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?


The rumour is that D. Martin spent over €250,000 on flights over a 10 year period.
The sale of Clonliffe will cover up his vast travel expenses.


Bishop Len and The Craggy Crew featuring guest artists Madame Jolie and The Three Chancerssays:

Tune: Money ( That’s what I want) Bradford/Gordy covered by The Beatles.
The best things in life are free
But you can keep them for the birds and bees
Now give me money
(That’s what I want)
That’s what I want
(That’s what I want)
That’s what I want,yeah (That’s what I want)
That’s what I want.
Your lovin’ gives me a thrill
But your lovin’ don’t pay my bills
Money don’t get everything, it’s true
What It don’t get, I can’t use
Well, now give me money
Yeah, money
Give me money
A lot of money x7


Read Jason Berrys book, ‘Render Unto Rome’, an investigation of financial intrigue, secrecy and deceit, that run counter to the values of the Catholic Church. It was published in 2012.


Ah, now, + Pat, this is way too close to the bone. Pray, pay and obey, if you’re in the phew, pew!
That’s expected, no questions asked. Would our pastors fiddle with Church finances?


When + Maurice Couve de Murville sold his residence in Me/arse Lane in order to move next to his cathedral and renovated the old school building – all in Puginesque Neo-Gothic style – someone spray painted “Blessed are the poor…” on the wall. Perhaps someone could do that in Lisbreen ?
I think + Vinnie likes nice things, but he certainly doesn’t live in great style. I mean, Archbishop’s House in Westminster is all lime green, shit and off shit colors, and smells of boiled cabbage. And, the caravan isn’t that wonderful either. I think he likes to dip in and out of nice places and events when invited – he used to like to go to Henley Regatta with his mate Wilcox. But, these are all unattributed to him personally, and I don’t think he lives like a Prince of the Church. He’s more interested in the exercise of raw ecclesiastical power and authority.


I remember Annie Walker said; she would not live at St Bennet’s, KOB’s former pile, or hand it over to a religious order. Of course, she’s done neither.


Most of the bishops referred to on here have camp names; Amy, Elsie, Annie, etc. My local priest, Fr Mansfield, even answers to Jayne.


Big G the other Archbishops, Bishops and clergy are jealous of how talented His Grace Leo Cushley is a trained diplomat and only went to Scotland to assist the Holy Father.

But who can be sent to London or Birmingham there is only + Arthur Roche over there and really + Nichols and + Longley think they are as pure as the white snow and they will slid through this storm.

As someone said there has not been much publicity over it although it was on the BBC news and the full report is not completed yet.


Dear Paul, there’s no danger you’ll be accused of being a trained anything. No amount of recommending people to contact papal nuncios will fill that gap.


A sure tis the golden calf and the half crown so tis. I remember people offering money for everything Sure the priest is better and he can say proper prayers. I’m not worthy The priest is controlled by the bishop and deserves a bit of compo. In thauld days ‘twas the car golf and drink. Now all sorts can be added including the friendly society of St William D’Bollicks The concept of a second coming of the Lord makes great sense hi


Morning fly hi.
You’re bang on the money fly twas the car golf and drink butt don’t forget the cards and the odd aul doll on the go here and there. Nowadays there’s the friendly society of St. William D’Bollocks as well as the Order of the Golden Willie not forgetting fellas getting delira and excira gawking at grindr sites. Gaynooth kubs end up bewitched bothered and bewildered before legging it out the front door of the semenary fly.
Come Lord asap!
Have a good day fly hi.


Oh Fly but hi, Oh Fly, Oh Fly, My Fly hi,

To what shall I compare thee, Fly hi?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Or a big stack of hay? Or a darn good old lay? Hi but.

Or a big horse nice and gray? Or a wee woman called Faye? Or the Merry month of May? Or a wee boat out on the bay? Butt hi.

Or a big hairy Gay called Ray? Or the local pub owner called Jimmy McStay? Or thon luvly singer the Reverend Wullie McCrea? Or getting caught up in an affray? Or a cute wee kub that went astray? But hi.

Thou are more lurvely and curvely than all of these Fly, hi but.

The scent of thee but hi is of a thousand farmyards.

The heady mix of red diesel, and engine oil, and Blue Stratos aftershave, and faeces, and sawdust and Benson and Hedges fags, and feet and arse, and Persil washing poudre, and yer Mammy’s stew. Hi but.

Ah Fly, my Fly, Oh Hi My Fly for thee I would die but hi. Ah Fly, oh my wee Fly never leave me hi butt. Butt hi.


That beautiful poem has moved me to tears…To think that this great love story began on Pat’s Blog. ❤


Hai Sit amazed but 1.18am. Hi has anyone ever thought of recording some of the songs on here. Might be interesting.


The pot calling the kettle black what about your misuse of the Sunday World credit card? We all have feet of clay.


What are you talking about. I never had a Sunday World credit card. Why would I?

