A Jesuit’s love letter to Baltimore

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Dear Baltimore,

When our current president began his reign on Pennsylvania Avenue, I promised that I would not spend my time engaged in exegesis on his early-morning tweets. How could one begin to refute this overflowing cauldron of ignorance, prejudice, obscenity, xenophobia, misogyny, narcissism, deceit, fantasy, invective, scapegoating, rage, threats, braggadocio and bottomless egomania? Doesn’t the critique of these rants only highlight and normalize the venom? How does one rebut a high-tech tantrum?

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But the current occupant of the White House has now turned his rage on you, my adopted city. He asks why anyone would want to live here. (I do wonder why anyone would want to live in the vermin-infested apartment buildings in Baltimore owned by the president’s family.) I think it is time for a valentine for a troubled city I have come to love.

It takes time to learn the code that opens the door to the mysterious world of attics and basements that make up your burning creative heart.

You have often asked me how Baltimore differs from New York City, where I had spent the previous 20 years. In New York, you can take a helicopter ride and point out the discrete sections of Manhattan. There is the Financial District, the Garment District, the Theater District. But in Baltimore the cultural treasures are hidden. I slowly discovered the city’s thriving theater scene in an ancient hotel basement, a firehouse, a barn, a car-repair shop and an old fortune-teller’s studio, where the ghost of a murdered medium promptly appears on Saturday at midnight. I have often walked up the winding, creaky staircase to the tattered ballroom of An Die Musik, where I have heard Chopin, Gershwin, an Elvis imitator and something called “white hip hop.” The stately Pratt, the city’s municipal library, boasts a fine Poe collection, but the most interesting section is an unmarked alcove where an eternal chess game is playing, complete with speed timers. (Confession: I once won $2.50 on a match.)

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The other day I stopped into a vegan restaurant near the medical building where I picked up new eyeglasses. A banner over the counter announced that this was the place where “Soul Food goes Vegan.” After a lunch of lentil burgers, kale soaked in a spicy carrot sauce and a glass of even spicier ginger tea, the owner (who also manned the counter) tried to sell me the restaurant’s latest T-shirt: “Deport White Supremacy.” Racial anguish is never far from your surface.

I love your eccentricity, but I have discovered that it is a studied eccentricity, like the calculated madness of the movies of John Waters, our pre-eminent film director. It takes time to learn the code that opens the door to the mysterious world of attics and basements that make up your burning creative heart.

The Gospel preached here is the unvarnished one of fall, redemption and repentance. Your honest streets would tolerate no counterfeit.

But I do agree with our president on one point: You are corrupt. And the corruption is destroying you. Our most recently elected mayor was hounded from office after it was reported that she had netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bogus book deal with special interests dependent on city contracts and city regulators. The mayor before her was forced out after she was convicted of stealing hundreds of gift cards that were supposed to go to the city’s homeless at Christmas. I could go on. One-party rule, in this case by the Democrats, always corrupts. Any city needs a solid loyal opposition and a combative, adversarial press. But you have neither.

You, dear Baltimore, deserve better.

 

You are a creative, beautiful city, full of countless examples of strength and faith. You are an old “city of churches,” where soaring spires still define neighborhoods. As we struggle with violence and the drug epidemic, your citizens turn to God’s mercy in search of strength. Your religion is not the creation spirituality or the self-esteem therapy of leafy suburban megachurches. It is all about redemption. Raw. Desperate. Immediate. It is about freedom from the despair rooted in the addict’s needle and the parentless home.

One of your great religious rites occurs on New Year’s Eve at our downtown Jesuit parish, Saint Ignatius. Church and state are in vigil. The governor, the mayor, the police commissioner and the fire commissioner join the bishop, the rabbi, the imam, the Buddhist monk and a phalanx of Protestant ministers in the sanctuary. The service might appear to be just another exercise in civil religion, one that breaches the wall between church and state. But the earnest vigil intercedes for our murder victims and our addicts in a plea for God’s liberating grace and for the courage to serve you, our city, with hope. The Gospel preached here is the unvarnished one of fall, redemption and repentance. Your honest streets would tolerate no counterfeit.

Dear Baltimore, God bless.

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Christopher Scott
2 months 2 weeks ago

What do leftist call someone who refuses to wax transgender genitals? “ignorant, prejudice, obscenity, xenophobia, misogyny, narcissism, deceit, fantasy, invective, scapegoating, rage, threats, braggadocio and bottomless egomania”

The real racists are those that pander, the fact that they think someone will respond positively to their pandering is condescending to their targeted audiences.

