Settlement Reached in Church Rico Case

By Matt C. Abbott [United States]
September 5, 2005

In July 2004, former seminarian Philip Hower filed a RICO suit against several Catholic bishops and dioceses, alleging that his ordination was blocked because he had blown the whistle on the activities of certain corrupt clergy.

(Details of the case can be seen here:

A settlement was reached on August 18.

Hower's attorney, Ivan Abrams, issued the following statement (edited):

After years of litigation, opposition, and frustration, plaintiffs Philip A. Hower and his mother, Meta Hower, settled their racketeering (RICO) lawsuit against the Dioceses of Tucson, Harrisburg, Columbus, and others, as well as against a number of prominent bishops, including Keeler and Kicanas.

The suit alleged that the Roman Catholic Church in North America has conducted itself for years through a pattern of racketeering activity based upon fraud and obstruction of justice. These activities were designed according to the suit, to protect the Church from the ramifications of the sexual perversions and assaults committed by some of its priests.

Documents filed in court set forth a scheme where pervert priests were transferred from diocese to diocese, provided with stipends and never turned over to the police or civil authorities.

When these criminals were discovered, according to the lawsuit, the Church further hid them and all records of their activities. Whistleblowers, of whom Mr. Hower was allegedly one, were condemned and exiled. Mr. Hower was denied ordination, and had he been a priest, he would likely have lost his faculties when he informed at least two bishops of his observations of illegal activities within the Church.

I believe the settlement is the first time that a civil RICO suit against the Roman Catholic Church has survived intact from filing until final disposition in favor of the plaintiffs.

That is, all of the allegations that were made initially, including racketeering, were still before the court when the parties agreed to settle.

The defendants did not admit wrongdoing. That is typical in a settlement of a civil lawsuit.

The following is Hower's statement (edited):

We reached a settlement. On what, you may ask? Dear friend, I deliberately kept you out of the loop on this one, to not further break your heart and soul. Why, you ask? Well, you watched me grow up from a young boy, to a teenager in love with God and His Church. You watched me lovingly serve at God's table and minister to his people, both young and old.

You watched me fail, and you helped pick me up and learn from my failings. You, dear friend, and my parents and others, taught me of the love, compassion, gentleness and wisdom of God; and to try and see His presence in even the meanest of people. You taught me to hope; that people can change, if they open up their hearts to Jesus through his mother Mary.

You, dear friend, watched and threw me a party and a Mass at your house, when I was preparing to leave for seminary, to ask God's graces and protection over me as I left home for the first time and entered the mysterious world of the seminary. You wrote to me faithfully and waited for me to visit you on my breaks and holidays from seminary.

You listened with love as I told you of my doubts, confusion, triumphs and longings to become a priest. I learned from you many things. You are wise beyond the bishops, priests and many religious people that surrounded me, all claiming that they knew best for my heart and immortal soul; and in the formation of my priestly vocation. Yet, the gentle heart of a woman, wife, mother, lover of all people -- like my own mother -- is what kept me most closely resembling the heart of Christ; and is what allowed people to respond to me and allowed me to lead them to Jesus.

The world of the Church exploded for me. I learned that bishops and priests lie, sin, and are in fact all too human. You know that I wanted them to be on a pedestal, like Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Gerald Majella, Elizabeth Ann Seton or John Neumann. You saw me struggle, you prayed for me and them.

Finally, you helped me understand that sexuality can be a beautiful gift from God -- if kept within the realm of marriage and not allowed to reign in the world of a promise or vow of celibacy. You taught me to trust God while on my journey, to seek out the good people He would put near me on my journey, and to never give up! I tried to live up to your counsel and hopes, but God's bishops and priests are on a different path from ours, dear friend, and I value my soul.

I settled, dear friend, a legal case calling the bishops, priests and dioceses of America the Mafia; not only encouraging immoral behavior, but practicing it themselves. I dragged my 82-year-old mother through this war; she is heartbroken with her Church, our Church. You see, dear friend, I stood up against these wolves in shepherd's clothing both personally and in the press. Mother and I spent our own money, as no one would contribute to the cause for purification financially -- only verbally.

Time after time, she and I went to the lawyer's office, educating this good Jewish man on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, the tradition of the Church, and telling him that money was not my objective; rather, my goal was to obtain the gift of ordination. After all, Mother Teresa personally told me in the stadium of the University of San Diego: 'When you put a drop of water in the chalice, remember me.'

The weeks grew on to months, and then to years. Bishops lied, twisted and hid behind their lawyers. The image of the shepherd leaving the flock to seek the one lost sheep quickly became a dim memory and scriptural story, and not one to give comfort. Finally, it became very clear that the shepherds were not new to devious and malicious attacks.

There was no spiritual direction in this endeavor; it was to protect the patrimony and deviant clergy (bishops and priests) at all cost. Use all the monies, power and influence --- and call in all of the favors owed them, at their disposal. Never for a moment did they consider that David was challenging Goliath. Perhaps they read this story somewhere while beginning their own journey toward their priestly vocations?

We agreed to end our lawsuit against them, and to put away our beliefs of a good shepherd.

They offered not my ordination, but money. I was made to understand that David never had a chance in this story. It was to accept what was offered, regardless of how small the amount, have it as aid for mother in her twilight and infirm years, and allow God and his saints to carry out the campaign against the wolves in shepherd's clothing. This man has paid his dues and will trust in the love and compassion of God, rather than in man.

So you see, dear friend, we follow love and love will never fail! Evil will meet its match, if not in this world, in the next. You were not wrong in your guidance of my heart and soul, for I touched many -- and in turn, was touched by many. Trust in God and our mother Mary, and we shall now have peace! Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in ora mortis nostrae!


Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic journalist and commentator. He is a columnist for and/or contributor to,,,,,,, and other sites. He is also an occasional contributor to "The Wanderer" Catholic newspaper.