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!

Founder of clergy abuse group quits in second major loss following lawsuit

Barbara Blaine, center, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), found herself — literally — in the center of controversy at an impromptu 2005 press conference at the Vatican following the death of Pope John Paul II. The recent global sex abuse scandal has thrust Blaine and SNAP back into the spotlight.

 
The founder of a prominent advocacy group for children sexually abused by Catholic priests has resigned, the second major departure in the wake of a lawsuit filed last month by a former employee alleging that the organization colluded with lawyers to refer clients and profit from settlements.

In an email to supporters Barbara Blaine said her decision to leave SNAP, which stands for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had nothing to do with the legal action.

“(P)lease know that the recent lawsuit filed against SNAP, as the others in the past which have no merit, had absolutely no bearing on my leaving,” Blaine, herself a victim of clergy abuse as a child who started SNAP 29 years ago, said in an email sent on Saturday (Feb. 4). “The discussions and process of my departure has been ongoing.”

Blaine’s resignation was effective a day earlier, on Feb. 3.

The surprise announcement comes less than two weeks after David Clohessy, SNAP’s executive director and also a fixture in the organization for nearly 30 years, announced he too was leaving.

Clohessy and SNAP officials had also insisted that his departure had been in the works for months and had nothing to do with do with the lawsuit, filed in Illinois on Jan. 17.

The lawsuit by Gretchen Rachel Hammond names Blaine, Clohessy and other SNAP leaders as defendants and alleges that “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors – it exploits them.”

The group, which more than any other is responsible for revealing the scandals that have continued to rock Catholicism in the U.S. and around the world, “routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations,’” Hammond alleges.

“In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church. These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

Hammond, who worked on fundraising for SNAP from 2011 until 2013, said she feared reprisals from SNAP leaders over her objections to the lawyers’ payments and suffered serious health problems as a result. She says she was fired in 2013, allegedly because she confronted her bosses over their practices with victims’ attorneys, and that the dismissal has hurt her career.

It’s long been assumed that SNAP received substantial donations from some of the high-profile attorneys who specialize in these cases and who have won multimillion-dollar settlements from the Catholic Church in the U.S. and its insurance companies.

But Hammond’s filing shows how critical such donations are to SNAP’s survival: It claims, for example, that 81 percent of the $437,407 in donations SNAP received in 2007 came from victims’ lawyers, and 65 percent of the $753,596 it raised in 2008 came from lawyers.

More problematic is Hammond’s claim that SNAP worked hand in glove with victims’ attorneys and received “direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

SNAP officials have from the outset denied Hammond’s claims.

In a statement last Wednesday, SNAP board chair Mary Ellen Kruger said that victims who come to SNAP are indeed often referred to attorneys “in an effort to bring accountability to those that have condoned and perpetuated this abuse for decades.”

But she said the donations from the attorneys have no connection to those referrals.

“Like all nonprofits, SNAP solicits and accepts donations from anyone who believes in our cause,” Krueger said.

“This includes individuals from all walks of life. This has also included attorneys who have filed lawsuits against priests and ‘the system.’ To be clear, SNAP has never and will never enter into any ‘kickback schemes’ as alleged by Ms. Hammond in her lawsuit, nor has SNAP ever made donations an implied or express condition of the referral of victims.”

In her email to supporters, Blaine portrayed the personnel moves as part of SNAP’s natural transition “from a founder led organization to one that is board led.”

“I have every confidence that the strength you and the board members have shown as survivors will keep the organization strong,” she wrote.

Complete Article HERE!

Longtime leader of clergy victims group leaves as SNAP faces lawsuit

L-R Robert Brooks and David Clohessy speak outside the Catholic Diocese on September 7, 2006. Brooks and Clohessy are calling for the diocese to post on its Web site the names of any clergy who have been disciplined in any way related to abuse allegations.

By DAVID GIBSON

A fixture in the organization working for children sexually abused by Catholic priests has resigned his post, an announcement that coincides with a lawsuit from a former employee alleging the group colluded with lawyers to refer clients and profit from settlements.

David Clohessy, longtime executive director of SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Tuesday that he left in December and his departure had nothing to do with the lawsuit, which was filed in Illinois on Jan. 17.

“Not at all,” Clohessy said by phone from his home in St. Louis, where SNAP has its main office. “My last day was five weeks ago, before this lawsuit ever happened.”

The lawsuit by Gretchen Rachel Hammond names Clohessy and other SNAP leaders as defendants and alleges that “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors — it exploits them.”

The group, which more than any other is responsible for revealing the scandals that have continued to rock Catholicism in the U.S. and around the world, “routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations,’ ” Hammond alleges.

“In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church. These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

Hammond, who worked on fundraising for SNAP from 2011 until 2013, said she feared reprisals from SNAP leaders over her objections to the lawyers’ payments and suffered serious health problems as a result. She said she was fired in 2013, allegedly because she confronted her bosses over their practices with victims’ attorneys and that the dismissal has hurt her career.

The lawsuit was first reported by National Catholic Reporter.

It long has been assumed that SNAP received substantial donations from some of the high-profile attorneys who specialize in these cases and who have won multimillion-dollar settlements from the Catholic Church in the U.S. and its insurance companies.

But Hammond’s filing shows how critical such donations are to SNAP’s survival: It asserts, for example, that 81 percent of the $437,407 in donations SNAP received in 2007 came from victims’ lawyers, and 65 percent of the $753,596 it raised in 2008 came from attorneys.

More problematic is Hammond’s allegation that SNAP worked hand in glove with victims’ attorneys and received “direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

“The allegation is explosive because it’s unethical,” Jeff Anderson, a prominent Minnesota attorney who has represented victims of clergy sex abuse, told the Chicago Tribune.

“I’ve never done it nor would I ever do it,” said Anderson, who added that he regularly donates to SNAP but not in exchange for referrals.

In a statement, SNAP President Barbara Blaine, who founded the group along with Clohessy, said the allegations “are not true.”

“This will be proven in court,” Blaine said. “SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: to help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”

Clohessy would not comment to Religion News Service on the lawsuit, but he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the charges were “utterly preposterous.” And he told RNS that SNAP “didn’t have any clue at all” that it was coming.

“We’ve heard nothing from her for four years since she quit. So that caught everybody by surprise.

“We have always been under attack by somebody at some point, legally and otherwise,” Clohessy added. “So it’s never been a factor in any decision making, at least not for me certainly.”

Complete Article HERE!