St. Paul warns us in Ephesians 2 of the influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil (for a good overview, read, “Fighting the Un-Holy Trinity: The World, the Flesh and the Devil”, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker). While financial abuses (the world) and sexual abuses (the flesh) are two separate offenses, we often see a correlation between the two.
Financial abuses come in all shapes and sizes. If you’ve given any thought to the issue, the first thing that may come to mind is someone within the church “dipping into the poor box” or grabbing a few dollars out of the collection plate.
But for some, it’s go big or go home.
First, we have the sad tale of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who was apparently dipping pretty hard into the till. The WaPo has published an in-depth review of the abuse – financial and otherwise – from this errant prelate. In one case Bransfield created a charity nominally intended to help the poor in West Virginia (in the words of one witness, “a discretionary fund”) and instructed “a church official” to route money to this fund from church and charity accounts. He then wrote numerous checks from the charity to some of his favorite bishops to curry their favor and “burnish his reputation”. Among these gifts included approximately $30,000 to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, as “gifts” to help him renovate his Rome apartment.
In fact, he sent more than 600 cash gifts to fellow clergy members, none of whom saw a problem with receiving $10,000 or more at a time from this bishop. Archbishop Lori, who was assigned the task of investigating Bransfield’s sexual abuses, acknowledged that he himself had received cash gifts totaling $7,500 from Bransfield. He has now returned that money to the diocese. Apparently, this wasn’t a problem for the archbishop at the time.
As ChurchMilitant reports, Farrell was “widely mocked by Catholics after he told Catholic News Service he had been “shocked” last year on hearing the allegations against McCarrick”. Farrell was also “shocked” at the reports of sexual abuse by Legionnaire’s founder Fr. Marcial Maciel. One might well guess that he is equally “shocked” that a fellow bishop with no source of income aside from his diocesan salary was stealing from the diocese and a charitable hospital in one of the poorest dioceses in the United States.
Bransfield has also been identified by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò as part of the “corrupt gay mafia” plaguing the Vatican.
Bishop Bransfield’s theft (which may have exceed $21 million rerouted from a single entity alone, Wheeling Hospital, in additional to thefts from other sources) is child’s play when it comes to financial abuse on an international scale.
Vatican officials have become implicated in the potential theft and/or misuse of hundreds of millions of euros from Vatican coffers, used in various shady real estate dealings, or simply missing altogether. Some of these officials have already been convicted of theft and laicized. One, Cardinal Decaminada, “had a reputation for leaving the IDI’s offices near the Vatican with shoeboxes full of cash”. No one thought this was a problem until he got caught. As the article reports, any who tried to stem the tide of thefts were dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Closer to home, ChurchMilitant has reported on the alleged embezzlement of million of dollars by Fr. Peter Miqueli, which he used to “fuel” his homosexual lifestyle. and who was allegedly being “coached by” Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York. That Cardinal Dolan knew all about it, and did nothing to stop it, is commonly accepted.
Financial abuses are nothing new. Even the National Catholic Reporter reported in 2011 that it would be “the next big thing”. However, as expected, the gay-friendly Reporter (and gay-friendly priest Richard McBrien, the James Martin of his generation) makes no connection between the financial and the sexual.
Unless and until the bishops step up and clean house, the world, the flesh, and the devil will continue to be the real rulers of “the Church in America”.