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The Suicide of Wm. L. Toomey and the Murders of Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 19, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

Wm. L. Toomey’s Suicide

On Saturday evening, December 4, 1982, a man walked into Sacred Heart Church in Boise, Idaho.  It was wet and chilly. The stranger was blond, tan and stocky. He appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s. He wore a brown leather belt with a large buckle displaying a Mexican 100-peso coin, and a silver and turquoise bolo tie.  From the tan and the clothing, he appeared to be from the Southwest.

The stranger wanted to go to confession, but it was occupied at the time. As parishioners entered for the 6 PM Mass, one of them, a 91-year old woman named Grace Leeburn, found the man on his back, dead. Blood and drool formed a thin stream by his head.  He had swallowed cyanide tablets. In his pockets he had a wallet with all ID removed but containing $1,900.  There was also a typewritten note: “In the event of my death, the enclosed currency should give more than adequate compensation for my funeral or disposal of my remains (prefer to be cremated) expenditures. What is left over, please take this as a contribution to this church.  God will see to your honesty in this.” Signed – Wm. L. Toomey 

The dead man was never identified.  No fingerprints turned up from law enforcement databases.  “Wm. L. Toomey” is similar to “R. J. Toomey,” an apparel manufacturer for priests.  A clue?

There were several theories about who he was and why he committed suicide in a Catholic church. He may have intended to die shortly after confession, but miscalculated how long it would take for the cyanide to kill him. He may have decided to end his life in church so he could make peace with God, and have his body taken care of respectfully. Or, out of anger, despair or some other emotion, he decided to commit a grave sin in a sacred place.  Investigators believed he had a strong connection to Catholicism. A few speculated he could be a priest or former priest. To this day, no one has been able to identify the man, or why he had come to the church to absolve himself of his sins.

The pastor of the church, the Rev. W. Thomas Faucher, said the funeral Mass for Wm. L. Toomey, and said the Mass was for all those who have died in despair during the holidays.  The stark grey coffin was adorned with fresh flowers. “He came to us to die,” Faucher said. “We don’t know who he is, but we come here in faith to pray for him, whoever he may be, and to pray for ourselves.”

Later on, investigators started looking into the possibility that Wm. L. Toomey’s suicide might be connected to the murders of two or more Catholic priests.  There were a string of murders of priests from Texas, New Mexico and up through Arizona to the Pacific Northwest in the years before Toomey’s death. Some cases produced viable suspects, but many others did not.

The Murder of Fr. Ryan

On December 22, 1981, the nude body of 49-year-old Fr. Patrick Ryan was found inside Room 126 at the Sand and Sage Motel in Odessa, Texas.  Fr. Ryan was the pastor at St. William’s Church in Denver City, located over 90 miles away.  He had checked into the motel the previous night under a false name. 

When a cleaning woman opened the door to Room 126 the next afternoon the place was in shambles.  There was dried blood everywhere, some of it in and around the gaping holes that had been punched through the walls.  The air conditioner was broken and dangling from the wall.  There were clothes strewn around the room, along with several beer cans and cigarette butts. The phone had been ripped from the wall, and the television smashed. The bed was overturned, and the frame broken. A naked, bloody man lay face down, his hands tied behind his back with a sock, his body covered in abrasions, across his buttocks was a long, superficial wound.

By way of background, Fr. Ryan was an Irish-born priest who reportedly spent a decade in Africa as a missionary before being assigned in 1979 to St. William’s Church in Denver City, Texas.  How he got from Africa to a tiny panhandle town in Texas near the New Mexico border is anyone’s guess.

Fr. Ryan often picked up hitchhikers on the 40 mile stretch of road connecting Denver City to Hobbs, New Mexico. On December 8, 1981, Ryan picked up James Harry Reyos,  who was on his way to Hobbs to look for work. The two men drove into town and spent the evening at a bar drinking beer and vodka, before Ryan drove them both back to Denver City. Ryan introduced himself only as “John.”

James Harry Reyos was a 25-year-old Jicarilla Apache, lonely and out of work. He was uncomfortable and ashamed of being gay. He turned to alcohol to cope.  By the time Ryan picked him up Reyos had been arrested 30 times on alcohol related charges. 

