Cardinal Mahony used cemetery money to pay sex abuse settlement

‘No effect’ on upkeep
Calvary Catholic Cemetery in East Los Angeles

Calvary Catholic Cemetery in East Los Angeles

The following comes from a February 10 Los Angeles Times story reprinted in the Sacramento Bee.

Pressed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse lawsuits, Cardinal Roger Mahony turned to one group of Catholics whose faith could not be shaken: the dead.

Under his leadership in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims.

The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88 percent of the fund. Families of those buried in church-owned cemeteries and interred in its mausoleums have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts and grounds since the 1890s.

Mahony and other church officials also did not mention the cemetery fund in numerous public statements about how the archdiocese planned to cover the $660-million abuse settlement. In detailed presentations to parish groups, the cardinal and his aides said they had cashed in substantial investments to pay the settlement, but they did not disclose that the main asset liquidated was cemetery money.

In response to questions from the Los Angeles Times, the archdiocese acknowledged using the maintenance account to help settle abuse claims. It said in a statement that the appropriation had “no effect” on cemetery upkeep and enabled the archdiocese “to protect the assets of our parishes, schools and essential ministries.”

Under cemetery contracts, 15 percent of burial bills are paid into an account the archdiocese is required to maintain for what church financial records describe as “the general care and maintenance of cemetery properties in perpetuity.”

Day-to-day upkeep at the archdiocese’s 11 cemeteries and its cathedral mausoleum is financed by cemetery sales revenue separate from the 15 percent deposited into the fund, spokeswoman Carolina Guevara said. Based on actuarial predictions, it would be at least 187 years before cemeteries are fully occupied and the church started to draw on the maintenance account, she said.

“We estimate that Perpetual Care funds will not be needed until after the year 2200,” Guevara wrote in an e-mail.
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  1. R.B. Rodda says:

    This is abominable! One more reason that Mahony should be removed from the college of cardinals and silenced once and for all!

  2. Rhythm band says:

    This is a non story.
    The Bishop/Cardinal did not break any law, and by Goly the Church, including its dead owe reparation to these victims.

    • The misappropriation of funds held in trust is not only a crime but a serious one. This is a violation of a fiduciary obligation. Trust fund managers and attorneys go to jail for this kind of activity all the time.

      You are correct that the victims must be compensated… but that does not give the Cardinal the right to steal someone else’s money to pay for his previous crimes.

      This could result in a criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit that will be larger than the victim payout. Now do you know why Abp Gomez is going to have a 200 million dollar fund drive this year? I bet Apb Gomez wished he hadn’t answered the phone when the Pope called him to come to L.A.

      • The truly sickening thing is that the Holy See allowed it! No one seems to care how much the Church’s reputation is being damaged.

        The Holy See simply should not have allowed this. The Church should follow secular society with a law to protect the dead’s investment.

  3. Wow, how low can a cardinal go?

  4. Just when you think Cardinal Mahony has done every despicable thing imaginable and now this; stealing from the dead. The man simply has no conscience.

  5. Thomas Edward Miles says:

    This man could not protect children, how could we expect him to protect the sacred resting places of the dead!! The Cardinal created much of this mess, the question remains, HOW MANY DOLLARS OF HIS OWN MONEY DID HE KICK IN TO THIS SACKING OF THE DEAD?!!

    • Maryanne Leonard says:

      Yes, Thomas, you are correct in raising this question. I believe that sadly, we know the answer is that he collected every dollar and every benefit accorded to persons of his stature within the Church and has taken every opportunity to continue to benefit broadly therefrom as recently as this morning. He not only did not protect children, he sent vipers into their midsts to corrupt and abuse new children and hid them from our system of justice — on purpose. That is both a sin and a crime, and he owes every dollar he earned as a criminal back to the victims of the crimes he committed in his exalted position.

  6. What bothers me most about this particular revelation (and I live in L.A.), is that while this was going on, the Cardinal, often a champion for the rights of the poor and downtrodden, consistently and vigourously fought the Cemetery Workers when they requested a raise in pay and benefits. I begin to see where the money was going.

    • Good point! He came here in 1986 fresh from his Cesar Chavez “Viva La Huelga!” days. Long live the Union he cried in Stockton. Then he came here and crushed the gravediggers union….. almost all of whom were poor uneducated Hispanics.

      And by the way, what happened to all of the Doheny money? That money was held in trust also.

