Bling Bishop’ a classic case of Vatican’s ‘Ironic Employment Division’

John L. Allen Jr. Crux Now

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. (Credit: Michael Probst/AP.)

ROME – In “The Simpsons,” the annual Halloween episodes are known for their spoofs of the supernatural. Back in 1993, one of my favorites featured a vision of Hell, where the legendarily donut-loving Homer has been assigned to the “Ironic Punishment Division.” He’s tethered to a chair as a machine force-feeds him pastry after pastry.
(Homer appears delighted, mumbling “more please!” after each mouthful, leading a frustrated demon to say: “I don’t understand it … James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!”)
I thought of that episode this week, speaking to a visiting clergyman who was astonished to discover that German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst – better known to the world as the “Bling Bishop,” whose exuberant spending in the Diocese of Limburg in 2013 caused such a furor that he was granted a “sabbatical” by the newly-elected Pope Francis – is actually now a Vatican official.
My cleric friend recently attended a meeting in the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, where Tebartz-van-Elst led the discussion. He said he spent a few minutes trying to figure out where he’d heard the name before, until realization dawned: “My God, he’s the bishop of bling!”
Welcome to the “Ironic Employment Division” in Pope Francis’s Vatican.
In case memories have dimmed, Francis was compelled to remove Tebartz-van-Elst in October 2013 due to public backlash against his spending an estimated $42 million on remodeling his diocesan center and residence, including $1.1 million for garden landscaping and even $22,000 for a bathtub.
Originally, the Vatican said the Bling Bishop was being granted a temporary sabbatical outside the diocese. That “temporary” measure became permanent in March 2014, at a time when the Vatican was trying to negotiate an agreement under which Tebartz-van Elst would not be sued by the Limburg diocese in an effort to recoup its losses over the construction projects.
The question then became what to do with him since Tebartz-van-Elst was only 54 at the time of his exile, a full two decades short of the usual retirement age for Catholic bishops of 75.
In the end, Tebartz-van-Elst was brought to Rome and given a new gig as a “delegate for catechesis” in the Council for New Evangelization. Although his appointment is a matter of public record – it’s even on his Wikipedia page – the Vatican understandably made no effort to broadcast it, leaving even seasoned clergy a bit surprised to see him today taking charge of Roman meetings.
Given that the main complaint against Tebartz-van-Elst in Limburg was that his regal spending habits were “unevangelical,” at odds with the witness of Jesus in the Gospels (not to mention Francis in the papacy) and thereby driving people away from the faith, many observers would likely find his present assignment as a top Vatican official for evangelization not just a little bit jarring.
In reality, however, no one probably should be surprised. There’s a long tradition of clerics in disgrace in their homelands ending up in Rome, but in the Francis era they sometimes wind up in jobs that almost seem a private papal satire.
Most famously, there’s the case of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta of Argentina, who resigned his post heading the Diocese of Oran in August 2017 amid accusations of abuse of power and “strange behavior” (charges of sexual abuse of adult seminarians came later). The rap sheet against Zanchetta also features charges of financial misconduct, including selling a building belonging to the diocese for $800,000 without going through the proper channels and leaving the transaction off the diocesan books.

Despite that, Francis in 2017 not only brought Zanchetta to Rome but named him Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the Vatican’s financial powerhouse which oversees both the Holy See’s investment portfolio and its real estate holdings in Italy and around the world.
Once again, it’s hard to imagine a Vatican gig (other, perhaps, than with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors) that would seem more ironic given the baggage Zanchetta carried.
Another fitting for-instance is Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, who was forced to resign as the Vatican’s communications czar in March 2018 after attempting to pass off a doctored letter by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as the real thing and getting caught. For presiding over such a PR fiasco, Francis moved Viganò to a different post – not as prefect of the Dicastery for Communications but its “assessor,” meaning to this day he’s still in a position to shape the communications operation.
Further back in time, there’s Monsignor Mario Salvatore Battista Ricca, who was confirmed by Francis as prelate of the Vatican Bank in 2013 despite revelations in the Italian media that during his previous service as a papal diplomat in Uruguay, he’d been involved in a couple of scandalous situations involving homosexual activity – one in which Battista Ricca was apparently beaten up after leaving a gay bar, and another in which he was trapped in an elevator at the papal embassy in Montevideo with a young man and had to be rescued by the fire department.
Despite that, Francis confirmed Battista Ricca in a sensitive post at an institution which, at the time, was also trying to shake off a well-earned reputation for scandal.
Of course, Francis presumably knows more about these situations than any of the rest of us, and he may well have perfectly valid reasons for appointing or confirming such officials to the posts they currently hold.
However, it’s hard not to wish there was a “Simpsons” for the Vatican – because, let’s face it, the Bling Bishop in charge of evangelization probably would be the basis for one hell of a Halloween episode.


So it seems that the Vatican is run on the basis of Simsonology?

If you are good they hate you. If you are bad they promote you.

So let’s apply Vatican Simsonology to Ireland:

Father Brendan Smyth to be appoint Catholic National Safeguarding Officer.

Bishop Phonsie of Waterford to head the Smile Project.

Bishop Noel 4 Million Treanor to be appointed as Director of the Church Effort to limit Diocesan Spending.

Bishop Tom Dennihan to be appointed as chair – Seminaries Chastity Commission.

Deacon Gorgeous to be Dublin Diocesan Vicar for the promotion of Celibacy.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to be honourary canon Florence Cathedral.

Bishop Kevin Doran to be chair of Catholic Downs Syndrome and LGBT Outreach.

Archbishop Amy Martin to be chair of the Coyle and McCamley Trust. 

Father Brian Darcy to be Pro Abbot of the Carthusian English Province.

Father Timothy Bartlett to be live in chaplain Dublin Homeless Community.

Mr. Ted McCarrick to be manager of the newly erected Dublin Boys Town.

Any other suggested appointments from Blog readers……………………….???








The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.” (Denis Diderot, Political Writings)

Recently the father of a young family said to me: “When I meet a priest for the first time I presume he is a bad one until he proves he is not”.

A lot of people think like that nowadays and who can blame them. In recent decades so many priests and bishops have proven themselves to be liars, rapists, rampant homosexuals, thieves and betrayers.

As that young father again said me to “If a priest is capable of raping a child, he is capable of absolutely anything”


A good priest is

A priest who truly believes in God and prays everyday.

A priest who makes himself freely available to all – but especially to those in any kind of trouble or distress.

A priest who lives his life by the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

A priest with a very healthy aversion to Canon Law and man made teachings.

A priest with a very healthy suspicion of the RC hierarchy and establishment.

A priest who has respect for important rules and also the ability to bend or break rules when human need and suffering is at stake.

A priest who is not living a double life and not practising things he preaches about as wrong or sinful.

A priest who is not a member of a cynical clerical clique.

A priest who can say both YES and NO to authority.

A priest who prefers to work in a challenging parish and not in an office.

A priest whose life’s motivation is not sex or money or power or praise.

A priest who regards his people as his masters and himself as their servant.

A priest who can smile and laugh – especially at himself.

A priest who has his own narcissism and ego on a short leash.

A priest who works 6 days and takes 1 day off rather than working 1 day and taking 6 off.

A priest who can tell his bishop the truth and not just what he wants to hear.

I invite readers to add my list………………………


Beside the chapel three boys were playing football.

At the forge door an old man was leaning Viewing a hunter-hoe.

A man could hear If he listened to the breeze the fall of wings

How wistfully the sin-birds come home!

It was Confession Saturday, the first Saturday in May; the May Devotions

Were spread like leaves to quieten The excited armies of conscience.

