Opus Dei paid $977,000 to settle sexual misconduct claim against prominent Catholic priest

Father John McCloskey of the Catholic Information Center, talks in 2002 with a priest at the University of Notre Dame, not pictured, about sex scandals within the Catholic Church on NBC’s ”Meet the Press” in Washington.

By Michelle Boorstein

The global Catholic community Opus Dei in 2005 paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct suit against the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a priest well-known for preparing for conversion big-name conservatives — Newt Gingrich, Larry Kudlow and Sam Brownback, among others.

The woman who filed the complaint is a D.C.-area Catholic who was among the many who received spiritual direction from McCloskey through the Catholic Information Center, a K Street hub of Catholic life in downtown Washington. She told The Washington Post that McCloskey groped her several times while she was going to pastoral counseling with him to discuss marital troubles and serious depression.

The guilt and shame over the interactions sent her into a tailspin and, combined with her existing depression, made it impossible for her to work in her high-level job, she said. She spoke to him about her “misperceived guilt over the interaction” in confession and he absolved her, she said.

“I love Opus Dei but I was caught up in this coverup — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries,” she said. The Post does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

The disclosure of the complaint and settlement were not made public by Opus Dei until Monday but behind the scenes, the ministry of the well-known priest had been sharply curtailed. Many Washington-area Catholics have wondered for years what happened to McCloskey, who was the closest thing to a celebrity the Catholic Church had in the region.

One other woman told Opus Dei that “she was made uncomfortable by how he was hugging her,” Brian Finnerty, an Opus Dei spokesman said Monday night. He said Opus Dei is also investigating a third claim — so far unsubstantiated — that he called potentially “serious.” He declined to provide details but said the woman “may have also suffered from misconduct by Father McCloskey” at the D.C. center, which is a bookstore, chapel and gathering place for conservative Catholics in particular.

In a statement, Opus Dei Vicar Monsignor Thomas Bohlin said McCloskey’s actions at the center were “deeply painful for the woman” who made the initial complaint “and we are very sorry for all she suffered.”

Bohlin’s statement, which came after the woman requested Opus Dei go public in an effort to reach other potential victims, said McCloskey was removed from his job at the center a year after the complaint, when it was found to be credible.

“All harassment and abuse are abhorrent,” Bohlin wrote. “I am painfully aware of all that the Church is suffering, and I am very sorry that we in Opus Dei have added to it. Let us ask God to show mercy on all of us in the Church at this difficult time.”

After leaving Washington after the complaints, McCloskey was sent to England, and then Chicago and California for assignments with Opus Dei. The woman in the settlement said she was told by church officials in Chicago when he was sent there that McCloskey would not be allowed to “get faculties” — or permission to fully function as a priest — and would be put on a very tight leash.

She became worried last year when she came into contact with someone else who knew about McCloskey and heard he may have been working as a priest in California.

In the statement Monday, Opus Dei said that after the settlement, McCloskey was told to only give spiritual direction to women in the confessional — meaning separated physically from them. In Opus Dei, a traditional community of Catholics, that is the norm for priests working with those they are counseling. McCloskey had an unusually public, free role at the Information Center.

In interviews in 2014, McCloskey was identified as working in “spiritual direction and pastoral ministry.” In a 2014 piece for the Jesuit magazine America, he said he was a “spiritual consultant.”

As a result, the woman in the settlement said, a lack of clarity about McCloskey’s role all these years haunted her, and she wants to be sure any other women potentially harmed by the priest know they aren’t alone and can get help.

McCloskey, who is now in his 60s, recently moved back to the D.C. region, where he has family. Opus Dei said Monday that he “suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He is largely incapacitated and needs assistance for routine daily tasks. He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately.”

The woman, who remains close to Opus Dei and participates in some of their spiritual activities, said Monday she was grateful to them for going public. She is now in her mid-50s, and was 40 when the incidents with McCloskey occurred.

“I’m very happy with how it’s being handled right now. They listened,” she said.

When she first reported McCloskey’s actions in the early 2000s, she said, she did so in a confessional with an Opus Dei priest in Virginia. The priest told her not to tell anyone else, including any other priests, “so he could fix it,” she said.

Later, an Opus Dei priest tried to help her, she said, encouraging her to seek medical and legal assistance.

Finnerty said the settlement for McCloskey is the only sexual misconduct settlement Opus Dei has ever paid out in the United States. The group received a special contribution specifically for it, he said. He would not name the donor.

