Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Sunday, May 17, 2015


 How could the Boston Judge allow only people who did believe in the death penalty sit on the Boston Marathon killer jury and excuse people who were opposed to the death penalty? I suppose Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life appealing this stupid and cruel death penalty.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
& Other Lessons from the Crematory
Caitlin Doughty
2014  W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.

Don’t be afraid of death; it will only kill you. Author Mortician Caitlin Doughty reminds us that most people are afraid of death, of dying, of decomposition and of whatever happens after death. At 21 our author began work in a crematory in Oakland, California. Work was hard to get. She describes how she moved from fear and disgust around dead bodies and her own fear of death to a desire to help people understand death and dying, and accepting the utter reality of death.

Her book is full of stories of pain, disgust, hilarity and sensible ideas for all of us to look death in the face. She urges people to make preparations, make a will, make a burial plan, appoint someone to be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out when you die.

Doughty takes us behind the scenes of the funeral industry, making morticians human and humane, caught up unwillingly in corporate greed and yet caring for the bereaved. She tells of the lives of men and women who remove the dead from homes and hospitals, prepare bodies for embalming, viewing, burial or cremation. She criticizes much that happens in the death industry.

A scholar of death practices, she takes readers to a number of tribal and primitive after-death ceremonies. There is also an extensive bibliography of books related to death, burial customs and grieving.

I think this is a valuable book worth reading by all who plan or do not plan to die. Doctors, nurses, clergy and seminarians will benefit from this book by learning what happens when life ends. Today we leave it up to the funeral industry to make our choices about what happens to our dead bodies. Those choices should be our families’ and ours. Caitlin Doughty calls us to be responsible for our bodies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


End of Life Options

I believe California legislators should enact the End of Life options as soon as possible. The End of life option is a dignified way for people to be in control of their pain and quality of life. We should have the right to end our lives with drugs. This is a loving, caring and rational way to take responsibility for our lives and deaths.

Traditional religious arguments opposed to such legislation are filled with contradictions. The commandment, Thou shalt not kill (or murder) is the basis for many arguments. Proponents say we should not allow people to die with dignity because it violates God’s commandment.

The official Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian positions are against capital punishment. Yet most catholic and protestant Christians approve of capital punishment.

Religious groups are usually against war. Yet they support young men and women when they go into the military and are trained to kill others.

These same groups support paying federal taxes when they know that a huge amount of tax money goes to support war, arms and killing. When we pay our taxes we support killing.

It is sheer hypocrisy to approve of killing others but refuse to let an individual person die with dignity.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nico de Ruig died yesterday. He was a funny, pious and caring man. He was the altar guild, head of the acolytes and parish character. I watched him when he served at the altar. His eyes bled tears at some of the hymns, he choked up and wept openly as the words spoke to him or reminded him of lost friends, his childhood or never to be know secrets or sorrows. Nico was a recovering alcoholic and proudly announced his clean and sober anniversaries at the prayers of the people on the appropriate Sunday.

He was a proud gay man too. He loved to dress up and show off, laugh and gossip, and work hard at the church, St. John’s. He always wore women’s blouses, sometimes, plain, flowered and in a variety of colors, reds, blues, greens and chartreuse. He was brave and bold enough to dress as he pleased. He loved brooches and pins, which glittered and dangled. He wore a ring on every finger, “just as Queen Victoria did.” He told Ann and me that one day when we visited him at the Laguna Honda Hospital Hospice where he died.
I was a bit shocked when I met him when we first came to the church. After a very short time he was just plain Nico. His dress and jewelry was as natural as the light of day and the pink at sunset. He had wispy white hair, a high forehead and ready smile for all.

He lived at the Canon Kip low cost housing building. He was a sailor in the Dutch Merchant Marine. He enjoyed his travels and pleasures of the ports, like a good sailor should. He had a raunchy but restrained sense of humor.

He knew bookkeeping and held that position for a time at St. John’s. He laced his talk with French terms like “enchante.” He was full of surprises and good humor and hard work. Rest in Peace, Nico.


To the Christian Century

Katherine Willis Pershey keeps her marriage vows by sharing with her husband that she is attracted to another man. She worked out her platonic relationship with the cooperation of her husband. (A Long Obedience, January 21, 2014.) When I did pre-marital counseling before performing a wedding, I had a section entitled, How to Stay Faithful. Couples must learn early to be open and honest with each other in all things like sex, money and feelings about the in-laws.