I worked for te News of the World for 11 years and did not have a credit card from them either.

I got a weekly direct debit payment.


Darcy works for Sunday World. The clergy rumour is that, as he has a vow of poverty, they pay for his car and motoring expenses???


Hello fly hi.
1:18 was an imposter fly needing to vent a bit of hot air.
Probably a loose kooky kub.
Bye hi fly.


Problems I can understand. But how does one put money into God’s hand? You mean ‘the hands of clergy, don’t you?


Concert set list for Diocesan Clergy Funds.

Money for nothing- Dire Straits
Money- Pink Floyd.
Money’s too tight to mention- Simply Red
Opportunities ( Let’s make lots of money)- Pet Shop Boys
Can’t buy me love -The Beatles
Money money money- Abba
Take the money and run-Steve Millar Band
If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time- Willie Nelson
It’s the money that I love – Randy Newman
Money machine- James Taylor
Easy money- Billy Joel
Busted- Ray Charles.
Brass in Pocket- The Pretenders.
I found a million dollar baby- Bing Crosby


Happy days are here again- Mitch Millar & His Gang.
California Dreamin- The Papas with The Mamas
Up Up and Away- Fifth Dimension
The Oldest Swingers in Town- Fred Wedlock


Mommie Dearest, that’s high treason!😠
They shall be hung, drawn, and quartered, and their parted parts spiked in the four corners of the Kingdom.😊


The +Salford Gauleiter? Get real! Skeletons rattling and screaming in his own cupboard. He was once a Rosminian… a long time ago.


Ahh money. That old chestnut. Sure we don’t wanna talk about that do we? Too bloody right we do. A priest getting money for an art studio? Bet he’s one of Treanors leckeys or he keeps himself beneath the radar. Bloody disgrace. Has that so called bishop no shame authorising even more misuse of parishoners money. If ever there was a man with a brass neck it is Treanor. People are struggling. His financial henchman tried to impose costs on st Patrick’s volunteers who feed the homeless(don’t know what the outcome was there). What was it all for? To build a bloody art studio for a priest? What next?


Maybe the artistic priest is a budding Michelangelo, Da Vinci or a Botticelli, whose artistic creativity needs nurturing. You wouldn’t begrudge a mere studio.


If he’s only budding his time is running out as he is in the late autumn of life.


1249 because Leo Cushley, like the other Bishops of Scotland is committed to getting rid of sexually active gay Priests, child molestors etc. Good holy men.


Ah, I wondered if mentioning the +Salford Gauleiter would get a bite ! Do tell us more, please !
Back to + Vincent. He’s not in to money. He’s in to power and influence. And he’s in the process of losing it. Ecclesiastical careers are often like political careers, they always end in disappointment.
+ Nursey / Bunty + Longley, well he’s a nice man, and brighter than the impression he gives. Picks his battles very carefully. He would be good at Westminster and would navigate a sensible and prudent course, with a mild liberal edge to it. He doesn’t do culture wars. But, I do worry that the oversight he has made in managing the safeguarding stuff in Birmingham, and the criticisms of that by IICSA, could damage his chances. Perhaps he was a bit too trusting and liable to delegate stuff downwards to his VG – who by the way has just changed, the old one (Menzies) moving to take over at the cathedral. Any connection, do you think ?


Audit all dioceses in Great Britain and Ireland, to clear out the rotten skeletons, including financial skeletons.


It’s interesting, so few priests have commented on the topic of today’s blog, the next scandal in the Church, money.
I wonder, why?


I think a lot of people forget that not every priest comes from a wealthy family, or have access to money. Also, not every priest is Pharisaic in their approach to money, i.e., they are not grabbers. A lot of people forget that priests are taxed on everything, including Mass Stipends. Finally, every parish, and, ergo, every priest is now subject to independent auditing. Whatever happened in the past, and, yes, there was some grasping and conniving, it would be a lot harder now to get away with financial impropriety.


So all those notes handed over at weddings, wakes and funerals are “declared for taxation”?
Oh yes……and the great ‘mass card’ money spinner too?
Do you really believe we’re that thick?


9:19 you are obviously the sort of person who wouldn’t dream of financial impropriety, because your comment only focuses on traceable sources of money. You forget that cash for example does not leave audit trails. There are other sources of income such as trades undercharging the priest for things, actual gifts of things the priest wants (such as jockstraps) and finally we mustn’t forget that the priesthood attracts a number of men who genuinely don’t give a shit about any sexual or financial ethics and thus will not be averse to cooking the books.
You obviously wouldn’t dream of it yourself but when you look closely there are many ways of financial impropriety! Personally the one which sticks in my throat is the church being a charity for tax purposes, even if it gives no other charitable activity than the promotion of religion. I don’t think any religion should be treated as a charity, btw.


Darcy’s expenses, including regular servicing and repairs to the big end, are indeed met by the Sunday World.


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