The knife of penance fell so like a blade Of grass that no one was afraid.

Father Mat came slowly walking, stopping to Stare through gaps at ancient Ireland sweeping

In again with all its unbaptized beauty:

The calm evening, The whitethorn blossoms,

The smell from ditches that were not Christian.

The dancer that dances in the hearts of men cried: Look! I have shown this to you before

The rags of living surprised, The joy in things you cannot forget. His heavy hat was square upon his head, Like a Christian Brother’s;

His eyes were an old man’s watery eyes

Out of his flat nose grew spiky hairs.

He was a part of the place, Natural as a round stone in a grass field;

He could walk through a cattle fair And the people would only notice his odd spirit there.

His curate passed on a bicycle – He had the haughty intellectual look Of the man who never reads in brook or book;

A man designed To wear a mitre,

To sit on committees

For will grows strongest in the emptiest mind.

The old priest saw him pass And, seeing, saw Himself a medieval ghost

Ahead of him went Power

One who was not afraid when the sun opened a flower,

Who was never astonished At a stick carried down a stream

Or at the undying difference in the corner of a field. II The Holy Ghost descends At random like the muse On wise man and fool





Obviously the bigot thinks that I should only help Catholics, Nationalists and Republicans who suffer injustices.

He probably thinks that Protestants and Unionists deserve every injustice they get?

As MMM very ably  pointed out that this is part of the problem of “them and us” in Northern Ireland.

Just as there is no difference between Catholic and Protestant tears and blood  – there is no difference between a Catholic and a Protestant injustice.

Injustice is injustice! Period!

As a regiment I regard the general behaviour of the UDR as despicable. They tortured my parishioners in Kilkeel in County Down and I fought with them everyday. Daly moved me from Kilkeel to Larne as a punishment for fighting with the UDR on behalf of my parishioners, especially the young ones.

The UDR did plenty of injustices to the Catholic and National community. Shame on them for that.

But does that mean that we should delight in an injustice done to an individual man? Of course not. Two wrong never make a right.

The UDR man I have tried to help was called Neil Latimer. With three other UDR men he was found guilty of the murder on Adrian Carroll RIP.


The convictions of the other three have already been overturned by theappeal court.

Latimer’s conviction was not as a result of a lady called Witness A who claimed in a police statement that she saw him at the murder scene.

However I went to Witness A’s home and had a lengthy conversation with her about her statement.

He told me she made the statement under duress from the police who threatened to arrest and imprison her son.

She also told me she went to Father Denis Faul to tell him that she wished to withdraw her statement but Father Faul convinced her not to!!!

She told me she knew Neil Latimer for a long time, liked him, and was convinced he was incapable of murder.

Early Day Motion (House of Commons) Wikipedia
On 21 October 1992 Peter Robinson moved an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom that said:
That this House urges the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to consider a further referral to the Court of Appeal of the case of Neil Latimer; acknowledges that the recent judgement in the UDR 4 case relied heavily upon the evidence of witness A in refusing Neil Latimer’s release; is now deeply concerned about the safety of that judgement in light of an affidavit signed by a Roman Catholic priest, Pat Buckley, alleging he met the women known as witness A who informed him she was not certain that Neil Latimer was the man she saw in Lonsdale Street in November 1983 and that she believed Neil Latimer is an innocent man; and seeks an investigation into claims, in the same affidavit, that witness A, her family and friends have received favours from the police in exchange for witness A not retracting her statement.

So, in my opinion Neil Latimer has experienced a very serious in justice – an injustice that must be put right.

Having studied Irish Studies to master’s level in Queen’s University I am well aware of the horrific injustices suffered by the Catholic/Nationalist community in Northern Ireland at the hands of Unionists, Unionist politicians, the RUC the B SPECIALS etc.

For God sake I saw it happening before my very eyes from 1978 to 1983 when I worked on the Falls Road. During those years I tackled the police and army on a daily basi

I also saw it as I ministered to the Hunger Strikers as they died in prison.

The Catholic/Nationalist community also suffered severe discrimination in housing and unemployment.

But Protestants and Unionists suffering injustices does nothing to help what we suffered.

When ONE suffers an injustice WE ALL suffer injustice.

The ignoramus from West Belfast is a small narrow minded little creature who does not have the intelligence to rise above his brainwashing and hatred.

Its people like him/her who diminish us all.

They want to keep us living in hatred and strife – hating the British but eager to get to the dole office every week to collect the Queen’s shilling. 





 Actor and Director including “Top Gun” and “ER”.
 Sexually Abused by Director Gary Goddard over 40 years ago.
 An Essay Written By Anthony: “Yes Mom, There Is Something Wrong: From Victim To Survivor”

 The man that the movie “Antwone Fischer” was based on.
 From Cleveland, OH.
 Abused in foster care during his 12 years in the system. Not only sexually, but also physically and verbally abused.
 Born in a women’s prison where his mom was incarcerated.
 His father was murdered before he was born.
 Antwone’s speech to the senate about the severe issues with Foster Care
 Guns N Roses singer.
 Kidnapped and raped by his father at 2 years old.
 Raped by his stepfather.
 His siblings were also raped by his stepfather.
 A rough, religious upbringing


 British Comedian.
 Sexually abused by his father.
 He finally came out first to his wife, who trained as a psychologist, in 1989 after his father died.
 A very difficult childhood
 Abused from 10 – 12 years old.
 A man from Vermont lured him to the USA to abuse him by promising gifts and toys.

 Singer for Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots.
 Abused by an older male friend when he was 7.
 The irony was, his father was a detective in the sex crimes division in Phoenix, AZ.
 Sadly Ended His Life on July 20, 2017

 Lost his virginity at 8 to his teenage babysitter (about 14 or 15).
 Still a form of sexual abuse.

 “Pursuit of Happyness” was based on his story.
 He is an Entrepreneur, Author, Philanthropist, and single parent.
 An Amazing Journey

 The actual Clyde of Bonnie & Clyde.
 Raped in his first prison stint.
 Killed his attacker with a pipe.

License To Drive / The Lost Boys
 Both abused by men in Hollywood.
 Corey Feldman claims he was molested, while his friend Corey Haim says it was all out rape beginning at age 11.
 They claim they were passed around by older men in the industry as well as other young actors. It was widely known, but nothing was ever done.
 Haim died in 2010 at 38 years old of a drug overdose after 15 rehab stints.
 A sad and dark side of Hollywood

 Played Antwone Fisher.
 Was abused himself as a child.
 One of the mothers of his children sexually abused him.
 Suffered severe abuse as a child.

 CNN Host.
 Revealed his abuse on his national show while discussing the abuse suffered at the hands of Bishop Eddie Long.
 He abused began at 5 years old.

 Star of The Drew Carey Show, Host of The Price is Right, as well as a number of other shows.
 From Cleveland.
 Raped by an extended family member.

 Lead Singer of Black Flag and The Rollins Band.
 Also appeared in a few shows and movies.
 Molested by Mom’s Boyfriend at 7 years old after being beaten by him.
 At 10 years old, he was abused by a truck driver.
 Also, sexually abused by his stepbrother.

 Sexually abused by his minister starting at 11, not long after his mother passed away.
 Elizabeth Taylor, a close friend to him, was the person who eventually told of his abuse.

 Frontman for Korn.
 Abused by a family friend, but his parents didn’t believe him.
 Made a song called “Daddy” which is about sexual abuse, but makes it clear it is not about his own father, but the family friend.
 A lot of his music is about his traumatic upbringing, including the torture from his stepmother.
 Amazing That Someone Could Survive This Childhood
 Sexually abused by what would become his stepfather between the ages of 10 and 13.
 The stepfather served only 3 1/2 years of a 9 year sentence.

 Molested by his neighbour.
 Molested by an older friend.
 His grandfather would wear women’s underwear.
 His grandfather’s basement had a den that was an old man’s sex den.
 A troubled life
 Singer, originally of Black Sabbath, as well as an actor.
 Molested by 2 bullies after school almost everyday.
 The first time it happened was in front of his sister.

 One of the most successful R&B singers of this generation.
 At 10 was molested by a women living in the house.
 1 women made him photograph her having sex with her man.

 MLB Pitcher.
 At 8 years old, he was repeatedly raped by a female babysitter.
 There was 1 time a a 17 year old male molested him.

 “Kids Incorporated” – actor / singer.
 Abused at church at the age of 6.
He said that his abuse played a role in his sexuality.
 Made a song for RAINN called “Don’t Touch Me”.
 “Don’t Touch Me” video

 U.S. Senator and Ambassador to New Zealand.
 Sexually abused at 10 by a camp counselor. He threatened to kill Scott and he did not speak about it to anyone until the release of his autobiography in 2011.
 Some people have questioned if he was abused because of 3 main factors: 1) Timing – He came out with this at the time of his book release. 2) Refused to press charges – This is unfair given that many don’t report it, in addition to the fact that it took place 40 years earlier. And 3) The backing of Republican Jeff Perry, who defended an officer while he was sergeant, who was accused of illegal strip searches of a 14 and 16 year old girls.

 Frontman for Stone Temple Pilots.
 Raped at 12 by a high school senior.
 Memoirs in 2011, “Not Dead & Not For Sale” – talks about his abuse.
 Abused by peer

 Bass guitarist and singer for Sex Pistols.
 Raped and assaulted while incarcerated at Rikers Island.
 A tragic and short life


 Hall of Fame Boxer
 Abused by an Olympic Boxing Coach. At first, he was 15 and forced to take a bath with another teenager at a boxing event, while the coach watched from the other side of the room.
 A few years later, the same coach tried to force himself on Sugar Ray in a car and he ran away.
 He found his courage and motivation to come out with this after being touched by Todd Bridges appearance on Oprah.
 Talking about his autobiography

 NHL player.
 Sexually abused by his Junior Hockey Coach, Graham James.
 His abuser was convicted of abusing 2 other players between 1984 and 1995 in 1997. He only received a 3 1/2 year sentence.
 Theo’s understandable struggles
 Sheldon Kennedy, former player of Graham James, was the one who came forward about the abuse while playing in the NHL.
 British Actor in “Pulp Fiction”, as well as numerous other movies.
 He was abused by his grandfather. His own father was also abused by him.
 Directed his first movie in 1999, “The War Zone” about abuse and incest.
 A family of abuse
 Known for his role on “Diff’rent Strokes”.
 Molested by a mentor / his publicist starting at 11.
 His mom was molested as a child.
 He revealed his abuse to the world on the Oprah Show.
 Opening up to Oprah
 Famous actor.
 Raped from 4 – 7 years old.
 At 7, he approached his abuser with his dads gun after the abuser threatened to kil his father.
 Ended up playing a paedophile in 2008 – “Gardens of the Night”. He even wore the same clothes in the movie as his abuser.
 Opening up to The Today Show
 Actor and writer.
 From Cleveland.
 Abused by 4 different adults as a kid, 3 men and the mother of one of his friends.
 Opening up to Oprah


As someone who was sexually abused at 6 I have an insight into how these and others feel.

The abuse disrupted my schooling, my socialising, my health etc.

I only got it sorted out at about age 40.




Martin Kerr, the former sacristan of St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, who has been to prison twice for abusing altar boys and scouts in the Cathedral parish has made a failed attempt to emigrate to Scotland and has returned to Northern Ireland.


Martin Kerr – Senior Altar Boy (Right) serving Mass For Bishop Cahal Daly


In the interests of truth and accuracy it must be pointed out that there are no allegations that Martin Kerr has reoffended since his second time in prison and the landlord has informed me that Mr Kerr says that he completed his time on the Sex Offenders Register in February 2015.

As far as the law in concerned Martin Kerr has paid his debt to society for the wrong he did. Of course that does not mean that his victims of their families can ever forget – much less forgive – the harm he did. We must not lecture them about forgiving and forgetting. The wounds are their wounds. They may never be ready to forgive. And how can they ever forget?

The saddest victim of all was young Paul Carson from the Lower Falls Road in Belfast who sadly took his own life at a very young age because he could not live with his pain. This young man was deprived of happiness, peace of mind and indeed his very life. It was the most awful tragedy.


Paul Carson RIP

After his first stint in prison Martin Kerr asked me to help him. I agreed to help him for two reasons:

1. Hoping that my help and supervision would prevent him ever re-offending and hurting another young person. In other words helping him NOT to reoffend was a very practical form of child protection.

2. I am a priest. It is a priest’s solemn vocation to help everybody – even and especially people that other people regard as outcasts and lepers. Jesus cleansed lepers. In a very real sense people like Martin Kerr are the “lepers” of our day.

How did I help him?

1. I helped him to get a flat in a business area where there were no children, no families and no schools.

2. I became the person who had daily contact with him and watched him on behalf of the police, the social services and the probation services. Part of my role was to attend a regular meeting with the authorities to report to them how he was behaving and living his life.

3. I insisted on Martin Kerr engaging in personal and group counselling and attending therapy sessions provided by the probation services – counselling and therapy that is aimed at making abusers face up to what they did, take full responsibility for their crimes and engaging in a LIFE TIME management plan to ensure that they never reoffended.

Sadly all my efforts, and the efforts of so many others, failed. Martin Kerr reoffended through internet contact with another abuser. That very day I reported him to the police and within an hour he was arrested and was back in prison.

I have not had any contact with him since. He must now be around 55+ years old.

Since he has come out of prison he has moved from location to location – as people have recognised him. He has been threatened by both Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries.

Martin Kerr sponsoring a child for confirmation by Bishop Walsh and watched by Fathers Sean Crummey and Matt Wallace RIP


The discussion on paedophilia and paedophiles invariably ends up in hysteria and anger. This is understandable as most people get very upset about anyone or anything that hurts an innocent young child.

However, surely, there must be room for a rational and Christian approach? I think the following points help:

1. The ABSOLUTE PRIORITY all the time must be the safeguarding and protecting of innocent little children and vulnerable adults.

2. Paedophilia is a most serious crime that calls for substantial sentences and punishment.

3. The victim of this crime must be given the primary gift of being believed. They must be given the full support of everyone involved. They must have every useful type of counselling and therapy made available to them immediately – by a therapist or counsellor of their own choosing.

4. The victim must be generously and voluntarily awarded substantial compensation by all those in a position to offer such compensation.

5. The family of the victim, who will be experiencing their own trauma over the abuse, must also be afforded every possible type of support, therapy and counselling.

The Perpetrators:

1. The abuser should be brought before the courts and be punished with an appropriate sentence and be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

2. While in prison the abuser should have therapy available to him / her in order to come to the realisation of the great harm they have done and their need to manage their sexual desires for life. If the abuser refuses therapy or does not co-operate with therapy he/she should not be considered for parole or release on licence.

3. When the abuser leaves prison he/she should be mandated to continue life management therapy and should be closely supervised by the probation services, the social services and the police in the place where they live.

4. The abuser should only be allowed to live in an area where the possible access to children, schools etc is either non-existent or at a bare minimum.

