Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Cuomo’

Week 19 in Catholic Media, 2014

May 4th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

ScreenShot348

 

 

 

A Headline Worth Noting:  

“New York committee kills Gov. Cuomo’s radical abortion expansion bill”

ALBANY, NY, May 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Ben Johnson – A bill championed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that would have radically expanded abortion in the state has died in a Republican-controlled state Senate committee.   The Reproductive Health Act (S. 438), introduced by Democratic conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, failed a vote in the Senate Health Committee by a party-line vote of 9-7.

"Say NO to CuomO"

“Say NO to CuomO”

“The Governor’s proposal is … radical, and would expand abortion rights beyond current federal and state law,” said Edward Mechmann of the Archdiocese of New York. “It would remove any obstacles to late-term abortions, and would allow non-doctors to do surgical abortions, even late-term abortions up until the moment of birth.”

In addition to allowing abortions to be performed by any “qualified, licensed healthcare practitioner” such as a nurse practitioner or midwife, the RHA sought to expand abortions after 24 weeks for the mother’s “health,” a nebulous term that in practice allows abortion under any circumstances.  It would have also forced all hospitals to refer patients for abortion or lose state funding, according to the New York State Right to Life Committee.

[After defeat of the bill last June] Cuomo later lashed out that people who support the “right to life…have no place in the State of New York.”

 

Two pieces of good news in the same day?  YES!

“U.S. nuns must give up New Age ideas or lose Vatican recognition: CDF head to LCWR nuns”

ROME, May 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Hilary White – The American Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which was placed under a mandate of reform by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year, must drop its New Age ideas and return to the central teachings of the Catholic religion on Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the nature of the Church, or risk being expelled as a recognized Catholic institution.

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Archbishop Peter Sartain

In an address to LCWR officials in Rome , …Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, said that the Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church.”  “The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” they said.  Müller warned LCWR that the concepts introduced by a New Age speaker two years ago, and increasingly adopted by LCWR members, constitute a radical break with the most foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

This movement has been described as “Conscious Evolution” by its supporters, but the CDF said in reality it constitutes nothing less than “a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.”  The … (LCWR) that has openly defied a mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church and sexual morality. One of the first public statements of Pope Francis’ pontificate was an affirmation that the investigation and reform of LCWR must continue.

Müller expressed his “concern” that “such an intense focus on new ideas” may have “robbed religious of the ability truly to ‘sentire cum   Ecclesia’ [think with the Church],” and that the divergence from basic Catholic doctrine had already occurred among the religious of LCWR. … The concepts proposed by Conscious Evolution, he added, “are not actually new. The Gnostic tradition is filled with similar affirmations and we have seen again and again in the history of the Church the tragic results of partaking of this bitter fruit.”   Full article is HERE.

And in a Trifecta of Good News,

“52 pro-life leaders worldwide call on bishops to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians”

VATICAN CITY, May 3, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by John-Henry Westen – At the first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City, fifty-two pro-life leaders from sixteen nations called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians in a spirit of love and mercy.  The leaders signed a declaration noting that it is out of concern, and indeed love, for those same politicians that the pro-life leaders ask for this wake-up call to invite pro-abortion politicians back to authentic faith.  [They] called on the world’s bishops to honor Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law. The canon states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.  Cardinal Ratzinger [had written] that a Catholic politician who votes for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws “must” be denied Communion after being duly instructed and warned.

Speaking at the public portion of the Rome Life Forum, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, reflected on “the grave scandal caused by legislators, judges, and political leaders who profess to be Catholic and who present themselves to receive Holy Communion…  he said  “It prevents them from committing sacrilege by violating the incomparable sanctity of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, and safeguards the Christian community and the community at large from scandal….”

But even three silver linings have clouds, and from the people who split the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, and whose personal pleasure trumped the needs of the souls affected, making a mockery of God’s Word, we bring the following “news announcement of the week”:  

NEW HAMPSHIRE, May 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, whose election in 2003 helped split the squabbling denomination in two, has announced that he and his homosexual partner of more than a quarter-century are divorcing. They were “married” in 2010 after participating in the state’s civil union laws in 2008.”

