The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release:
SNAP statement on new report that blasts San Diego Diocesan financial deceit
Statement by Mary Grant of Long Beach, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (626-419-2930)
We're not lawyers, accountants or financial experts. Nor have we studied this new report in depth.
But we know a few things, from years of painful personal experience and from court documents and media exposes across the country.
We know that todays Union Tribune nailed it. Heres what the newspaper said:
The Diocese of San Diego's key contention . . . that it does not own or control tens of millions of dollars of parish assets is at odds with pledges it made to its auditors, banks and investors, according to an independent expert.
We know that time and time again, Brom insists he doesn't own the parishes, but holds them in some sort of 'trust.' Yet, we also know, according to this independent report, that the all-important 'Handbook of the Diocese of San Diego' contains no reference, not one, to this alleged 'trust' (p 101).
Listen to the precise words of this expert. This is the single most important paragraph in his entire report:
The Diocesan Financial Statements. . . make no disclosure of a trust relationship. (They) give no indication that any asset belongs to anyone other than the Diocese.
Any assertion by the Diocese that they are holding funds . . .in behalf of parishes and schools in a trust is in direct conflict with (their earlier) representations. (page 30)
In other words, Brom's bankruptcy is based on a fraud. He claims he doesn't own parishes, just holds them 'in trust.' But an independent, nationally known expert spent months examining thousands of pages of records. He interviewed dozens of individuals. He says there's no evidence of this claim - none.
The Associated Press points out that some church officials deliberately concealed a half a million dollars, sometimes in purposeful attempts, to circumvent the judge. Were of course disappointed that alleged Christians would hide their money to deceive the public, the victims and a judge. But thats not the main issue.
The main issue is that this Chapter 11 process is based on a fraud: that Bishop Brom doesnt own or control his parishes. That's just not true. And the nationally-recognized, independent expert confirms this.
The report contains language suggesting that some in the church hierarchy dont understand the full, vast wealth of the San Diego diocese. This too is not the main issue.
Much like America's Catholic bishops claim they don't know the number of abusive priests, Bishop Brom claims doesn't know the full extent of his tremendous diocesan wealth. If thats the case, we believe that his ignorance is intentional. Brom certainly has the resources to understand his finances. But hed rather fake his ignorance to than to admit his wealth.
The bankruptcy judge called Brom's finances 'Byzantine.' If thats true, they are Byzantine for a reason: because that system benefits Brom.
David Clohessy of SNAP said today The Catholic church is a huge, sophisticated, centuries-old, top-down corporation. Bishops hire the most expensive and most savvy defense lawyers, financial consultants and money managers. Their Byzantine finances are intentional and self-serving. Deliberate complexity confuses the flock and lets bishops secretly and unilaterally spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees, public relations firms, confidential abuse settlements, and other unsavory and questionable purposes.
But again, the most important point of this whole report is that Brom does, in fact, control the entire diocese and its extensive assets. History, common sense, church policies and practices all tell us that every bishop controls his own diocese. Now, a financial expert confirms this.
While the judge has used pretty harsh words to criticize Brom, this a nationally-known independent expert uses stronger words. . .words like "critical misrepresentation" (p. 104) and "accounting irregularities" and "direct conflict" with earlier representations by church officials" (p. 105).
We know that no one experienced in accounting uses terms like these casually or flippantly.
We also know that the report describes, over and over, church accounts and monies and assets being described one way BEFORE Brom sought bankruptcy protection and very differently AFTER Brom sought bankrputcy protection.
We know that Catholics deserve straight answers about the money they've so generously donated to the diocese.
We know that bishops who will cover up child molestation will also cover up deceitful finances.
Finally, we know that Brom and his public relations staff will claim ignorance and beg forgiveness. We know that Catholics are a forgiving people. But we know that Catholics deserve better than this.
But we know that if we keep giving the benefit of the doubt to corrupt officials, those officials will continue to be corrupt.
We also know that if we demand honesty and accountability, we just might get a little of it, especially with the continued skepticism and hard work of this judge and this expert.
And we know that its time to stop cutting Brom slack, stop assuming he's a bumbler, and start listening to the judge, the expert, the victims and their lawyers, all of whom clearly see Broms cover ups and deceptions, not Broms ignorance and incompetence.
So Catholics should insist on honesty from their bishop.
Victims should insist on that honesty too.
And the judge and this expert should keep pushing for that honesty.
Children, Catholics, and victims deserve no less.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nations oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. Weve been around for 17 years and have more than 7,000 members across the country. Despite the word priest in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests