Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me -Part XIII- Cardinal Llovera’s Failures

March 9th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This post should be read in conjunction with the Zeal Post Part XII.  In that prior post, it was noted that after two mailings to both dicasteries (through the Apostolic Nuncio, which is required), on November 15th and again on December 18th, the year 2010 closed with still no answer from either dicastery.  The Nuncio confirmed that all the materials had been sent.   As reported previously, Fr. Ring and others on his staff were stating that demolition of St. Jan’s Sanctuary would start “in early January.”

After more than seven weeks had expired without even an acknowledgment from either dicastery that the urgent request for intervention had been received, the petitioners of St. Januarius wrote a third time, by fax letters beginning January 5, 2011.  The letter were mailed by January 10, through the Nuncio to Cardinal Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (reproduced below) and to Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, with the same content.

Third Letter to Cardinal Llovera

Llovera fax p 1 of 2

















Llovera fax p 2 of 2 crop crop












The Nuncio again confirmed receipt and that he forwarded the materials,  in  a letter dated January 19th.  Meanwhile, a letter dated January 18th was on its way to the St. Januarius petitioners, from the  Congregation for the Clergy, assigning a protocol number but stating:

“The Dicastery has forward your materials to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as it is competent in the areas with which your letter deals.” 

Thus, the first reply was from the Congregation for the Clergy and was sent just over two months since the urgent request for intervention began.  That is considered prompt apparently in the Vatican, and outshines Cardinal Llovera’s first and only reply received in August of 2011.  But that is getting ahead of the story.   The net effect was that the Congregation for the Clergy confirmed that it was not responsible for handling the matter, so the St. Jan’s petitioners ceased further correspondence with that Congregation.  That left them sadly in the unresponsive hands of Cardinal Llovera and his Congregation, with jackhammers still threatening at any moment.

Seeking Intervention from the Apostolic Signatura

Since enough time under Canon Law had elapsed for which a response was due from Cardinal Llovera’s Congregation (DW&DS), in desperation the petitioners wrote to Raymond Cardinal Burke, as head of the Apostolic Signatura, to intervene and compel response.  The following letter was sent to Cardinal Burke on Jan. 25, 2011, before the Congregation for the Clergy’s response had been received.  (Note: responses from the Congregations also go to the Papal Nuncio, who remails to the petitioners.)  The letter from St. Jan’s petitioners to Cardinal Burke was also sent through the Papal Nuncio, who again confirmed that it had been forwarded to Rome.  The petitioning parishioners wrote (click on a page to enlarge):

Burke 1 of 3

Burke 2  of 3

  Burke 3  of 3


The Apostolic Signatura answered promptly upon receiving the fax copy, but refused to intervene or compel.  The reply stated: Please be advised that this Supreme Tribunal cannot intervene as you request, for it is not the hierarchical superior of other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and thus can. 1736, [section] 2 is not pertinent.”   The parishioners sought and received reliable advice that this decision was in error, but little time remained to appeal or confront it.

While fearing that the jack-hammers were about to show up momentarily, the parishioners learned from an OLOL staff member that the Diocese was requiring the Sanctuary project to be broken into two pieces,  so LaBella  had to figure what could and could not be done in Phase I.  Petitioners believe that inadequate financing was the cause of that decision.  Thankfully, the big immersion baptismal tank which seemed to be an aisle-blocking, fire-exit impediment, was dropped to Phase II which hopefully will never occur.  But Fr. Ring was so insistent on lowering the Sanctuary and moving the Tabernacle aside, that those elements were kept in Phase I.

Trying to Follow the Money

Some parishioners believe that the lack of funds was because Wegmans had NOT  given the $300,000 which Fr. Ring claimed they did (and Danny Wegman confirmed they had not), but the claim of the full donation had been used as a representation in seeking donors. Rather,  Danny Wegman confirmed that it was only $50,000 which he had given, although he said he’d been asked for $300,000.  Later, we believe, the project ran into the red and Mr. Wegman generously bailed it out with another $50,000.   It is believed that  inadequate  financing of the project required breaking it into two parts and caused the delay.  Even then, it is unknown how even the portion of the work that was done was actually funded, unless the money was taken from other funds.

Another aspect of the delay seemed to have been to wait for the legal amalgamation of St. Jan’s into OLOL in February 2011.  That would have enabled other cash in OLOL (legally, but not necessarily morally) to have been used for the demolition at St. Jan’s.  The only significant cash available, examining prior balance sheets, probably was  the over $200,000 which had been bequeathed to St  Patrick’s in Prattsburgh (and seemed to be the reason that church was left open when others were closed, out of fear that there could be a “clawback” of the donation to the estate of the deceased, if St. Pat’s had closed.)  Since separate balance sheets are no longer available for each parish after the amalgamation, the whereabouts of the $200,000 cannot be verified.  Alternatively, the money might have come from a reserve fund for repair of St. Jan’s roof.  One obvious change after the Sanctuary work was completed and financial statements issued, is that the money that had been entrusted to a separate reserve account for St. Jan’s roof repair was no longer on its balance sheet.  Under the terms by which the DoR did mergers, reserve funds had been promised to stay with the Church for which they had been given, and only used for that purpose.  Such a promise facilitated parish councils to vote for the amalgamation.  It is unknown if those St. Jan reserve funds were used on the Sanctuary project or not, as the financial reports are not sufficiently transparent.  It even seemed possible that the money came from an unknown mortgage or other loan, which might obligate future St. Jan’s parishioners to pay off.  If we could “follow the money” likely we would know much more!

Bait and Switch in OLOL

It was around this same time, in first quarter 2011, that a startling discovery was made after the third mailing to Cardinal Llovera.  The plans and drawings which had been shown to the parishioners of St. Januarius, i.e. the drawings on which Fr. Ring and Fr. Wiant solicited an additional $30,000 from parishioners and summer visitors,  to supplement what they claimed to be Wegman’s donations of $300,000),– those drawings were NOT what LaBella was using for its plans.  The parishioners had reacted to (and some donated) based on an exhibition of pictures and architectural drawings that seemed to some to enhance rather than destroy the Sanctuary, although others recognized those drawings actually misrepresented the work planned; e.g. showing new and dramatically colorful windows when no such work was intended.  But pretty pictures enticed some parishioners to overlook the worst of the changes, especially the lowered altar and ill-placed Tabernacle, and loss of space to a ramp that is rarely needed and used.  See Zeal Post Part II for a comparison of the pictures and also Zeal Post Part XXI.

The real plans (not the bait, but the switch) had actually been embedded on the OLOL website for St. Jan’s and were dated from March 2010, months before the bait was shown to the parishioners, even though not discovered until early 2011.   The biggest shock in the just-uncovered drawings was the disappearance of the organ and its pipes, which had been promised to remain, after parishioners defeated Fr. Ring’s attempt to sell it for $3,000 to an undisclosed bidder, an organ valued at $75,000-$100,000.  Given the extra detail which had just been found, and the misleading drawings which had been sent in the previous correspondence to Rome (which drawings now were even worse!), it seemed expedient to make sure that Rome had ALL the facts.  (Ultimately the pipe organ did remain, perhaps thanks in particular to these parishioners who were willing to fight for it.)

Fourth Letter to Cardinal Llovera: 9 pages + attachments

Cardinal Llovera still had not replied, so new correspondence was sent to him and his Dicastery, detailing what had just been learned, in a letter dated March 25, 2011.  All of that letter is shown below, and may be clicked to enlarge.  While it is rather tedious to show so much content, there are two reasons to do so.  1) to help others in preparing affidavits to the Vatican, and 2) to show the immense detail sent to Cardinal Llovera and his Dicastery to which he refused to even send a two-sentence letter of acknowledgement.  Clearly, there were many questionable elements of the entire project and one would think that simply halting for a new pastor’s arrival would have been logical; however, this is exactly the kind of project that begs the victims to find out what is really going on “behind the scenes.”


page 1

page 1

        page 2

page 3    Page 4

page 5    page 6

page 7

page 7

page 8

page 9

page 9









Then, when the demolition of the Sanctuary had taken place during Holy Week, of all outrageous times to do so, and the work dragged on, and finally Fr. Ring left for his new assignment at the end of June, the church was finally reopened in July.  Then, and only then, did Cardinal Llovera and his Dicastery respond.  If ever there was something that, to the people, who had pursued their rights in all sincerity and according to “the rules”,  felt like arrogance, belittling and uncaring of the spiritual needs of the flock, the following letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was just such a case.

