Tag Archive: Catholic Church


In the annals of the sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, most of the cases that have come to light happened years before to children and teenagers who have long since grown into adults.

Associated Press

Bishop Robert Finn took over the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri in 2005.

But a painfully fresh case is devastating Catholics in Kansas City, Mo., where a priest, who was arrested in May, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls, most recently during an Easter egg hunt just four months ago.

Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has acknowledged that he knew of the existence of photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.

A civil lawsuit filed last week claims that during those five months, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, attended children’s birthday parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted the Easter egg hunt and presided, with the bishop’s permission, at a girl’s First Communion.

“All these parishioners just feel so betrayed, because we knew nothing,” said Thu Meng, whose daughter attended the preschool in Father Ratigan’s last parish. “And we were welcoming this guy into our homes, asking him to come bless this or that. They saw all these signs, and they didn’t do anything.”

The case has generated fury at a bishop who was already a polarizing figure in his diocese, and there are widespread calls for him to resign or even to be prosecuted. Parishioners started a Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go” and are circulating a petition. An editorial in The Kansas City Star in June calling for the bishop to step down concluded that prosecutors must “actively pursue all relevant criminal charges” against everyone involved.

Stoking much of the anger is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10 million and agreed to a long list of preventive measures, among them to immediately report anyone suspected of being a pedophile to law enforcement authorities.

Michael Hunter, an abuse victim who was part of that settlement and is now the president of the Kansas City chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: “There were 90 nonmonetary agreements that the diocese signed on to, and they were things like reporting immediately to the police. And they didn’t do it. That’s really what sickens us as much as the abuse.”

The bishop has apologized and released a “five-point plan” that he described as “sweeping changes.” He hired an ombudsman to field reports of suspicious behavior and appointed an investigator to conduct an independent review of the events and diocesan policies. The investigator’s report is taking longer than expected and is now due in late August or early September, said Rebecca Summers, director of communications in the diocese.

The bishop also replaced the vicar general involved in the case, Msgr. Robert Murphy, after he was accused of propositioning a young man in 1984. The diocese has delayed a capital fund-raising campaign on the advice of its priests, a move first reported by The National Catholic Reporter.

Bishop Finn, who was appointed in 2005, alienated many of his priests and parishioners, and won praise from others, when he remade the diocese to conform with his traditionalist theological views. He is one of few bishops affiliated with the conservative movement Opus Dei.

He canceled a model program to train Catholic laypeople to be leaders and hired more staff members to recruit candidates for the priesthood. He cut the budget of the Office of Peace and Justice, which focused on poverty and human rights, and created a new Respect Life office to expand the church’s opposition to abortion and stem cell research. He set up a parish for a group of Catholics who prefer to celebrate the old Tridentine Mass in Latin.

Father Ratigan, 45, was also an outspoken conservative, according to a profile in The Kansas City Star. He and a class of Catholic school students joined Bishop Finn for the bus ride to the annual March for Life rally in Washington in 2007.

The diocese was first warned about Father Ratigan’s inappropriate interest in young girls as far back as 2006, according to accusations in the civil lawsuit filed Thursday. But there were also more recent warnings.

In May 2010, the principal of a Catholic elementary school where Father Ratigan worked hand-delivered a letter to the vicar general reporting specific episodes that had raised alarms: the priest put a girl on his lap during a bus ride and allowed children to reach into his pants pockets for candy. When a Brownie troop visited Father Ratigan’s house, a parent reported finding a pair of girl’s panties in a planter, the letter said.

Bishop Finn said at a news conference that he was given a “brief verbal summary” of the letter at the time, but did not read it until a year later.

In December, a computer technician discovered the photographs on Father Ratigan’s laptop and turned it in to the diocese. The next day, the priest was discovered in his closed garage, his motorcycle running, along with a suicide note apologizing to the children, their families and the church.

Father Ratigan survived, was taken to a hospital and was then sent to live at a convent in the diocese, where, the lawsuit and the indictment say, he continued to have contact with children.

Parents in the school and parishioners were told only that Father Ratigan had fallen sick from carbon monoxide poisoning. They were stunned when he was arrested in May.

