Saturday, February 21, 2015
Last year (2/22/14) I wrote about Newark Archbishop John J. Myers spending his weekends at his 4,500-square-foot home on 8.2 wooded acres at the end of a private drive in the hills of Hunterdon County, NJ. At that time he was building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his $800,000 home, with property taxes of $18,695. He really needed the extra room for a 28-foot by 28-foot gallery and a "wellness room" with a hot tub and a 14-foot by 7-foot Endless Pool. This is where he will retire. Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, admitted that money for the addition will come from the sale of other church-owned properties – like churches and schools and from donor contributions.
At that time a parishioner, Joan Rubino, was furious when told about the work on the home. Rubino, who who regularly contributed to the archbishops’ appeal for funds — called Myers a "hypocrite." She said, "To ask people to make sacrifices and then to live in a sumptuous residence, it makes me very annoyed. Isn’t there a better use for this money? In plain English, I feel like people are getting screwed."
This year, more parishioners were angered by revelations that the archdiocese was spending $500,000 for renovations adding to an already big expense. The parishioners pledged to keep withholding donations to the annual appeal in protest and demanded that the archdiocese sell Myers’ now 7,000-square-foot house. They want to know how their donated funds are spent. The archdiocese confirmed that contributions dipped last year compared with the year before. Good job! The faithful are finally waking up.
So the Archdiocese of Newark has changed the name of its main fundraising drive. Instead of the Archbishops’ Appeal it has been renamed “Sharing God’s Blessings Appeal” – although Myers doesn’t seem to be sharing his blessings with anyone. One pastor said that many priests think that parishioner discontent with Myers and his retirement home would affect their fundraising – they might not meet their quota.
Goodness denied that parishioner dissatisfaction with spending on the house played a role in renaming the fundraiser. (With a name like that he must be honest). “It’s really an appeal by the church for the people of the church. I wouldn’t call it a re-branding, but re-accentuating the purpose of the appeal,” said Goodness.
Other dioceses are also putting distance between fundraising drives and church hierarchy. The Diocese of Trenton changed the name of its bishop’s appeal this year to the Catholic Appeal because they did not want people to think that the fund was only for use by the bishop. Richard Arnhols, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Bergenfield, said about a half-dozen families withheld donations last year over concerns about Myers’ retirement home. Back in 2003, the Boston Archdiocese changed the name of its annual fundraiser after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned because of his ties to the nationwide clergy sex abuse scandal.
Goodness now says that they will be transparent about what they do with donations: Half of what is collected will be used for” immediate parish needs” – I wonder if that includes fees to lawyers and payments to victims of pedophile priests. The balance he says will be invested in long-term endowments for retired priests, tuition assistance at Catholic schools, training for seminarians and retraining for parish staff. Not anything for parishioners in need or good works? Let’s hope that all parishioners realize that their intended kindness is funding greedy church employees’ rich lifestyles.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Catholic Archbishops/Cardinals defy Pope Francis and live like kings: Catholic Nun says: “scandalous”
Ten archbishops in U.S. major cities live in homes worth more than $1 million – a lot more. CNN had a hard time finding out what the homes cost because most of them are tax-exempt. There are also hundreds of retired and active Catholic bishops in smaller cities – some of them live as well and all of them better than those of us who have to pay property taxes and meet mortgage payments.
I wrote last year about how Newark parishioners pay for Archbishop John Meyer’s luxury retirement home (2/22/14 post) but there are others with more lavish lifestyles. It’s not just in the U.S. either: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – known as "The Bishop of Bling" was fired by Francis after spending $43 million to remodel his luxurious home – but we won’t know about others outside the U.S. until the media uncovers the statistics.
Pope Francis' modest sitting room in the Vatican guesthouse where he lives
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York tops the list with this 15,000-sq.-ft. neo-Gothic mansion (see photo above) estimated at least $30 million. Situated on New York’s pricy Madison Avenue, it is filled with thick red carpets and priceless antiques. Dolan lives there with three other priests.