On December 20, 1981, the day before the priest was murdered, Reyos accepted an invitation to visit Ryan at the rectory at St. William’s Church. They began drinking, flipping through a photo album of Reyos’ childhood on the reservation.  Suddenly, Reyos said, the priest grabbed him by his shirt collar and push him down to perform oral sex.  After that Reyos fled into the night.  “I didn’t even grab my stuff,” before hurrying out of the rectory.  I was walking down the street thinking, “That didn’t happen, that couldn’t happen with Father (Ryan).”

Several months later, flooded with alcohol, confusion and feelings of guilt, Reyos called police and confessed to the murder. Even though he recanted when he sobered up and had receipts and a speeding ticket to prove he was near Roswell, New Mexico when the murder occurred, he was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison.  He served 20. Reyos is working to clear his name and is being helped by public prosecutors and a state representative who believe him and are sympathetic to his cause.

The Murder of Father Ben

In the middle of the afternoon on November 10, 1982–three weeks before the suicide of Wm. L. Toomey–a 54-year-old man was found dead at the El Rancho Motel in Yuma, Arizona. When the police arrived they found the man face down on the bed.  He was naked. His hands were bound behind his back with black electrical tape. The victim was identified as Father Benjamin J. Carrier from Our Lady of Light Church in San Diego, California.  He priest had been strangled. 

References to “Father Ben” as he was called, can be found in California newspapers from 1967 through the early 70s. He had a reputation for trying to help the homeless and the down and out. 

It appears the priest was killed by two hitchhikers he had picked up. One witness said she saw Father Ben with two young men at the motel pool the day before he was killed. The motel manager said a young man with light facial hair was in Carrier’s truck when he arrived at the motel. Carrier paid for two people to stay the night. The priest’s truck was found abandoned in Las Vegas a few weeks later.

A week after the murder, The Southern Cross, the newspaper of the San Diego Archdiocese, published an article about Fr. Ben. Maudlin and dramatic, the article was ironic in a way it wasn’t meant to be: “..Father Ben was not a cautious man,” the writer said. “He took the scriptures very seriously, and so he lived dangerously, risking himself not wisely, not sensible, but in the only way he could. And in his imprudence, his foolishness, he shamed us in our comfortable self-protection…It is a heavy burden, and few of us could heft it with the same dogged self-immolation that he did. But we can all give a little more of ourselves, drop a few more defenses, mortgage a little more comfort and safety, to carry Christ’s mission into danger zones of unbelief.”

Murder Theories

One of the investigators in Wm. L. Toomey’s suicide felt there was a connection between the unknown man and the unsolved killings of several priests, including Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben.  He thought Toomey was a priest or a former priest, and probably a victim of sexual abuse himself.

I think whoever killed Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben was a victim of sexual abuse.  The savagery and violence in the murders point to a very deep anger and rage. But whether the murder was the same person isn’t clear. Was each killing random, or was it a serial killer? Were the killings personal revenge for sexual abuse, or an opportunistic killing during a sexual encounter? 

What is clear to me is that church officials and local police never tried very hard to catch the killer. There is no mention of accumulated evidence–motel records, phone calls, witness statements, fingerprints, sketches, blood and semen analysis, sexual activity or assault. The police, parishioners, friends and others found it hard to believe–didn’t want to believe–a Catholic priest was killed after bringing another man to a motel for sex.

Wm. L. Toomey was buried in Dry Creek Cemetery in Boise, Idaho.  Fr. Ben was brought back to San Diego to be buried. Fr. Patrick “Paddy” Ryan’s body was flown back to Ireland, and interred in St. Fintan’s Cemetery in Doon, Co. Limerick.  Bishop Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of San Angelo presided at Ryan’s funeral on December 29th, a week after his murder.  Bishop Matthiesen called Fr. Ryan “yet another martyr.”

That was a curious choice of words.  I wonder why kind of martyrdom he had in mind.

 

 

 

John Rykener’s Confession

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 13, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Humor, Scandals, Sex

Many conservative Catholic pundits–and our former pope, Benedict XVI–are quick to blame Vatican II and secular society for loosened sexual morals, and fluid notions of gender and gender roles. Influenced by this permissive culture, they argue, clergy and religious began to relax their own attitudes on sex and homosexuality. But is this situation as “new” as the pundits and pope suggest?

