Ave Maria's Pass for Pederast Priests

December 22, 2008

According to Ave Maria University's website (screen capture), the AMU Founder's Club hosted a visit from the President of "Opus Bono Sacerdotii" (OBS), Joseph Maher, one year ago this past Friday (December 19). IRS records show that the self-described exempt purpose of OBS is to offer "outplacement services for Roman Catholic priests and religious men and women for the purpose of providing a transition from one position to another".

(Click below for more.)


The University's Founders Club, which was established by Tom Monaghan (NY Times, 2/10/2003), advertised that the purpose of OBS was "to find solutions to sensitive situations confronting priests and religious in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Church."

"Outplacement services" for "sensitive situations"?

Translation: OBS helps to quietly shuffle around pederast priests.

According to the OBS website, Joseph Maher helped start the organization in Detroit in 2002 after "he received much public attention for his staunch support of a priest from his parish who was accused of rape. Today, over 2,000 priests have contacted Opus Bono Sacerdotii for assistance, with more calling on a weekly basis."

This "outplacement service" is a relatively lucrative job for Maher. IRS 990s show that Maher received $106,000 compensation as OBS's President in 2005; that same year, OBS spent $93,835 on what they called "food, shelter and clothing for indigents". The next year, Maher was given a raise of over $30,000, pumping his compensation up to $137,341. The organization's expense-to-charity ratio does not speak well for how OBS is run, particularly when one considers OBS's other non-salary expenses, like $17,000 for "chapel" in 2005/2006 combined (Why does an organization with one employee need a private chapel?)

OBS and its Ave Maria supporters might claim that the mission of the organization is to support accused innocent priests who are defending wrongful allegations. But according to their website, OBS cares nothing about whether their clients are innocent or guilty (excerpt):

"In cases where legal procedures in civil, criminal or canon law are required: A client's innocence or guilt is not a determining factor in obtaining assistance from OBS"

From the Washington Post, Oct 13, 2002:

"In Detroit, Maher said he does not attempt to determine whether a priest is innocent or guilty before providing financial help from Opus Bono Sacerdotii. The group, which he said has raised $100,000 and applied to the Internal Revenue Service for charitable status, is assisting the Rev. Robert Burkholder, who returned to Michigan from retirement in Hawaii this month to face charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1986."

"In an interview published by the Detroit News in August, Burkholder, 82, admitted that he had had sexual encounters with "maybe a dozen or two" boys between the ages of 11 and 14, but contended that they were consensual. "It takes two to tango," he said. "Some of the accusations are true, but so what? I was a priest — a good priest — who had a weakness."

Burkholder, who was labeled Michigan's worst pedophile priest by Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan, was sentenced to jail after pleading no contest to two second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges. As far back as 1993, it was known that Burkholder was a menace; that year, his priestly duties were constrained by his diocese as he admitted, in writing, to molesting at least 23 boys.

None of that - not even Burkholder's unrepentant "two to tango" or "so what" - mattered to OBS.

In another pederast crusade adopted by OBS, Maher sent 3,000 fund raising letters to support a jailed priest who was accused of 13 sex crimes on 6 boys. South Bend Tribune, Oct. 28, 2005, excerpt:

"I think it's outrageous what [OBS is] doing," [Bishop] D'Arcy said. "We never gave them any [diocesan mailing] list. They're unauthorized to do this and it's wrong. I don't know anything about (Maher) and he doesn't know anything about this case. He's out of order writing to our people."

One recipient is a local man scheduled to testify at the trial that LeBrun fondled him in the early 1980s.

"I was extremely offended to receive this thing, and to try to solicit support from victims?" the local man said. "How low."

In January 2006, the priest that Maher so vigorously helped was sentenced to 111 years in prison (more).

OBS is connected to Tom Monaghan far beyond Joseph Maher's invitation to speak at the Ave Maria University Founder's Club. Maher and OBS co-founder Paul Barron are both members of Legatus, Tom Monaghan's club for rich Catholic businessmen (AveWatch archive on Legatus here). OBS and Ave Maria also pick from the same talent pool.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic power broker who sits on AMU's Board and often defends Monaghan's questionable educational practices, serves on the OBS Advisory panel. OBS quotes Neuhaus:

"More power to you [OBS]! It is important that we counter this vicious notion that an injustice or alleged injustice of years ago can be righted by a new injustice now. The demand that a person "must be punished," no matter how long ago the offense or the repentance and transformation of the offender, is nothing more than a demand for vengeance, which, as the Scriptures remind us, is not rightly ours. Do let me know how your project progresses.

Cordially, (The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus"

Another OBS Advisor was the prominent canon lawyer Fr. Gregory Ingels. In 2002, he helped craft the "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse adopted by American Catholics. The following year, in 2003, he was charged for a 1972 incident of sodomy and "substantial sexual conduct" with a boy. In the criminal complaint, Ingels acknowledged having had sex with the boy and could be heard on tape saying, "What I did to you was terrible."

