Saturday, September 14, 2019


The Wheeling diocesan home of former Catholic bishop Michael J. Bransfield has been sold for $1.2 million! But.........

...the mansion originally belonged to William Weiss, a founder of the Sterling Drug Co. The late Bishop Joseph Hodges purchased the home in 1963 from The Linsly Institute for $63,000.
Fire damaged the mansion in 2005 while it was being renovated for Bransfield before he was installed as bishop. A report prepared by the diocese revealed Bransfield spent $4.6 million on renovations to the house.
The new Bishop of Wheeling/Charleston, w. Virginia has inherited an apocalyptic spirit of Vatican II mess caused by the former bishop, one corrupt dude.

I won’t go into his active homosexuality, exorbitant spending that would make a Saudi prince blush or the fact he is a part of the lavender mafia that Fr. Andrew Greeley excoriated decades ago in Chicago and this gay mafia who have caused such narcissistic havoc on the Church and in the highest places from the likes of Mr. McCarrick.

But I like what Bishop Mark Brennan recently wrote about his predecessor and only wish Pope Francis would write the same about Mr. McCarrick. After all, isn’t the greatest social work of the Church the salvation of damned souls?

“It is my intention in the coming days to define the terms of Bishop Bransfield’s required restitution for the harm he caused and the Church resources he squandered,” Brennan said in the letter. “It is my hope that the former bishop will see this as an opportunity to acknowledge his offenses and to truly make amends to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the good people across the state who have been so deeply affected by this scandal.”


TJM said...

$4.6 million in West Virginia? Wow, there must have been gold plated fixtures in there or something. What a loon

Anonymous said...

When will justice be done in Buffalo? It makes no sense why Dolan and the Vatican is covering for Malone. Apparently, Malone isn't a good soldier for the Left and doesn't have powerful friends. They just don't want to establish a precedent that a bishop can ever be held accountable for what he does. The Metropolitan model has been shown to be a sham.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:50 am, you are so correct when you say, "The Metropolitan model has been shown to be a sham." The ruling bishops and cardinals still think they are above having to be accountable to anyone, lest of all the laity.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Let’s Just call him Mr. Ted the talking ass.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to get opinion here as to what bloggers feel is an "appropriate" size and cost for a bishop's residence? I think it is appropriate for a bishop to have a house where he could, say, entertain visiting prelates or donors to a capital campaign, in which case a 1,500-square foot home would not suffice. On the other hand, Atlanta's previous archbishop got some slack for buying a $2 million home in the very wealthy Buckhead area that reportedly had an "escape room" (a "safe haven in case angry conservatives broke into his house---just kidding about the conservatives) and a wine cellar. I don't know what bishops make in terms of a salary (Catholic ones that is--Episcopal ones probably make low 6 figures), but probably not enough on their own to purchase a house of that nature. The archbishop relented and moved to more modest quarters ($00k house) in Cobb County, suburban Atlanta.

Gregory got criticism for that, but I give him and diocesan staff credit for land dealings---the Atlanta Chancery moved to Cobb County from its longtime midtown location and its property (since demolished) will be the HQ for the new Norfolk Southern HQ (the railroad company based in Virginia). Atlanta was founded on the railroads after all (it has never been a port city, and you can understand that when you see the Chattahoochee), so makes sense to have a railroad based here.

TJM said...

A lot of these bishop residence house diocesan offices. However, some residences were over the top like Cardinal O'Connell of Boston's palace. I recall the archdiocese finally dumped that.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Bishops, in most cases, receive the same salary/benefits as pastors. Their residences, like ours, are provided.

For the reason you mentioned, some bishops do have more substantial homes, but that need would depend a lot on the diocese.

I have been in a couple of episcopal residences that were, shall we say, quite posh. Other bishops are comfortable in much simpler homes. A former archbishop of Hartford lived in a small four room apartment at the college seminary there.

Anonymous said...

I should have said $00k, not $00k, for Gregory's house after the "Buckhead controversy."

Father K., what would be a pastor's salary---maybe $30k a year? 40?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

It costs a parish appx $65K to $70K to keep a pastor. About $36K is salary, the remainder is room and board, insurance, pension contributions, auto allowance, continuing ed, etc.

Anonymous said...

Ok, 400k on the Gregory house not 00---I am having some typing problems these days!!!

I assume priests pay into Social Security?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Regarding Social Security, we Catholic priests are in an odd situation.

For Income Tax purposes, we are considered employees. We get W-2 forms.

BUT, for FICA purposes, we are considered self-employed.

Hence, we pay the 12.4% all by ourselves.

There was a time a bit before I was ordained 34 years ago when a priest could opt out of paying FICA. The problem arose over time, however, that FICA was or became tied to Medicare - if you didn't pay into FICA you would not get Medicare. So, we all have to be in the system nowadays.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

I always knew the Catholic Church was cheap when it came to its employees (while telling all of us in the private sector that we were money-grubbing miscreants), merely gave lip service to fairness and social justice and you just confirmed it. It is outrageous that the Diocese is not paying one half of your FICA. You are hardly an independent contractor. I am a retired attorney with experience on these matters. I do not recall the IRS giving the Church a pass on this issue but since i never researched it I cannot say. Nonetheless, it is a manifest injustice.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

CCC 2434 "A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.221 (Cf. Lev 19:13; Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4) In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. 'Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good."222 (GS 67 § 2.) Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.'"