Before becoming a priest, McCloskey worked for Citibank and Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, according to media reports. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in the early 1980s. He went on to become a successful author and religious commentator on television and radio, including the Catholic station EWTN.

In a 2011 piece by the Catholic News Agency celebrating 30 years as a priest, McCloskey said God had used him “as an instrument in spite of myself to bring dozens of vocations to the priesthood, religious life and to the new ecclesial movements, and all this with my evident faults and human failings.”

Complete Article HERE!

Sex abuse cases cost SF Catholic Church $87 million in settlements

By

The Catholic diocese in San Francisco has settled roughly $87 million worth of sex abuse cases against priests and others associated with the church, mostly in the last 15 years, according to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

The archbishop divulged the eye-popping figure during a series of town hall meetings held to address the sexual abuse of minors in the local Catholic Church on the heels of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found hundreds of priest had molested at least 1,000 children in that region.

The multimillion-dollar figure, while expensive, represents just a fraction of the problem in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, according to an advocate with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, otherwise known as SNAP.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said SNAP national Board of Directors Secretary Melanie Sakoda, who is based in the Bay Area. “Only maybe one in 10 victims ever come forward. Some of them will say they don’t want money. They just want their abuser out of ministry.”

In October, a law firm named 135 priests linked to the Catholic diocese in San Francisco who have been accused of sexual abuse. Cordileone has not released such a list, though the archbishop was expected to decide whether to name priests who have been credibly accused by the end of November.

In a Nov. 15 letter, Cordileone said only that he had decided to hire an independent consultant to review the personnel files of all 4,000 priests who have served in the diocese since 1950.

“This work will take a while, and when it is done I will report back the results to the Archdiocese,” Cordileone wrote without addressing the release of names.

Cordileone disclosed the $87.2 million sum on Oct. 18 at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church. He said $80.5 million worth of a total of 125 sex abuse cases had been settled since 2003, when California lifted the statute of limitations for adults abused as children to file civil lawsuits against the church for one year.

California passed legislation opening the one-year window for civil litigation after the Boston Globe reported in 2002 on the local church covering up for priests who abused children.

“To me this is the deepest betrayal imaginable,” Cordileone said. “I can’t express adequately the deepest shame for you, our victims, and for what has been done to you, and for those in positions of authority who did not respond responsibly but rather allowed abusive priests to continue unchecked.”

Cordileone said insurance covered 70 percent of the $87.2 million in settlements, while roughly $35 million of the funds came from the diocese, the sale of church properties and other religious funds. No parish funds were used to cover the costs of the settlements, he said.

Cordileone claimed there had not been a reported incident of the sexual abuse of a minor in the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 2000.

“We did have a close call in the year 2011,” Cordileone said. “There was a priest serving here from another diocese who made advances to a young man who was just shy of his 18th birthday. The father was nearby and intervened so thankfully the abuse didn’t happen, but that priest has been removed from ministry.”

Sakoda questioned the claim. The SNAP advocate said she does not believe abuse has stopped in the local diocese — it likely just hasn’t been reported yet.

“The average age for coming forward is 48,” Sakoda said. “It could be either that people aren’t reporting it, or that Archbishop Cordileone is not being totally honest in the sense that there have been no allegations they have found, in their word, to be credible.”

As the San Francisco Examiner reported Saturday, preliminary findings in the diocese review of accusations of sexual abuse since the 1950s revealed six allegations of sexual abuse of a child by clergy in the 1990s and three in the year 2000, including an incident reported in 2006.

Cordileone said the priest in that incident was from Guatemala and had left the country by the time of the report.

In the other two most recently reported incidents from 2000, Cordileone said one priest was “caught in a sting of selling kidding porn” and another was arrested “for commerce with male prostitutes.” Both were removed from ministry.

As for the millions in settlements, Cordileone said the diocese most recently discovered it had paid $60,000 to settle two cases in Stockton in the 1950s. Church officials found out about the settlements during bankruptcy proceedings for the city, which was once part of the Diocese of San Francisco.

Complete Article HERE!

Australian Church Catches Hell After Introducing Electronic Collection Plates

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney turned people off with a $10 minimum.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.

By Andy McDonald

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Australia is taking heat for implementing a “tap and go” collection plate. Similar to what you would see at a McDonald’s, these devices allow patrons ― or in this case, parishoners ― to tap their chip-enabled credit cards and pay a certain amount.

