Atlanta archbishop apologizes over $2.2M mansion

File under: Follow the money


The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta apologized Monday for building a $2.2 million mansion for himself, a decision criticized by local Catholics who cited the example of austerity set by the new pope.2008_08_09_Pistor_BoardInvestigating_ph_Gregory

Archbishop Wilton Gregory recently moved into a nearly 6,400-square-foot (595-square-meter) residence. Its construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind,” the Civil War epic that made his family wealthy. When Mitchell died in 2011, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”

Gregory said that he has received criticism over the spending in letters, emails and telephone messages.

“I am disappointed that, while my advisors (sic) and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” Gregory said in a column posted on the website of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Georgia Bulletin.

“I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services,” he added.

The Catholic leader said he will discuss the situation with several diocesan councils, including a special meeting of its finance council. If church representatives want the bishop to sell the home, Gregory said he will do so and move elsewhere.

The purchase of the sprawling home was part of a real estate deal made possible by money from Joseph Mitchell’s estate.

In his will, Mitchell requested that primary consideration be given to the Cathedral of Christ The King, where he worshipped. The cathedral received $7.5 million for its capital fund and spent roughly $1.9 million to buy the archbishop’s old home, according to tax records. Cathedral officials are planning to spend an additional $292,000 to expand Gregory’s old home so its priests can live there, freeing up space on the cathedral’s cramped campus.

After selling his home, Gregory needed a new residence.

The archbishop said that he made a mistake while designing a home with large meeting spaces and rooms for receptions and gatherings.

“What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed,” Gregory said.

He demolished the one-story home on Mitchell’s property, which was donated to the church, and replaced it with a Tudor-style mansion. In January, a group of local Catholics met with the archbishop and asked that he sell the large home and return to his old residence. They cited the example of Pope Francis, who turned down living quarters in a Vatican palace and drives a simple car.

“The example of the Holy Father, and the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense, has set the bar for every Catholic and even for many who don’t share our communion,” Gregory said.

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Roman Catholic Church faces human-rights case over dismissal of employee


Ginette Chaumont says she devoted her life to the Roman Catholic Church, forgoing marriage and a family to serve for 22 years as the assistant to a series of Ottawa archbishops before menopause left her depressed, disorganized and inefficient.


Ms. Chaumont, who is now 59, recognized her failings and tried to compensate by working unpaid overtime. But, in November, 2011, she was summoned to a meeting with Monsignor Kevin Beach. “He told me at that time that I was being dismissed,” she told The Globe and Mail on Monday. “He said the Archbishop no longer had any confidence in my doing his work.”

Stripped of the demanding job that had been her “compass point,” and unable to find new employment despite sending out hundreds of resumes, she has launched a human-rights case against the church which she said still “means everything to me.”

The problems she experienced in 2011 were not Ms. Chaumont’s first bout with mental issues. She was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2005, but was treated and the symptoms subsided – until she hit menopause in the winter before her dismissal.

The church that had paid for her master’s degree in canon law, from which she says she received multiple commendations for excellent service, was not getting the best she had to offer. But “I didn’t really feel comfortable asking for accommodations a second time,” she explained.

Church officials did not raise their concerns until she was suddenly cut loose, Ms. Chaumont said. “Basically, my whole life revolved around the church and, once my job was gone, it was like I was left facing nothing.”

For its part, the church says there is no foundation to her claim of discrimination. “The Archdiocese is prepared to defend its position before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario,” Sarah Du Broy, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said in an e-mail.

In its response to Ms. Chaumont’s human-rights complaint, the Archdiocese says she was advised during the termination meeting that, when she came back from her summer vacation in 2011, “she had returned to the problematic patterns of behaviour she previous exhibited.” And “given that she did not correct the problematic behaviours which had previously been addressed with her, her employment was being terminated.”

But Ms. Chaumont’s lawyer, Alan Riddell, said courts and tribunals say every employer must try to accommodate employees in cases of illness. Yet “this employer, the Archdiocese, didn’t lift a finger to accommodate the symptoms of the disability and the menopause,” he said. “The medical literature confirms that there is a very strong link in many women between diminished concentrative powers and efficiency and organization in the workplace and the onset of menopause.”

Mr. Riddell also pointed to the recent case of an Ottawa priest named Rev. Joe LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler who was convicted of stealing $130,000 from his church over the course of five years. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has said that, when Father LeClair has served his time, he will assist the priest in returning to his ministry.

“Unlike Father Joe, she never stole or lied to anyone,” Mr. Riddell said of Ms. Chaumont.

The message the Archbishop is sending to the community, said the lawyer, “is that, if you are a male priest, you will be forgiven and reinstated to the payroll, no matter what laws you break and how much money you steal. But, if you are a female assistant who leads a good Catholic life, as Ms. Chaumont did for all of her 60 years, you will be dumped onto the street just as fast as Hell can scorch a feather, just as soon as you run into serious health problems.”

Complete Article HERE!

Child sex abuse royal commission: Cardinal George Pell gives testimony in Sydney


Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, has told an inquiry into child sexual abuse he should have exercised greater oversight in the case of a victim who sued the Church.