The remuneration a priest receives guarantees him "the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level,..."

The IRS/FICA policy and the practice of the Church, while annoying, is neither unjust nor outrageous. I often remind younger priests that we generally have a higher level of "discretionary" income than many of the people we serve.

Were the Church liable for paying half of a priest's FICA, then the Church would be taxed which is unconstitutional.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

One point. Taxing the Church would not be unconstitutional. The federal income tax did not exist when the US Constitution became the law of the land. As a matter of fact if a Church engages in politics, under the current IRS Code, it can be stripped of its tax exempt status.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

LA Times, 23 March 1996:

"What that means is that the full 15.3% salary tax for Social Security comes directly out of the pocket of the clergy. The employer is normally obliged to pick up half the tab for Social Security. “It’s a constitutional issue,” said Edmund Tortora, corporate secretary for the pension boards of the United Church of Christ in New York. “If the church would be liable for the other half,” he said, “Congress would be taxing the church.” And that, he said, would be unconstitutional.

From Guidestone Financial Services

"Can a church pay FICA for a minister to save the minister money?

No. A church cannot pay FICA for someone who is a minister for tax purposes. By law, ministers are always treated as self-employed for Social Security purposes and therefore are subject to SECA taxes on their ministerial earnings. Churches that pay FICA for their ministers are not doing them a favor — they are violating the law. When churches mistakenly pay FICA for ministers, they can cause errors in Social Security Administration records that may affect future benefits."

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

Mr. Tortora is mistaken. It is not unconstitutional. As a matter of fact, the federal income tax itself was unconstitutional until the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution became law. Educational institutions and Churches in theory could be subject to the federal income tax but Congress in its "wisdom" exempted them, unless as I said earlier, they engaged in political campaigns and then they would be stripped of their exemption and be liable for federal income tax. What you cited is a SSA regulation which could just as easily be changed. FYI, the trend in federal income taxation in recent years is to drastically limit the number of those individuals who are considered independent contractors for FICA purposes. I suspect at some point, ministers will eventually be re-classified for FICA purposes, in which case, the Diocese will have to pay both portions of FICA, which I believe is the fairer result.

FYI, the last sentence you cited is nonsense. While I was an attorney (over 40 years), I was classified as an employee when I was an associate of the law firm and as an independent contractor when I became a partner of the law firm. I can assure you, SSA had no trouble, at all, in calculating my SS benefit.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mr. Tortora has, I suspect, far more experience in this area than you or I or anyone who has not served as corporate secretary to the pension board of the UCC or the pension board of any 501(c)3 organization.

Mr. Tortora is speaking to the regulations as they are, not as they might, "in theory," be if an organization's tax status is changed or a minister's status is changed.

As one who, in his current circumstances, pays the full FICA rate, I do not find it unfair at all. My salary and benefits achieve their purpose, that is "...the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself [and his family] on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level,..."

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

If Mr. Tortora said it would be unconstitutional, he doesn't know what he was talking about. I suspect he is not a lawyer, but a layman. If he had said it would violate a regulation, then he would be correct. If you think you are being treated fairly, far be it from me to persuade you otherwise. But if the Church tried to get a family man to pay one half of FICA on $30,000 that would be a disgrace because the family man does not have free room and board. You would starve in Chicago on that.

FYI, I was with an international law firm for 40 years (over 800 lawyers) and represented many religiously based, 501 (c) (3) organizations, in establishing their right to exemption and in maintaining their exemption. I never had to get involved in withholding issues but I find the regulation strange, given where IRS tax law is heading when it comes to issues like FICA. The IRS routinely would re-characterize an independent contractor relationship to an employment relationship, thus requiring the "employer" to pay both portions of FICA and withhold federal and state income taxes as well. The IRS wants a responsible entity to be the "bagman" for the federal government rather than the individual. This occurred in the healthcare field with medical directors at hospitals who historically had been treated as independent contractors being re-characterized as employees for FICA and withholding purposes. Keep in mind that these doctors have their own medical practices and would have far more independence vis-a-vis a hospital than a parish priest would have vis-a-vis his bishop.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"But if the Church tried to get a family man to pay one half of FICA..."

But we're talking about priests and most of us don't have families to support. As for lay employees, churches pay the required FICA amounts for them.

Whether the regulation is strange or not, it is what it is. Churches, if they don't want to run afoul of the law, will follow the regulations regarding IRS, FICA, and priests.

As to the non-taxation of churches in general, Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom writes, "(Third) ... there is also a constitutional reason why churches are tax exempt. Our history is one of an unbroken practice of exempting churches from taxation. Churches were exempt from the very first time the tax code was passed at the federal level, and have remained exempt in every iteration of the tax code ever since. Every state in America also exempts churches from property taxes. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case regarding the property tax exemption of churches, called Walz v. Tax Commission, it stated that providing a tax exemption for churches was a less intrusive option under the Constitution than requiring churches to pay taxes."

Note that Mr. Stanley is a lawyer.