the victim and stole his wallet or billfold.  During his trial, Fellenbaum made a gentlemanly antiques dealer from Maine take the stand and publicly “out” himself, only to plead guilty immediately after the opening trial session.  This angered the judge so much he stated: “I have been sentencing people for twenty-seven years and it has been a long time since I have come upon a case that was so revolting as your case. I think you are so steeped in filth that as I read the report I cringed, and my flesh crept as I read the depth of inequity to which you allowed yourself to sink.”

The blackmail ring was first publicly disclosed on February 17, 1966, when 17 suspects were indicted and nine were arrested, including Murphy. Arrested in New York with Ed Murphy was ex-con and ring member William Joseph Burke, 53.  Burke also went by the alias of William J. Casey.  Burke had a long criminal record, and nine of the arrests were for impersonating a police officer.  The FBI memo describing Burke had a curious notation: “BURKE formerly occupied a position of importance in the homosexual ring hierarchy but that lately he himself has turned into a homosexual, has incurred the gang’s disfavor, and is presently relegated to an inferior position therein.” I was surprised to learn that Ed Murphy was closeted during this period of his life, although he had boyfriends and sex with men and youths. He may have stayed closeted to avoid losing status in the gang as Burke did.

Murphy and Burke were also linked with the Admiral Church shakedown and suicide.  Church identified police photos of Murphy and Burke as the phony policemen who called on him at his Pentagon office.  Church admitted to paying thousands of dollars in blackmail but denied giving the gang members any military secrets.

Admiral William Church

There is some debate on size of Ed’s role in the extortion ring.  I think he was an important cog in New York City with his security job in a hotel and contacts with gay bars and prostitution. Murphy later claimed that he joined the ring to work undercover and help the gay community. This may be revisionist history. Records suggest that after he was arrested, he flipped for the NYPD and the FBI to avoid jail. According to Phillip Crawford, Jr., in his book, “The Mafia and the Gays,”  “Murphy was a reprehensible predator in this ugly racket, and his partner-in-crime George Gentile had a conviction record as a so-called “fruit hustler” going back to 1937.”

“Only after Murphy was hit with four indictments by the Manhattan DA (District Attorney Frank S. Hogan) and another one by federal prosecutors (Andrew J. Maloney, Robert Morgenthau) did he flip in 1966 to become a cooperating witness to implicate his co-defendants and save his own ass from hard time.” Phillip Crawford, Jr. says according to an FBI debriefing form, among the men “Murphy threatened were an IRS agent, university professor and a Catholic monsignor.  Murphy collected $55,000 just from the priest.”

By the end of the investigation in 1967, 30 men had been convicted and imprisoned on charges of extortion and impersonating a police officer. On September 22, 1967, Ed Murphy pleaded guilty for his involvement in the extortion scheme before U.S. District Judge Sidney Sugarman, and on December 13, 1967, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Constance Baker Motley to five years imprisonment suspended and placed on five years’ probation. Murphy also pleaded guilty to the New York State indictments against him, but he served no jail time.  Because of his cooperation his sentence was suspended.  Murphy did give evidence against two other main figures in the ring: John J. Pyne and Sherman Chadwick Kaminsky.  The information he provided helped to convict them.  Pyne went to jail, and Kaminsky became a fugitive until he was caught in Colorado 11 years later. Although prosecutors often had enough evidence to win convictions at trial, they got most of the ringleaders to plead guilty.  Many of the victims did not want to testify, and the prosecutors wanted to shield the victims by not putting them on the stand.

The New York Mattachine Society, a “homophile” rights organization, became involved in the investigation as a go-between law enforcement and the victims. Some of their members were lawyers with connections to high places, and the Mattachine Society’s involvement helped the victims feel more protected and less exposed.  In their March 1968 newsletter, the New York Mattachine Society asked why Murphy had not been sentenced for his role in the blackmail.  They were incredulous that Murphy, with his previous prison record, and his involvement in a blackmail scheme that terrorized thousands of prominent men, could be let off with just a slap on the wrist. No clear answer was ever given, except to say Murphy made a deal to turn state’s evidence.