Week 04 in Catholic Media, 2014

January 27th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Priests at the Barricades

You’ve heard the expression “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard?”  Well, that feels a bit like the situation being reported out of the Ukraine this week.  And it wasn’t Catholic Media which first reported it  (so I stay skeptical!) but it is about startling “Catholic News”  in the mainstream media.   I have had a little bit of help from a good friend just trying to understand who is on what side of which issue, and this is the best I can do at this point.  While I usually like to understand the issue in more depth before writing anything, the news itself is worth sharing and putting it up for comment and insight.

Complex Background

It is a gross understatement to say that relationships (over 1000 years) are complex between the Orthodox Churches (Ukrainian, Greek, Russian) and the Catholic Churches under Papal Authority.  We’ve seen Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict make real efforts at healing the breach, and it is a good sign that at least the two “lungs” of the Church, while not breathing together, at least have un-excommunicated each other.  And the Russian Orthodox prelate is expected to come to World Youth Day in Krakow!  But there is a long way to go.  Add yet another layer of complexity, due to the long term hostile relationship of the Ukraine to the Soviet control under which the Church in particular suffered so much, stir together with the dynamics of decline in the Catholic Church throughout Europe,  the pan Euro- issues of abortion “rights”, gay “marriage,” proposed legalized killing of children up to 2 years old and euthanasia flooding civil society, to a flashpoint.  Then mix in closing of churches in the West, sexual abuse scandals and deep rifts over lack of obedience (from politicians to theologians) with the incredible news of Putin’s holding the line against gay proselytization and abortion activism, before looking at the pictures below, and more pictures at this link.  Is it any wonder that even the issues defy articulation?  But when Catholic priests take to the barricades, in leadership positions, much begs to be understood.

f9fac7a0-5f97-4ada-9882-5c3cb9f9dd09_464314049

01b3cb66-8ff4-4bf4-86ec-2dd50567a194_4535831630c71334b3f92bb03490f6a7067006940

 

2013-12-14T081212Z_635633313_GM1E9CE18VZ01_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE

2014-01-19T113208Z_1728261290_GM1EA1J1I6F01_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE

d47fa730a4469029450f6a70670025bf

 

 ScreenShot351
Patriarch Shevchuk: “Stop the Bloodshed!”
Head of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Appeals for End to Violence After Latest Clashes in Kiev

ROME, January 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) – Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has decried continued violence in the country’s capital city and called for an end to the bloodshed.  His comments came in response to violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police in the capital Kiev.   Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the protests were “getting out of control”.

“In the name of God, stop the bloodshed!,” Patriarch Shevchuk said in a statement published Jan. 21. “Violence was never the way to build a free and independent state! Bloodshed will never reconcile hearts or bring a positive outcome.”  He said he and others are looking on recent events in Kiev with “great dismay and sadness” and he appealed “to all the faithful of the church, the Ukrainian people, and to all people of good will” to stop the violence.  He called on the Ukrainian authorities to listen to the people and not use violence or repression, and he urged political leaders to realize their responsibility for the future of their people.

Ukrainian Bishop Says Country in a “Battle for Dignity”

PARIS, January 24, 2014 (Zenit.org) – The “brutal” crackdown on demonstrators in Ukraine is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the protest movement, according to a senior bishop, who described the country as engaged “in a battle for dignity”.      Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris defended protestors on the streets coming under fire from government forces, but repeated calls of that they do not take up arms.  In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity which for decades has supported the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Bishop Gudziak spoke out against the security response to the demonstrations, describing many protestors as prayerful and non-violent.

Medjugorje Study Completed

VATICAN CITY, January 20, 2014  – The Vatican has confirmed that the international Vatican commission investigating the events at Medjugorje is ready to submit its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  …Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the 4-year old commission “held its last meeting on 17 January.”

