The Widow’s Mites & The Faithful’s Billions

It is old news, for decades now, and, sadly, ongoing daily news, that many priests and bishops of the Catholic Church were, have been and may still be themselves perverts, pederasts, pedophiles, and sexual assaulters of women, men,  girls, and boys. A large number of bishops and archbishops have been involved in relocating guilty priests, knowing what they had done, hiding this from the civil authorities, hiding this from the faithful they are supposed to shepherd, moving these criminals around within a diocese from parish to parish with no warning to the faithful, especially parents of young children, and, in some cases, shuttling guilty priests from one diocese to another, keeping their crimes secret. No signs were posted when a shuttled cleric arrived at a new place, signs such as those required to be publicly displayed in many jurisdictions that say  “Pursuant to statute,  Father Drakenonsond who lives in this rectory is a sexual predator” or “Danger:  Sex Offender, His Excellency  Bishop Justenistone, lives at this location.”

There is something about all this that is equally bad, and, in some ways, worse.

The bishops have paid out billions of dollars of the faithful’s money to pay off the victims of these priest and prelate predators, and their attorneys. Even worse, in many cases, the bishops demand that the details of the payments be kept secret. Yes, that protects the victims; but is also keeps secret the details of the bishops’ actions, cooperation, and failures  in relocating and  shuttling of priests, with full knowledge of what they have done and, in some cases, with a  probability that they would do it again.

It is impossible to determine the exact amount of the faithful’s money the bishops have taken to settle these claims.  Some serious current estimates are over $4,000,000,000.00. These are just estimates. Because of the bishops’ demands, in most cases,  for secrecy when settling a case, cold hard facts are hard to come by. For the purposes of what I have to say, even if you assume that number is half wrong, or even mostly wrong, it is still an amazingly large amount of the faithful’s money.

I am calling it the “faithful’s money” because, although many bishops are, personally, millionaires, in some cases, multi-millionaires, and perhaps a few billionaires, I have never heard reported that abuse, assault, rape, and criminal claims were settled with the personal wealth of a Catholic bishop.

Because I am not a canon lawyer, not a civil law litigator, not a tax attorney or a tax accountant, and not a criminal lawyer, I have some questions. I wonder about the answers and would welcome expert response from any one so qualified. It may be that the hypotheses that from the bases of the questions are not correct. I would welcome correction.

Canon Law – Legal  Bishops’ Use of The Faithful’s Money

Some years ago I was at a parish that had a “capital campaign” to raise money to build a new multi-million dollar education building. The faithful were shown the survey of the land to be purchased onand drawings of the new building. Once the money was raised,  I was told that there was a directive  from powers beyond the parish level that the parish must use the money to build a new church, not an education building. I raised the issue that the money had been collected for an education building.  I said that my family and others had been defrauded. Promptly a representative of the parish finance council contacted me and said that, if I wanted, our donated money would be refunded. I found out that, under canon law, money collected for one purpose cannot then be used for another purpose. (As an aside, the new church building was built, and, some years later, God flooded it, completely). I was then asked by the pastor personally to leave the parish. Since it was not his, I stayed.

Canon law – the Church’s own law – says this:

“Canon 1267, §3:  Offerings given by the faithful for a specified purpose may be used only for that purpose.”

“Canon 1300: The intentions of the faithful who give or leave goods to pious causes  . . .  are to be most carefully observed, even in the manner of the administration and the expending of the goods .  . . . “

I am unaware of any “Capital Campaign To Raise Money To Pay Off Sexual Assault Victims Of Priests & Bishops” in any parish or diocese in America; of a “Pay For Priest & Prelate Predators Campaign,”  or of a fundraiser “For The Pastoral Malpractice Of Bishops Who Enabled, Fostered , And Shuttled Abusers & Criminals.” In short, I am aware of no Catholic in the USA who donated money for the bishops to use to pay off claims against the Church and against them. It would be very surprising if, court-sealed, secret settlement documents do not include the provisions that all claims against the bishops personally are also settled, and ended, by the agreements.

Question: Under Canon Law, shouldn’t these bishops be required to, at minimum, offer back to the faithful their money?  Pay back the laity’s money  given by the laity for religious purposes, but that was instead used in settlements? And shouldn’t these payments come from the personal wealth of the bishops involved?