“My double agent days started in ’66 with the extortion ring,” Ed Murphy told journalist Arthur Bell in 1978.  “It was supposed to be a one-shot deal.  We locked up 21 guys. They’re all dead now, except for three of them.” It’s clear Ed Murphy became an informant—whether he volunteered or was coerced—and his name disappeared from newspaper coverage soon after the first round of indictments. Of the nine New York Times articles on the investigation published between February 18, 1966, and July 12, 1967, Murphy was only mentioned in the initial February 18, 1966, story.  That Ed Murphy was able to slip away unpunished may be due to the value of the information he provided the FBI.  It also may be due to the oft-rumored homosexual blackmail photos he was said to possess of legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Coming Tomorrow:  Chapter 4: Secret Lives:  J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn

 

Ed Murphy: Gay Blackmailer and Activist – Chapter 1: Meeting Ed Murphy

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 14, 2021 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

Chapter 1 – Meeting Ed Murphy

The story of Ed Murphy is fascinating, the way scandal, secrets, and evil are fascinating. It is a story with all the best ingredients—lust, betrayal, corruption, powerful men, redemption, and most of all—irony.

Ed Murphy, 1978

Ed “Skull” Murphy, a gay man who preyed on other gay men, was a secret informer for the FBI. He was protected by the FBI in return for the information he provided on Mafia operations and corruption in New York. He was also rumored to have photos of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and other prominent government, business and entertainment figures having sex with male prostitutes. Ed Murphy ran prostitution rings of teenage boys and worked as a bouncer in gay bars. He was the doorman at the Stonewall bar the night of the famous raid on June 28, 1969. At that time, he did not identify himself as a gay man. He “came out” a decade later, at the end of the 1970s, when he said that he wanted to quit working for Mafia associates and stop informing for the police and FBI.

Ed reinvented himself as one of the heroes of the Stonewall raid. He continued to work in gay bars.  He cultivated a tremendous visibility as the head of the Christopher Street Festival Committee, which organized the vendor booths/party/rally at the end of the annual Gay Pride Parade serving hundreds of thousands of people. Ed Murphy rode in a vintage Cadillac convertible near the head of the parade reserved for those who had been at Stonewall the night of the raid and riots on June 28, 1969.  This date is now generally accepted as the beginning of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement.

I met Ed Murphy in the early 1980s when he was working in some bar in the Village, either Stonewall or One Potato, Two Potato. Ed was built like a brick house, stocky and solid, with a body that must have been all muscle in his youth. I was organizing the first group of Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) marchers in New York’s Gay Pride Day parade.  We also wanted to have a booth at the Christopher Street Festival in the Village for marchers to hang out after the parade. A booth on Christopher Street would also give us a great opportunity to hand out literature and meet and connect with other lesbians who had been raised Catholic. When I met him, Ed Murphy, or “Mr. Murphy” as I used to call him, was a leader in Heritage of Pride, the organization that ran the parade, festival, and dance in New York City. As such, he was the person to talk to about getting space.  Ed always gave CCL table space right in front of St. Veronica’s Church.

“My sister is a nun,” he said to me.  “Make sure you take good care of these girls,” he told the guy responsible for assigning spaces.

Our prime location paved the way for many women to find CCL.  Ed Murphy always came by our table to make sure that we were fine, and everything was OK.  That was my key impression of him: we were small and not influential on the gay scene, but Ed Murphy took care of us. That was also the impression of my friend and CCL co-worker, Barbara M. when she took over organizing the Pride Day booth.

“I remember the last time I had seen him; I was down on Christopher Street and found someone else setting up a booth in our space. I found out that Ed was sitting in a nearby bar, and I went in and found him without any trouble. He seemed to have a lot of adoring fans around him.  I told him the story, and he sent out a couple of guys to straighten things out…I thought that they realized Ed was the authority, which prompted them to move, but they may have been afraid of him for all I know…I’d met Ed only three or four times and had short, congenial conversations with him.  He was also middle aged by the time I met him. I found him very pleasant. I remember my last conversation with him was his concern that too many of the young fellas were still going bareback, and this was at the height of the AIDS crisis.  He said much of the same sort of things I would say today: these kids think they’re immortal; you can’t make them see the seriousness of it because they don’t think it will happen to them. I was never sure if his calling me “Sister” had to do with the fact that I look like a nun or ex-nun…” said Barbara M.

When I met Ed Murphy, I was in my early 30s and he was about the same age as my father.  They shared a similar upbringing and formation – the Great Depression and World War II. As boys they were poor, fast with their fists, and nonchalant about thievery.  They grew up with no money – they stole to enjoy things their families could never buy. As men they could be gallant or menacing; fiercely protective or brutal.  Ed referred to the police by the same name that my father did, “The Bulls.”  Big guys with nightsticks that had no hesitancy about using them.