Chicago's Cardinal Francis George lives in a $14.3 million mansion with 19 chimneys located on 1.7 acres of prime real estate in Chicago's ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood. George’s private quarters are on the top two floors and he shares the residence with two bishops and a priest. Three nuns take care of the cardinal and his mansion (is this their calling?) – the nuns live in a 5,800-square-foot nearby coach house.
Cardinal Francis Georges' mansion costs $14.3 - does that include the coach house?
Cardinals Dolan and Georges' excuses for living this way are that they need offices and room for guests and a place to hold fundraisers (to get money to support their lifestyles?). Why can’t the homes or money from their sale be donated to the poor – maybe the guests should be the homeless and money should go to abused children.
Where else do our donations go? In addition to the cost of these royal residences, there are live-in assistants, housekeepers, gardeners, chauffeurs and cooks to pay. Is this lifestyle necessary in order for these “men of God” to help the poor, feed the hungry, repair the damage done to abused children?
Here are some other archbishops living “high on the hog”:
Archbishop Thomas Wenski: Miami, 5,350-sq.-ft. six-bedroom, six-bath house, over $1.38 million -- lives with his secretary, a priest, and has a tiki hut and pool in the backyard overlooking Biscayne Bay.
Does Archbishop Wenski need to pray in a tiki hut?
Archbishop Robert Carlson: St. Louis, MO, 11,000-sq.-ft. castle-like mansion, worth $1.4 million, shared with his priest-secretary. Two nuns live on the property and cook and clean – what a great way to save money – free maids! Carlson also has a house in Estero, Florida worth $327,500 – a winter retreat?
Archbishop Carlson doesn't waste our donations -- the nuns cook and clean his castle
Archbishop William Lori: Baltimore, MD, 11,500-square-foot building, worth about $1.24 million, lives with his priest-secretary and the rector of the Baltimore Basilica.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller: San Antonio, lives in a 5,000-sq.-ft. home, worth $1.1 million which includes a courtyard, a private chapel, a fireplace and a wet bar (for Communion wine?).
Archbishop Jose Gomez: Los Angeles, 26,000 sq. ft. rectory, worth $7 million, living with six priests.
The list goes on. There are no plans for moving any of these archbishops or other clergy out of their luxury accommodations. We keep supporting them so why should they worry?
Sister Sally Butler is a Catholic nun who ministers in Brooklyn, NY housing projects and has clashed with bishops over their response to the church's sexual abuse scandal. She says that Catholics are a generous lot, but expect their donations to pay for missions like feeding the poor, training priests and educating students, “not keeping up multimillion-dollar estates”, she said according to a NY Times article. "It's scandalous!" said Butler, 83.
This misuse of funds --often from people who can’t afford it but want to do good works -- is truly scandalous. When will the catholic church stop lying to us? Add financial abuse to physical, emotional and sexual abuse that criminals in the church use against those of us who trusted them. Don’t believe all the talk about great reforms in the church – it’s still business as usual.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Sorry – or sorry for getting caught?
After being accused worldwide, now the Holy See’s prosecutor general admits that two cases of child pornography possession were discovered within the walls of the Vatican last year, along with many other crimes according to an article in The Guardian.
Gian Piero Milano, the Holy See’s Promoter of Justice, said the Vatican was now taking action against pedophilia in the heart of the Catholic church. So they wait until they are caught or exposed before they announce “action” – mostly the action consists of forming new committees to investigate the issue – as if it is something new!
Of course, Milano did not say who possessed child pornography although he had that information. One pedophile was identified: former archbishop Josef Wesolowski, who is facing charges. Wesolowski made headlines last year after he was accused of sexually abusing young boys when he was the Pope’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He is under house arrest while awaiting trial at the Vatican, -- the first sex abuse trial ever held there. Why is it taking so long? Why don’t the Italian or Dominican police have him locked up? What about all the known clergy sex abusers not on trial? Remember, the catholic church has been policing itself for 2,000 years and it hasn’t had any effect on the crimes they commit.
The Vatican is doing spin control since their other crimes are being exposed: drug trafficking and money laundering. According to the Guardian, three drug deliveries from South America addressed to the Vatican were intercepted last year, including a packet containing cocaine-filled condoms worth $46,000 U.S. The drugs were discovered at Germany’s Leipzig airport and sent to the Vatican in the hope of catching the buyer. No one came claimed the package and German investigators believe the recipient was tipped off about it. So our donations are buying drugs for vatican criminals.