Civil Law

Questions: Do the faithful, under civil law, have a cause or causes of action against the settling, enabling and shuttling bishops for all of the faithful’s money that the bishops  paid out to abuse victims and their attorneys? And, unfortunately, also a cause of action against the Church? Would this qualify as a “class action” ?  If bishops did not act alone, if others acted with them to spread this plague and to steal the money of the faithful, are there causes of action against them too?

Criminal Law

Questions:  Did the bishops who took our money, and those who acted with them, commit crimes?  It there was crime, does the corrupt organizations act apply?

Taxation –  Secret Payments , Relgious Purpose  ? 

It is my understanding that the tax laws –state and federal – exempt from taxation church property that is used for a religious purpose. Although funds in accounts are intangible property, they are, nevertheless, property. The faithful’s monies used to pay off abuse and assault claims, and claims against bishop enablers, it seems to me, were property, and they were property not used for a religious purpose.

Question:  Regarding the laity’s monies used to pay off claims and not used for a religious purpose:   are taxes due on all such monies paid out?

Thieves in the Hierarchy of the Church

There is a long history of disciples of Jesus stealing the money of the faithful. Judas was the first:

“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:4-6)

With good reason, actually with divine reason, Jesus warned against those of position in the Church accumulating wealth. He said:

“Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money.” (Luke 9:2)


It is no wonder that so many bishops in the United States, and in the world, are now trumpeting the Bergoglian heresies recently promulgated by the man wearing papal white. Among his heresies is a restatement of the ancient “mercy heresy,” that “No one can be condemned forever.” Some in the hierarchy may be relying on this.  It would be so interesting to be a fly on the Pearly Gates when these  bishops and their cohorts who have stolen the laity’s money try to instruct Jesus on their new rules regulating His judgment of them.

Often, under the law, a person who is at fault or who has committed a crime pays a money judgment for what has been done and pays restitution to those who have been injured and from whom money was taken. It is true that some of the laity have done things which were the subject of the bishops’ settlements; but the innocent laity are not at fault.  The innocent laity have not committed crimes, nor enabled them or hid them. Still, the innocent laity’s money was taken and used. Do the laity have legally enforceable rights to be made whole?


More to explorer


  1. Members of religious orders vow poverty and live in community. And, that is normally true. However, there seem to be a few orders that own universities which are awash in ill gotten gains. Makes one wonder.

  2. Interesting points and questions, Guy. Hope answers are forthcoming from those in the know.
    EXNOAAMAN, it is my understanding that diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty.

  3. I think the catch is in offerings given for a specific purpose— which is why our family gives to, oh, the Priest’s formation fund, but not the “Bishop’s appeal.” (In this area, that means a bunch of prudential issues on which we have grave concerns and disagreements about.)

    So as long as they’re going from either the weekly offering or funds that were raised from some sort of business (I know some places rent out buildings, for example), instead of dipping into the building maintenance fund, it wouldn’t trigger 1267.

  4. Foxfier makes an excellent point, as usual.

    Perhaps, it would be helpful to look at the question from another angle. Suppose a pursuer, instead of settling, obtained a decree for payment. Against what church property or funds can diligence be used to enforce that decree?

    A case could be made that any property subject to the diligence of creditors could properly be used to fund a settlement.

    One principle here is that trust funds (fideicommisa) form a separate patrimony; they are free from diligence by the trustee’s personal creditors, but can be attached by the beneficiary’s creditors to the extent of his interest. The use of trust money for a trustee’s own purposes is the crime of Breach of Trust and Embezzlement; if he is a bare trustee with no powers of administration, the crime would be Theft.

    Finally, on ordinary principles, suppose a partner or employee in, say, a building firm drops a brick on some passer-by’s head. The partners are undoubtedly liable singuli in solidum [each is liable for the whole amount] and the pursuer can use diligence not only against the partnership assets, but their personal asset, too. However, they (or more usually their insurers) can pursue an action in contract for a contribution or indemnity against the brick-dropper.

  5. The reality is that many bishops merely raise th4e individual parish “assessments” to fatten their larder, so avoiding giving questionable bishops your money is difficult. I suggest randomly paying the parish bills of your choice, keeping the decision yourself, and avoid making your money available to the bishop’s grab.

  6. On the liability of the diocese for errant clergy, this depends on whether they are regarded as employees or independent contractors.

    Liability for the delicts of employees in the course of their employment is absolute (Digest 19 2 11 pr; 19 2 30)

    For independent contractors, liability rests on culpa in eligendo [fault in choosing] (Digest 9 2 27 9; 9 2 27 11), which is readily presumed. If the bishop were on notice, the presumption would be irrebuttable.

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