ScreenShot348

Gov. Cuomo says pro-lifers, conservatives ‘have no place in New York’  (Albany, NY  Jan. 21, 2014)

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has been taken to task for  an interview with WCNY Radio in which he  defined “extreme conservatives” as “right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay,” and said such people “have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”  It isn’t the biggest shock that the NY Governor would say something so politically foolish, but rather that his very criticism of pro-lifers is directly against Catholic teaching which he claims to hold.  Further, calling pro-marriage people “anti-gay” is a gross distortion also of Catholic Teaching, which he should perfectly understand is not “anti-gay” but pro-marraige.  How much more proof does the Catholic Church need to act on separating Cuomo’s opinions from Catholic Teaching and to contain his scandal?

LifeSiteNews Excerpts:  “The Governor might as well have hung a 54,000 square-mile ‘Keep Out!’ sign across the state border to anyone with mainstream views on marriage, life, and the Second Amendment,” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said in an e-mail to supporters.  “Who’s really extreme? The Americans who believe that killing children in the womb is wrong? The people trying to operate businesses according to their faith? Or the men and women who want to defend their families?”  Added Perkins, “No, the extreme ones are the liberals like Governor Cuomo, who are so threatened by the diversity they say they support that they can’t even coexist with people who disagree!…“Cuomo is so anti-life that he doesn’t even think people who love life should be able to exist in his state,” Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 told LifeSiteNews (LSN).

“Cuomo Excommunicates Catholics,” proclaimed Pat Archbold of the National Catholic Register.  He accused Cuomo of double hypocrisy because … the governor has continued to present himself as Catholic while publicly rejecting the Church’s teachings against abortion and homosexual behaviors…. “While the Catholic Church wrings its hands and furrows its collective brow over the unpastoral calls to excommunicate Catholic politicians who advocate grave sin as policy, these unholy pols have no such qualms,” wrote Archbold.   Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan struck out at Cuomo Tuesday, in an op-ed celebrating Respect Life Sunday (Jan. 19).  After recalling a day filled with Catholics engaging in such pro-life activities as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, assisting the poor, working to end gun violence – and, yes, protecting babies from abortion, Dolan declared it, “A good Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral” and added rhetorically, “does any of this seem ‘extremist’ to you?”

New poll: 62% Americans see abortion as ‘morally wrong’, 84% support restrictions

by Peter Baklinski  Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:09 EST

New Haven, CT, January 22, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “… a new survey has found that a massive percentage of Americans support significant abortion restrictions.  The new Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus reveals more than ever that an overwhelming majority of Americans are not satisfied with the current status quo on abortion.   A staggering 84 percent believe abortion should be restricted. In this group belongs those who would restrict abortion to the first three months of pregnancy (28%), the cases of rape, incest (33%), or to save the life of the mother (12%), and those who would never permit abortion under any circumstance (11%).  The survey surprisingly found that 58 percent of strongly pro-choice Americans would support such limits.  Regardless of whether Americans think access to abortion should be legal or not, 62 percent said that abortion was “morally wrong”.  Only 9 percent believe that abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy, the survey found.

Is Cardinal Dolan Causing Scandal?

May 18th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The questions to consider:  “Is Cardinal Dolan Causing Scandal?”  “Will Pope Francis do something about it?”

Tonight’s LifeSite News Article is entitled: 

“Card. Dolan ‘would not suggest’ pro-abort Gov. Cuomo not a Catholic ‘in good standing’: archdiocese”

That’s quite a mouthful of double talk.  Is the Cardinal trying to serve two masters?  When does a persistent “difference of opinion” on a matter of church teaching regarding intrinsic evil become scandalous?  When does a Cardinal become an enabler of evil by failing to address it, and become the proximate cause of the loss of a politician’s soul?  How many times must the Faithful, who are fighting valiantly for the cause of LIFE, be deserted by shepherds unwilling to stand with them?   Does anyone actually think that Cardinal Dolan believes his own words:  “Gov. Cuomo wants to work very closely with the pro-life movement” ?  That is certainly NOT the fruit of the Governor’s action so far.