We need to have an intelligent and rational debate about this very sensitive topic.


The idea that abusers should only be allowed out in the company of a court appointed and fully vetted chaperone is an excellent idea.

These chaperones should have good training and a strict code of conduct. They should be appointed by the courts and assigned to particular abusers by the courts. They should have absolutely no connection to the abuser – where familial, religious, etc.

There should be strict “no go” areas – like schools, youth clubs  and all child/youth facilities.

The abuser and chaperone should not develop a friendship to stop the abuser manipulating the chaperone.

Abusers and chaperones should be welcome in churches after identifying themselves with the church safeguarding person.





JUN 24, 2019 INQ Independent Inquiry Journalism (Australia)

Almost 1900 child sexual abusers have been identified in Australian Catholic churches. The average victim was under 12. What led people to commit such horrible crimes on such a staggering scale?

The hunched old priest walked briskly through the entrance of the Downing Centre court complex, a former grand department store on the fringes of Sydney’s business district. His eyes look down. A sports cap covers his nearly bald head.
Vince Ryan is one of the worst paedophiles in the history of the Australian Catholic Church. He sexually assaulted at least 37 boys. Most of them were primary school students, some as young as nine years old.
Aged 81, and still officially designated as a priest, he has already served 14 years in jail for his crimes. Last month, on a crisp autumn morning, he’s back in court waiting to find out if he will be sent to jail for more offences committed against two former altar boys in the 1970s and ‘90s.
As Ryan walks towards the court’s security cordon, he is followed by a man shouting obscenities. The word “survivor” is tattooed in black on his right arm. He is agitated, gesticulating towards the priest.
This man is Gerard McDonald. In 1974, he was 10 years old when Ryan abused him twice a week for a year, cornering boys in a church vestry and performing oral sex on them. In 1995, McDonald and another survivor were the first of Ryan’s victim to go to police. Although they won their case in 1996, they have never stopped pursuing the priest who defiled their childhood.

* * *
Born an only child in 1938, Ryan was raised in East Maitland on a working-class farming hamlet 40 minutes up the road from Newcastle. His father Joseph, a labourer who drifted between jobs, was a violent alcoholic who beat his submissive wife Ella with his fists. Joseph threatened suicide on a regular basis in order to control Ella. A devout Catholic, she submitted to the blows and never contemplated leaving her husband.
Violence and abuse also stalked the young Vince Ryan outside the home. From the age of eight, he was sexually preyed upon by a boy four years older who lived nearby. The sexual abuse continued until Ryan was 16, and according to his psychology reports, he found some of the interactions pleasurable and didn’t view the relationship as abusive or exploitative. For a boy whose parents never showed him real affection, being sexually abused was a form of social contact. When Ryan showed any affection towards his abuser, the older boy would respond with yet more sexual violence. Ryan has never said a harsh word about his abuser.
Vince Ryan has been receiving counselling, on and off, from a forensic psychologist since 2010. Dr Gerard Webster has treated more than 50 paedophiles, many of them priests and Christian brothers who have spent time in prison. He says the domestic violence Vince Ryan experienced as a boy helped develop his paedophilic tendencies. “I think there is something incredibly damaging and generally disavowed by society when a child, a boy — because most offenders are boys — sees two people that they are emotionally dependent on and love, attacking one another … these young witnesses have been severely affected at the time when they are developing their roadmap for relationships. They’ve got a broken map. They’re taught that any might is right. Anything goes.”

Despite the violence he witnessed at home, Vince Ryan was very close to his alcoholic father. He perceived him as a wounded man. In a subconscious way, he identified with the perpetrator in his house, Webster explained.
“I think there was a culture of acceptance of things that were really unacceptable,” said Webster. “His mother was traumatised, but she accepted it as a good Catholic woman that she had to stay in a relationship with her husband.”
On his formative path towards adulthood, Ryan identified closely with two perpetrators: his father and his abuser. It would become a lethal mix.
* * *
Ryan found himself immersed in a world of young men studying to be priests, isolated from their families for long periods, discouraged from developing any friendships, and where celibacy was the norm. Before he entered the seminary at the age of 19, in 1958, he told a priest in confession that he had desires for young boys. The priest, however, assured him that “if he said his prayers, God would look after him”.

Ryan talked about this period of his life to one of his former altar boys and now journalist David Brearley. “He had a terrible time in the seminary in Springwood,” Brearley recounted, based on a rare interview. “One day a year they would get the mini bus and go to Echo Point in the Blue Mountains and get an ice cream and there would be high spirits and fun. Following one of these trips, Ryan did some night time grappling with a young man in the next bed. The other seminarian confessed the behaviour to a priest the next day and Ryan was asked to meet with the priest, who told him he was now forbidden to have any sort of relationship with the fellow seminarian. They were 19 or 20, and Ryan told Brearley that he wondered whether he could have had a happy relationship with this man, had it been allowed.
For an isolated child growing up in an abusive household, Catholicism provided Ryan with a haven. The church offered him a structure, a world that made sense, a place with a noble purpose.
Students in seminaries in the ‘60s were taught that becoming a priest takes your being through an “ontological change into the divine”. Some offenders interpreted this as giving them more power and entitlement — a “messiah complex,” as canon law expert Kieran Tapsell describes it in Potiphar’s Wife: the Vatican’s secret and child sexual abuse. Others believed it was part of God’s mission to make them better servants of the people.
The big problem with the so-called “ontological difference” between priests and laypersons, argues Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a senior Catholic bishop who has pushed for reform in the church, is that it enthusiastically embraces “the mystique of a superior priesthood”.
“Whenever I see young priests doing this,” he wrote, “I feel a sense of despair, and I wonder whether we have learned anything at all from the revelations of abuse.”
After four years at the Springwood seminary, then one term at the Manly seminary, Ryan travelled to Rome in 1962 to complete a theology degree. He remained there until 1966, studying alongside other prominent figures including Cardinal George Pell. Because the church considered Ryan to be an intellectual, he was enrolled in a doctorate of canon law.
Ryan was highly intelligent and loved Italian culture, art and music. He arrived in Rome as the Vatican was undergoing a reformation resulting from the adoption of Vatican 2 as a type of “glasnost” for the church. Vince Ryan was excited by this transformation. More importantly, he formed some good, wholesome bonds with friends outside the church. It must have been a relief to be free of his past.

In 1972, Ryan was recalled from Rome. After a short stint at a parish in Singleton in north-western NSW, he was sent back to Maitland to become an assistant parish priest. As soon as he got there his mood soured and he started molesting boys.
“He said he was suicidal as a child and now suicidal as an adult again,” said David Brearley. “The only relief was when he was actually together with a young student and it would disappear as soon as the child was gone.” He told Brearley he would go into a deep funk if the child didn’t turn up for the day. “He said he couldn’t relate to adults like he could to children.”
He had left the liberal excitement of Italy to arrive at what he saw as a moribund church, staffed by old men who just didn’t like him. Once again, he felt extremely lonely and, in his 30s, found himself transported back to the rigid world of his childhood, except now there were plenty of altar boys in his charge.
“I never had to threaten anyone not to talk, I never did that,” Ryan told Brearley. “I thought I was in a loving relationship, I know that’s stupid but that is where I was.”
But how could Ryan possibly characterise his interactions with boys as a “loving relationship”? “The word ‘love’ is not supposed to be used,” he told Brearley, “but … this connection between you and your victim is the thing that is stopping you from committing suicide, who is giving you some life, some humanity, some human touch and not just the sexual stuff …”. In his mind, he formed relationships with these boys; he felt he loved them and he viewed himself as their caregiver.
But he was also their predator. As one victim described in his police statement, Ryan had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Before abusing the boys, Ryan would remove his glasses. The altar boys came to dread this simple action, a signal that another attack was imminent. For the victims, it marked the moment Ryan went from caregiver to monster.
Like all paedophile priests at that time, Ryan had papal protection. That’s because, in 1974, Pope Paul VI issued a document known as “The Pontifical Secret” or “The Secret of the Holy Office”, which meant any allegation or investigation of sexual abuse against a cleric was kept secret. Any bishop who defied this decree and reported the abuse to civil authorities or police could be ex-communicated.
As revealed in the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, a pervasive culture existed in the church that saw these crimes as moral failings, rather than criminal ones, supported by an assumption that priests could be treated and cured. This culture of secrecy, according to Dr Gerard Webster, created a “potent” setting for this maladjusted behaviour to flourish.
* * *
By 1975, the church knew Ryan had significant problems. He had cried as he informed his immediate superior, Monsignor Patrick Cotter, of his attraction to young boys, according to documents tendered to the royal commission. He was packed off to a retreat facility in Kew, in suburban Melbourne, known as the La Verna Retreat Centre. As Cotter wrote to the treating doctor, Dr Peter Evans, at the time:
“Father Ryan has been my assistant at St Joseph’s Merewether for the past two years. The problem which now brings him under your care became known to me about one year ago. The circumstances that were such that he knew that I was aware of what happened and thinking the embarrassment he suffered from knowing — so knowing would have been more eloquent than any possible advice of mine, I decided to say nothing. Unfortunately, this was a mistake on my part, because apparently such a condition does not come right without the help of treatment. The current incident is more serious, involving altar boys and more than one.”

Parishioners were told he was going to Melbourne for a “pastoral” course of study, and that’s exactly what he did. But according to testimony by the consulting psychiatrist before the royal commission, Dr Peter Evans, a Franciscan priest, Ryan only had an initial assessment and did not receive any treatment. During the assessment, Ryan disclosed to Evans that he had had “sexual contact with adolescent boys and that this was known to Cotter [and] Sister Woodward”.
After this consultation, Evans told Ryan that treatment would be more successful if it were done in Ryan’s own home environment. This doctor soon left the facility and Ryan fell through the cracks. He spent a year enjoying the delights of Melbourne, going to the races, satisfying his urbane tastes and enjoying his classes.

The church’s sense was that he was a sinner who had a weakness,” said Webster, “who had to pray and he would somehow be redeemed and therefore he could come back into the ministry without sexually abusing children … magic!”
At the time he was sent to Melbourne, Ryan was under the supervision of Sister Evelyn Woodward, a nun and a psychologist who assessed priests for their suitability for ministry. Woodward confirmed in testimony to the royal commission that she eventually knew Ryan hadn’t received any treatment, apart from one initial assessment.
Evans told the royal commission: “I told Evelyn Woodward I would do an assessment diagnosis as I would be leaving [the centre], not treatment … I repeat [I told her] La Verna was not a treatment centre.”
Looking nervous and agitated, she was cross-examined as to why she hadn’t reported Ryan to the police. She blamed her lack of authority as a woman in the church.
Senior Counsel: “Just coming back to the question that his Honour was asking you about involving the police, you suggested in your statement that you simply didn’t think of going to the police at all back in 1975; is that right?”
Sister Evelyn Woodward: “Never.”
SC: “Was that just because you saw your role as being to report the matter up the chain and once that had occurred, you were leaving it to others to deal with?”
EW: “Yes and no. I think another factor was the position of women in the church at the time. We were pretty low in the pecking order and there was a hierarchical system which I think led me to say ‘I’ve got to hand it over to whoever’s in charge of the Diocese’ if that makes sense.”
Following and obeying canon law “served to rationalise and deepen the culture of secrecy,” said Kieran Tapsell. “When you have bishops who have taken an oath to follow canon law, being threatened with excommunication if they go to the civil authorities, it is pretty obvious what they are going to do.”
* * *
Vince Ryan returned to the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in 1976. His superior, Cotter, immediately put him in charge of training the altar boys at Hamilton, in the suburbs of Newcastle. Over the next two decades he sexually assaulted another 27 children with impunity.
At Hamilton, in the presbytery where he and Cotter lived, Ryan would take young boys up to his bedroom and abuse them. Cotter would tell the housekeeper to go upstairs and knock on Ryan’s bedroom door and tell the boys it was time to go home.
Ryan himself believed he needed treatment for his paedophilia. He told Webster, years later during counselling, that while he still loves his church, he is angry that he was moved from parish to parish and didn’t get the treatment he needed after disclosing his problem.

than three occasions, Ryan told various church officials, including his immediate superior, that he was a paedophile. He confessed it to his priest in Maitland before entering the seminary. He admitted it to his superior, Cotter, in 1975 before being sent to Melbourne. And he told the psychologist, and priest, Dr Peter Evans at the La Verna Retreat Centre in Melbourne.
Does Ryan ever think about what he did to those boys? The Australian journalist, David Brearly, who is writing a book about Ryan, says he sensed from his interview that the priest doesn’t dwell much on his interactions with the boys. “I think his contrition is real but maybe not as intense as it might be,” said Brearley. “He was talkative, but it wasn’t until I transcribed the interview did I realise how much he could control an agenda. So there is about nine pages of transcript, probably one fifth is complaining about the Newcastle Herald — how can you complain about the Newcastle Herald? — and another fifth is complaining about jail and its failure to rehabilitate people.”
But one of Ryan’s answers stunned David Brearley. Asked about the royal commission, the priest told him: “As far as I am concerned this is a conspiracy between newspapers and politicians, they need each other. The royal commission, I think it should have been about why in our country there was such a disaster of child sex abuse … to go straight to institutions, I don’t get the reason, I don’t get it … the vast number of child sex victims are in the home.”
Ryan also blamed the parents of his victims for not going to the police back in 1975. “It’s a hard concept to swallow,” said Brearley. “He thinks he was one of the boys. I think Ryan has achieved a mighty effort of self-deception, when you think he was a 30 to 35-year-old and he was abusing 10-year-old boys and he can’t see the difference.”
Ryan’s rapacious appetite for young altar boys was only curtailed when Gerard McDonald and Scott Hallett walked into the Newcastle Police station in 1995. They spilled the beans to constable Troy Grant, a junior police officer who was until recently the NSW police minister and for a time NSW deputy premier. He was the first police officer to investigate a priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, and the first with a successful prosecution. Since 1995, he has kept in touch with all of the victims who came to him about Ryan. After Gerard McDonald and Scott Hallett came forward, many more followed.
One case, in particular, has caused Troy Grant great trauma and sadness. In October 1995, a man contacted Grant at the Newcastle police station to report abuse that lasted five years while Ryan was the parish priest in an outlying parish. Ryan had committed more than 200 acts of abuse against the boy while he was between the ages of 12 and 17. The boy had no father, but Ryan saw himself as his caregiver, his de-facto dad.
In 1992, the boy was in a terrible accident and ended up in hospital, fighting for his life. When Ryan heard the news he raced to the hospital. Distraught at what he saw, Ryan climbed into the boy’s hospital bed and hugged him while crying uncontrollably. When the nursing staff called the diocese to have the priest removed, a Catholic chaplain was despatched to remove him. But no one informed child protection authorities; after all, Ryan was a priest.
The boy was hospitalised for four months, but recovered. Ryan was later convicted for the crimes he perpetrated against the boy. This victim died in 2018. The coroner has yet to release the findings on the cause of death.
* * *
It was only after 13 years behind bars that Vince Ryan was given his first intensive treatment for paedophilia inside the jail. Finally, he told his psychologist he understood the suffering he had caused to his victims.
Ryan participated in a program known as Custody Based Intensive Treatment (CUBIT), an evidence-based treatment program for moderate to high-risk sex offenders, which takes 12 months to complete. Inmates are encouraged to identify and reflect on their unique risk factors (the things that make them more likely to reoffend) and to develop skills to reduce those risks where possible. The intensive therapy also helps inmates to initiate behaviour when they enter settings where they might offend, known in psychology jargon as “protective factors”.
The offenders also develop what’s called a “relapse prevention plan” that helps them maintain “a commitment to a non-offending lifestyle”. A recent research study found the programs have halved the rates of re-offending.
Ryan wishes he had been given access to this therapy many years earlier, according to Webster. “These programs are very effective,” said Webster. “The group work with other prisoners has been
t staff called the diocese to have the priest removed, a Catholic chaplain was despatched to remove him. But no one informed child protection authorities; after all, Ryan was a priest.
The boy was hospitalised for four months, but recovered. Ryan was later convicted for the crimes he perpetrated against the boy. This victim died in 2018. The coroner has yet to release the findings on the cause of death.
* * *
It was only after 13 years behind bars that Vince Ryan was given his first intensive treatment for paedophilia inside the jail. Finally, he told his psychologist he understood the suffering he had caused to his victims.
Ryan participated in a program known as Custody Based Intensive Treatment (CUBIT), an evidence-based treatment program for moderate to high-risk sex offenders, which takes 12 months to complete. Inmates are encouraged to identify and reflect on their unique risk factors (the things that make them more likely to reoffend) and to develop skills to reduce those risks where possible. The intensive therapy also helps inmates to initiate behaviour when they enter settings where they might offend, known in psychology jargon as “protective factors”.
The offenders also develop what’s called a “relapse prevention plan” that helps them maintain “a commitment to a non-offending lifestyle”. A recent research study found the programs have halved the rates of re-offending.
Ryan wishes he had been given access to this therapy many years earlier, according to Webster. “These programs are very effective,” said Webster.