“My daughter made cards for him,” said one parent who did not want her name used because the police said her daughter might have been a victim. “We prayed for him every single night at dinner. It was just lying to us and a complete cover-up.”

A federal grand jury last Tuesday charged Father Ratigan with 13 counts of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography. It accused him of taking lewd pictures of the genitalia of five girls ages 2 to 12, sometimes while they slept. If convicted, he would face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

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Michele Bachmann officially leaves her church

 

Washington (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has long been a darling of conservative evangelicals, but shortly before announcing her White House bid, she officially quit a church she’d belonged to for years.

Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, and her husband, Marcus, withdrew their membership from Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, last month, according to church officials.

The Bachmanns had been members of the church for more than 10 years, according to Joel Hochmuth, director of communications for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the broader denominational body of which Bachmann’s former church is a member.

The church council granted the Bachmanns’ request to be released from their membership on June 21, Hochmuth said.

After declaring at the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader presidential debate that she would seek the nomination, Bachmann formally announced her presidential bid June 27 in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Bachmanns approached their pastor and verbally made the request “a few weeks before the church council granted the request,” Hochmuth said. He added, “they had not been attending that congregation in over two years. They were still on the books as members, but then the church council acted on their request and released them from membership.”

Bachmann had listed her membership in the church on her campaign site for congress in 2006. She lists no church affiliation on her campaign website or her official congressional website.

Hochmuth said that a change in membership is not out of the ordinary. “You have people who are on the books as members, but they may have gone on to another church; they may not be attending a church anywhere. There’s all sorts of circumstances.”

A similar request for membership is to transfer membership from one church to another within the denomination. But that does not appear to be the case with the Bachmanns, according to Hochmuth, who said that to his knowledge, the couple was no longer attending a church within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Pastor Marcus Birkholz has been at the helm of Salem Lutheran Church for nearly three decades. When asked about the Bachmanns leaving the church, he said, “I’ve been asked to make no comments regarding them and their family.”

Bachmann was asked about her status with the church on Thursday at Reagan National Airport as she headed to catch a flight. When asked about her pastor, she asked, “Which one?” An aide quickly hustled her away, noting that they were late for a flight.

The Bachmann campaign declined to immediately respond to a request for further comment Friday.

Becky Rogness, a spokesperson in Bachmann’s congressional office, said the Congresswoman now attends a nondenominational church in the Stillwater area but did not know the name of the church or how long she had been attending.

Hochmuth said that, “My understanding of the situation was the timing of the request for release was far more coincidental than strategic.”

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has come under criticism from some Catholics for its views on the papacy, an institution that the denomination calls the Antichrist.

“We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy,” the denomination’s website says. “This is an historical judgment based on Scripture.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement Thursday about Bachmann’s denomination, saying it’s “regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles.”

“But we find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann,” the statement continued. “Indeed, she has condemned anti-Catholicism. Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record.”

The debate over the legitimacy of the papacy goes back to the Protestant Reformation. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s namesake is Martin Luther, who led the 16th century Reformation and who opposed the papacy.

“The issue of the papacy as the Antichrist does go back to Luther – he did use that terminology,” said Professor George C. Heider, theology chair at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran school in Indiana.

“Luther’s point was, that in his view, the pope was so obstructing the gospel of God’s free love in Jesus, even though he wore all the trappings of a leader in the church,” Heider said. “He was functioning as the New Testament describes it as the Antichrist.”

Still, Heider notes that Roman Catholics and Lutherans have close ties today. They recognize each other’s baptisms, a point of contention in relations between the Catholic Church and other Protestant denominations.

Salem Lutheran Church still maintains some ties with the Bachmann family. It lists a Christian counseling center operated by Bachmann’s husband on its website under special member services for confidential counseling.

Hochmuth said there are no formal ties between the counseling center and the denomination but added that it is not uncommon for churches to link off to members’ websites as in this case.

Bachmann and Associates has faced accusations that it uses a controversial therapy that encourages gay and lesbian patients to change their sexual orientation.

In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune published Friday, Marcus Bachmann did not deny that he or other counselors at his clinic used the technique but said they did so only at the request of a patient.

“Is it a remedy form that I typically would use?” he said. “It is at the client’s discretion.”