Cardinal PellThe hearing room at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney is packed to capacity as Cardinal Pell gives his highly anticipated testimony.

It comes after two weeks of evidence from Catholic Church officials who have recalled their involvement in the case of John Ellis, who was abused by Sydney priest Father Aidan Duggan in the 1970s.

There are conflicting accounts of what Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, knew about the case when Mr Ellis sued the Church.

Mr Ellis lost his case in 2007, when the New South Wales Court of Appeal ruled the Church was not a legal entity that could be sued – the so-called Ellis defence.

Last week Cardinal Pell’s private secretary, Dr Michael Casey, told the commission the Church’s vigorous cross-examination of Mr Ellis during the litigation process was wrong.

Dr Casey last Thursday faced hours of intense questioning about the Church’s handling of Mr Ellis’s claim during which he said Cardinal Pell had directed the legal team to be aggressive in its cross-examination.

The commission has also been told Cardinal Pell took months to stop pursuing court costs.

In a statement tendered to the royal commission this morning, Cardinal Pell says the “legal battle was hard fought, perhaps too well fought by our legal representatives”.

“I would now say, looking back, that these legal measures, although effective, were disproportionate to the objective and to the psychological state of Mr Ellis as I now better understand it,” the statement read.

“I realise I should have exercised more regular and stringent oversight through my chancellor(s).”

Pell denies involvement in compensation discussions

Cardinal Pell has told the inquiry he was not involved in discussions about compensation for Mr Ellis.

The Cardinal has denied claims from former chancellor of the Sydney Archdiocese, Monsignor Brian Rayner, that he was involved in discussions about money.

Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness, put to Cardinal Pell that Monsignor Rayner “received information from you in relation to the offers he made in respect of Mr Ellis’s complaint”.

He told the hearing he was aware of the allegations, but that they were incorrect.

“I certainly did not participate in any extended discussion on this matter,” he told the hearing.

“I certainly did not nominate any amount of money. There’s a whole lot of things wrong with that account. There was no cap.”

Cardinal Pell also denied claims he rejected a compensation request when Mr Ellis lost his job.

“That I would agree to offer him $5,000 extra by way of compensation, I regard as grotesque,” he said.

There was a round of applause in the hearing room when Cardinal Pell was challenged to back up a claim.

“You’ve said that in quite a number of cases, for example, in schools, the incidents are found not to be validated,” Ms Furness told Cardinal Pell.

“I call for the data that supports that evidence.”

Vatican gave accused ‘benefit of the doubt’

Before turning to the Ellis case, the commission questioned Cardinal Pell about the culture of the Church in the 1990s.

Cardinal Pell agreed that before the Towards Healing pastoral and redress scheme was established in the mid-1990s, some priests were moved between dioceses in the event of an abuse complaint.

“Unfortunately that was the case,” he said. If that happened, it would be very much by way of exception.”

He told the hearing the Holy See took a sceptical approach to complaints of abuse and the accused were given “the benefit of the doubt”.

“The attitude of some people at the Vatican was that if accusations were being made against priests, they were made exclusively or at least predominantly by enemies of the Church to make trouble and therefore they should be dealt with sceptically,” he said.

“I think there was more of an inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant rather than listen seriously to the complaints.”

Cardinal Pell also told the commission that sentiments similar to those in the Vatican were present among some in the Australian arm of the Church in the early 1990s.

“Not to anything like the same degree, I don’t think, but it is a little bit difficult to know what people think on these issues unless they are discussed directly or they are challenged on them,” Cardinal Pell said.

“I never heard – I think in many ways, the English-speaking world made a significant contribution to the universal church in this area.

“In dealing adequately with this, whatever the deficiencies, I think we were ahead of some countries.”

He said when he became Archbishop of Melbourne he “moved very vigorously no improve what was a chaotic situation” surrounding the handling of abuse claims.

Abuse survivors listen closely to Pell’s evidence

The walls outside the royal commission have been covered in placards from victim support groups, calling on Cardinal Pell to be accountable for his actions and detail his role in the Ellis legal proceedings.

Child abuse survivors said they would watch Cardinal Pell’s appearance with great interest.

Dr Cathy Kezelman, the president of the group Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said there needed to be some clarity around the issue.

“We’re all waiting to see what the archbishop’s role was in this case and there’s been conflicting evidence to date. What we know is that John Ellis suffered enormously through this,” she said.

“We had an internal church process that acknowledged he’d been abused and yet when he sought a civil claim that was brought into question.”

Care Leavers Australia Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy said her organisation was eagerly anticipating the Cardinal’s evidence.

“It’s so long overdue,” she said. “I feel so sad about what happened to John Ellis and all those other people who have tried to get justice for the crimes that were committed against them.

“They call it the Ellis defence, but it should be called the Pell defence.

“He’s going to go down in history as the person who denied people justice.”

After his testimony, Cardinal Pell is expected to leave Australia for Rome to take on a new senior role at the Vatican, which includes responsibility for preparing the Vatican’s annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls.

The hearing continues.

Complete Article HERE!



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