I will not say much today.

I published the above to give people an insight into the mins of an abuser.

Any views?




London, England, Jun 21, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- A British judge has authorized doctors to perform an abortion on a pregnant Catholic woman with developmental disabilities and a mood disorder, despite the objections of the woman’s mother and the woman herself. The woman is 22 weeks pregnant.
“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the State to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” said Justice Nathalie Lieven in her ruling in the Court of Protection, June 21.
The Court of Protection handles cases involving individuals judged to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
Lieven claimed the abortion would be beneficial for the woman, saying that “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”
The woman, who cannot been publicly identified, has been described as “in her twenties,” and is under the care of an NHS trust, part of the UK’s National Health Service. Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less truamatic for the woman than either giving birth or being separated from the child.
The woman’s mother made clear to doctors and the court that she would assume care of her grandchild.
The woman is believed to have the mental capacity of a grade school-age child. She is reportedly Catholic, and her mother is Nigerian.

It is unknown if the pregnancy was conceived consensually, and police are investigating the circumstances of conception.
The woman’s mother, reported to be a former midwife, registered her absolute opposition to the abortion citing the Catholic faith of herself and her daughter. A social worker who cares for the woman also disagreed that she should be forced to have an abortion.
The judge said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant to have a baby, and said that “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.”
Lieven also said that she did not believe the woman’s ongoing mental health care needs would permit her mother to assist in raising the child.
Allowing the child to be born and then removed from the woman’s home and placed into foster care or adoption would be against the woman’s own interests, the judge concluded.
“I think [the woman] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”
Lieven clarified that the pregnancy “although real to [the woman], doesn’t have a baby outside her body she can touch.”

As a lawyer, Lieven has appeared in court before in cases concerning abortion. In 2011, while representing the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an abortion provider, she argued that British women should be permitted to medically abort their pregnancies at their own homes instead of in a hospital.
Five years later, Lieven argued in court that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were a violation of the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act.
In 2017, she said that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were akin to torture and were discriminatory.
Unrestricted abortion is legal in the UK until 24 weeks of pregnancy, after which doctors must certify that the abortion is in the medical interests of the mother.
NHS statistics show babies born at 24 weeks have a 50% chance of survival on average, though the rate depends on the NHS trust providing care. Babies born in a University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust hospital in London at 23 weeks of gestation have a 70% chance of survival.


What an awful dilemma for this young woman, her mother, the doctors and the courts.

I have personal insight into these issues as my youngest sister Sandra RIP was intellectually disabled and the handling of her feminine issues was a bit of a mine field for her carers and family. She was very distressed on a monthly basis when she experienced what all women experience. There was also the fear that somebody, somewhere might take advantage of her and she might become pregnant. She would have not been able to handle a pregnancy in any way at all. The matter was resolved by placing her on a good contraceptive regime that took away her monthly distress and the danger of pregnancy.

In the current case the young woman does not have the capacity to address the whole situation herself.

Her mother is obviously emotionally involved and is being guided by her Roman Catholic religion. The court took the view that the mother could not look after both her daughter and a grandchild.

The judge has acted for “Pro Choice” clients before and that might lead people to think that she might be prejudiced?

On the other hand she has been appointed by the state to do the job she does on behalf of society and I imagine she has not left herself open to be challenged on a point of law.

This is one of those sad cases where everyone is a loser – and the baby will lose its life and be the biggest loser of all.


One last very big and very important question




24 June 2019 BBC A woman has won an appeal against a court ruling that would have seen her mentally ill daughter forced to have an abortion.She appealed a decision made last week granting permission for specialists to end the pregnancy.

Three Court of Appeal judges in London upheld the appeal, overturning the previous decision.
Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson will give reasons at a later date.
The judges were told the woman’s daughter is in her 20s, is 22 weeks pregnant, and has the mental age of a child aged between the age of six and nine.
She also has a “moderately severe” learning disorder and a mood disorder.

‘Enormous decision’

At a hearing in the Court of Protection last week, bosses at a hospital trust responsible for the pregnant woman’s care asked Mrs Justice Lieven to let doctors end the pregnancy.
Three specialists – an obstetrician and two psychiatrists – said they believed a termination was the best option.
They said there was a risk to the pregnant woman’s psychiatric health if pregnancy continued and they feared her behaviour could pose a risk to a baby.
But her mother – who was against abortion – said she could care for the child.
A social worker who worked with the pregnant woman, who lives in the London area, also said she should give birth, as did lawyers representing her.
But Mrs Justice Lieven ruled that on balance termination was the best option.
She said she had to make an “enormous” decision on the basis of what was in the pregnant woman’s best interests.
At Monday’s appeal hearing, barristers John McKendrick QC and Victoria Butler-Cole QC, successfully argued that ruling was wrong.



by Phyllis Zagano NCR

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to former West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield, pilloried by The Washington Post for his reportedly lavish and lascivious ways. The Post wrote from an unredacted report written by lay investigators.

Bransfield’s creative accounting let us see exactly who benefited from his largess. His history of unchecked behavior demonstrates who knew what and when. Most importantly, his objectively sad story sheds light on ingrained episcopal practices around the world.

Plus, it saves us the trouble of reading medieval history.

I bear no ill will and wish no harm to Michael Bransfield. I am convinced he is a product of a system that corrupted him. One wonders if that system alone drove him to drink.

That system is the clericalism Pope Francis talks about. It is the system in which only priest clerics judge clerics, only priest clerics wield authority, and only priest clerics promote clerics to higher offices.