Ed spoke one night to a small group of lesbian and gay Catholics where we met on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.  I was very moved to hear the story of his life and description of gay life in New York pre-Stonewall. Ed served time in jail. He stabbed another inmate in self-defense. Ed also made a point to say that he was proud that he didn’t rat people out to “the Bulls.” I had tears in my eyes at the end of his talk.  He went through a lot of hell to help bring us to a place where we could live and love more freely.  My last memory of him that night was seeing him standing under a streetlight saying goodbye.  He looked like an old ex-fighter, scarred, and beaten up, but never a quitter.

Karen Doherty, 1986

Imagine my shock when, 15 years later, I opened my Wall Street Journal to read an article by William McGowan, “Before Stonewall” which described a vicious extortion ring which targeted prominent and affluent closeted gay men.  The gang was finally exposed and put out of business in 1966, but it ran for several years and netted over two million dollars. One of the major figures in this case was Edward “Mother” Murphy, a “ruthless West Side tough” who worked with a dozen other criminals in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a few other cities to blackmail men who picked up a male prostitute for sex during an out-town trip or when their family was away. “The Chickens and the Bulls,” as the case was known to the New York Police Department and District Attorney’s office, centered on “fairy shaking” or exposing men for their “homosexual proclivities” unless they paid well for it to be kept quiet. Over 1,000 men were victimized by the ring, including the head of the American Medical Association, two Army generals, a Navy admiral, several Hollywood celebrities, college professors and trustees and businessmen.

I relayed my discovery to my friend, Barbara M., who also met Ed Murphy, to hear her reaction.  She said,

“To be frank, I’m having a tough time connecting the Ed Murphy I met with the “West Side tough” that he’s described as, or someone who would blackmail fellow gays,” she wrote. “This was in ’65. Ed Murphy was head of security in the Hilton Hotel, and when cornered he cooperated, which is probably why he got the light sentence. Although I think the basic person remains even as the body ages, men mellow. My theory is that the decreased testosterone is a good thing for some of them. Ed may have mellowed a lot and had a metanoia. He struck me as opinioned and forthright, but he didn’t act like a hoodlum. Nonetheless, he might have been. I was just a mere acquaintance; you knew him better.  Can you picture that he was involved in this stuff? Maybe prison changed him. His sentence was rather light, and he didn’t serve the entire five years.  Maybe he was an informant.”

Many years later, I am still trying to sort out my feelings about Ed Murphy. I knew him as a notable figure in the New York gay community in the 1980s. He was a kind, protective man to the less visible in the city–street kids, drag queens, and mentally challenged children. Ed was generous and caring to all those that he took under his wing, including my group of Catholic lesbians.  I am appalled by the image of him as a leader and collaborator in a gay extortion ring, bullying sex and money from vulnerable men and teenagers.  Ed Murphy combined prostitution, blackmail and strong-arm tactics into lucrative enterprises that ran for years.

He was also an informer, the worse type of person to anyone of Irish descent.  It took the combination of a battery of Irish Catholic New York City Police detectives, the FBI, New York District Attorney Frank S. Hogan, and a federal prosecutor, Andrew J. Maloney, to finally knock him down.  But it took the Stonewall raid, a beating by NYC police and a prison rape before he finally had enough and came out as a gay man and activist.  That he ended up the Grand Marshall of the New York City Gay Pride Parade 23 years after his conviction for homosexual extortion is a story that boggles the imagination.  Catholicism features stories of saints whose lives were full of depravity and evil but ended up redeemed through acts of virtue and heroism.  Maybe that is Ed Murphy’s story, or maybe it is just the story he told himself and others.

Chapter 2: “Villainous Skull Murphy” will be posted tomorrow.  You can read the whole article Ed_Murphy_Gay_Blackmailer_and_Activitist

 

Pope Francis Comes Out in Favor of Lesbian and Gay Civil Unions

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 13, 2020 | Categories: Bishops, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes

“Homosexuals have a right to be part of a family,” said Pope Francis. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” he continued.  “I stood up for that.” 

The pope’s remarks were aired in Francesco, a documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis which premiered October 21, 2020 as part of the Rome Film Festival.  The film included a story about the pope encouraging two Italian men to raise their children in their parish church.  One of the men, Andrea Rubera, said he gave Pope Francis a letter that described conversations he and his partner were having over whether to take their children to church, fearing they might be subject to unfair judgement as children of a gay couple. Rubera said the pope called him and encouraged them to take their children to church and to be honest with the pastor about their living situation.