      • Hey, now we’re getting somewhere. Bring in the FBI to investigate, since there is a strong possiblity of interstate criminal activity that acted or is acting through Cardinal Mahony … who else is involved?

      • He probably was trying to pay off all the depositions and questioning he underwent in court for shielding pederast priests in Stockton as well.

    • Vive Vendee says:

      …and what should bother those who were compelled contractually to fund this Perpetual Care trust is the revelation it won’t be needed, surprise!, until the year 2200. Current cemetery maintenance is covered nicely by the generous profit-margins of on-going sales in burial services and there’s a near infinite number of Plots & Stuff they can sell before they need to hire an extra gardening service in the 23rd Century.
      This information is offered by archdiocese spokesperson, Carolina Guevara by way of explanation of how it doesn’t really matter much if the designated fund was looted or not.
      What might matter to the archdiocese is the fortune lost in accrued interest from the long-gone 115 million dollars of other people’s money, interest enough to benefit many archdiocese programs including an OutReach for grieving families except that Catholic grieving families are too busy paying maintenance costs that won’t exist until the the Twelth of Never or the End of the World, whichever comes first.
      Oh. Interesting note from L.A. Times;
      “The church’s use of fund money appears to be legal. State law prohibits private cemeteries from touching the principal of their perpetual care funds and bars them from using the interest on those funds for anything other than maintenance. Those laws, however, do not apply to cemeteries run by religious organizations”.


      • In other words, generating interest through usury. Once upon a time the Holy Catholic Church taught usury is a sin…what the “modern” church of Rome today thinks it’s passe and it’s no longer sinful?

  7. Barramundi says:

    I wonder if Cardinal Mahony has ever studied the “personality disorder”…antisocial personality disorder? I am aware he has a masters degree in social work, so invariably he has studied, this and other forms of “less then wonderful behavior”…”by their fruits you will recognize them”…Matthew Chapter 7: 15-20

  8. Prof.Helen McCaffrey says:

    When was the last time you heard a sermon on purity or sexual self control which is at the root of the problem. Illicit sex cost the Church BILLIONS.

    • Maryanne Leonard says:

      As well as countless souls who turned away from the Church in disgust, and others who might have chosen to convert to Catholicism if they had not been repelled by the acts of our priests, bishops and cardinals as well as the relative lack of appropriate disciplinary action coming from the Vatican.

      As hard to take as all this would be were the Church a community club, it is overwhelmingly upsetting that these sorts of things should happen, and appear to be covered up, hidden, expanded by new children’s exposure to additional abuse (and therefore seemingly countenanced) in the House of God, the very Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ!

      If human justice allows these things to go insufficiently punished on earth, or perhaps go unpunished completely, I tremble to imagine what will happen to these men on the Day of Judgment. Let them suffer and pay for their crimes on earth in the hope that they will find mercy for their sins against the innocent and their horrible impact on the salvation of souls on that day when Jesus Christ passes eternal judgment.

  9. Barramundi says:

    By concealing these crimes to authorities, Cardinal Mahony has cost the Archdiocese millions of dollars… the out-of-court settlements in the 80′s-90′s were done to protect his clergy from the authorities, and inevitable jail time. The confidentiality agreements that were signed by victims of clergy and religious abuse in the Archdiocese are nothing more then a way to silence the “victims” legally, from ever ratting out the pederast/pedophile, and subjecting him to civil suits and criminal investigations… If he was so concerned about the victims, why would he need to have them sign confidentiality agreements?

  10. good cause says:

    I’ve always said the LA sex abuse legal setttlement would bury the Church……good call!

    Cardinal Mahoney and Cardinal Bernard Law should be prohibited from voting for Pope. Let’s see if the Church can get this one right.

  11. I believe embezzlement is a felony and a crime punishable by imprisonment. Let’s hope that current ordinary takes appropriate action.

    • Religious organizations who operate cemeteries can legally do what he did. Secular ones cannot — they have secular laws to follow.

      The Holy See should NEVER have allowed this (and yes, their permission was canonically needed.)

  12. In fact, embezzlement in the state of California has no statute of limitations! …this includes all private sector funds, state, federal, and civic… look at the debacle in the city of Bell…

  13. I’m not a canonist, but my understanding is that the Diocesan Bishop has title to ALL funds in his diocese.

    What Cardinal Mahony did is unethical and detestable, but not against Church law, unless I’m mistaken here.

    And the cardinalate is NOT one of the major Holy Orders (deacon, presbyter, bishop) that require faculties in order to function. One cannot “decardinalize” someone, though a clergyman can be dismissed from the clerical state.

