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?



Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse BBC

Image copyrightBPM MEDIAImage captionBirmingham Archdiocese allegedly knew about abuse by Father John Tolkien in the 1950s

Children could have been saved from abuse if the Church had focused less on its reputation, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has said.

More than 130 allegations of abuse were made against 78 individuals associated with Birmingham’s Catholic Church.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols – the city’s archbishop between 2000 and 2009 – was accused of focusing on reputation rather than the impact of abuse.

He denied a cover-up, but allegations were found to have been “ignored”

“I am truly shocked by the scale of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Birmingham,” the inquiry’s chair, Professor Alexis Jay, said.

The report concluded that “children could have been saved from abuse if the Church had not been so determined to protect its reputation”.

Father John Tolkien – son of novelist JRR Tolkien – was said to have admitted abusing boys in Sparkhill, Birmingham, in the 1950s.

The archdiocese was apparently aware of the alleged abuse but did not report it until decades later.

Former boy scout Christopher Carrie, from Solihull, was given £15,000 in compensation in 2003 after he sued the archdiocese.

Father Tolkien was deemed too ill to be charged after an investigation into abuse in the Church

At the time, the Crown Prosecution Service said Father Tolkien was too ill to be charged, and he died later that year.

Cardinal Nichols – now the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales – appeared before the inquiry in December.
He was asked if he had suppressed a note which suggested Father Tolkien admitted an allegation of abuse in 1968 and was sent for treatment.

However, the report said the note “was disclosed to the police so it cannot be suggested that the Archdiocese sought to cover up the note”.

The note was made by Archbishop of Birmingham Maurice Couve de Murville as part of a 1993 investigation but no action was taken either in 1968 or in 1993.

This “lack of action by the Church meant that abusers were free to continue committing acts of child sexual abuse,” the inquiry found.
Image copyrightGOOGLEImage captionThe inquiry looked at allegations in Birmingham’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese


By Martin Bashir, BBC religion editor
Once again, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has shone light upon dark areas of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

This report describes an institution where the safeguarding of children was relegated to second, even third place, with the Church much more concerned about reputation management.
It also appears that Church leaders preferred secrecy over transparency, assisting some abusive priests to leave the country and others to move from parish to parish.

The criticisms of Cardinal Vincent Nichols are particularly scathing. The clear implication of the report is that his focus on reputation management – rather than the welfare of children – meant that abusers were allowed to continue victimising children.

And while it would be tempting to imagine that these offences are all in the past, the report concludes that “the Archdiocese is still falling short in its child safeguarding arrangements”.

As well as Father Tolkien, the investigation focused on three other priests: James Robinson, Samuel Penney, and one who remains anonymous.

Father Robinson, described as a serial child abuser, was moved from parish to parish after complaints were first made against him in the 1980s. The police were never informed and there was no internal, Church-led investigation.
He fled the UK in 1985 – later to be tracked down by the BBC at a caravan park in California – after being confronted by a victim.

Despite multiple allegations against him, he continued to receive financial support from the Archdiocese for seven years.


Robinson was found guilty in 2010 of 21 child sex abuse offences against four boys – some 40 years after complaints were first made to the Church in the 1970s and 80s.

When the Archdiocese was alerted to allegations against Father Penney, the Vicar General – who was charged with investigating – attempted to help him evade arrest and leave the UK.

Prof Jay said the number of perpetrators and victims is “likely to be far higher than the figures suggest” and the consequences of the Church’s failings “cannot be overstated”.

‘Failed victims’

The report also concluded that the Birmingham Archdiocese continues to fall short in its child safeguarding arrangements.

In a statement, the Archdiocese said it accepts it has “failed victims and survivors” and apologised for “the grievous failings we have made in the past”.

It said it has “fundamentally changed its practices and processes to ensure an open and compassionate approach to victims and survivors”.




Vinnie/Elsie is finally getting his comeuppance after all his years of naked ambition and climbing the sleazy, greasy RC clerical pole.

In the end we discover they are all the same.

Empty, sneaky, power hungry operatives with neither the smell of the Shepherd or sheep about them.

Any decent, self respecting person in a senior position would immediately resign and take full responsibility for everything.

But Elsie is another Brady who will lie low sometimes and then parade all around the place in crimson robes – and wine and dine in places like Rome and Lourdes.

Bad cess to the lot of them!