The fantastic wealth of Irish Catholic religious orders revealed

When the Irish Government negotiated a settlement of the compensation due to the tens of thousands of people abused and traumatised in institutions run by the Catholic Church, the total came to €1.36 billion.

The Government wanted the Church to pay half of this, but during negotiations in 2002, the Church managed to wangle its way into contributing only €120 million (£107m) – a pitifully small fraction of what was needed.

This deal was struck on the hypothesis that there would be 2,000 claimants, something the Church was uniquely qualified to know would not be the case.

In the event there were 14,000.

Only after a great deal of public pressure, the amount the Church will pay is now to be renegotiated, with the Government having carried out a review of the assets of the religious orders that abused, over many years, those in their care.

The review has revealed the staggering wealth of these religious orders. It showed between 1999 and 2009, the orders made €667 million in property deals.

Almost all of these sales were made while the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was investigating the years of suffering endured by children in their care.

The properties included land banks, houses, farmyards, a swimming pool, a warehouse, sports grounds and convents.

A quarter of all these trades involved the 2,088-member Sisters of Mercy.

Its four provinces sold 195 properties, including a €32m deal for 16 acres in Killarney.

The order still retained over €1 billion in land assets after these deals.

The 250-member Christian Brothers made €79m in the decade under review and the smaller Oblates of Mary Immaculate featured prominently because of the €105m it made by selling its Belcamp campus in north Dublin.

The top 13 trades by the orders brought in a combined €409m, while the remaining 313 units were sold for €81m.

The €667m total contributed to the revenue of 17 of the 18 orders which, in 2009, agreed to renegotiate the controversial 2002 indemnity deal.

The subsequent sales returns consisted of over 395 properties in the Republic, the North, Britain and America.

The details were released to an Irish newspaper with the orders’ agreement.

Some properties were transferred to community, public and diocesan bodies for nominal fees. Others were bought at peak prices by speculators and developers.

The asset review took place after a public backlash following the Ryan Report two years ago.

The report’s contents forced the Government and the orders to revisit the deal which capped the liability of the orders at €128m.

On the basis of the review, the orders raised their offer to €476m.

This was to go towards compensating victims, building the new National Children’s Hospital and erecting a memorial.

However, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn says he is disappointed by the offer from the various orders – they are still several hundred million short of what is needed.

He is now seeking further property transfers and says he will use bailiffs to seize more property if necessary to make up the shortfall.

But, as Dearbhail McDonald, the legal editor of the Irish Independent, pointed out, much of the money is tied up in charitable trusts for a specific purpose.

He maintains it will be difficult — even impossible — for the Government to access it.

“The chances of the Government sending in the bailiffs to the religious orders is about as likely as the sisters and brothers footing their half of an estimated €1.36bn abuse bill: negligible.”

Ruairi Quinn wants the orders’ overall contribution to be raised to €680m.

He says that if the Church does not pay its fair share of the settlement it will mean further cuts in public spending in a country already suffering mightily in the recession.

The Government is to re-open discussions with the clergy shortly.

“I’m going to enter into these negotiations with an open mind,” said Minister Quinn, although he told reporters that he is “not confident” that the Church will stump up its share.

“This is about recouping for the distressed Irish taxpayer a vast amount of money, the alternative which is that we have to reduce further expenditure and introduce saving in areas that we would otherwise not want to do.”

Despite the sales, the various religious orders retained a bank of property assets worth €3.07bn and financial assets of €704m.

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Brooklyn Bishop Bans All Politicians Who Supported Gay Marriage

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has asked all Catholic churches and schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn to ban state lawmakers who voted for gay marriage in New York.

DiMarzio, the leader of the Brooklyn diocese, has urged the Catholic institutions to decline donations and speaking engagements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and any lawmaker who voted “yes” on the bill legalizing same-sex marriages.

Calling New York’s passage of gay marriage “another ‘nail in the coffin’ of marriage,” DiMarzio issued a statement two days after the New York gay marriage bill was approved by the Legislature demanding that “all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”

The Catholic bishop also said the church should now speak more “forcefully and clearly” against gay marriage.

Joseph Lentol, an assemblyman representing Brooklyn’s 50th district, saw firsthand just how serious the Brooklyn Diocese was.