    • You are correct the Archdiocese is a Corporation Sole which means he has complete control of all assets of the Archdiocese.

      However, the money in a trust fund DOES NOT BELONG TO THE TRUSTEE (the archdiocese in this case)! It belongs to those for whom it is held in trust – this is grand theft and is well within any statute of limitations.

      I wish Steve Cooley was still District Attorney.

    • Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

      The Holy Father can, under canon law, remove someone from the College or Cardinals.

      I hope for the Church’s face that Cardinal Mahony does not show his face at the conclave.

  14. “Let the dead bury the dead”.. Matthew 8:22

    Let the dead give their own witness to their great lack of love in caring for the living as well as the dead.

  15. Barramundi says:

    Personally, I feel a great sense of sorrow for what has befallen our Church…yet I shake my head in utter bewilderment…these events seem so incomprehensible!…how could Cardinal Mahony have been so utterly clueless about the nightmare that was unfolding?…did he honestly think that concealing all of these horrific crimes…that somehow, this monstrous series of ongoing molestation would just disappear?…to this day, I can’t believe this man has been this reckless and delusional to believe that none of this activity would surface…Did he honestly believe that the laity would be tolerant of his malfeasance, and say “oh well, he’s the Cardinal, who am I to ever challenge the decision making and behavior of our Cardinal Archbishop, I’m just a layperson, let’s all forgive and forget”?…

  16. Until Cdl Mahony is barred from public ministry and gone from the Diocese I will no longer tithe at any LA Diocese church. Until he is gone I will tithe only at one of the Eastern churches as I believe their tithes go to their own Diocese or I will tithe or donate money at a religious order’s chapel. I will also be dropping a note in the offering plate explaining why I’m withholding my tithes.

  17. My understanding is that we Catholics are required to have our remains interred in Catholic cemeteries, whether full body burial or cremation. I have read articles in the Catholic press either instructing me or guilting me into so arranging. I have been debating with myself about whether or not to make pre-need arrangements, no doubt at several thousands of dollars. I would rather have my remains scattered and leave the extra money for my heirs so that their children could the sooner pay off their future college loans, thus avoiding peonage. Articles like these make me lean toward what my heart would really like to do–help the kids.

    • poetcomic1 says:

      For God’s sake, don’t ‘scatter your ashes’ – it is a pagan nature ceremony and a direct insult to the promise of resurrection. Do what I am going to do – a consecrated Potters field and a government issue box. I want the honor of being buried with the poor, abandoned and forgotten dead. They give you a number so your relatives can find your grave.

    • caroline, there are many religions, take your choice. Choose a religion of the moment that meets your desires of the moment … isn’t that what you’re seeking approval of?

  18. When people pay money for a contractual and specific purpose — such as cemetery maintenance, then the Diocese is legally obliged to use the money only for that purpose. Otherwise Cardinal Mahoney is committing fraud and theft.

    CCC: “2411 Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights.
    Commutative justice obliges strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted.
    Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.
    One distinguishes commutative justice from legal justice which concerns what the citizen owes in fairness to the community, and from distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs.”

    Make them pay for their own illegal actions, or go to jail.
    Using/taking other people’s money for their illegal activities has got to stop. Cardinals and Bishops need to be taught a lesson that they do not personally own money donated to the Church for specific purposes.

    Make them give to the Church all their worldly goods, and live like Jesus did. As Jesus said: Mt 10:8-11.

  19. Barramundi says:

    No statute of limitations on embezzlement in the state of California… just sayin’

  20. In Germany we dig up the graves after a time to re-use them for the next person. Is this done here also?

  21. I would submit that all of those holy souls buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery (including my own relatives) need continued prayers.

  22. I’m a former L.A. Archdiocese Catholic. Each year I receive a letter asking for donations to a Catholic school I attended as a child.

    Each year I struggle to pay for postage on Christmas cards but the church/school affords to send out letters to ask people to give them money.

    My parents paid for my education at that time. They also worked in the church performing many volunteer functions. Meanwhile I witnessed a nun brutally shake children and strike children in my classroom on a regular basis. It had a long lasting affect on me.

    I was afraid of adults I didn’t know and very withdrawn as a child. I can’t imagine what the victims of the extreme abuse have endured.

    Loyal Catholics will continue to support the church. Hopefully we will all learn from the Bible, trust God and God alone.

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