Reply 9 months later

Reply 9 months later

The letter is dated July 18, but received through the Apostolic Nuncio’s office in an envelope mailed August 18.  Possibly the delay was caused in part by the death of the Apostolic Nuncio in the interim.  The original request was November 15, 2010 but is ignored in the Dicastery’s reply, and redated to January 5, 2011.  The Congregation didn’t even get the name of the petitioner/procurator right, and shows its further sloppiness in this matter.  From every point of view, it seems that criticism is merited, and trust totally destroyed.  Here is the letter from Cardinal Llovera;s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and a copy of the envelope for proof of the late delivery.

Envelope Postmark

Envelope Postmark

Obviously, the net result was a waste of time and effort.  The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, under Cardinal’s Llovera’s oversight, seemed rude.  If I had wanted to assume the best possible motives, I would be hard-pressed to think of any valid excuse for their behavior other than sheer incompetence.

Even Wikipedia knows this appeal was within the providence of the DW&DS.  It writes:

Church design and liturgical music



“As Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cañizares Llovera has established a “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating new construction and renovation projects for churches of the various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of mass. Cañizares Llovera and Pope Benedict XVI  consider this work as “very urgent.” The new commission’s regulations will give precise instructions to dioceses. The judicial powers of the Congregation for Divine Worship will have the power to act.”

Juridical power to act?  Obviously.  But clearly not the will to act.

 Fifth and Final Letter to Cardinal Llovera, unanswered

Llovera Reply 7-18-11 Complaint p 1Although the matter was effectively done with the destruction of the Sanctuary and receipt of the Congregation’s late letter, the petitioners sent one final letter to Cardinal Llovera citing all the appropriate arguments about why the response was erroneous and ill-founded.  Obviously, to cite the 5th chapter of the GIRM is disingenuous.  The General Instruction for the Roman Missal certainly does not contemplate pastors using jack-hammers to demolish sanctuaries, telling people funds were raised that weren’t, showing parishioners pictures that are not what he is proposing to do, leaving unanswered questions about where the money came from, or myriad other offenses that were documented to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  The nearly two and a half page letter from the petitioners was still polite (something I personally would have been hard pressed to do) but it laid out the errors and ended with the request that Fr. Ring be personally responsible to reimburse the cost of returning the Sanctuary to its pre-demolished condition.  Not surprisingly, Cardinal Llovera never answered.

     Llovera Reply 7-18-11 Complaint p 2

The good petitioners of St. Januarius only did what the Gospel tells them to do; i.e.  to persist against an unjust judge:  Luke 18: 2-5:  ‘He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.”  For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'”  


Llovera Reply 7-18-11 Complaint p 3


Today, as I  belatedly have caught up on completing the Zeal series post (and I will be adding a timeline at the end too), we are in sede vacante both at the Diocesan Level and the Chair of Peter.  The Conclave in Rome seems to be a bit delayed as the Cardinals struggle with and inform themselves on what is going on in the Church.  From recent reports and accusations, using words like “mafia” and “cabal,” it seems possible there might be an investigation into what happens behind the scenes, and after experiencing this situation with my friends from St. Januarius, I can’t help but think there needs to be a cleaning up of how parts of the Curia work, and investigation into relationships between those who receive complaints and judge, and their personal relationships with the clerics involved.  In a civil court, a judge would be required to recuse himself if he had a conflict of interest.  In the Curia’s process, much is hidden.