Secrets kill; the more secrets one has in a relationship, the more danger there is to lie and dissemble. I urge the couple to tell each other about their previous sex lives, their fantasies and dreams about people to whom they feel attracted.  When couples start early being open and honest about their lives, a man may be ready to talk to his wife about being attracted to another person. Then they can set boundaries to the platonic relationship and avoid adultery.


Gadgets and Technology
By the Rev. Robert Warren Cromey

The fastest growing group of users of technology is older women, the second fastest is older men. Several of my clergy friends, well into their eighties, regularly use the internet, Facebook, and texting. In my seminary class of 1956, 18 alumni say they have email addresses. There were 50 men (only men) in our class. I hear from five from time to time. I’d love to hear from more.
I have enjoyed my Apple computers since the early 1980s when I was given an old one by a friend. I took one class and was on my own, teaching myself along the way. I thought I could never give up writing my sermons with anything but a yellow legal pad and a felt-tip pen. But I was a complete instant convert. The switch was seamless and even improved my sermons because I could see the words right in front of me and could make instant corrections.
In general, I am not a handy person. Building bookshelves, fine cabinet-making, or even making model airplanes baffled me. Even my typewriter scared me. I could change a light bulb, plug in a lamp, and change a fuse. That was the extent of my mechanical abilities. However, the basics of using a computer came quickly. I have no interest in how it works behind the screen.
At first, writing out my sermons and writing whole letters, printing them out with perfect spelling and grammar was a great accomplishment. I handled all my correspondence. I did not need a secretary for that.
By the late 1980s, email began to become popular. When I retired in 2002, the volume had grown a great deal. Today, clergy tell me they are almost overwhelmed by emails from vestry members, altar guilds, flower guilds, acolytes, the deanery, the diocese, and the national church.
Now there are ways of controlling incoming emails and responses. Texting with short clipped messages has helped. When I questioned my daughter about texting, she said, “Dad, wouldn’t it be nice to text a message to your granddaughter, for example, a word of encouragement when she is about to take an important test?” That did it. I was hooked. With my iPhone, I can text family and friends in just a few words. I’d better keep it short, since my grandchildren seldom read emails and may or may not respond to a text message.
Some have criticized these technological gadgets as making human contacts trivial and impersonal. I find just the opposite. I am in touch with many more people, more regularly than when I depended on the telephone and letters. People from my glorious past have found me online and have resumed long-forgotten relationships. Now they have even deeper meaning. The woman who was maid of honor at the wedding of my late first wife and me found me online and we have had regular correspondence since. I hadn’t heard from her in 50 years.
Facebook is a wonderful way to share our selves, photos, and ideas with others. Pictures of my daughters and grandchildren can be posted regularly for others to appreciate and admire. Posted news of travels lets us tell about our trips and learn from the travel experiences of others. Sometimes I read whole sermons posted on Facebook.
When I get a photo from a seminary classmate, his spouse, or a family member, it reminds me to say a brief “arrow” prayer of thanksgiving to God for those persons. Without the picture, I would not have a reminder to pray for them.
Older people may rely on taxis and hired cars to get around. We who live in large cities now find that our cell phones can summon these vehicles to come right to our door. We can even pay by credit card. More doctors and healthcare workers are available by email, saving us long telephone waits and even trips to offices.
As we age, researching online can help us learn about diseases and treatment and also help find the best medical help available. Or we can do research into interesting fields of study. The lectionary is available online. Biblical study, online prayer groups, and counseling services are available on the internet.
I still refer to my computer as my “machine” and my cell phone as a “gadget.” However, I am grateful to these technologies, which so enhance my life as a retired person. They provide entertainment — yes, I watch DVDs on my computer — but even more important, they provide ways of connecting to friends, family, and the world beyond my home.
We who are clergy are pastors and communicators even in retirement. Few of us want to stop connecting to people. Personal contact is a strengthening comfort to others and to ourselves. The Gospel call to “feed my sheep” — though it might sound a bit patronizing now — is still true for most of us. Modern technology — our “gadgets” — offers another way we can feed ourselves and others and continue to participate in our ministry as followers of Jesus, no matter our age.
About the Author
The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey served parishes in New York City and in San Francisco, where he has lived since 1962. He is married, has three grown daughters, and five grandchildren. In retirement he is active in the peace, immigration, and LGBT movements. He serves as a priest volunteer at Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco. His email address is