Salem Lutheran Church has about 800 members and holds three services each weekend. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is often referred to as theologically conservative. The denomination opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, both positions Bachmann has long endorsed politically.

The denomination has approximately 390,000 members in 48 states and 1,300 congregations in the United States and Canada.

Presidential candidates’ affiliation with churches and pastors played a dramatic role in the 2008 campaign for president.

Then-candidate Barack Obama resigned from his Chicago church in May 2008 after videos surfaced of his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivering fiery sermons that criticized certain U.S. policies.

In the speeches, Wright suggested that the U.S. government may be responsible for the spread of AIDS in the black community and equated some American wartime activities to terrorism.

Wright officiated Obama’s wedding and baptized his children, and the Obamas were members at Wright’s church for years. After a sustained attention on Wright, Obama distanced himself from his former pastor.

During the same election cycle, Republican presidential nominee John McCain rejected endorsements from two prominent pastors, John Hagee and Rod Parsley, for controversial statements from the pastors’ pasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The popular image of a church is that of a selfless organization unconcerned with financial gain. It is reflected in the fact that churches receive tax-exempt status from federal and state governments. And without question, most churches do engage in substantial charity work.

But that doesn’t mean that churches are not, at least partially, money-making enterprises. Though official records are scarce, the world’s major churches are all believed to collect annual revenues in excess of several billion dollars. Like any other institution, these churches work hard to earn the highest possible return on their investments.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Otherwise known as the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has long been one of the world’s wealthiest religious groups.

Like most major churches, the exact tally of LDS assets is difficult to come by. In July 2007, the Salt Lake Tribune covered an Oregon Supreme Court ruling ordering the church to publicize its financials in connection with a lawsuit from an alleged abuse victim, noting that it had not disclosed such information since 1959. In 1997, Time Magazine found that current LDS assets totaled $30 billion. If LDS were a corporation, Time continued, its estimated $5.9 billion in annual revenues would have placed it midway through the Fortune 500.

The LDS church has taken ambitious strides to preserve and grow its wealth over the years. Beneficial Financial Group, a $3.1 billion insurance company with annual revenues exceeding $600 million, is wholly owned by the church. LDS also owns the Deseret Morning News, Utah’s second-largest newspaper. Bonneville International Corporation, which controls over two dozen top radio stations across six states, is also wholly owned by LDS through Deseret Management Corporation, the church’s for-profit arm. Another $6 billion of church money was said by Time to be tied up in “unspecified investments.” All of these activities, it should be noted, are categorized as “unrelated business income” and subject to state and federal taxes.

In 2005, MSNBC reported that the Roman Catholic Church owned more real estate globally than any other organization or individual on earth. Interestingly, a surprising amount of this land does not produce income for the church. Gabriel Kahn, a Rome Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, told MSNBCthat the church’s land assets “are not liquid and they can’t be put to use for the Catholic Church in the way they could be for, say, a corporation.”

But just five years earlier, the church’s own financial statements told a different story. In 2001, an official report stated that the church’s real estate activities in fiscal year 2000 produced $81.7 billion in revenue on $51.8 billion in expenses: a nearly $30 billion profit.

Outside of real estate, MSNBC suggests that the Catholic church maintains a portfolio of conservative investments. In 2006, the Boston Globe revealed that the church turned a profit of roughly $55 million on a portfolio heavily concentrated in government bonds. The Vatican’s TV and publishing operations, too, were said to have produced an unspecified surplus.

Of course, the bulk of the Catholic Church’s yearly income continues to come in the form of donations. The Boston Globe found that “contributions from worldwide dioceses” totaled $92.9 million in 2005, while individual donations made directly to the Pope neared $60 million.

In recent years, the Vatican has suffered from having a portfolio biased toward dollar-denominated investments. The UK’s Guardian found that in 2008 the church suffered its first loss in four years, owing to the decline of the dollar relative to the stronger Euro.

 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is less guarded than either the Catholic Church or Church of Latter-Day saints, releasing detailed yearly financial reports on its website.

In fiscal year 2009, the church claims to have earned $1,698,336 from “investment income”, $2,238,629 from “bequests and trusts” and another $1,003,420 in rental income. The same report lists a separate column of “temporarily restricted” revenues, on which another $1,625,000 in investment income is reported.