Cardial Llovera

Cardial Llovera

For example, we have no way of knowing if Cardinal Llovera (or some other gatekeeper in the Dicastery) and Bishop Clark  have or had a relationship which rendered it impossible for the parishioners to have prevailed in a matter which the Dicastery treated as of no merit at all, yet clearly had multiple issues for consideration.  The Dicastery seemed to be on such weak ground that it simply and deliberately delayed until it was too late, in spite of the urgency conveyed to them.  They didn’t even address specific issues raised, but gave an almost meaningless reply which people of any thought would seem to be able to see through.  The credibility of such Dicasteries needs badly to be restored, else the rights of the Faithful, supposed to be protected under Canon Law, become meaningless.  The St. Januarius situation is only one instance, but the secrecy is such that it is difficult to know how prevalent such rude or incompetent behavior actually is.   I hope this long and very detailed post is a resource for others.

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9 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me -Part XIII- Cardinal Llovera’s Failures”

  1. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    Wow. Is this blogging or long-form journalism?

    In all seriousness, if a post is this long, you might consider another medium.

  2. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thank you, Rich. That is good advice. By way of a little explanation: it isn’t a stand alone post; it is a section of the 20-part series. My problem in doing this was that I had left only one space in the series: Part XIII and there was even more content than I realized until I started assembling. It could easily have been three parts.

    The nice thing about “e-space” is that at least the viewer can just skip (well, three skips maybe) over the post and go on to what is of interest to him/her. But the resource is there for others who tell me they don’t even know where to start in going to Rome. My own feeling is that some of the stir in Rome today is related to the internal politics of the Curia, and I hope investigations will eventually examine what is really occurring in non-responsive dicasteries against the Faithful who bring valid cases. Hence, the detail, and the hope that it will eventually be accessed more widely. That’s by way of explanation, but your point is certainly valid. Thanks, Diane

  3. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    The nice thing about “e-space” is that at least the viewer can just skip (well, three skips maybe) over the post and go on to what is of interest to him/her.

    Indeed. I’m on the opinion that the more information, the better. Especially in this case, Diane is showing that someone should be paying attention to all these details. Blogging is whatever you make of it. I did, however, edit the post so that the whole thing doesn’t show up on the home page. Diane, let me know if you think that’s alright. Also, I noticed the ordering of the posts in the series is all screwed up. I’ll try to fix that when I get a chance.

  4. avatar Scott W. says:

    One of the rare times I’ll disagree with Rich. While the layout of the letter images seems a bit wonky, I love meaty entries like this.

  5. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    Diane et al.,

    With respect, I’ll wager 19 out of 20 visitors skip a post like this simply because of its length. Blogs aren’t ideal forums for long-form journalism; they aren’t “what you make of it” and they don’t draw readers looking for it. If you have a lot to say, either summarize the content or deploy “jump” htmls which cut off a post at a given length, e.g., 700 words, and allow readers to access the rest of the text via a link. Otherwise, it comes off like one of those off-putting, single-spaced, 2,000 word missives you find in the online LTE section of the local newspaper.

  6. avatar Thinkling says:

    One can reasonably debate the best format or venue for communicating these efforts, but I reiterate they are impressive and I am just glad they are publicly available and easy to find and access. I could still see this as a short book at some point though.:)

    I did a little digging into Cardinal Llovera and now am somewhat surprised he and his dicastery seemed so uninterested in this. I am one who avoids seeing malice when stupidity or incompetence will suffice — might they be overwhelmed with requests like this and to cope, had the gatekeeping “crank” filter tuned to an unacceptably low threshold? But then again I suppose it does not matter much at this point.

  7. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thinkling, you’ve asked a very relevant question but because of the secrecy involved we may never know. Possibly someone with an agenda at a lower level throttled the entire appeal. However, we know where the buck (or lira) stop, and for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, it is with the Prefect, Cardinal Llovera. What would it have taken to assign a protocol number and send a 2-page letter acknowledging receipt? Even the most fractured business should be able to do that! If he knew it was being suppressed and did nothing about it, then shame on him. If he is running a Congregation and doesn’t know what’s going on, then shame on him.

  8. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    With respect, if I were a cardinal thinking of electing someone as pope, I would do some simple google searches on the person. As you can see below (assuming you read geek), if you google “cardinal llovera”, you will find this post in the top twenty results.

    $ curl -k '' | python -mjson.tool | grep

    "cacheUrl": "",
    "unescapedUrl": "",
    "url": "",
    "visibleUrl": ""

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