The Roman Catholic cathedral in Sydney announced the moved on its Facebook page, but the outcry was so swift that the post was deleted soon after ― though, as always, someone took a screenshot.

“Multiple payments of $10 can be made by tapping your card once with several seconds in between each transaction,” St. Mary’s said in the post.

Multiple payments! The response was certainly not all negative, and seemed more focused on the minimum donation being set at $10.

“If you had made it [a] $2 minimum we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said one Facebook user.

“I hate it when I turn up to mass and realise I don’t have any cash,” another user said in support. “I would love this option at my parish.”

St. Mary’s followed up on the outcry by thanking those who made “rational and coherent comments” about the new collection plates.

St. Mary’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic bishop is caught with £19,000 stashed in a false wall

Group of priests stole £425,000 from donations and wedding fees over three years’ in Brazil

Cash stash: Police in Formosa, Goiás, Brazil, prised open fake panels in the home of Monsignor Epitácio Cardoso Pereira, to find 90,000 reais (£19,200) in plastic bags

By Sara Malm

A group of Catholic priests in Brazil have been arrested, accused of embezzling £426,000 of church donations, funeral fees and fundraising cash. 

The Bishop of Formosa, Jose Ribeiro, along with five clergymen and three lay people were detained in prison in Goiás this week charged with stealing over 2 million reais (£426,000) from church funds.

A police raid on one of the priests’ home saw officers prise open a false wall in to find some £19,200 in plastic bags hidden in a secret storage space.

Arrested: Monsignor Epitacio Cardoso Pereira, pictured with another priest, are accused of embezzling over 2 million reais (£426,000) from church funds along with his colleagues

It’s alleged the money was stolen over a three-year period from tithes, donations, fundraising events and from fees collected for ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings.

According to state prosecutors, the bishop, who was appointed to the Formosa diocese in 2014, is suspected of leading a sophisticated scheme that diverted funds from church coffers.

Phone taps uncovered the alleged web of deceit with conversations apparently revealing how the group

Accused: Bishop Jose Ribeiro is suspected of leading a sophisticated scheme that diverted funds from church coffers.

laundered the money by purchasing a cattle ranch, a lottery agency, mobile phones, luxury cars, designer watches and gold chains. Large amounts of cash in foreign currencies were also found.

Prosecutor Fernanda Balbinot, said: ‘There were indications the money was used for personal expenses and that cars from the Formosa diocese were used for private purposes.

‘Instead of presenting tax bills and expense receipts with the correct amount, documents were allegedly produced saying there was nothing to declare.’

The investigation is reported to have also uncovered evidence that priests, involved in the scheme, paid the bishop a monthly ‘protection allowance’ of between 7,000 to 10,000 reais (£1,500 to £2,100) to keep their jobs.

Prosecutor Douglas Chegyry said to Brazilian media: ‘The information we have obtained is that in order to remain in the more profitable parishes that generated more money, the priests paid a cash allowance to the bishop.’

In the raid on the home of one of the accused, Monsignor Epitácio Cardoso Pereira, agents used a penknife to prise open the fake panels to discover 90,000 reais (£19,200) in plastic bags hidden in a secret storage space.

Big spender: Police say that the priests laundered the money by purchasing a cattle ranch, a lottery agency, mobile phones, luxury cars, designer watches and gold chains

They also seized three iPhones, a Macbook and found more money hidden in draws around the home which the defendant claimed did not belong to him.

Police officers were later filmed taking hours to count the haul.

The investigation into the Formosa Diocese accounts began last year after members of the congregation alleged irregularities and misuse of assets by the Catholic Church.

Churchgoers also claimed the expenses of the episcopal house rose disproportionately, from 5,000 reais to 35,000 reais (£1,000 to £7,500) following the arrival of Bishop Ribeiro. At the time, the cleric denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have charged the defendants with misappropriation, money laundering, ‘ideological falsehood’ and criminal association.

Lawyers for the accused refute the charges and said they will prove their clients innocence.

Two days after the arrests, Pope Francis named Father Paulo Mendes, who is archbishop of Uberaba, as a temporary replacement in the Goiás diocese which has 33 churches distributed over 20 parishes.

Complete Article HERE!

In Vatican Magazine Exposé, Nuns Reveal Their Economic Exploitation

Nuns at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with members of different religious orders in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican last month.