untitledAnd while the Cardinal decries being surprised by Cuomo’s passing of gay marriage legislation, he seems to have made zero effort to call for its repeal.   In reading the linked article, it is difficult to find any redeeming moral value in refusing to carry out Canon Law precepts against a notorious underminer of  Catholicism.  The limp excuse that the Cardinal “has enjoyed working with Cuomo on issues like gun control and immigration”  is the essence of failure — it  papers over intrinsic evil with prudential judgment issues.  There is just no relevance between the grave issue of abortion, and Cardinal Dolan’s personal opinions which divide rather than unite the laity, and detract from what is most vital. 

I am reminded of Peter’s words in Acts 1:20   “His office let another take.”    I do wish Pope Francis would personally intervene to mitigate the damage being caused by the Cardinal of NYC.

Caring about the Most Vulnerable

March 23rd, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

On February 4th, I did a post which railed against the actions of the Diocesan Public Policy Committee in prioritizing that NYS should annually spend about $300 million for what is essentially baby sitting money to low income families, when the lives of babies were being threatened by Cuomo’s so-called “Reproductive Health Act,” (misleading naming as is the case for much legislative activity which should never see the light of day).  The following weekend (Feb. 9-10) those signatures were collected during Masses, and many people dutifully signed what they were handed.

However, the Festival for Freedom Committee (chaired by Deacon Claude Lester), which held a 2-week  USCCB-requested Fortnight for Freedom event last summer,  wanted to go further.   So, on the weekend of Feb. 16-17th, and for two weeks thereafter, signatures were collected in opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s attempts to recklessly expand abortion in NYS.   About 2.5x as many signatures were collected in that petitioning as had been collected for the “baby-sitting” money issue; i.e. a welcome contrast to recognizing that intrinsic evils are a much greater cause for timely opposition than merely distributing taxpayers’ monies on issues of prudential judgment.

In order that people could see they are not working in isolation, or become discouraged, the 879 names on the petition against Cuomo’s “Reproductive Health Act,”  have been posted inside St. Mary’s and St. Bridget’s Churches (i.e. St. Benedict’s Parish.)  Here is a picture of the display:

 

petitions NYS 001 bright

We do not stand alone in the Body of Christ; we stand together.  And there is no place for toleration of intrinsic evils, or for permitting Cuomo’s pending legislation to destroy life.  I do believe that Catholics need to see more of this kind of mutual support (including from their pastors and bishops) that we all stand together in support of Catholic Teaching.  Kudos to Bishop Cunningham who, it was reported, joined a recent trip to Albany!

It is good to know which of our brothers and sisters in the faith we can count on, and that is why such a display of names is important.  Committee members are hoping more of our churches will make this kind of effort.  There is no issue which should have more spiritual solidarity than the faithful speaking out and acting on behalf of the weakest and most vulnerable, the infant in the womb.  When the governor of a state (or the president of a country) threatens to enact more laws that will further lead to destruction of the most vulnerable human beings, it will not be surprising to see future legislation extended to such abominations as infanticide up to 2 years old, forced abortions especially of ‘less than perfect’ humans, forced sterilization, forced euthanasia, refusal of necessary medical treatment to avoid premature death, and worse.  Much worse.  And, make no mistake, anyone who can permit the killing of a baby in the womb most assuredly is capable of doing much worse.

We are blessed to still have opportunities to ACT.  The sooner people stand together in opposition to atrocities, the more likely they can postpone or avoid having to deal with the next atrocity bound to come.  The next action is a CandleLight Vigil in Albany on April 15th to oppose legislators who

  • so devalue life that they are willing to extend abortion right up to the time of delivery!
  • are so lacking in respect for the mother carrying the child that they are willing to let any old “health care provider” do the dirty work (as more doctors, remembering their oath, decline to do so.)
  • who are so disrespectful of parental rights that children who can’t go on a school bustrip without parental permission can nevertheless have an abortion without a parent’s knowledge or consent!
  • And who willingly undermine the conscience rights of everyone and erode the very essence of the Bill of Rights!