The left have become so disgusting, corrupt and incompetent that people would rather vote for an obviously narcissist than any corrupt pandering baffon that the democrats put forward and who the Jesuits endorse. That’s how bad it’s gotten. This writers in this magazine think it’s ok to play God by condemning someone with all this derogatory language to which I say you seriously need to check the beam in your own eyes...and get on some medication. Are you absolute sure about your judgements of what is in someone’s heart?

The democrat have become the party of corrupt politicians, pedophiles and sexual perverts ... I’ll take the narcissist

Judith Jordan
2 months 2 weeks ago

Christopher Scott---
Who are the pedophiles among the Democrats?

Your condemnation of Democrats is very broad and your condemnation of Trump is very narrow. The things you said about Democrats apply to Trump except pedophilia…as far as we know yet.

Christopher Scott
2 months 2 weeks ago

Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein are just the tip of the iceberg for these big Clinton and democrat donors. Who’s going after Mario Lopez ? Stay tuned, more to come...

Judith Jordan
2 months 1 week ago

Christopher Scott---

Thank God for the Clintons and Obama so the Republicans can always blame them for everything.

Jeffery Epstein, Trump’s big buddy, was saved from real prosecution by Alex Acosta, Trump’s Secretary of Labor. The swamp just keeps getting bigger.

Lest you continue with the fantasy belief that Democrats have a monopoly on pedophiles, please review the below Republican iceberg on pedophiles.

1. Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in jail for the payments he made to cover up raping his wrestlers when he was a high school coach. You may recall that Hastert, claiming family values, really went after Clinton for his affairs with consenting adults.
2. Republican racist pedophile and United States Senator Strom Thurmond had sex with a 15-year old black girl which produced a child.
3. Republican Judge and campaign official Tim Nolan for President Donald Trump indicted for human trafficking and forcing a minors (9) to engage in sexual activity and giving alcohol to minors (results from the court pending). Another Trump buddy like Epstein.
4. Republican anti-abortion activist Howard Scott Heldreth is a convicted child rapist in Florida.
5. Republican County Commissioner David Swartz pleaded guilty to molesting two girls under the age of 11 and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
6. Republican judge Mark Pazuhanich pleaded no contest to fondling a 10-year old girl and was sentenced to 10 years probation.
7. Republican anti-abortion activist Nicholas Morency pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer and offering a bounty to anybody who murders an abortion doctor.
8. Republican legislator Edison Misla Aldarondo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping his daughter between the ages of 9 and 17.
9. Republican Mayor Philip Giordano is serving a 37-year sentence in federal prison for sexually abusing 8- and 10-year old girls.
10. Republican campaign consultant Tom Shortridge was sentenced to three years probation for taking nude photographs of a 15-year old girl.
11. Republican pastor Mike Hintz, whom George W. Bush commended during the 2004 presidential campaign, surrendered to police after admitting to a sexual affair with a female juvenile.
12. Republican legislator Peter Dibble pleaded no contest to having an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old girl.
13. Republican Congressman Donald “Buz” Lukens was found guilty of having sex with a female minor and sentenced to one month in jail.
14. Republican fundraiser Richard A. Delgaudio was found guilty of child porn charges and paying two teenage girls to pose for sexual photos.
15. Republican activist Mark A. Grethen convicted on six counts of sex crimes involving children.
16. Republican activist Randal David Ankeney pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child.
17. Republican Congressman Dan Crane had sex with a female minor working as a congressional page.
18. Republican activist and Christian Coalition leader Beverly Russell admitted to an incestuous relationship with his step daughter.
19. Republican congressman and anti-gay activist *Robert Bauman** was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old boy he picked up at a gay bar.
20. Republican Committee Chairman Jeffrey Patti was arrested for distributing a video clip of a 5-year-old girl being raped.
21. Republican activist Marty Glickman (a.k.a. “Republican Marty”), was taken into custody by Florida police on four counts of unlawful sexual activity with an underage girl and one count of delivering the drug LSD.
22. Republican legislative aide *Howard L. Brooks** was charged with molesting a 12-year old boy and possession of child pornography.
23. Republican Senate candidate John Hathaway was accused of having sex with his 12-year old baby sitter and withdrew his candidacy after the allegations were reported in the media.
24. Republican preacher *Stephen White**, who demanded a return to traditional values, was sentenced to jail after offering $20 to a 14-year-old boy for permission to perform oral sex on him.
25. Republican talk show host Jon Matthews pleaded guilty to exposing his genitals to an 11 year old girl.
26. Republican anti-gay activist Earl “Butch” Kimmerling was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting an 8-year old girl after he attempted to stop a gay couple from adopting her.
27. Republican Party leader Paul Ingram pleaded guilty to six counts of raping his daughters and served 14 years in federal prison.
28. Republican election board official Kevin Coan was sentenced to two years probation for soliciting sex over the internet from a 14-year old girl.
29. Republican politician *Andrew Buhr** was charged with two counts of first-degree sodomy with a 13-year old boy.
30. Republican politician Keith Westmoreland was arrested on seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition to girls under the age of 16 (i.e. exposing himself to children).
31. Republican anti-abortion activist John Allen Burt was charged with sexual misconduct involving a 15-year old girl.
32. Republican County Councilman *Keola Childs** pleaded guilty to molesting a male child.
33. Republican activist John Butler was charged with criminal sexual assault on a teenage girl.
34. Republican candidate Richard Gardner admitted to molesting his two daughters.
35. Republican Councilman and former Marine Jack W. Gardner was convicted of molesting a 13-year old girl.
36. Republican County Commissioner *Merrill Robert Barter** pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and assault on a teenage boy.
37. Republican City Councilman Fred C. Smeltzer, Jr. pleaded no contest to raping a 15 year-old girl and served 6-months in prison.
38. Republican activist Parker J. Bena pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography on his home computer and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $18,000.
39. Republican parole board officer and former Colorado state representative, Larry Jack Schwarz, was fired after child pornography was found in his possession.
40. Republican strategist and Citadel Military College graduate *Robin Vanderwall** was convicted in Virginia on five counts of soliciting sex from boys and girls over the internet.
41. Republican city councilman Mark Harris, who is described as a “good military man” and “church goer,” was convicted of repeatedly having sex with an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
42. Republican businessman Jon Grunseth withdrew his candidacy for Minnesota governor after allegations surfaced that he went swimming in the nude with four underage girls, including his daughter.
43. Republican director of the “Young Republican Federation” Nicholas Elizondo molested his 6-year old daughter and was sentenced to six years in prison.
44. Republican benefactor of conservative Christian groups, Richard A. Dasen Sr., was charged with rape for allegedly paying a 15-year old girl for sex. Dasen, 62, who is married with grown children and several grandchildren, has allegedly told police that over the past decade he paid more than $1 million to have sex with a large number of young.
45. Republican state senator Ralph Shortey from Oklahoma admitted to being involved in sodomy with a 17-year-old male prostitute and transporting child pornography.

Christopher Scott
2 months 1 week ago

Trump doesn’t discriminate, he goes after Republicans as much as democrats. The original Never Trumpers were Republicans and Rino’s (just askMitt Romney) no doubt some perverts in that group That old Republican vs Democrat story is a nice deflection but Trump doesn’t fit in that story, but you’re stuck there. Nobody plays that game anymore , especially Trump. This article was an attack on Trump. That Acosta story was basically an admission by the press that Trump is not tied to Epstein so that was their lame attempt to make a lame connection. Nice try... this perverted sex trafficking network is being exposed and prosecuted by the Trump administration. No way would the democrats be going after these perverts if they were in charge. This will make some Catholic Church officials nervous too.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Good riddance to the people you pointed out but you just made Mr. Scott's point by doing so. Nothing about Baltimore though and he was responding to the over the top descriptives by a Jesuit about another human being as maybe a little hypocritical.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Without Trump no one would be talking about Baltimore and its problems. So is Trump revealing the true racists who won’t address inner city problems? Is all they want is votes on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

To see the intolerance towards Trump, see http://bit.ly/2YJ58uY and http://bit.ly/2yyfdjy

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Say what you want about President Trump’s Twitter habits, he has a way of suddenly bringing an issue to the surface that people have long known about, but never wanted to confront. The only problem with his latest tweetstorm about Baltimore is that he hasn’t gone far enough - editorial http://bit.ly/2GKq3r0

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

If there’s anything productive to come from his recent Twitter storm, President Trump’s recent crude attacks on Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings have succeeded in bring necessary attention to the increasingly tragic state of our cities. Baltimore’s continued woes, after attempts to position itself as a “comeback city,” illustrates all too poignantly the deep seated decay in many of our great urban areas - Quote

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Here’s a dog that never got the word. Funny or ironic depending on your politics

http://bit.ly/2Kqgcru

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

Just think about this statement for a moment – “… If I shot someone in the middle of the “city”, I would not lose any vote…” Trump is an expert in herd manipulation. Trump truly understands the psychology of his followers, who are so blinded that would accept anything he said or did.

“Build the wall”, “Lock her up”, “Send her home”… All the nonsense, braindead and inhuman slogans chanted at his rally say loudly about the characters of Trump and his followers. This is the sunset of America.

