The Catholic Defender: Saved by Holy Week

Posted by John Benko - November 6th, 2010

One thing that I have learned since the time of the “priest scandal” is there is more than a willingness to believe the worst: those who hate the Church jump on the band wagon at the first glance of something possibly wrong.

It was early Spring 2007 during a 15 month deployment to Iraq. I was participating in bible studies at the Battalion level at Warrior Chapel as well as at the Division Chapel.

Our Battalion Chaplain defended our bible study for Catholic Soldiers as the Division Chaplain had issues with a Catholic Bible study. Our Catholic Priest was a Division asset and supported us at Warrior Chapel. We had good Catholic coverage for those who stayed on Camp Liberty.

It wasn’t that good for those who were out in the JSS setting as they never saw a Priest for Catholic coverage.

I began developing the “Rosary Patrol” as we would get together everyday at noon to pray for those going outside the wire, for families separated due to the deployment.

Also we were leading the RCIA program for the Division Element so I worked very closely with the Catholic Priest. Three of those pictured here were converts there in Iraq!

The first week in April 2007 was Holy Week. 7 April happened to be on a Tuesday which would be very important as this story unfolds.

The Division Chaplain didn’t have much love for the Catholic Priest serving at Division. At first, I don’t think he had much care for me either as he wanted to shut down our Catholic Prayer and bible studies.

My Battalion Chaplain stood up for us so we kept up our support of the Catholic community. Our Bible studies continued to grow, the Rosary Patrol continued to grow and Father wanted me to lead RCIA at both locations for the Easter Vigil.

I had something like 70 Soldiers preparing for conversion to the Catholic Faith.

Some of them were former Catholics who had not been there for 26 years, 20 years, 15 years, 10 years, 5 years, and even 1 year.

What a blessing it was to help these Soldiers return back to the Catholic Faith. All of these things taking place kept me busy when I was not serving as the Medical Platoon Sergeant covering the 2-5 CAV. I would have people coming to my unit wanting to talk at 24:00 (Midnight), 02:00 in the morning. I would walk 200 miles for the purpose of covering these obligations for the Church.

I would carry my M-4 in one hand and my bible in the other. I usually carried my computer bag if I had a presentation I wanted to show.

I used the Steve Ray series, “The Footprints of God” because people loved them. With all the success we were experiencing, something happened that tried to put a stop to it all. It appears that the Chaplain’s Assistant had an issue with the Catholic Priest.

I knew him but he never communicated the issue that he had with Father. Finally, the accusations began to come forward and the evidence found by the Division Command.

Father was being accused of looking at pornography on a Military computer. The Division took the computer and the professionals were positive that Father had been the one who was doing this. A date was set to dismiss Father, to demote him with a trial.

The following are posts I placed on Defenders of the Catholic Faith (DCF) (The Catholic Defender in Kuwait/Iraq) found in the Archives:

On 27 September, 2007 I wrote this on DCL:

I need you all to pray for me tomorrow (the Catholic Defender) as I have become a star witness in defense of one of our Catholic Priests in a court proceeding. The Defense wants to use me as the main defense. This should be interesting as I maintain he is innocent and can prove it. Still, pray for us as you know how the media would foam at the mouth with a new juicey story about a Catholic Priest. Well, this is one the Catholic Defender can truly help. All you out there, please join the Rosary Patrol in this mission!

I wrote this on 28 September 2007:

Just a note about the hearing today, there were several who spoke out against him today. It was really sad as they almost made Father cry, he wanted to. I gave him a rosary book to hold on to as he endured the tough part of the day. The Catholic Defender was the last to testify and I think I did well for him. I hope to know more tomorrow, but I think he will do alright. It kind of reminded me of how many brought up trumped up charges against the Lord. I’m glad I was there for him today.

I wrote this later the same day:

I think we did well, we will have to see! I believe Father is innocent! It was something else to have been placed in this situation where I was the lone defense witness there to counter all that heavy brass the Prosecution brought in. I mean there were Colonels, Majors, and other high ranking officials. I, on the other hand, am your loveable Catholic Defender marching in to help our Priest. Lot’s of fun imagining it!!! I do think and pray he will do well from it!

I wrote this on 29 September:

I have some awesome news to report!!! The board yesturday cleared Father of all wrong doing and his Ministry is perfectly intact! What a blessing this has become! My testimony turned out to be very important for his defense. I am so happy that this was the ruling! There were high brass going against him putting all kinds of garbage on him. I don’t know all the details, but I’m informed my support was taken very highly by the board. God is so good and sometimes the good guys win!!!

I wrote this on 30 September:

I have to tell ya, his Mass today had alot more enthusiasum and punch!!! Alot of weight was taken off his shoulders. Thank you all for your prayers and support in this matter! I can tell that he was relieved today and well rested. He will be back with us on Tuesday for the rosary and evening bible study. I’m glad this situation is behind us! Yes, the angels are rejoicing tonight!!!

It turned out that the Prosecution rested their case upon a charge of 120 plus porn pictures loaded on his Military computer on 7 April 2007.

It was at 19:00 that the images were down loaded. This was during Holy Week and Father was at Warrior Chapel hearing confessions at 18:45 getting ready for Mass at 19:00 hours at Warrior Chapel. Father’s computer was at the Division Chapel and from there it took 15 minutes to walk from point A to point B.

There was no way Father could have been the one to down load those pictures.

It was a set up job, or it was the Chaplain’s Assistant who was interestingly abrumptly moved following the events of late September.

Father to this day enjoys celebrating Mass for Soldiers!

The Division Chaplain following this event began to talk with me as he would drink coffee at the dining hall.

He was on his way to “Crossing the Tiber”!



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