By

Sister Marie told of nuns who worked long hours to cook and clean for cardinals and bishops, without being asked to break bread at the same table.

Sister Paule pointed out that many nuns did not have registered contracts with the bishops, schools, parishes or congregations they worked for, “so they are paid little or not at all.”

Sister Cécile said that “nuns are seen as volunteers to have available at one’s calling, which gives rise to abuse of power.”

These stories — told by sisters using pseudonyms — were revealed Thursday in an exposé about how nuns are exploited by the leaders and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. The article, by the French journalist Marie-Lucile Kubacki, was published in the March edition of Women Church World, the monthly magazine on women distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

he stories amount to a distress signal about the unfair economic and social conditions many nuns experience, as well as the psychological and spiritual challenges that many face.

“In the eyes of Jesus we are all children of God,” said the nun identified as Sister Marie, “but in their concrete life some nuns do not live this, and they experience great confusion and discomfort.”

The article was part of an issue dedicated to “Women and Work,” which touched on subjects already familiar to readers of the women’s magazine, like maternity and women in the church, but also the gender pay gap and unpaid domestic work.

It came about after discussions with nuns and observations about how they were treated in the Vatican, where they often provide “subordinate services,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a feminist intellectual and the editor of Women Church World, which was introduced under Pope Benedict XVI.

Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of Women Church World.

Though convents also depend on the money generated by the sisters living there, many nuns, unlike priests, are not paid, or are poorly paid, when they attend conferences or when they preach, she said.

But the article, “The (Nearly) Free Work of Sisters,” noted that it was not just a question of money. A bigger problem, the article pointed out, is that many sisters say that while male vocations are valued, the work of women is not.

“Behind all this is still the unfortunate idea that women are worth less than men, and above all that the priest is everything while sisters are nothing in the church,” Sister Paule said in the article.

The article confirmed that while women have been clamoring to have a greater role in the decision making of the male-centric Catholic Church, the road is still steep.

Still, some efforts are underway to address the problem. The annual Voices of Faith conference, which aims to showcase the “underutilized potential of women to exercise leadership at all levels of the Catholic Church” will take place at the Vatican on March 8.

And a “Manifesto of Women for the Church,” also published in the March issue of Women Church World, calls for giving women “roles that are coherent with our competences and capacities.” The document has circulated on social media and is being shared by women who are active in church institutions and parishes throughout Italy.

Pope Francis, who is said to read the magazine, has raised the matter of women’s roles in the church before, but his concerns have yet to be translated into concrete changes.

At an audience in May 2016, Francis was asked by one of the 900 leaders of female religious orders and congregations who form part of the International Union of Superiors General why the organization was not given a bigger say in the operation of the church.

Pope Francis leading a Mass for priests and nuns at the Vatican last month.

Francis said at the time that “very often I find consecrated women who perform a labor of servitude and not of service,” and he urged the sisters to “have the courage to say no” when their superiors “asked for something that is more servitude than service.”

Sisters should be in the streets, in schools and with the sick and poor rather than carrying out errands for a parish priest, he said.

“When a consecrated woman is asked to perform a work of servitude, the life and dignity of that woman are demeaned,” the pope said. “Her vocation is service: service to the church. But not servitude!” (His comments that day were overshadowed by an off-the-cuff comment about setting up a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons in the church.)

The pope has said that his concerns apply to women in the church in general. In its Friday edition, which came out Thursday, L’Osservatore Romano published a preface written by the pope for a Spanish-language book on Francis and women.

The pope wrote that he was concerned about a chauvinist mentality that persists in societies that leads to acts of violence. “And I am concerned that in the church itself, the role of service to which every Christian is called, often, in the case of women, slides into roles of servitude rather than service,” he wrote.

Paola Lazzarini Orrù, a sociologist and one of the authors of the manifesto in the magazine said some parishes had begun to invite women to speak during Mass. “Priest have begun to understand this is an issue that can no longer be ignored,” she said.

In the article, Sister Cécile said it was time for nuns to speak out. “Now when I am invited to hold a conference, I no longer hesitate to say I want to be paid, and how much I expect,” she said.

“It’s a question of survival for our communities,” she added, because she and her sisters live off this income.

But “change is difficult,” Ms. Scaraffia said. “Many prelates don’t want to hear these things, because it is easier to have nuns” who play subservient roles.

Complete Article HERE!