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Deception in Catholic Cyberspace: Man posing online at FREEREPUBLIC.com as Catholic deacon discovered to be imposter
6/6/2005 11:08:00 AM by John Grasmeier and Dr. Brian Kopp - angelqueen.org
A Texas man, who for years has been claiming to be an active, permanent Catholic deacon on a popular, conservative online discussion forum has been discovered to be an imposter.
Wearing a self-tailored cyber-robe of a Catholic clergyman, “sinkspur” (his screen-name) would often engage in heated discussions on a variety of church matters such as theology, history, doctrine, canon law and politics, most often taking a left leaning and at times a virulently unorthodox position.
Using his assumed clerical authority and his capital as a high-profile, long-time (7 years) poster, he would argue tenaciously with other members of Free Republic (website) strongly in favor of liberalizing established Church doctrine on issues such as married priests, altar girls, birth control, communion to pro-abortion politicians.
He was a proponent of the notorious “Talking about Touching” (TAT) ¹ program, variants of which are now being implemented (in many cases against the will of parents who are forbidden to opt out) in some Catholic schools. He took an anti-Schindler family stance during the Terri Schiavo controversy and told of how he would attend yoga classes in order to admire the “scenery” provided by the visiting females.
His positions on these issues and many others caused some posters, often to the point of outrage, to wonder why a Catholic deacon would take such seemingly un-Catholic even heterodox positions. He often would be found in the middle of the most vicious flame wars, baiting those with whom he disagreed. Posters often complained about receiving threatening private messages, with sinkspur claiming to to have an "in" with a newly assigned religion moderator. Sinkspur went as far as to lobby the owner and moderators of Free Republic to have the religion forum shut down because it had become too traditional in his view.
Some on the conservative forum harbored suspicions that the antics of their in house “deacon” did not correspond with how a Catholic clergyman should or would behave in a public setting. The majority of posters however trustingly accepted sinkspur’s online identity, not realizing that they were being misled. Exploiting their trust by claiming to be an active member of the Catholic clergy enabled him to take on the mantle of authority, while furthering his often heterodox views.
Sinkspur's "outing" for the most part was his own doing. Over time, he revealed in conversations with other posters information about his line of work and employer. He provided details of real-life associates and family members. He casually informed posters of his home town, parish and diocese. He freely related to others where he went to school and what breeds of dogs he owns. He even posted detailed information on his age, height and weight.
The information he himself provided ², combined with a bit of internet research and a series phone calls, has revealed that sinkspur is a 53 year old software salesman and part time rodeo announcer/soundman with no official clerical faculties whatsoever.
Although he did attend Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, from 1970 to 1976 and was ordained a transitional deacon in anticipation of becoming a priest, he did not complete his studies and was subsequently laicized after receiving a dispensation in 1979. This dispensation completely removed any and all faculties, thus precluding him from ever representing himself as a deacon or performing any clerical duties whatsoever. Such however did not prevent him from claiming unequivocally to be an active, permanent deacon. Here are a few quotes from just a single day in July of 2004:
I conduct the Penitential Rite, prepare the Gifts, read the Gospel, preach, hold up the chalice at the "To Him, with Him, and In Him.." just prior to the Our Father, prepare the Eucharistic cups, dismiss the assembly. - July 21, 2004
I think the order of deacon is tremendously important; I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. - July 21, 2004
Our bishop has asked us to wear clericals only when performing diaconal duties; he wants to make sure that we are distinguished from priests. - July 21, 2004
Curiously, he had previously documented with his own words the falsehood of his soon to be created online alter-ego, in effect rendering this article moot.
Life-long Catholics, like me who was an ordained deacon back in 1975, left the ministry because I wasn't permitted to marry. - March 22, 2002
Such would explain why he would so forcefully advocate changing Church policy on married priests.
Once, he expressed his opinion on clergy impersonators:
There ought to be some penalty in the Church for impersonating a priest. - June 25, 2002
Under Levitical law, impersonating clergy was punishable by death. Although the consequences are no longer as severe, neither civil law nor canon law looks upon those who falsely present themselves as clergy approvingly. Clergy impersonators have recently been arrested by the Swiss Guard as well as civil authorities. In any case, anyone who falsely claims to be a deacon, priest or bishop is prohibited from becoming a priest without a dispensation, of which would be highly unlikely.
In addition to the faithful being misled, there also exists the issue of damage to the credibility of Diocese of Fort Worth. The employees and clergy within the diocese who were contacted, were not pleased upon discovering that they had someone fraudulently representing them. The Vicar General, Fr. Joseph Schumacher, has stated his intention to have a personal discussion with sinkspur regarding his online vocation.
The purpose of this article is not to bring harm its subject. After much thought and prayer, we've come to the conclusion that it is our duty to ameliorate any false impressions that may have been left with the innocent faithful, in addition to helping to correct any harm that may have been done to the diocese of Fort Worth.
It is our hope that sinkspur (for his own sake) will apologize and confess as is required by the teachings of our Church.
Sinkspur’s identity has been independently confirmed and verified by a variety of very credible sources, including but not limited to the Vicar General of the diocese of Fort Worth. ³ Any personal information contained in this piece has for the most part been provided publicly by he himself. We have considerable further identifying data not revealed here that at this point will only be provided on a need-to-know basis, should (if ever) such a need arise. An example would be if we feel compelled to resolve any critical liability or credibility issues that may develop. Another example would be if sinkspur should challenge our information or continue to falsely represent himself as a deacon.
Sinkspur has been offered more than ample opportunity to respond to these developments - publicly and privately - on many occasions leading up to the publication of this article, but has thus far repeatedly declined. He has at his disposal both authors’ contact information should he wish to dispute any claims contained herein. Further, this article will also be posted on a public forum where he or anyone else may at any time post any information contrary to what has been provided.
¹ “Talking about Touching” is the Planned Parenthood endorsed sex-ed program developed by a group known as the Committee for Children (CFC). The CFC began as a left-wing pro-prostitution advocacy/lobby group known as COYOTE”, an acronym for “Call Off Your Tired Old Ethics”.
² A representative number (by no means all) of sinkspur's posts have been documented, dated, time-stamped and linked. To view them CLICK HERE.
³ Father Joseph Schumacher, Vicar General of the Diocese of Fort Worth has personally identified and verified sinkspur as a lay-parishioner in his diocese.