Is there a
possibility that a diocese may go broke and loose everything?
No danger, even remote, of
financial disaster exists in any of the dioceses that are appealing
for this civil protection. In fact, the proceedings have forced to
the surface facts that reveal the dioceses have significant holdings
they intentionally covered up, diverted or otherwise
underestimated. Between 88 and 95 percent of all the funding for
Catholic Charities across the country come from secular and
The proceedings in the diocese of
San Diego are exposing the manipulation of assets and the intrigue
surrounding its attempt to justify itself before a federal judge.
[Check The San Diego Union Tribune April 2007 by Mark Sauer & Sandi
Dolbee] Somehow they overlooked assets of 65 to 400 million dollars.
The Federal Judge appointed her own auditor to get the facts
straight. The diocese will have to pay for this service.
No diocese has actually declared
bankruptcy. They have all filed for protection. In every instance
each diocese filed for protection shortly before a civil trial or
series of trials for clergy sexual abuse was to start. Every one of
those cases would expose some very damning information.
The Archdiocese of Portland,
Oregon has brought its bankruptcy plea to a close with mediation. It
has been reported that John Vlazny and the archdiocese have spent
more than 16 million dollars on its legal fees for the process.
For example, in Spokane,
Washington two weeks before the beginning of a trial, Bishop William
Skylstad filed for protection. The scheduled trial would have
exposed consistent pattern of covering up for a highly active
predator named Patrick O'Donnell. Skylstad had direct knowledge of
his sexual abuse when he was a chancellor and when he was bishop of
Yakima and later in Spokane.
In Davenport, Iowa a civil
case involving sexual abuse of minor boys against retired Bishop
Lawrence Soens was slated to begin. He had been a high school
principal in Davenport before becoming bishop of Sioux City. He
allegedly sexually abused a number of boys and a lot of victims
claimed they were inappropriately touched. A score of men were
willing to testify to Soens’ misbehavior. Discovery was complete.
Depositions with the exception of Tom Doyle’s were already recorded.
Literally days before the trial Davenport filed for reorganization.
If the trial had proceeded a great deal about the activities of the
hierarchy of the diocese would have come to public notice.
In Tucson, Arizona there
were 20 cases of sex abuse suites pending in September 2004 when the
bishop filed for bankruptcy protection. The diocese admitted that
there were 100 credible allegations against 26 priests. (The files
of the Sensitive Claims Committee of the diocese listed
investigations of 33 priests in 1986) The proceedings were concluded
Perhaps the most notorious abuser
among several in the diocese was Msgr. Robert Trupia. His history of
abuse is florid and it was reported in the local press and the
Some of Trupia’s victims were
compensated in a 14 million dollar
settlement for 10 victims before Gerald Kicanas took charge
of the diocese from the mild mannered Bishop Manuel Moreno. Trupia’s
history in the diocese was colorful and intertwined with a coterie
of sexually active priests who
were well placed in the diocese. He was a special friend of Bishop
Francis Green about whom credible allegations of sexual activity
with minors have been leveled, but not thoroughly investigated.
Among the more damaging facts in
the Trupia saga was his connection with Bishop James Rausch of
Phoenix who was a sexually active homosexual. Prior to his
appointment as bishop of Phoenix he was director of the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington D.C. In Phoenix,
Rausch, disguised as a businessman used to come to Tucson to pick up
young males or male prostitutes. Rausch was well connected with
prominent Tucson priests who were also sexually active.
Trupia was put on a leave of
absence from 1988 until 2004—all the while receiving compensation
from the diocese. In the word of Bishop Moreno to the Apostolic
Delegate and Vatican, Trupia threatened to “blackmail” the diocese
by making a public revelation of Rausch’s sexual activity if the
bishop put pressure on him.
Currently reports of homosexually
active pastors in the diocese have been alleged, although none are
said to be involved with minors. But without doubt the diocese has
had a long history of tolerating sexually active priests.
The San Diego California
diocese situation is current and clearly volatile. The diocese
including all its real estate is worth at least 1 billion dollars.
The last thing San Diego is worried about is running out of money,
but the court cases would have revealed explosive information.
Literally hours before the first
sex abuse trial was slated to begin, the diocese filed for
bankruptcy protection. Again, this maneuver put a stop to all the
investigations and the five cases set for trial.
The discovery process for the
trials had uncovered a massive amount of very damaging information
about former bishop Leo Maher and his close circle of advisors, all
of whom except the bishop are the objects of sexual abuse suits.
Bishop Maher had a woman friend / secretary who has already given a
lengthy deposition about the diocese prior to placement of the
But even more to the point is the
danger of exposing more recent unsolved questions about the
diocese’s administration. Bishop Brom came to San Diego under a
cloud of a sexual abuse allegation. There are reports that the
claims were recanted, but the young man was given a financial
package of somewhere between 80 and 120 thousand dollars. Although
it has been asserted that the church conducted an investigation of
the matter and allegedly cleared Brom, any trial would require that
documents pertaining to the allegations be produced and the facts of
the interlude no matter how innocuous to be aired.
The press is closely following the
bankruptcy proceedings before Federal judges. The final chapter
about this phase of the sex abuse crisis has not been written. But
civil courts demand a level of transparency and accountability not
common to the Catholic Church. The cumulative effect on churches in
this regard is likely to be positive.
See also ”God,
Incorporated” in the July 2007 edition of San Diego Magazine.
12 June 2007