The pope’s comments rocked the Catholic world. Pope Francis clearly stated gay and lesbian people have a right to civil unions. They also have a right to be part of a family. This stance put him in direct opposition to many U.S. bishops and pastors who believe gay people should be driven away or at least kept in the closet and silenced.  The Catholic hierarchy and conservative media will continue to campaign against gay marriage and adoption, but they look over their shoulder doing so…they don’t have the full blessing of “truth” and free rein to hurt and slander.  Doing so could really impact their clerical career and prospects while this pope is in charge.

No red hat for culture warriors that focus on gay marriage and abortion but are silent on poverty, prejudice, and environmental degradation. Pope Francis’ statement has reframed the whole discussion of pastoral ministry to gay and lesbian people. In countries where homosexuality is against the law, it has effectively stifled bishops from speaking out in support of these laws.

Contrast the pope’s attitude on civil unions and those of the two previous popes. In 2003, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) declared in Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons: “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or  to the legal recognition of homosexual unions…Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”  The statement was drafted by the future Pope Benedict XVI and approved by Pope John Paul II.

As big a bombshell as this papal turnaround on gay and lesbian rights and relationships is, nothing will ever equal the impact of Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” comment in July 2013.

On a plane on the way home from World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis stood and took questions from reporters.  One of them concerned his hand-picked appointment for the Vatican bank, Italian Msgr. Battista Ricca.  Msgr. Battista had been selected by the pope to help clean up the Vatican bank; a total cesspool of corruption and mob influence. Almost immediately stories about Msgr. Ricca’s lovers and sexcapades began to appear in Catholic media outlets.  In response to a question about his candidate, here is what Pope Francis said: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.

In the 2016 book, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis elaborated on his history-making remarks: “On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” the pope says. “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

“I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity,” he continues. “And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.”

“I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together,” says Francis. “You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.”

Asked whether there is an opposition between truth and mercy, or doctrine and mercy, the pontiff responds: “I will say this: mercy is real; it is the first attribute of God.”

“Theological reflections on doctrine or mercy may then follow, but let us not forget that mercy is doctrine,” says the pope. “Even so, I love saying: mercy is true.”

There was a huge response around the world to the Pope’s remarks on gay people’s right to a legal recognition of their relationships, and also to participate in society as families. Before these statements are scattered and lost, I wanted to compile a sampling of reactions for a permanent record.

Lesbian and Gay Rights Groups

“This is wonderful news for the LGBT community and for their families. What Pope Francis is telling us is that lesbian and gay people are part of families. He’s holding up family values and this is so important. Progress takes time and this is a step in the right direction. I am elated that Pope Francis is making this public statement. He’s speaking from the heart.” Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder, New Ways Ministry

“New Ways Ministry gratefully welcomes Pope Francis’ latest support for civil unions for same-gender couples. It is a historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBT people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families. It signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.” Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry

“While pleased with the news reports, we wonder how the Pope’s comments fit with existing Catholic teachings that condemn same-sex relationships as ‘intrinsically evil.’ We hope that Pope Francis will take steps to enshrine support for same-sex couples, LGBTQI individuals, and our families in official Catholic teachings and will work to formally end Catholic teachings that are hurtful to LGBTQI people.” Dignity USA

“Remember, the most important issue there is love. LGBT people hold the blood of the family, so they belong. If you think they are sinners, it’s not your duty to judge the sinners. I think he has given me a reason for not changing my religion or going to any other church. It gives me courage.” Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, Faithful Catholic Souls Uganda

“Pope Francis took a significant step for inclusion and acceptance in the Catholic Church by embracing unions for same-sex couples and affirming that LGBQI Catholics are part of their religious family.” Alphonso David, president, Human Rights Campaign

 Political Leaders

 “Time will tell, but I believe that Pope Francis’ support for same-sex unions will ultimately have a profound impact on how gays and lesbians are treated around the world. The Pope’s views, heard by over one billion Catholics worldwide, have incredible power.” Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

“The church does not prepare dogma or doctrine via documentaries. That happens when the pope sits down behind his desk.” The pope’s comments “follow years of misery and homophobia suffered by LGBTIQ people who, with Catholic people, have turned the tide. The pope has seen that tide. Let him now follow through.” Mary McAleese, former president, Republic of Ireland

Theologians

“The pope’s statement of encouragement for legal civil unions could very well have a great impact in parts of the world where same-sex relationships are criminalized. In predominantly Catholic nations where homophobia is the law, this statement could undercut anti-gay legislation, and perhaps even lead to its repeal. That would be a great good.” Lisa Fullam, professor of Moral Theology, Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University

 “Pope Francis once again is showing that the heart of the Church must be welcoming. It is a colossal step for the pontiff to endorse civil unions. In doing so, he shows that he, and in turn, the Church, are looking for ways to be a welcoming place for all LGBT Catholics. All Catholics should applaud this advancement.” Aaron Bianco, professor of theology, University of San Diego (Bianco was forced to resign as a pastoral associate at a parish in San Diego after he faced a barrage of attacks from anti-LGBT news sites.)