I wrote about the banking scandals in detail my book (Smothered): 2010: Christian Science Monitor investigates Vatican money laundering. American archbishop and bank head Paul Marcinkus was an accessory to fraudulent bankruptcy following the disappearance of $1.3 billion in loans that were supposed to be given to institutions in South America. Is this how the vatican is helping the poor in other countries? They refuse to open their accounting books to anyone so who knows where the money (and our money) goes. The vatican, “surprised” by the investigation, plead innocent as they always do when they get caught committing a crime. Italian investigators froze 23 million euros ($33 million) in funds after finding odd and less than legitimate vatican financial practices. The vatican bankers were “unable to respond” to a series of requests about questionable money transfers of $1.5 billion from accounts in a short period of time.
The Vatican bank has a history and culture as a criminal enterprise. In 1969, lawyer, banker and Mafia don Michele “The Shark” Sindona ran the bank for his old friend pope Paul VI. Sindona used the bank to launder the Gambino Mafia family’s profits from heroin trafficking. By the late 1970s Sindona and his banks were the subject of investigations by Italian judges, prosecutors and politicians, several of whom were murdered. In 1986 Sindona, serving a 25-year sentence for murder, was poisoned in his cell by cyanide in his coffee.
Does this sound like an organization that you can trust with your money and your children?
Friday, January 30, 2015
Pope Francis said last week that he will make the 18th-century Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra, a saint. Making him a saint would honor this brutal colonizer and many Native Americans protest. Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, compared Serra to Hitler. Andrade, a Luiseño, said Serra “decimated 90% of the Indian population.” More than 90% of the children born in the missions died before the age of ten: expectancy for the children was 7.4 years for the seven Baja California missions, and 4.5 years for 20 Alta California establishments.”
“Everywhere they put a mission the majority of Indians are gone,” Andrade said, “and Serra knew what they were doing: they were taking the land, taking the crops, he knew the soldiers were raping women, and he turned his head.” Sounds like the bishops today who cover up for priests that rape children.
Serra wrote: "That spiritual fathers, the priests should be able to punish their sons, the Indians with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of (the Americas)."
Native Americans were made to convert and live in restricted communities totally different from their lives of hunting and foraging. They were whipped for disobedience, captured if they tried to flee, and raped by soldiers. The missions were run like slave plantations and the people were treated like children -- and we have seen how the Catholic Church treats children – the way they treated me.
Steven Newcomb writing for IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com says the Catholic Church’s policy of domination was created by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 who said that non-Christian “barbarous nations” should become Christian. He said the “mission” of the church was to dominate the land belonging to Native nations throughout “the Americas.” By granting sainthood to Serra, Pope Francis is approving of genocide. “It is a cruel irony that Pope Francis will finalize his canonization of Father Serra during the World Meeting of Families, in “the city of Brotherly love,” in the territory of our Lenape Nation,” said Newcomb, of Shawnee and Lenape Native American descent.
Is it coincidence that Adolf Hitler got his ideas about how to run a concentration camp (like Auschwitz) from what was done to Native Americans? According to the Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer John Toland, Hitler was inspired in part by the Indian reservation system. Is it another coincidence that Hitler also said, “There has never been anything more grandiose on the earth than the hierarchical organization of the Catholic Church. I transferred much of this organization into my own party.” As I reported in my book “Smothered” that Hitler was supported by the Catholic Church and that was how he was able to fool so many people and commit genocide. So now we have Pope Francis from a church with a history of supporting mass murderers bestowing sainthood on an enabler of genocide. He isn’t the first pope to make a saint out of a sinner.
Monday, January 19, 2015
There is a theater company in Berlin, MA – that wants us to think. They say that “too many risky and complex theatrical productions are kept from the public”. They want audiences to analyze, question, and discuss the messages and meanings of their plays. The Flyleaf Theater Company chose the play “Doubt, A Parable”, by John Patrick Shanley. The play won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play and became the 2008 film “Doubt” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep.
