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Australian cases deserve Pope’s inquiry (28 October 2013)

Dr Max Wallace of the Rationalists Assn of NSW asks what became of Father Vincent Kiss’s villa in the Philippines with tennis courts and swimming pool, or Cardinal Pell’s luxury guest house in Rome with a grand chapel, organ and 150-seat auditorium.

The Vice-President of the Rationalists Assn of NSW, Dr Max Wallace, said today the Pope’s banishment of German Bishop Franz-Peter Terbatz-van Telst of Limburg for spending 31 million euros on his private residence raises similar concerns in Australia.

Max Wallace said there are two cases in particular that require investigation: the 2002 case of paedophile priest Father Vincent Kiss and the 2011 case of Cardinal George Pell’s luxury residence in Rome.

Father Vincent Kiss was convicted of stealing $1.8M of  charity donations in 2002. He spent six years in Pentridge Prison in Melbourne. After his release he was arrested and later gaoled for sexual offences against children in NSW which had occurred much earlier.

Kiss used the funds for a lavish lifestyle paying off a $100,000 mortgage on his Brighton, Melbourne, home which included a $16,745 spa and extensive landscaping. He donated $19,180 to the Carlton AFL Club, made seventeen overseas and numerous domestic trips, hired a chauffeur-driven limousine sixty six times. Importantly, he made numerous trips to the Philippines where he acquired a luxury villa 95 kms south of Manila with a swimming pool and a tennis court, to which local children were invited.

Max Wallace said it needs to be explained why Father Kiss’s big-spending high-profile social life went sight-unseen by the church hierarchy for so long. He said: “it also needs to be explained what happened with Father Kiss’s Philippines mansion after he was gaoled. Was that asset recovered and the funds used for their original charitable purpose? If not, why not?”

Regarding Cardinal Pell, Max Wallace said the Australian acquisition of a luxury guest house where Cardinal Pell stays, when in Rome, reportedly worth $30M including a restored grand chapel, organ, and 150 seat auditorium, seems comparable to the German bishop case.

Max Wallace said the maximum payout victims of sexual abuse can hope to achieve through Cardinal Pell’s ‘Towards Healing’ process is $75,000 yet the church can find as much as $30M to acquire a property in Rome.

“If the Pope is serious about spending excesses in his church he should make inquiries about the lavish lifestyles of church hierarchy in every jurisdiction. If he does not, the reasonable inference could be drawn that he is only reacting to news reports of church excess and his comments on the church’s need for austerity is merely a public relations campaign designed to distinguish himself from his retired predecessor.”


Previous article: Questions for PM Abbott on his comment concerning separation of church and state (20 September 2014). Next article: Finally, hard information on Catholic wealth in Australia (Dec. 2013)

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