NYS under Andrew Cuomo, is already the Abortion Capital of the U.S.   Abortion up until delivery would make it the Infanticide Capital as well!

Deacon Claude Lester is coordinating the diocesan-wide bus convoy to Albany.  Buses will leave Monday morning, April 15th,   from various points in the 12-county Rochester Diocese, and return that evening.  Cost is $25 for adults, $15 for students.  At about 2:30 PM there will be a visit to legislators, delivering  petitions, showing widespread resistance to the Cuomo catastrophic legislation, followed by CandleLight Vigil and prayer.  Contacts: Albanyvigil@dor.org or phone 585-750-7524.   Reservations and  payment  (Visa or Mastercard or checks sent to Festival for Freedom, PO Box 196, Canandaigua, NY 14424) must be received by Thursday, April 11, 2013.  See also http://www.nyscatholic.org/

It is better to light one candle at the Albany Vigil

than to curse the darkness when the lights of life go out.

candles cropped

 

$hepherds $hearing $heep – Part 2 “Letter to Cuomo”

May 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

After witnessing financial abuses for years, last summer I was inspired, after reading a newspaper article about then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s coming to Canandaigua, to present a letter to him.  It is not that I am a political supporter which, given his position on abortion and gay “marriage,” I never could be.  But, in all righteousness, the abuse of the NYS Religious Corporation Law should be called to his attention for just action.  As then AG, and now as governor, he is uniquely positioned to do something about financial travesty, especially in not-for-profits, which enjoy many benefits at taxpayer expense.  At least the law should be followed, and I also propose strengthening those laws.  

In this blog post  is the front page of  the newsletter It Really Matters, explaining to recipients what was given to Mr. Cuomo and why.  Next, in this post, is the text of the letter hand delivered to candidate Andrew Cuomo last August.  Certain red highlights are intended to help readers skim the content, but was black in the original letter.  In a future post will be the detail that was in the attachment regarding financial abuses at just one small country church, St. Mary Rushville, under the pastorate of Fr. Robert Ring. 

I hope to introduce some discussion about what more, as a group, Catholics might do in the interest of fairness to all who pay for the tax benefits enjoyed by churches, and especially what might better protect the sheep.  

I am NOT advocating losing tax-exempt status, but rather limiting any mis-use of the status at the cost to all.  I am NOT advocating government interference in the internal matters of the Church, but rather enforcing the laws already on the books and plugging the loopholes.

Hand delivered

August 18, 2010

Re: NYS Religious Corporation Law Reform, Strengthening and Enforcement

Mr. Andrew Cuomo [originally sent to campaign headquarters address, he may now be addressed at:  The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, NYS Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.]

I am very glad to have had the opportunity today to attend your public meeting in Canandaigua, and to deliver personally to you an area of suggestion for improvement in New York State, as I believe you are sincere in seeking ideas which would make our state a better place to live.  I would like to address an issue with broad applicability across the state; i.e. the issue of more financial accountability and stronger enforcement under the NYS Religious Corporation Law. 

At the onset, I would like to say that I am very sensitive to issues of separation of Church and State yet, as recent cases of pedophilic abuse have shown, there are times when government is required to intervene to relieve abuse, and to apply justice.  The need to do so, and the manner of acting, fits both rules of intervention set by the US Supreme Court (the Hierarchical/Congregational Rules or the Neutral Rule).  It is in that spirit of justice, rather than interference, in which I bring seven points to your attention. 

Your visit brings you to the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, which has been a place of significant injury spiritually and financially to many people of this Diocese.  However, lest you think this is only a local issue, egregious as it is, I can assure you that the same factors, to varying degrees, are present statewide.  That is why action in this area would have much wider impact than just in our local church.  Nevertheless, I will speak to just one local church situation to illustrate just one tiny example of the need for reform.

Application:  To clarify, I am sure that you are aware across the state and even across the country, that Catholic Churches are being closed and their patrimony (cash, value of properties, furnishings and other assets) are being distributed in a secretive manner.  Because of the hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church, such unpopular decisions, moving of funds, and questionable financial practices are easier to effect than, say, through a congregational model where a variety of parishioners or elders can provide oversight.  I’m sure that I don’t need to point out to you the potential state impact on matters ranging from tax deductibility of donations, property taxation and use taxes, disrespectful ignoring of the real intentions of donors to charitable trusts which are regulated by the State, and how those charitable trusts are administered.  For example, it is not unusual to see donations left to a church that is in the process of being closed.  Surely that was not the intention of most donors, yet there seem to be no guidelines to handle appropriately.  Moreover, there is serious opportunity for fraud in a situation which so lacks transparency.

Areas Sought for Reform I suggest seven areas to you which could benefit from a reform and strengthening of enforcement of the NYS Religious Corporation Law, especially as it pertains to the Catholic Church.  Yet, I would like to make clear, I am a faithful Catholic who staunchly resists any involvement of government in the area of religion, unless absolutely necessary for the protection of the innocent and to avoid their victimization.  Nevertheless, having now had first-hand experience of many abuses since 2003, in just a small local configuration of parishes, I fully realize that unless the state steps in, further abuse will be perpetrated. 

For each of the seven points, I offer examples in a small local parish in the attached “Case Study,” but I do so to illustrate to you how pervasive these abuses are when even very small parishes are so affected.  Please be assured that these small examples are just a tiny tip of an iceberg that begs for intervention.  Also, while some of the suggestions deal with laws already “on the books,” I do recognize that others may require legislative or regulatory action.  Therefore, I address these issues to you not only as State Attorney General but, more explicitly, as candidate for governor of New York State.  These issues are quite broad, involving almost all communities across the state, and people from all walks of life, in various faiths (especially hierarchical faiths), and of various degrees of affluence, ethnicity, age, etc.  Moreover, I believe if you explore this issue that you will find many Catholics in particular at a loss for how to protect themselves yet still be faithful to their Church.  In addition there would be application to other institutions incorporated under Religious Corporation Law, e.g. schools and hospitals, not further mentioned below.  

Seven Recommendations:

 1.      Taxation of “closed” church propertiesWhen parishes and schools which are tax-exempt are closed (i.e. effectively non-functioning for the purposes for which they are intended), property and other use taxes are lost to the public.  Massachusetts has recently had success in charging the Catholic Church property taxes on such properties, charged back to the time of closure, with some figures per property in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And that is just in Boston so far.  Income from rentals of such property should also be examined, as renting for profit is not part of the charter of most parishes.  Such rentals effectively keep the rented properties off the tax-rolls.

 2.      Public Disclosure of Audit Detail of each incorporated parish entity:  While some parishes provide annual financial detail, some do not.  There is no way for a person in the pew to verify if the data are right or wrong.  Even when an audit is requested (as I personally did in the case cited), the results are not available to the parishioners.  Therefore, there is no way to know if good financial practices are being followed or not, or if the financial report is true or not.  Moreover, errors like uncredited donations are caught one parishioner at a time, and others are not alerted to bad bookkeeping until they personally notice it in their own records.  One area for focus is expenses which are not “arms length” or free market, but charged back to parish corporations at egregiously inflated rates.  Examples would include insurance levies by the diocese, for example, or unfair sharing of expenses between incorporated parishes.  The discipline of releasing audit detail would bring more care to the way donations are accounted and errors corrected, and give more relevant information to donors.

3.      Restrictions on transfers between separate religious corporations, and required public reporting of such transfers:  It is believed that most parishes are individually incorporated and that closure of those parishes is either through “suppression” and amalgamation into a new parish with other parishes, pooling funds and liability risk, or (less often) by actually dissolving the corporation.  Some parishes may “stay on the books” for years, while no longer functioning as a parish.  Solvent parishes with more financial resources (all tax exempt donations) are dissolved and the funds “freed up” for other, undisclosed purposes.  A more financially solvent parish seems to be at more risk for having its treasury plundered than a parish which has less, yet is still solvent.  Moreover, there is no method by which a “clean” balance sheet parish can avoid being amalgamated with one having undisclosed liabilities or other risk.  In the Case cited, there is a “bleeding” of the treasury of a more solvent church prior to closing, preventing funds flow as the Catholic Church would require for a “personal parish.”