This was not a singular moment of weakness or indiscretion on Ingels' part. In the summer of 2003, a second case against Ingels was assembled by the local district attorney. A former female student of Fr. Ingels, Jane Parkhurst, alleged that the priest began to "cultivate" her at age 15, taking advantage of a troubled home life that started after her parents died in a car accident. She told authorities that Ingels had sexually abused her for four years starting in 1973. Excerpt, San Francisco Weekly (more):

"On numerous occasions — at the school, in a church rectory, and once while taking her for a ride in his Mustang convertible — he insisted that she masturbate him and fellate him, Parkhurst says. As SF Weekly disclosed earlier this year, Parkhurst kept nearly three dozen love letters Ingels had written to her starting in 1974, letters he continued to write even after he went to Rome in 1977 to study canon law."

In the "love letters" to this girl, Ingels discussed erections, "wet dreams", and the consistency of semen, handwritten on parish letterhead. All charges against Ingels were later dropped due to a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down as unconstitutional a California law that extended the statutes of limitation in sex crimes. Ingels' Archbishop, William Levada, knew of the allegations back in 1996, but did nothing. Levada approved a payment to Parkhurst of nearly $2.7 million.

Even after all this, OBS President Joseph Maher was quoted as saying that his organization was "grateful to have him [Ingels]" (San Francisco Weekly; 7/13/2005):

"He's an excellent priest, a very holy man, and he's a great help to us."

One of the most vocal cheerleaders supporting OBS is Fr. Michael Orsi, the Chaplain at Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria School of Law. Orsi serves as an OBS Advisor and writes for their website. AveWatch has an extensive archive covering Orsi's controversial behavior including:

Monaghan's "Agitated" Priest on Sexual Molestation

Boys Cherries

Orsi's defense of sexually dysfunctional priests is rich with clericalism. This conclusion was highlighted in the book "Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church". Leon Podles, a former federal investigator, is the book's author and, interestingly, a former supporter of AMU. In the chapter "Clerical Accomplices", Dr. Podles describes the pass that Orsi gives to guilty homosexual/pederast/pedophile priests as reflective of a time "in which members of society had unequal status before the law. Such inequality is always irritating, and is often used to protect privileged malefactors - and Orsi resents the loss of privilege."

Orsi is able to use the influence of his Ave Maria Chaplaincy to promote and defend OBS thanks to his two bosses, Ave Maria School of Law Chairman Tom Monaghan and President-Dean Bernard Dobranski. For all of the rants about liberal immorality, attacks on the family, and the "culture wars" penned by Monaghan and Dobranski in their fundraising letters, you'll never hear about the wink-and-nod given to Orsi or OBS in keeping pederasts at the altar. Be sure to read the AveWatch article "Clericalism: On Ave Maria and Church Sex Abuse".

Tom Monaghan allows his Ave Maria and Legatus enterprises to be effectively used by Opus Bono Sacerdotti to rally support for homosexual/pederast priests where - according to OBS's own words - "innocence or guilt is not a determining factor".

But questions remain. How else has Tom Monaghan, the Ave Maria entities, or Legatus supported the "outplacement services" of OBS? Has or will Monaghan's Ave Maria Town become a sanctuary where OBS "indigents" are "provided a transition" a quiet sympathetic out-of-the-way place where they can "find solutions to sensitive situations confronting priests"? How would the Town's people, or the local bishop, ever know? - Ave Maria already has a documented case of failing to immediately report information to police after it provided computer aid to a priest under investigation for Internet child pornography (1, 2) Remember, the Law School is slated to move to Florida in 2009, meaning that OBS's Fr. Orsi will be in/near Ave Maria Town.

For all of the control that Tom Monaghan exerts over the Town and its entities (1, 2, 3), the situation is precarious. A cluster of distressing qualities have coalesced in Ave Maria. Today's Naples Daily News highlights safety concerns in Ave Maria Town. It is a place where University security is run by a man who has referred to Monaghan as "our King" and where, for almost a year, developers have knowingly misrepresented the level of police presence on the Town's website (see also).

The endeavor is also hypersenitive to PR pressure. Monaghan expected 600 homes sold by last year this time (December 2007); to date, he has 250. With four former employees in lawsuits that are working their way through the courts, Monaghan cannot afford any PR problems. Back in September, a former Ave Maria University employee said of AMU and Ave Maria Town, "Everyone for some reason lives in fear here". The reference was to the Genovese/Bystander Syndrome pervasive in all of Monghan's endeavors, where social pressures restrain people from speaking or acting. In AveWatch's opinion, such an environment - coupled with support for OBS's blind trust of guilty priests - makes for the perfect climate in which abuse could quietly thrive.

He who has ears, let him hear.


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