This production of the play, directed by Mariagrazia LaFauci, takes a hard look at the complex, dark, and troubling moral dilemmas faced by the people of the fictional St. Nicholas Elementary School in the Bronx in 1964. Sister Aloysius, the school principal, suspects the parish priest, Father Flynn of sexually molesting the school’s only African-American student, Donald Muller. Is the priest guilty without a doubt? The play makes us think and examine our own beliefs about the conduct of clergy who are trusted with the lives of children.
What makes this Flyleaf production unique is that they invited members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), including me, and other survivors who were sexually abused by priests to come and talk to the actors. They wanted to understand the reality of how it feels to be abused by those who vowed to protect us. They helped us by caring and we believe the insight they gained will make their production of Doubt a better play.
The theater was filled and the play was a success. There were people of all ages and the play made a lot of people think about the issue of pedophile priests who can get access to our children. The director, Mariagrazia LaFauci put together a group of good actors, eye catching sets and lighting and an obvious awareness of the reality of the issue to create an image that will stay with the audience. The play was better than the movie and I think that is because the movie director didn’t talk to real survivors. It was so great when the Executive Director of Flyleaf, J. Parker Eldridge, announced that part of the proceeds from the play will be donated to The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Considering that Flyleaf is a non-profit organization what they have done is even more extraordinary. They are a great group of professional, dedicated and caring people – thank you all.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
youngsters, who can be kept in the centers for months, are exposed to abuse and
exploitation by older children and adults|
|Angel, a 13 year old little girl clad only in a flimsy dress, was chained to a post in the detention center and left there crying|
When the pope and other heads of state visit other countries what is the purpose of their visits? Do they just want publicity for themselves? Do they want to make speeches and hear crowds cheering for them? Do they actually help the countries they visit? Not economically: For the pope’s visit to the Philippines that started today, the expenses are tremendous: Over 25,000 police and thousands of soldiers must provide security. Helicopter gunships circle overhead. Streets must be cleaned – of dirt and of children who live under the road bridges where the Pope will travel.
Hundreds of boys and girls in Manila -- Street children as young as five are caged in detention centers with adult criminals who sexually abuse them according to an investigation by MailOnline, a British news service. Some have been starved and chained to pillars in the centers. A senior official admitted there had been an intensive round-up by police and government workers to make sure the children are not seen by Pope Francis.
The pope is going to visit with young people – but not the children locked up in cells. He can wash the feet of inmates as a photo op, but does he really care? These practices of locking up children have gone on for a long time in Manila – there are 17 detention centers across the city, where an estimated 20,000 children a year are detained for no obvious reason other than begging for food. The same thing was done when Obama visited. According to Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila, 'It happened before President Obama's visit to the Philippines in April last year. When we tried to have them released we were told they couldn't come out until after Obama had gone.” So this is not a new practice, it hurts thousands of children and it is unlikely that heads of state have no knowledge of it.
Pope Francis said that a priority of his visit would be to send a message to the poor who face "social, spiritual and existential" injustices. What good is a message? Does it help the poor? The Filipino President Aquino also wants to eradicate poverty: he would like to see fewer children born into poverty but the local Roman Catholic Church is fighting to overturn a 2012 reproductive health law that promotes artificial birth control. The church is not taking care of these children, the government allows such practices to continue – the children are invisible. So these children will continue to live in the streets while popes and presidents parade by waving and smiling – bread and circuses but not for these children.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
What is Pope Francis doing meddling in U.S.-Cuban relationships? I can see why the U.S. wants to re-open interactions with Cuba – so it can sell them U.S. goods and open banks and businesses there. Maybe Obama would like a more friendly neighbor 90 miles away from Florida.
What’s in it for the pope? Francis is so “happy to see two peoples take a step to move closer after being distant for so many years”. About half of Cuban citizens are catholic – so does he want to convert the other half? Does Francis want more access to the pockets of the faithful in Cuba? Even though most Cubans are poor, the church will take their money. The catholic church has been trying to regain a foothold in Cuba for many years – the two previous popes were working at it.