4. Mandatory reporting of the disbursements from sale of church properties and dissolution of parish assets:  Generations of donors have built up reserves, doubtless intended to be used in the parishes to which they were contributed.  However, by amalgamating parishes, liquidated assets of the closed churches are moved where they were not intended to go, and there is no readily available accounting for the transfer of those assets.  Moreover, it is feared that churches are being liquidated in order to pay off pedophilia and/or other lawsuits, claims or reparations, again kept secret from the original donors and from parishioners. 

It would seem, since original donors likely had no intent that their donations be used for covering the sins of the hierarchy or for “paying someone off,” that there should be restrictions under the NYS Religious Corporation Law for using funds for such purposes.  Consideration should be given for methods by which donations might be returned to estates when a bequest is to a church being liquidated.  Donors in good faith should not have to be savvy enough to restrict every check they write, noting for what it cannot be used.

5. Disclosure of Personal Benefits Increases:  If or when there are substantial increases to staff employees (including bishops and priests) in salaries, retirement funds, health care coverage and other benefits, including paying off lawsuits incurred by such employees’ behavior, since there isn’t an arms length or open deliberation about such uses possible in parishes, consideration should be given to full disclosure and to the recipient of such benefit having taxable income.  Moreover, it seems questionable that the use of donated funds of an incorporated parish, not a party to a lawsuit, should be used to pay off such suits.  The Case Study describes a levy against a parish, neither plaintiff nor defendant, to cover alleged expenses of a defamation lawsuit against a pastor.  All “enrichment” of individuals (hierarchy and staff) should be routinely disclosed in financial reports, so that parishioners can make informed decisions on future contributions.

 6. Criminal / Civil Prosecution of Trustees who betray the best interests of the parishes for which they are Trustees, and also prevention of interlocking trusteeships where a vote for one parish is automatically a vote against another for which the same person is a Trustee.  It is believed that when a priest is a Trustee of multiple parishes and one is targeted for closure, that he cannot exercise his fiduciary obligations to both.  Nor can a bishop who is a Trustee of all.  The intent of Trustee structure is open to significant abuse and is meaningless when three of the five Trustees are diocesan employees and lay Trustees are replaced when they disagree on matters of finance and property (not doctrine.)  Moreover, Trustees who contribute to one parish to the detriment of the one for which they are Trustee, or otherwise do not execute their fiduciary obligations, should be liable for such damage and prosecuted.  Several examples of abuse of Trusteeship and fiduciary duty are cited in the Case Study.

7. There should be a 10-year historic restatement regarding all the matters listed above, which will cover much of the period of closing of churches and questionable transfers of assets, with full disclosure of how the patrimony has been deployed, and prosecution and restitution where appropriate.  Perhaps the only way to restore confidence that the NYS Religious Corporation Law is sensitive to the rights of individuals is to require restatement for a decade on the sources and uses of cash over that period, with specific undisclosed payments being disclosed, and all certified by outside independent auditors.  One can contemplate the many benefits of the Sarbanes Oxley overhaul (painful as it was to live through) and the time to apply it to incorporated parishes, individually and collectively, is now.

Mr. Cuomo, it is my intent in citing a particular local Case to shed further light on the abuses associated with hierarchical churches exposed by their closings in particular, to make the issues more “real” to you, and to more fully describe the potential for abuse as well as the helplessness of the laity to deal with such matters under the current usage of NYS Religious Corporation Law.  The Case is from a small parish, but replicated across the state would be significant, just like price fixing milk sales by only a few pennies a gallon.  The actual Case recounted is a faithful representation of my personal experience at St. Mary in Rushville, NY, a parish located less than 10 miles from Canandaigua.  What is most startling is that so very many issues could have occurred in just one country parish, and it well illustrates the multiplicity of opportunities for financial abuse on a much wider geographic basis.  All is recounted truthfully, and to the best of my ability.

