Last week, the Associated Press published the results of their investigation into a Catholic nonprofit that protects and supports priests accused of sexual abuse.
Yes, you read that right. They protect the predatory priests, not the victims.
Opus Bono Sacerdotii, which is Latin for "work for the good of the priesthood," has spent the last 17 years supporting priests accused of sexual abuse in a variety of ways. The Michigan-based nonprofit provided money, shelter, transportation, legal support and more to anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 priests. The group itself claimed they have helped over 8,000 priests, but the Michigan attorney general estimates it is closer to 1,000.
The nonprofit has suffered a lot of shake-ups in recent months. Two of the founders were forced out after the Michigan attorney general conducted an investigation and found that they had misused donated funds and misled donors. Then, a third co-founder, Rev. Eduard Perrone, was just removed from the ministry last month because of allegations that he had abused an altar boy.
So, Perrone, a priest who abused a boy, was involved in founding a nonprofit that protected priests accused of sexual abuse. Who would have thought, right?
The other two founders who were forced out before Perrone were Joe Maher and Peter Ferrara. They were not clergymen, just devout Catholics who saw it necessary to "help a priest in need." Maher said in a radio interview, “All of these people that have made allegations are very well taken care of. The priests are not at all very well taken care of.”
Uh, Joe, do you think that might have something to do with all of the children they rape? You nutjob.
OBS started small, initially supporting a priest accused of abuse in Perrone's church, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, also sometimes called Assumption Grotto. But after Maher, Ferrara, and Perrone mobilized for that priest in 2002, they soon started getting calls for other priests that needed help.
They began seeking more and more donations, and eventually started using unmarked buildings in rural Michigan to house priests needing shelter away from public scrutiny. For priests sentenced to prison, they would donate to their commissary accounts. They would pick up priests needing a ride, or buy them plane tickets when necessary.
Mary Rose Maher, Joe's daughter, was recruited to help the organization as it grew. She was only a teenager, but as Joe built out the organization he needed more and more support. Mary Rose would help with fundraising, as well as with the support efforts provided to the predatory priests.
Ultimately, it was Mary Rose who tipped off state investigators that they should look at the financials of the nonprofit. Thanks to her tip, investigators concluded the group’s fundraising solicitations had been deceptive. They also found that Maher and Ferrara had violated state charity laws by using donated funds to cover such personal expenses as sushi lunches, chiropractor visits and power tools to work on their homes, according to a cease and desist order filed by Michigan’s attorney general.
Investigators found that in 2002, the group raised $73,000, which grew over the years to $1.3 million raised in 2016. Maher's pay started at $40,500, but ballooned up to $212,000. Ferrara’s pay rose from $16,300 to $316,000. “Maher and Ferrara took what they wanted, when they wanted it,” the attorney general’s office wrote, demanding repayment of more than $500,000.
That is some real Christian charity right there.
So where do things stand now? Well, OBS had their founders removed and their entire board of directors replaced, but they still are continuing their mission. Joe Maher was prohibited by the state from running a nonprofit in Michigan. So he started a new nonprofit that does the exact same thing as OBS, but registered it in Indiana... even though its principal office is in Michigan. Wow, someone really does not give a shit about the law.
Joe Maher's new nonprofit, Men of Melchizedek is named after Melchizedek in the Book of Genesis and Psalm 110.
Interestingly, Maher's daughter, Mary Rose, has started her own nonprofit, too. She started St. Mary's Haven, which works to protect survivors of clergy abuse. So not only is this a very worthwhile charity, but it flies in the face of the work her father is doing. Kudos to Mary Rose!
It really is wild that there are people like Joe Maher and Peter Ferrara out there who see these stories of priests raping and abusing scores of children, and then get protected by the church, and their immediate reaction is to raise money for these priests while ignoring the victims. These are people so demented by their religious faith that they have completely lost touch with reality and the suffering of others.