“Such informal remarks are to be praised as a timely shift in-line with overwhelming theological evidence and a growing acceptance of the lived reality of same sex love and partnership by a majority of Catholics worldwide. It should be noted however, that these personal comments are in direct contradiction with current Catholic teaching, according to which same-sex orientation is “intrinsically disordered,” and same-sex relationships are always “intrinsically evil.” We urge Pope Francis to kick-start a process to revise official Catholic teaching and practice so that his latest overtures towards acceptance are transformed into concrete change.” The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

“These words from the pope will inflame many on the Catholic right…but they will be a balm to the vast majority of Catholics and, I daresay, pastors. They don’t want to engage in these ugly culture war battles, especially because gay Catholics are not abstractions—they are in their homes, part of their families, and part of their parishes.” David Gibson, director, Center on Religion and Culture, Fordham University

 “I see this as a necessary step in the evolution of the church’s thinking on same-sex issues… it’s a sign of hope that the church can change. It can grow. It can evolve. I think it’s also a sign of hope that especially in places where LGBTQ persons are more actively persecuted, this is a sign of hope that that kind of persecution cannot be reconciled with the Christian faith.” Bryan Massingale, professor of Theology, Fordham University

 “(It is a big deal) in part because the Holy Father is clearly representing such civil unions as a good and desirable thing, to be actively promoted, rather than a lesser evil.  And second because he affirms the rightness of same-sex couples forming a family and being part of the family of the Church.  This will evidently create waves in countries where homosexuality is illegal, as well as cause heartache to rigorist Americans who have sought legal exemption from employing same-sex couples who have entered into legal unions.” James Allison, author, and theologian

Writers, Commentators, Bloggers

 “The Holy Father has changed the tone, the approach and the conversation around the issue of LGBTQ Catholics.  He is not changing doctrine, but he is changing the conversation, and that is a form of teaching.” James Martin, S.J., writer and editor-at-large, America magazine

“Once again, Pope Francis is spreading confusion among the faithful. How many times must this happen before all good Catholics recognize that we have a serious problem in the Church, and its name is Francis? And radical Catholics, who really do want to overturn established dogma, rub their hands gleefully and seize another opportunity.” Phil Lawler, editor, Catholic World News, and commentator, CatholicCulture.org

“Before I make some pointed remarks about Pope Francis’ latest demonstration of inadequacy, let me make one thing perfectly clear…If we are Catholic but have not prayed regularly for Pope Francis, we have no right to complain. Do we think Satan does not specifically target the successor of Peter?… The latest outrage to the Catholic faith, reason and sensibilities is the Pope’ remarks in a new video documentary in which he insists that homosexual persons have the right to a family, and that the important thing is to establish civil union legislation so they are ‘legally covered.’” Jeff Mirus, founder, Trinity Communications, which runs CatholicCulture.org; co-founder, Christendom College

 “So instead of getting all upset and hysterical about this, we should take that for what it is. It was a mistake by a man with good intentions but who just got it wrong. He was trying to give expression to his long-standing desire that we reach out to and include those who are marginalized or alienated from the Church or society. It was an unforced error, and it will have to be corrected either by the Holy Father, his press team, or our own bishops. It’s an opportunity for all of them to publicly reaffirm the true teaching of the Church, which would at least bring some good out of the situation.” Ed Mechmann, Director of Public Policy and the Safe Environment Program &blogger, Archdiocese of New York

“This little, very possibly perverted, Church-hating, Christ-hating, Catholic-hating bastard…Next on his plate, I suspect, bestiality, incest, and (you guessed it) coprophagia.” Mundabor’s Blog – “This blog’s aim is to allow true, traditional, unadulterated, strictly orthodox Catholic doctrine.”