I realize that you, as Attorney General, have taken on many situations which most people would have feared to handle.  It would be a natural and normal response of most people to fear that taking on a church situation would mobilize many of the faithful against you.  However, if you explore the issue, I believe you will find a considerable number of Catholics very unhappy about the way bishops and pastors have shut their churches, and closed down or “amalgamated” their parishes, parishes often funded by their own parents and grandparents.  They need someone with more “clout” to see their agony and how they have been misused.  You will find a great level of disenchantment also at closed schools and a hierarchy unresponsive to parishioner wishes and to their protests.  You will also find a widespread feeling of helplessness; i.e. that they are powerless to do anything about the survival of institutions which do continue to be viable, but are disbanded for undisclosed reasons. 

The often articulated “too little money; too few priests” is not always true.  The example I will give is of a small parish of 60-70 households with about $125,000 of savings when the pastoral planning process began in earnest.  While the 2010 report has not been issued yet, it is believed that the balance is about $25,000-$30,000 and that the remainder will be drained off in the next year.  Parishes with cash, I believe you will find, are more likely to be targets of closure and movement of money.  Were you to take on the needed reformation of NYS Religious Corporation Law, especially as it pertains to Catholic Churches, I believe you would find many in the pew feeling “rescued” by the effort.  And, quite frankly, you are one of the very few people who could take on confronting this matter. 

Personal Note:  Mr. Cuomo, I am not writing as simply a parishioner disappointed to lose her church.  There are many such people with the same emotions and I feel for them too.  Rather, I am writing as a retired officer of a publicly held company…  from 1967-1996) and also as a person who has served on a NYSE Company Board for 16 years … including chairing its Audit and Finance Committee.  My background (MS from Rensselaer) is science, but I am well-versed in corporate governance, finance, contracts and strategic planning and presently own a company which consults in mergers and acquisitions, [resume background was enclosed in original letter] …. I can assure you that I consider personal credibility to be of exceptional importance, and I put it on the line in writing to you about this matter. 

I do hope this matter will pique your interest and concern, and that people of faith will receive better and fairer and more just treatment as a result.  While the following may sound outrageous to you, I personally believe that the yet-to-fully-emerge financial scandal in the Catholic Church has the potential to rival the sexual abuse scandal.  

Thank you for considering this matter.

Sincerely,

Diane C. Harris

Enc. Case Study:  St. Mary Rushville, Diocese of Rochester

Note: Case Study will be the subject of Part 3 blog post.

Cuomo Snubs Bishops

March 4th, 2011, Promulgated by benanderson

As reported by NYDailyNews.com:

Apparently stung by a Vatican adviser’s slap at his lifestyle, Gov. Cuomo has declared a holy war [sensationalize much?] with the Catholic Church – saying he’s too busy to meet the state’s bishops here next week.

The Catholic governor, recently roasted over his live-in girlfriend, declared his schedule too crowded to squeeze in Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the other prelates.

The group arrives here next week for the state’s annual Catholic Conference – and historically meets with the governor to discuss a variety of issues.

Conference officials said they reached out to Cuomo about a month ago and got word only Wednesday that he couldn’t make it.

I find this ongoing story fascinating. I’ll bet most progressives will use it to say, “See, I told you so. You shouldn’t have been so mean to Cuomo – now you’ve scared him away.” I believe Peter’s comments (if that’s really what caused the cancellation – the article has no proof of that) actually played out as it should have. Cuomo’s true colors have been exposed. It might force people to actually reflect on what it means to call yourself Catholic. He is always welcome back when he goes to confession and stops living with his concubine. Our bishops must pick up their crosses and follow Our Lord. If that cross is a snub by the gov., then so be it.