The Catholic legislative assembly member who openly voted for same-sex marriage made a donation to Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish School.

The donation was declined.

Along with the return of his $50 donation, Lentol received a letter from Monsignor Joseph Calise, the church pastor.

The letter stated: “Bishop DiMarzio has requested that all gifts received from politicians supporting same-sex marriage legislation be refused.”

Lentol, a patron of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, expressed his confusion about the Bishop’s response to his donation.

“I was certainly surprised because I know the church needs the money and the school certainly needs the money for the scholarship program they run, ” Lentol told Pix11.

Calise said he made sure the community children weren’t affected by the donation ban.

“I did find another donor to make sure those awards would be given so that the children themselves wouldn’t be made to suffer,” Calise said, according to Pix11.

Monsignor Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the diocese, explained the church’s frustration with the bill passage to the media. He said the decision to reshape the values of a centuries’ old organization was done too quickly and without proper discussion before voting took place.

“Our legislators did not do their job,” Harrington told CBS 2. “If the process had been different, we don’t know if the legislation would have passed.”

After the gay marriage law passed on June 24, DiMarzio was among New York’s eight Catholic bishops who issued a statement expressing fear that “both marriage and the family will be undermined” by the new legislation.

The gay marriage law will take effect July 24.

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Catholic Church Denies Legal Responsibility For Abuse

A hearing into whether the church has the same legal obligations towards priests as employers towards employees, could have massive ramifications.

The Roman Catholic Church is taking the unprecedented step of arguing in court that is is not responsible for sexual abuse committed by its priests, arguing that the relationship between a Catholic priest and the bishop of the local diocese is not an employment relationship and therefore the diocese does not have vicarious liability.

There have been thousands of accusations around the world of abuse by priests but the majority of legal cases have been settled out of court or withdrawn.

This is thought to be the first time that the Church has gone to court to defend itself against accusations specificially relating to liability.

The three day hearing, started last Tuesday, is part of a wider civil action being brought by a woman known only as Miss JGE.

She claims to have been sexually abused while living in a children’s home run an order of nuns, the English Province of Our Lady of Charity.

She alleges that she was sexually abused by a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, Father Baldwin, who died in 2006.

The claim in that case, due to start in December, will be that the nuns were negligent and in breach of duty, and that the diocese was vicariously liable for the abuse because Father Baldwin was a Catholic priest engaged within the work of the Portsmouth diocese.

However the hearing this week will not deal with the allegations of abuse at all, but will centre on the ‘corporate responsibility’ of the church in abuse cases.

If the claim is upheld, the church will be found legally responsible for the sexual abuse committed by their priests.

The solicitor representing Miss JGE, Tracey Emmott, said: “The most astonishing point to me to emerge from this tragic and sordid case is that the Catholic church is claiming that it isn’t legally responsible for the behaviour of its own priest.

“We need to show that while Father Baldwin wasn’t strictly an employee of the church, he was acting on the bishop’s behalf and that the bishop clearly had a degree of control over his activities.”

Ms Emmott said that the consequences of the Catholic Church winning the point was that they would be able to avoid compensating all victims of sexual abuse by priests.

The Catholic Church and the Portsmouth Diocese said they would not comment until the end of the hearing.

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Order accuses Father Corapi of sexual, financial wrongdoing, falsehoods

Father John A. Corapi was involved in “years of cohabitation” with a former prostitute, repeated abuse of alcohol and drugs and “serious violation” of his promise of poverty, according to a fact-finding team appointed by his religious order.

Father Corapi, who recently announced he would leave the priesthood because he could not get a “fair hearing” on misconduct allegations against him, has been ordered by the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity to return to live at the order’s regional headquarters in Robstown, Texas, and to dismiss a lawsuit against the woman whose accusations prompted the investigation.

“Catholics should understand that (the order) does not consider Father John Corapi as fit for ministry,” said a July 5 news release from Father Gerard Sheehan, regional priest servant for the order, commonly known as SOLT.

Although Father Corapi’s ministry “has inspired thousands of faithful Catholics,” the news release said, he is “now misleading these individuals through his false statements and characterizations.”

“It is for these Catholics that SOLT, by means of this announcement, seeks to set the record straight,” it added.

There was no immediate response to the announcement from Father Corapi.