“Unfortunately, Homosexuals do not have a right to family life since they forfeit family life by mocking and forsaking family life through their LGBT activity. Nor do they have a moral right to be around others as long as they are infected with these sodomite aspirations…Francis calls homosexuals the “children of God” deceptively implying they are affectionately embraced by God as they are when in fact they are children of the devil doing the works of the devil, for which they would be forever banished if someone didn’t come along in true charity to encourage them onto the right and shining path. Unfortunately, the pope’s Trump-bashing/pro-LGBT statements occur just at a time when it could swing the Catholic vote in America over to pro-LGBT Joe Biden and thus help bring about the downfall of America and consequently the world. The devil indeed is playing chess on the political board so we pray the Francis’ anti-family statements do not influence the vote in America but that Americans remain ever resolved to vote for Donald Trump who is committed to preserving traditional family values. David Martin, The Eponymous Flower blog

 Cardinals and Bishops

 “The Pope’s Statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching…The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.” Bishop Thomas Tobin, Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island

 “The Holy Father is very aware of the suffering and alienation of homosexual individuals, gay people, who are rejected by family and society. He is also keenly aware of the parents and loved ones who also suffer because a member of their family is bullied or marginalized for being different.” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts

 “It makes me very happy that a new door is opening in the church for people who still don’t have a place in it because God is going to ask about them. It is very important that we initiate a new stage in the relationship of the Catholic Church with the LGBT family in the world.” Bishop Raul Vera, Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico

The Pope seems to be emphasizing that we are called to find ways of extending a true sense of family to those who find themselves on the margins, so that they might experience the security of belonging and the joy of encountering the life-changing mercy of Jesus Christ.” Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota

“There are in other countries very strong homophobic tendencies even in church leaders.  And what I find, even here ourselves, we have some people whose frustration with their own gay identity is leading them to be homophobic in ways. So, the first thing I’d say is that the Pope is clearing the air for a further discussion.  After the same sex marriage referendum here in Ireland I talked about the ideas of a reality check. And this again would be an opportunity for people to do a reality check within the church.” Archbishop Diamuid Martin, Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland

“The Holy Father is calling us as Church, as he has on numerous other occasions, to begin with the human person. Catechesis is important, but no the starting point. Building relationships comes first, then instruction, conversion, and integrating the faith ever more deeply into one’s life. In a real way he is challenging the Church to expand the tent. The Holy Father has from the beginning of his pontificate encouraged the Church to welcome all people as children of God who are deserving of love and respect. Indeed, this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. Finally, this is very much in keeping with Pope Francis’ encouragement to be a Church that accompanies one another. Our Holy Father envisions a compassionate Church, one with a maternal heart, willing to overcome insecurity, fear, and a willingness to reject others. Rather, we are called to be a Church that attracts and welcomes others with the love of Christ.” Archbishop Paul Etienne, Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington

 Censor Liborum, Nihil Obstat

 Very few U.S. bishops issued a statement in response to Pope Francis’ statement. A few were negative, some positive, all were nuanced and guarded. No one wants to make waves within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), since conservative bishops still hold a voting edge.  But as more Pope John Paul II and Benedict VI appointees retire or die off—and if Pope Francis can remain pope for another 5-7 years–we can expect a new crop of more pastorally-minded bishops to dominate the USCCB.  They will bring a wider review of social justice issues beside abortion, same-sex marriage, and to a much smaller degree, immigration, and the death penalty. As old bishops depart and modern bishops arrive, I expect more of them to add racism, economic problems, and environmental concerns to their own and the USCCB’s agenda. In the meantime, most bishops will do what they have always done: keep their heads down, try not to notice bad behavior, teach in mild ways, tend to their cash flow, and try to benefit from politics without getting too involved. They also need to weigh how it will affect their career prospects if they publicly agitate against lesbian and gay civil unions. 

 

 

 

Benedetta Carlini – First Lesbian Nun Story

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 13, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Scandals, Sex

Benedetta Carlini (1590-1661) was a mystic, seductress and nun. Dr. Judith C. Brown chronicled her life in the 1986 book, Immodest Acts. The book came on the heels of Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan’s bestseller, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, which was published in 1985. Benedetta was Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God in Pescia, Italy when she was accused of heresy and “female sodomy.” Her story is important not only as a documented lesbian relationship in the convent, but how an intelligent, persuasive woman gained, experienced and exercised power and celebrity within Catholicism’ male-dominated structure.  In the end, she was brought low by jealousy and her own excesses. She also had miscalculated the tectonic shift in the Church from the Counter Reformation: principally an emphasis on correction of clerical abuses, and more emphasis on intellectual understanding vs. supernatural manifestations of divine favor.

The story of Abbess Benedetta Carlini was discovered by accident by Dr. Brown, a historian at Stanford University while she was researching the economic history of the region and the Medici rule.  “I found Benedetta Carlini by chance, by leafing through an inventory of nearly forgotten documents in the State Archive of Florence.  The entry in the inventory read: ‘Papers relating to a trial against Sister Benedetta Carlini of Vellano, abbess of the Theatine nuns of Pescia, who pretended to be a mystic, but who was discovered to be a woman of ill repute.’”  This discovery of an ecclesiastical investigation contained what is probably the earliest account of a sexual relationship between two nuns. The documents concerning Abbess Benedetta Carlini consisted mostly of transcripts of a series of inquests between 1619 and 1623.