It is the system of priestly clericalism, seeded in the early church, nurtured by the Middle Ages, and full-blown by the 11th century.

It is the system that killed the diaconate.
Ever wonder whatever happened to deacons, once the stewards of the church’s money? For the longest time, deacons and archdeacons managed church funds, providing for needs of the people of God. In the third century, St. Lawrence the Deacon presented the poor to the Roman prefect who demanded the church’s treasures. He had it right.

Over the centuries, deacons grew very powerful. The cadre of priests did not like that at all, especially since bishops were often chosen from among the deacons.

Why choose a deacon as bishop? Deacons were the clerics whose jobs today are called diocesan vicar general, judicial vicar, and finance officer, among others. It made ultimate sense to elect the person who had already been running the diocese as its next overseer. Many popes were deacons and never priests.

And then there was Pope Gregory VII. Born the son of a blacksmith in Tuscany in 1015, he rose to become archdeacon and the cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica in Rome. Elected pope by acclamation in 1073, he insisted on being ordained a priest eight days before his consecration as bishop of Rome.

Gregory VII thereby solidified the “cursus honorum,” the “course of honor” that essentially restricted diaconal ordination only to men destined for priesthood.

The Gregorian Reform, so-called in his honor, changed other things. Gregory outlawed the practice of simony, especially the buying of church offices.

He also began in earnest the centralization of church power in Rome. One wonders if centralization helped cause more, not less, simony.

Detail of “Standing Bishop,” silver with silver gilt, by the German workshop of Hans von Reutlingen, circa 1510 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Which brings us back to clericalism, the hothouse for abuses of every description that shuts its doors to any outside views, even from other clerics, like deacons

Despite 16th-century decisions of the Council of Trent, it was not until the Second Vatican Council that the diaconate was renewed as a permanent office. Today, more than 50 years later, deacons the world over are still finding their places within the clerical system.
What deacons do not do is buy their way up the ladder, for there is none to climb. Deacons are ministers. Most do not get stole fees for administering sacraments. Unless they hold a diocesan or parochial job, deacons support themselves.

That is the difference. For the most part, diocesan priests are wholly dependent on their bishops, who may in turn be indebted to their metropolitan archbishops, who may in turn be indebted to the nuncio, and so it goes. The concurrent gauzy web of lateral relationships is not so apparent, but it is there, making the vaulted notion of “transparency” impossible.

Which brings us back to Michael Bransfield. I am saddened that he has been exposed and vilified, I really am. But his story pokes a hole in the clerical veil pulled over the eyes of so many other clerics (deacons, priests and bishops) and laypeople who want to see the church as a church for people, not as a corporation that enriches CEOs while giving pennies to its stockholders.
If we can respectfully continue to part that clerical veil, we might enjoy a church that does not corrupt its mosT talented and capable clerics.

[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. She will speak Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, at the Bishop Keane Institute of Immaculate Conception Church in Hampton, Virginia and Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. Her books include Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, recently published in France and Canada as Des femmes diacres and in Portugal as Mulheres diáconos: Passado, presente, futuro. Study guides are available for free download at]


This is an excellent and educating article by Ms Zagona.

Knowing our history sheds light on current issues.

There is a ling history of senior and junior clerics putting their hands in the collection plates and donation bags.

A lot of it is still going on from simple parishes to the Vatican billins.

The only way to stop it is to keep the clerics away from all money and keep all money way from them.

Let the laity decide on bishops and priests salaries.

Let the laity choose where and how they live.





I have always lived my life and ministry by the above maxim.

An example:

One pre Christmas day some years ago I was in Dublin for the annual News of the World Christmas party which was always a posh boozy affair.

The next day at lunch time I was driving through Dublin and I noticed a young man dressed in black standing at a traffic lights with a black bag at his feet and holding a sign which read “HOMELESS PLEASE HELP”.


I reached my hand into my pocket and as I drove past put a handful of coins into his outstretched hand. He said, in a strange English dialect “GOD BLESS YE SIR”.

It startled me. It sounded like David Copperfield. I drove back around and asked to speak to him. He said he would not get into my car. I told him I had not asked him to do that. We had a conversation through the window and he told me his story.

He was from the Peak District in England and was in trouble with the police there over drug taking. He had left his family and girlfriend and had absconded to Dublin where he had become dependant on Heroin.

We talked a while. I gave him £40 and arranged to write to him at a convenience address he had. He was sleeping on the street.

A few weeks later I was back in Dublin and went looking for him on Grafton Street. I saw a load of cardboard boxes and a blanket in a doorway and had an intuition he was under it. He was.

I brought him for a Big Mac and during the meal he cried and asked me to help him beat the heroin addiction. Of course, I agreed. I left him with a time to meet him later and drove around the drug rehabilitation centres in Dublin. They all had a six months waiting list.

I decided that if I could get the Methadone I would detox him myself at my home.


I went back around the rehab centres again and asked them for three weeks Methadone.

As it was a strictly controlled drug they refused.

But Pat, as always, was determined not be beaten, So, dressed in my clericals I hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take me to where all the drug dealers hang out. The driver was surprised but did as I asked. Eventually I was introduced to a Methadone supplier and agreed to meet him the next morning for three weeks supply for something like £100.

I did not sleep well that night thinking that the dealer might give me impure Methadone that would make my new friend sick or kill him and land me in prison for supplying controlled drugs, grievous bodily harm or manslaughter.

So, in the morning at 8 am I telephoned RTE and asked to be put through to the Marian Finnucane Programme and asked her if she would allow me to appeal on her show for proper Methadone. She was shocked but agreed. Within ten minutes of my appeal I had a call from a drug counsellor in Galway who agreed to help me by putting three weeks supply of Methadone on the Galway Belfast bus. My fiend and I collected it in Belfast and with the help of a doctor friend of mine I detoxed my friend over three weeks.

He did extremely well, began to eat properly and eventually I got him a job in Larne. I contacted the English police and told them what he had achieved and they promised him a compassionate meeting on his return.

After three months in Larne he returned to England and was reunited with his family and girlfriend. The police kept their word.

Some months later I was in my upstairs sitting room and heard my mother answer the doorbell. She was present during his detox too.

A few minutes later my friend, the former addict walked into my sitting room. He looked well and glowing and was wearing a business suit. He had got a job as a stock taker for BP fuels and he was on business in Belfast.

He was carrying a bottle of my favourite tipple and with tears in his eyes said: “I am here to thank you for saving my life”.

Then it was my turn to have tears.

That whole story is at one level about me and my friend, but in my eyes it is a story of the intervention of God in a life on its way to tragedy.

Of course I understand and respect our atheist readers who will say it an act of human kindness by one human being to another and had nothing to do with God.

I believe that my friend was a child of God and God wanted to help him and He simply used me in spite of all my sins and failings and even used a red top newspaper to get me to the right place at the right time. Imaging that – God using a newspaper in spite of Page 3.

On this Sunday morning I say “Glory be to God”.



Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”
But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

– Myra Brooks Welch




Christopher Altieri Catholic Herald June, 2019

A new report gives a disturbing insight into the way that money circulates among Church leaders. How long can it continue?
“The Devil always enters by way of the pocket.” It’s a phrase that Pope Francis often repeats. He has it on no lesser authority than that of St Paul the Apostle, who wrote: “For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
If the allegations against Michael J Bransfield, the former Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, as well as those regarding the scores of clerics who benefitted from his largesse, are correct, it would suggest that too many in the hierarchical leadership of the Church do not believe St Paul in any meaningful sense of the word, or else have become so used to an unseemly cultural reality that their good sense has been almost totally eclipsed.
First reported by the Washington Post last week, the story of Bishop Bransfield is one in which a man supposed to be a shepherd used the special circumstances of the diocese he led – specifically an enormous endowment grown out of a bequest of oil-rich land holdings in Texas nearly a century ago – to lead a lavish lifestyle.
An investigation concluded that he engaged “in a pattern of excessive and inappropriate spending” on such items “as personal travel, dining, liquor, gifts and luxury items”. Fresh flowers were reportedly delivered daily to his chancery office, at a total cost of $182,000 (£143,000) over 13 years. Investigators also accused him of sexual harassment.
(Bishop Bransfield has denied the allegations. He told the Washington Post last week that “none of it is true” and claimed that “Everybody’s trying to destroy my reputation”.)
The Washington Post reported that Archbishop William E Lori of Baltimore, the man the Vatican asked to lead the preliminary investigation into Bransfield, was one of the dozens of prelates to whom he would occasionally send monetary gifts. Bransfield would write cheques to clerics drawn on his personal account, and then have himself reimbursed out of diocesan coffers.
Archbishop Lori did not disclose these gifts to the Vatican at the time he agreed to lead the investigation. When the news was about to become public, he made restitution to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston of the $7,500 (£5,900) in gifts he received. He also professed ignorance of Bransfield’s modus operandi and insisted that he had always acted in good faith.
Since the story broke, several other clerics – including Cardinal Kevin Farrell of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, who had benefited to the tune of $29,000 (£23,000), seemingly for renovations to his Rome apartment – have announced they will return money they received from Bishop Bransfield. But why only do so when the gifts became public, rather than refusing them in the first place?
This is all coming out despite the Church’s investigation, not because of it. Indeed, the impression one gets from bishops’ public statements is that very few of them thought anything was strange about the money going around. It’s just what high churchmen do, at least in the US.
This story’s details have been widely reported. There is no reason to rehearse them here, other than to find and articulate a way to understand the current cultural moment in the Church. We need, in short, to get our bearings.
Last summer opened with revelations regarding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who rose through the ranks to become Archbishop of Washington, DC – the capital see of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation – and a cardinal. Rumours of his debaucheries swirled for years. He knew the right sort of people, though, inside and outside the Church hierarchy. He also knew how to get the right sort of people to cut a cheque.
With rare exceptions, the bishops of the United States continue to protest ignorance of McCarrick’s perverse character and proclivities. Those protestations are, in a word, incredible. It may be that few had direct, personal knowledge of his abuse of minors, but it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that anyone who had not heard of his predilection for young priests and seminarians was either utterly benighted or living in a hermitage. The impression is that McCarrick’s habits were widely whispered, and of little concern.
They were not the stuff about which to make any sort of fuss.
The Vatican’s promises to review the documents on file relating to McCarrick and report any findings “in due course” are so woefully inadequate as to be insulting to the faithful in the US and abroad. Those promises, too, are incredible.
Had the powers in Rome dealt with McCarrick expeditiously, Pope St John Paul II would never have installed him at St Matthew’s Cathedral in 2001. There are too many reputations at stake. Too many of the men with power to influence the results of any such investigation have too much to lose through genuine transparency.
If further indication were required to show that the circumstances have grown intolerable, then consider that McCarrick and Bishop Bransfield were both major players in the Papal Foundation, which was launched in 1988 as a fundraiser for the Holy See.
The Vatican was cash-strapped after the implosion of the Banco Ambrosiano in 1982. But the Holy See eventually got its books balanced, and the Papal Foundation became a support engine for certain charitable initiatives which both the popes and the foundation deemed worthy.
The Papal Foundation, which at last count controls assets of more than $200 million (£157 million), has been embroiled in scandal for more than a year now, ever since news broke of a donor uprising over a very unusual and – it is alleged – highly irregular approval of a plan to bail out a struggling and scandal-plagued hospital in Rome.
Only a thorough and complete investigation can hope to reveal a detailed picture of all that has gone wrong. Nevertheless, the facts before the public are already sufficient to warrant systematic scrutiny.
What McCarrick did with the prodigious monies he raised, as well as the extent to which his fundraising proficiency affected the judgment of those in a position to do something about him, are both the sort of things an investigation with a broad mandate would want to discover. They also – indeed, primarily – pose a question for the faithful, in whose trust the bishops have held and managed the temporal goods of the Church, for centuries now increasingly without any meaningful check or oversight worth the name.
Let us not mince words about this: if “Pray, pay and obey” has been the maxim by which the bishops have governed the flock, the willingness of the laity to suffer their misrule can no longer be taken as patience; rather it must make us all complicit in their contempt for law, decency and common sense.
In late August last year, I argued in these pages that reform of the warped clerical culture bent to the preservation of corrupt power was urgently necessary. “The motor of the clerical culture we have right now,” I argued, “is the intrinsically perverse libido dominandi (will to power), rather than a perversion of the libido coeundi (sex drive).” The root of the problem is power.
The crucial challenge here and now is to see that money is at once a means to power and a measure of it, as well as a principal tool of its exercise.
“Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton famously said, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was discussing the papacy when he said it, and specifically the temporal power that had accrued to it. He was referring, moreover, at once to the effect of power on the soul that wields it and to the modes by which the one who holds power works it on others.
The creation of pecuniary dependency is a chief instrument of the powerful, sometimes deployed tactically and at other times strategically. Often we have heard how clerics of the lower ranks depend on the Church – in the case of secular priests, on the bishop – for their livelihood. Fearful of losing it, they keep silent and suffer, or else become unwillingly parts of the system in the hope of escape from their difficult circumstances, if not willing seekers after advancement.
Taken singly, or even in pairs or groups of three, the numerous examples of such silence one could list might all be chalked up to coincidence, the unremarkable vicissitudes of a complex global organisation. But under the current circumstances, any overseer worth his salt would want to take a closer look.
The laity, meanwhile, demand real reform, genuine renewal and the exercise of their right to responsible participation in the project.
Veteran Church-watchers John Allen and JD Flynn have written insightfully, noting that much disagreement over what to do hinges on the question whether the great object is management, or resolution; and that reform and renewal are objects in tension with one another. We cannot escape the world. Power will be with us, hence money, hence all the dangers that shall accompany both, so long as we find ourselves this side of celestial Jerusalem. In this sense, the problems facing the Church require reform – management – rather than resolution.
The great task before us is therefore twofold. We must clear the sacristies and chanceries and rectories of filth. Then we must discover a way to police them that involves all members of the body, without violating the hierarchical constitution of the Church, which is of divine origin.
All that work will require renewal – conversion – which is always the work of the Spirit in us.


The church’s money scandal has been going on for 1600 years.

But in those times we did not have a world wide media to highlight it all.

And its not just in the USA.

It happens here at home too.

There was Noel Treanor’s £ 4,000,000 on renovating his Belfast palace.

There was the £ 50,000 for Diarmuid Martin’s kitchen.

There was the £77,000 Casey “borrowed” to try and pay off Annie Murphy.

There was the £1,000,000 new wall in Knock Shrine.

Just yesterday a priest was telling me about a few of his fellow priests who came from poor families, had a priest’s income and now own expensive apartments and villas in Spain and further afield.

£1 for the parish – £1 for Father – a very fair division of funds






There is a rumour going around the clergy in Down and Connor that Noel 4 Million Treanor has just authorized a priest to spend £40,000 of church funds on creating an art studio for himself beside his parochial house.

Could this be true?

Is that Noel’s idea of being creative?