Some people think that Francis is just looking for more headlines. One ex-political prisoner from Cuba, Arturo Suarez-Ramos, a 50-year-old Miami waiter who was jailed in Cuba for 27 years said, “He's trying to get a legacy at any price.”
Francis has changed his attitude about Cuba – most likely to fit a new agenda. Now that he sees that the U.S. can help him get his foot in the door, he has nothing but praises for Cuba. In 1998 Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) wrote a booklet on his views on Cuban society. Bergoglio harshly criticized socialism (communism) and Castro's atheist revolution.
Conservative journalists from The American Spectator say happy communists are calling the alliance “a new holy trinity: Fidel Castro, Barack Obama, and Pope Francis.” Paul Kengor, Spectator journalist says, “When communists are celebrating America’s position on Cuba… that is not comforting.” So the American communists like Obama and they like the pope. Both Obama and Castro thanked the Pope for his help in promoting this (un)holy alliance. The only thing that might derail this three way alliance is the fact that the new Republican-controlled U.S. Congress takes office in January. They will try to reverse or block diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American said Cuban democracy activists "feel betrayed" by Obama. "He completely ignored them and threw them to the side in this whole process," Rubio said. "My opposition to what the President has done is it won't do anything to further that cause (of democratization), Rubio said on NBC's "Meet the Press." So many Cuban Americans don’t want the U.S. to be friendly with the Castro regime – that’s why they left Cuba – to get away from communism. Does the pope care about them or is he just looking out for church interests as usual?
This topic, gets Francis into the spotlight and catches the attention of the news media and the public. It distracts everyone from the most important issue: Why isn’t Francis devoting any time to fixing the damage the church has already done to millions of children? In his Christmas message we hear him talk about child abuse and trafficking going on in other countries now – but nothing about what the church did to children for the last 2,000 years – nothing about helping the millions of victims suffering every day. Of course the criminal catholic church does not want to acknowledge the rampant child abuse and cover-up of rapist priests – practices that still go on. Catholics confess their sins. Where is your confession Pope Francis? Are you following your own agenda and not acting like a true catholic? What do you want with Cuba? Do you want access to Cuban children? Given his track record* and that of the catholic church if I was a Cuban I would shut the door in his face.
*Conveniently for the U.S. Government and for the catholic church, no one talks about Operation Peter Pan run by a Miami priest, Bryan O. Walsh. In 1960-62 over 14,000 Cuban children were taken from their parents and sent alone to the United States. More than half of them never again saw their families. This was part of a U.S. propaganda plan to frighten Cuban parents by saying that Fidel Castro would send them to Russia. A film was even made, approved by then attorney general Robert F. Kennedy as part of this U.S. anti-communist campaign.
According to María de los Ángeles Torres, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, one of the many children (known as Pedro Pans) who were exiled to the U.S., the Catholic church helped convince the parents to give up their children. Some of the children went to catholic orphanages where they suffered indescribable abuse. Others were given up for adoption with U.S. families.
One displaced Cuban says, “my parents were terrified and put me on a plane headed for the United States to save me from communism and the panic that had been sown. I lived among mistreated, abused and abandoned children.” Alex was sent to a camp, along with many other children. After protesting over sexual abuse by the priests there, a social worker promised to send him to a boarding house in Ohio. Instead, he was relocated to an orphanage to silence him. I know personally what happens to children left in catholic orphanages.
This abuse of helpless children was repeated during Argentina’s Dirty War, (1976-1981) when members of the Catholic Church including Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) conspired with the brutal military dictatorship led by General Jorge Rafael Videla. Church members took away the young children and babies of leftist prisoners and found them “more suitable” parents. (see this blog March 9,2014 for details on Pope Francis and the Dirty War).
Cuba doesn’t need the catholic church - it has won accolades for its treatment of children. “In Cuba, there are no children on the streets, no children out of school, no children without access to health services or culture, and there are no unprotected children without opportunities for development,” said Jose Juan Ortiz, UNICEF representative in Cuba. Pope Francis should stay out of politics – he doesn’t pay taxes and shouldn’t have any say in U.S. government actions. He should stay away from children and stop lying about what he does with donations from parishioners. Cuba does not need another hierarchy and dictator especially one that commits crimes in the name of God.