In 1986, Dr. Brown published her book about Benedetta’s life, investigations, and trials.  Titled Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.  It was widely reviewed in both scholarly and popular journals and publications.  I talked to Dr. Brown about speaking at the Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) West Coast conference in May 1986.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t available to participate.  Too bad, because many scholars are dry and pedantic, and I found Dr. Brown to be both engaging and knowledgeable. She was one of a handful of women at that time to write an even-handed account of lesbianism who was not a lesbian herself.  The book served as a prop in Su Friedrich’s sensational 1987 film, Damned If You Don’t.  

Benedetta’s parents brought her to the convent in 1599 when she was nine years old. She entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, more commonly known as the Theatines. The order was founded in 1583 by the Venerable Ursula Benincasa, who was famous for her visions and piety. The fame she gained from her visions led some to accuse her of being possessed by a devil. In 1617, Ursula had her most famous vision, where Jesus (in some versions, Mary) appeared to her. In the vision Jesus praised her order and promised them salvation.  Ursula died in 1618 at the age of 71. Benedetta grew up learning about Ursula’s visions and the fame and power that proceeded from them.

Like the Venerable Ursula, Benedetta had visions.  In 1613, when she was 23, she reported visions to the mother superior and her confessor. A young boy helped her climb the “Mountain of Perfection;” she was surrounded by wild animals, only to be saved by Jesus.  In another vision, while praying one morning, she found herself “in a garden, surrounded by fruits and flowers.” Male figures came to dominate her visions—a beautiful youth, young men who beat her with sticks, chains, and swords; a handsome guardian angel named Splenditello, and Jesus himself.  Over time, the visions increased in intensity and detail, and Benedetta became well known for them.  Fearful that Sister Benedetta was being harassed by demonic forces, Sister Bartolomea Crivelli was assigned to share her cell, observe her, and help her if possible.

On the second Friday of Lent 1619, Benedetta received an unmistakable sign of divine favor, the stigmata.  Prior to this event Benedetta and others in her community were unsure if her visions were divine or diabolical in origin; but by manifesting the wounds of Christ she proved their divinity.

Her celebrity as a mystic blossomed.  That same year the Theatine nuns elected her as their abbess.

Shortly after her election, she began to deliver sermons to the other nuns.  She spoke in a trance, an angel speaking through her, exhorting the nuns to purify themselves, and be grateful for Benedetta’s presence in their midst. In the months that followed, there were more trances and visitations: from St. Catherine of Siena and an angel—a beautiful youth in a white robe named Splenditello, even Jesus himself.  They spoke from within Benedetta, at times with loving praise, other times harshly or issuing commandments, such as a ban on eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.

On May 20, 1619, Jesus appeared to Benedetta and told her he wanted to marry her in a special ceremony.  He had specific ideas for the procession, the chapel decorations, list of guests and the ceremony itself. At the wedding, while the other nuns watched and listened, Benedetta claimed the Blessed Mother looked on benevolently while Jesus placed a gold ring on her finger. Speaking through her, Jesus said, “I would like that this, my bride, be empress of all the nuns.” He added that the Great Duke of Tuscany should be informed of her greatness. All those who did not obey, believe, and cherish her would be punished.

Although the nuns had gone along with Benedetta’s visions, the self-flagellation during trance-sermons and even a ban on salami and cheese; the wedding with Jesus and his dictate that they should obey her or face divine punishment was a step too far. They reported her to the ecclesiastical authorities, who investigated her twice between 1619 and 1623. They discovered that she had faked the stigmata by pricking herself with a needle; secretly ate salami and mortadella during her “ban” on meat and dairy and painted on her miraculous wedding ring with saffron.

But the most damning, was the confession of Sr. Bartolomea Crivelli, Benedetta’s assigned companion.  She described her two-year affair with the abbess.  The women met for sex at least three times a week.  “Embracing her, she would put her under herself and kissing her as if she were a man, she would speak words of love to her. And she would stir so much on top of her that both of them corrupted themselves.” They also masturbated each other and had oral sex to orgasm.  Mutual fondling carried a relatively light penalty—two years of penance, plus the loss of Benedetta’s status as abbess. The fact that Benedetta claimed “Splenditello” the angel committed the sexual acts allowed clerical investigators to classify all of Benedetta’s supernatural visions as diabolic in nature. In their report, investigators criticized Benedetta’s “immodest and lascivious language,” and “the great display of vanity” of her mystical marriage with Jesus. 