The order said its three-member fact-finding team had gathered information “from Father Corapi’s emails, various witnesses and public sources” and had concluded that the priest:

— “Did have sexual relations and years of cohabitation (in California and Montana) with a woman known to him, when the relationship began, as a prostitute.”

— “Repeatedly abused alcohol and drugs.”

— “Has recently engaged in sexting activity with one or more women in Montana.”

— “Holds legal title to over $1 million in real estate, numerous luxury vehicles, motorcycles, an ATV, a boat dock and several motor boats, which is a serious violation of his promise of poverty as a perpetually professed member of this society.”

Although he did not name them, Father Sheehan said the fact-finding team was made up of a priest specializing in canon law, a psychiatrist and a lawyer, each of whom has a national reputation and “substantial experience in ecclesiastical processes related to priest disciplinary issues.”

Two of the three were members of religious orders, and the third was a layperson. Two were men and one was a woman, he said.

As the team was carrying out its work, Father Corapi filed a civil suit against his principal accuser and then offered $100,000 for her silence, the news release said. Other key witnesses who “may have negotiated contracts … that precluded them from speaking” with the team declined to answer its questions or provide documents, it said.

When the fact-finding team asked Father Corapi to dismiss the lawsuit and release individuals from their contractual obligations to remain silent, “he refused to do so and, through his canonical advocate, stated, ‘It is not possible for Father Corapi to answer the commission’s questions at this time,'” the news release added.

Father Corapi, 64, announced June 17 — two days before the 20th anniversary of his priestly ordination — in a YouTube video and blog posting that he would leave the priesthood.

“For 20 years I did my best to guard and feed the sheep,” he said in the blog posting. “Now, based on a totally unsubstantiated, undocumented allegation from a demonstrably troubled person I was thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. I accept that. Perhaps I deserve that.”

Father Corapi had been highly visible for several years as a speaker and preacher, including a program on the Eternal Word Television Network. EWTN took his show off its schedule shortly after his suspension, saying it would not knowingly put on the air a priest whose faculties had been suspended.

The SOLT news release said Father Sheehan would not be available for further comment because of the order’s general chapter July 5-23.

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Father Bob ‘pressured to quit’ post

VICTORIAN of the Year Father Bob Maguire says he is being made to quit his post as parish priest against his will, and that his ejection could unravel his community work.

Father Maguire is due to step down as parish priest at South Melbourne’s Church of St Peter and St Paul on February 1 next year, as he agreed in a letter to the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, in 2009.

But the celebrity Catholic priest said yesterday that he was ”pressured” into writing the letter and in fact wants to remain in the job beyond that date, as his position as parish priest is integral to the church’s work in the community.

”Why would you go to the trouble of breaking up the relationship when in fact everybody seems to be agreeing that it’s a bloody good thing?” he said.

Father Maguire resisted an attempt by Archbishop Hart two years ago to nudge him into retirement upon his 75th birthday, winning an extension in the role until February 1, 2012.

”In 2009 I was pressured into signing a letter of resignation,” he said. ”I turned 75 and [Archbishop Hart] said ‘look, the custom now is to offer your resignation and if you offer it, I’ll take it’. So I said, ‘I don’t know that I’ll offer it’.”

Father Maguire – best known for his appearances on TV and radio alongside comedian John Safran, but also for his work with the homeless and the poor – said he could not understand why he was being singled out for retirement when many Catholic priests continue to work well beyond the age of 75.

But Archbishop Hart said the move was ”consistent with canon law, which asks a priest who turns 75 to offer his resignation”.

”While there may be older parish priests in Victoria their appointment is dependent on the assessment by the local bishop of the circumstances of the priest, parish and diocese,” the archbishop added.

Now 77 but still committed to his church and community work, Father Maguire questioned whether it was his attention-grabbing style, rather than his age, behind the move.

”Maybe the Roman style currently prevailing in the Catholic Church thinks that I’m a bogan,” he said.

Father Maguire was named Victorian of the Year last week for his community service work.

He dedicated the award to his parishioners, saying they had joined him in reaching out to the local community, especially those living in South Melbourne’s public housing estate.

Archbishop Hart also praised Father Maguire’s community work, saying he had ”thoroughly deserved the Victorian of the Year award”.

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