It is true that Baltimore has a serious problem in many parts of the city. Remember that this is also true that this kind of despair and ugly scenarios also exists in most if not all other cities in America to a more or less degree. The situation is also not pretty at the so-called Trump country – the white and rural America.

This is an ugly truth – can Trump’s supporters handle this?
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/job-growth-in-trump-land-is-dead-in-the-water-2019-08-02

“Anyone who’s been paying attention to the political map will recognize that the growth is mostly occurring in places that vote for Democrats, while the stagnation is mostly in places that vote for Republicans.

Donald Trump has appealed to those who are the most fearful, the most resentful and the most despairing, but the situation hasn’t gotten any better since his election. Rural America is older, sicker, poorer and more dependent upon state aid than it was before”

Chuck Kotlarz
2 months 1 week ago

Mr. Fang, “Build the wall”, “Lock her up”, “Send her home” may sum up the Greater Oligarchy Platform. Thanks for the link... if inclusive cities drive prosperity perhaps cities grow better with democrat mayors. The last time I checked, only a fourth of the 100 largest U.S. cities had a republican mayor.

J. Calpezzo
2 months 2 weeks ago

Trump is a fraud and a tool of Putin, the product of ignorant white males watching reality TV and eating Bon-Bons.

Andrew Strada
2 months 2 weeks ago

Did Baltimore's problems begin in January, 2017? I believe we had Democratic presidents for 16 of the preceding 24 years. And Democratic mayors going back to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's father and brother.

Scott Cooper
2 months 1 week ago

While I appreciate Father Conley’s elegy for the sometimes searing pain counterbalanced by the sublime that marks life in Baltimore (though I disagree with his opinion that Baltimore’s eccentricity is “studied” or “calculated”—it is as far from these things as possible and is nothing if not simply an organic and natural weirdness), I also have to agree with Mr. Strada’s assessment that these problems began and have flourished under exclusively Democratic rule that stretches back to the late 1950s, but which began in earnest in the mid-60s.
I have lived all but six of my almost 56 years just over the city line in Baltimore County, but both my mother’s and my father’s respective family roots run deep in Southwest Baltimore, in the Pigtown neighborhood. Pigtown was once a predominantly white neighborhood made up of English, German, Lithuanian, and Irish. It is for years now been one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the city. But despite numerous failed attempts by the city to gentrify this quintessentially eccentric corner of Baltimore that lies so close to the lucrative draw of Oriole Park, the Ravens stadium, and the Horseshoe Casino, the thing that unites the low, low income black and white citizens of Pigtown is addiction. And hopelessness. And despair. I’ve seen some of my White first cousins go down the road of addiction and dealing, with the best outcome being prison. At least one OD’d and another took a knife in the carotid during a drug deal gone bad and bled out near an abandoned factory in Pigtown. Drug addiction and drug dealing are equal opportunity employers in Pigtown and in Baltimore.
President Trump is a narcissist and is unable to filter his thoughts, so he rants and raves like a madman. But a madman can get it right sometimes and with my beloved city of Baltimore, he has simply called out the city’s leaders (or lack of) in some brutal tweets on issues that took David Simon several seasons on HBO with The Wire to do the basically the same thing, though much more eloquently and entertainingly.
The Democrats, from Baltimore’s mayors and city councils to those holding office throughout the state and in Congress, and right through the last several Democratic Presidential administrations, have a lot for which they need to account. They need to be held accountable to not only God, but to the human beings, the voters, who do not want to live in the conditions about which President Trump ranted.
About these “leaders,” Booker T. Washington said it best, “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well.”
This can now be said if Democrats, liberals, socialists, and the left in general, and not just Black politicians, and not just regarding Black-White race issues, but about every “marginalized” group of people they can find or, more appropriately, create. As long as these patients stay angry and sick, these true demagogues will always have a job and will accumulate more and more power, all while the patient continues to suffer in places just like Pigtown and just like Baltimore. God bless and help Baltimore and guide its leaders to the Truth.

Opting Out
2 months 1 week ago

Bernie Sanders likens West Baltimore to 'Third World' country
"Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you're in a wealthy nation," Sanders told reporters later at the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center in Bolton Hill. "You would think that you were in a Third World country."
https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-sanders-baltimore-20151207-story.html

Verified account
@NikkiHaley
Instead of all of this back and forth about who everyone thinks is racist and whose not, the President just offered to help the people of Baltimore. They should take him up on it. Let’s put the same energy into where it will make a difference. 🇺🇸
7:08 AM - 30 Jul 2019

John Walton
2 months 1 week ago

Fr. Conley -- you would be well served to ask why the crime rates per capita in your former Bronx abode are less than Balto. Good policing perhaps? (Bronx is only second worst in NYC).

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