Benedetta, 36, was condemned to involuntary hermitage and spent the remaining 35 years of her life in solitary confinement.  The only other mention of Benedetta is an August 1661 entry in an unnamed nun’s diary stating that Benedetta Carlini died at age 71 of fever and colic pains. The nun added that Benedetta was “always popular among the laity.”  For her confession, Sr. Bartolomea Crivelli was spared any punishment. She died in 1660, a year before Benedetta.

Why the long solitary confinement?  I suspect jealousy, anger at her duplicity, and fear that her charm and intelligence could help her reclaim a leadership position led some nuns to promote her isolation within the community. She would feel her losses every day.  Church authorities wanted to discourage her dangerous popularity with the laity. Her supernatural claims were unwanted in the new age of science and Counter-Reformation.

There is no record of what Benedetta thought and felt after she was led to her lonely cell. Did she have any regrets? Did she revisit her visions– real, imagined or devised? Did her thoughts ever stray to Bartolomea, lying in her bed nearby?

Benedetta Carlini has been the inspiration or subject of films, plays and articles.  They include:

Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith Brown, Oxford University Press, 1986

Damned If You Don’t – a film by Su Friedrich in 1989.  If you want to see the film, below are the links for streaming and for DVD

Damned If You Don’t

Vimeo streaming for $3.99
DVD for $24.99

Discourses of Desire: Sexuality and Christian Women’s Visionary Narratives,” by E. Ann Matter, Journal of Homosexuality, 1989-1990

Big Gay Portal to Hell, a podcast by Catherine Clune-Taylor on Caveat

Stigmata, a 2011 play by Carolyn Gage

Vile Affections: Based on the True Story of Benedetta Carlini, a 2006 play by Vanda

Benedetta Carlini: Lesbian Nun of Renaissance Italy, a play by director and playwright, Rosemary Rowe.

Benedetta, an upcoming film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Virginia Efira as Benedetta.  The film is scheduled to premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

George Floyd and Willful Blindness

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 6, 2020 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Pious Trash, Politics

“My friends,” he said, “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” – Pope Francis, June 3, 2020

That message should sting all those “pro-life” Catholic bishops, priests, prominent lay people and voters who supported Donald Trump for president in 2016.

But it should also sting liberal/progressive educators, union leaders and their apologists. They know education is the biggest ticket out of poverty. Instead, they make excuses for schools that continue to fail their students. They don’t use their considerable political capital to fund school social services, get rid of bad teachers, or change the curriculum to reflect the students they teach.

 

Pious Trash: The Reign of Hubris

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 23, 2020 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Pious Trash, Politics

The letter below appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 21, 2020.  It was in response to the article, “Trump Lashes Out with Distractions and Disinformation.”  The letter was reprinted in Yahoo News under the headline: “Letters to the Editor: Why America tolerates a lying, hydroxychloroquine-hawking president.”

To the editor: Kudos for an insightful report on how President Trump’s relentless disinformation campaigns serve him so well despite his administration’s chaotic malfeasance. The fact that such deceptive stratagems have not proved effective in many European democracies speaks volumes about our electorate.

Why might American voters be so singularly gullible? I suspect two primary reasons.

First, in recent decades, American educational outcomes have slipped markedly compared to those of our European counterparts.

Second, Europeans have become increasingly secular in contrast to the pervasiveness of religious affiliation among Americans. Consider how a willingness to take Trump on faith, especially among most evangelical Christians, keyed his 2016 election. 

The ever-darker cloud of disinformation hovers menacingly over our nation. As is said, democracy dies in darkness.”

Devra M., Santa Monica, CA

Who is responsible for the “slipped educational outcomes”?  It is parents, teachers, teachers’ unions, school administrators and school boards. Our education system’s schools and results reflect their values and priorities; and those of the secular elites who help shape finance, media and policy.

Who is responsible for Trump’s election as president in 2016? Evangelical Christians, or the secular elite that sipped their $8 lattes and cortados, checked their iPhones and shrugged off the dire and hopeless economic situation of many working-class Americans.  Feeling their contempt or indifference, they retaliated at the voting booth. 

What happens in the 2020 election and beyond depends on how the 30 million unemployed Americans, small businesses and others negatively impacted by this pandemic are treated by Americans working from the safety of home, ordering out, getting groceries delivered, and writing letters to the editor about Donald Trump.