While the exact nature of these investments are not specified in the report, the church appears to derive substantial income from its Mission Investment Fund.

Through the Mission Investment Fund, the ELCA has made “nearly 800 active loans totaling over $475 million” to affiliated ministries located in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The purpose of loan proceeds is to help these organizations buy land, expand operations or in some way improve the Lutheran experience of nearby worshipers.

At time of writing, the Mission Investment Fund is offering 3.25% interest on four year, fixed-rate CDs, as well as 5.00% on one year, adjustable-rate mortgages. Members of the church are also encouraged to buy high-yield CDs, contribute to Health Savings Accounts, and use checking and savings accounts administered by the ECLA.

In total, the church claims that a significant number of “schools, colleges, universities, social ministry organizations and outdoor ministries” are invested in the Mission Investment Fund.

The Takeaway

Despite its un-businesslike nature, a church requires capital to carry outs its operations just as any other organization. In 2005, MSNBC’s Nanette Hansen even wondered if Pope Benedict XVI would “have to be a money manager as well as a spiritual leader.”

Regardless of the use to which church investment proceeds are ultimately put, there is no denying the financial clout that their activities provide them. Both the donations they take in and the investment income they earn help make the world’s major churches serious financial players.

 

 

Irish report damns Catholic Church abuse response
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

The Catholic Church in Ireland did not take serious steps to stamp out child abuse by priests even after the scandal blew up worldwide and the Irish bishops put rules in place to stop it, a new report says.

The report demolishes claims by the Catholic Church there that policies it put in place in 1996 have enabled it to get a handle on the problem.

The Church’s explanation that it was on a “learning curve” in handling allegations of abuse “could not have had any basis or relevance in Cloyne,” said the report, which focuses on the diocese of Cloyne around Cork in southern Ireland.

Ireland’s top churchman, Cardinal Sean Brady, called the report “another dark day in the history of the response of Church leaders to the cry of children abused by Church personnel.”

Ireland’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican representative in the country, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, for talks with Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Thursday following the publication of the report.

The report accuses Bishop John Magee, who was responsible for policing abuse in his diocese, of not backing the policy himself and failing to take action against abusers.

“Magee took little or no active interest” in child sex abuse cases for 12 years after the new policy was put in place, the report says, and Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, who ended up in de facto charge of policing abuse “did not approve of the requirement to report to the civil authorities,” the comprehensive report says.

Allegations of abuse within the diocese of Cloyne were so worrying that the Church appointed a special administrator to oversee it.

That archbishop, Dermot Clifford, said he accepted the findings of the report and “humbly apologized” to victims and their families.

And he expressed horror that the church did not act on its anti-abuse policies.

“It appalls me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne” Clifford said in a statement.

Clifford said Magee and O’Callaghan “accepted full responsibility and apologized for their failures.”

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Magee’s resignation as bishop of Cloyne in March 2010.

The report also details allegations against Magee himself.

A man referred to by the pseudonym “Joseph” reports that Magee held him in “protracted” embraces, asked him if it “felt good,” kissed him on the forehead, told him that he loved him, and said he had dreamed about him.

“Joseph” considered the attention paternal at the time, he told the report’s authors, but later reconsidered in light of reports into abuse and raised the issue with another priest.

“I began to think that maybe it wasn’t as innocent as I originally thought or assumed it was,” he says. He says the events occurred when he was 17 and 18 years old.

The priest to whom Joseph complained reported the matter to the church’s own child protection authorities, who considered it “inappropriate” but ruled it did not constitute abuse.

They did not report it to the police but did tell Magee about the accusation and reported it to church officials as high as Cardinal Brady and the Vatican’s representative in Ireland, the report says.

Joseph took the issue to the police, who also told him it did not constitute abuse, the report says.

The Vatican also failed to back Irish anti-abuse rules introduced in 1996, saying they were not official policy, according to the report, which was released Wednesday.

While it focuses on the diocese of Cloyne, it follows four earlier independent reports into abuse by Catholic priests and officials in Ireland going back decades.

The 421-page report, which is partially redacted, details complaints against 19 clerics in the diocese between 1996 and 2009.

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