In London in December 1394, John Rykener was arrested for having sex with another man. He was dressed like a woman when he was caught in the act of “committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice.” In his confession, he said that he had been cross-dressing for months, and worked as a prostitute, servicing both men and women. He called himself “Eleanor.”  In addition to prostitution, he supported himself by working as an embroideress.  The woman who taught him to embroider also introduced him to prostitution. 

John Rykener worked as a prostitute in London, Oxford and Burford. He confessed to having sex with many people, including nuns and married and unmarried women. He said that he did not charge women for sex.  He also had sex with lots of men: students, married men, clerical officials, priests, Franciscans and Carmelites.  Rykener “accommodated priests more readily than other people because they wished to give him more.”  In addition to money, one Franciscan brother gave Rykener a gold ring.  He “also confessed that after (his) last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Patterns, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London.”

Sound familiar?

There is no record of what became of John Rykener, or if he was prosecuted for sodomy in Church courts.

The the entire confession here.

John Rykener appears in Bruce Holsinger’s 2014 novel, A Burnable Book.

John/Eleanor Rykener’s confession was listed in the Plea and Memoranda Roll for the Corporation of London in 1395. The document was unearthed by Sheila Lindenbaum and edited by David Lorenzo Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karrar in 1995.  It was published in A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 459-465.

 

Conservative Catholics Are Obsessed with Homosexual Sex!

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 16, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

When I want material on gay sex in the Catholic Church I know where to go–conservative Catholic media sites.  Church Militant, LifeSiteNews, Catholic Culture, National Catholic Register and EWTN always have a fresh sex story or scandal. Ultra conservative blogs pick up the story and add salacious details.  It snowballs.

In contrast, I rarely find a good sex story on liberal/moderate Catholic media like Commonweal, America or the National Catholic Reporter. Why?

It appears “authentic” Catholics relish good sex stories than other groups, particularly if they involve bishops, priests or seminarians. 2018 was a banner year between Cardinal McCarrick’s beach house and gay seminarians hustling each other for sex.  Disapproving transgender stories and editorials increased, too.  

 Sex Sells! Adultery, clandestine hook-ups, secret homosexuals, orgies!  Just think of the publications in the checkout line in the supermarket. Popular easy-reading (non-intellectual) magazines feature bombshell sexual content to attract readers.

Gay Sex is Titillating.  People are always curious about the taboo and forbidden. They may fantasize about having a sexual encounter with a member of their own sex, or really desire it, and reading about it is a safe vicarious experience.

Spice Up a Dull Sex Life. Married couples watch porn to get aroused.  Women are the biggest consumers of gay male porn. (I was surprised!)  “Lesbian” porn tops the list for both women and men, and “Threesomes” and “MILF” (Mothers/Mommas/Moms I’d Like to Fuck) is high in demand with both sexes.  Sex acts associated with homosexuality like “pussy-licking” and “anal” are popular search terms on Pornhub.com.  Pornhub is a pornographic video sharing website and one of the biggest pornography sites on the internet.  Total visits to Pornhub in 2018 totaled 33.5 billion. The largest consumer country was the United States followed by the United Kingdom.  

According to Dr. Laurie Betito, Director of  Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness Center, “Interest in ‘trans (aka transgender) porn saw significant gains in 2018, in particular with a 167% increase in searches by men and more than 200% with visitors over the age of 45 (becoming the fifth most searched term by those aged 45-64.”  Men looking for women with a dick.

Given the huge number of women and men who love lesbian porn, why isn’t there more specific lesbian coverage in conservative Catholic media?  That’s easy–in the Catholic Church there are no powerful women figures or celebrities, only men. Popes, cardinals, archbishops, Curia heads, bishops, and priests are male only.  The handful of women who are occasionally quoted or trotted out are elderly religious, preferably in a habit.

We may see a small uptick in lesbian coverage later this year, when the Paul Verhoeven film, Benedetta, is released.  The film “explores the simmering, searing tension of forbidden love.”  Based on Judith C. Brown’s 1986 book Immodest Acts, Benedetta follows real-life events. It stars Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century nun in Italy who enjoys visions and a passionate affair with another nun, Bartolomea Crivelli (played by Daphne Patakia). 

I can hardly wait to read the National Catholic Register review!