Catholic Megadevelopment VERITATIS SPLENDOR is long on rhetoric, short on details

Bishop Joseph Strickland, the outspoken shepherd of the diocese of Tyler, Texas, is promoting a gargantuan new planned Catholic community called Veritatis Splendor. The proposed compound will cover nearly 600 acres and will include “a grand oratory and seven institutes of truth.” It aims to eventually become home to dozens of Catholic families who can live, worship, and go to school together, as well as enjoying swimming, hunting, and horseback riding within a community that shares and preserves their Catholic ideals. 

“There, the faithful can gather to produce the first wave of apostles, planting the seeds for other Veritatis Splendor locations nationally and globally,” said co-founder Kari Beckman. 

“It is a community of true believers who work and live together to safeguard the deposit of faith through an uncompromising fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition,” the website said.

The first phase is to be an oratory “conceived in the architecture and structure of the Italian cathedrals erected in places such as Siena, Florence and Assisi.” To build it and fund other “advancement expenses,” Veritatis Splendor ultimately wants $22 million. As of March 3, they have raised over $37,00o.

“We are building a viculus, a little village, and we want you to join us,” the Veritatis Splendor fundraising site says

But while the website and promotional video are full of apocalyptic music and imagery warning Catholics of wolves and masks, interspersed with video of sun-drenched outdoor Eucharistic benediction and a blonde cowgirl mounting a horse, it’s short on details about how the project will be governed, how funds will be managed, who has oversight over the community of priests who will live there permanently, and how it will ensure its residents live according to Catholic ideals, as they apparently must pledge to do in order to move in.

The site also doesn’t mention that the parent company behind the proposed Veritatis Splendor development, Regina Caeli Inc., was sued in a 2016. The  lawsuit alleged that Regina Caeli, Inc. defamed a whistleblower who threatened to expose RCA’s alleged fraud, tax violations, and violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act, and that they allegedly fired his wife in retaliation. The plaintiffs alleged RCA is “run like a cult.” 

In the diocese but not of the diocese

According to the National Catholic Register’s promotional interview, Veritatis Splendor “is not an official diocesan project; rather, it is an independent, lay-inspired Catholic organization.” 

However, the Veritatis Splendor promotional video refers to Strickland as “co-founder.” Several of the donors thank Bishop Strickland personally for leading the project, on the fundraising site. The bishop is prominent on the project’s promotional video and on the Veritatis Splendor website, which refers to him as “the last priest to be made a Bishop under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.” 

In the video, Strickland says, “Where I come from, people speak plainly.”

The appeals email says, “Bishop Strickland and The Founders of Veritatis Splendor are asking you to join them in support of this mission through sacrificial Lenten almsgiving.” Although the email says Bishop Strickland is soliciting donations, it does not say in the email that the organization is private and not an official diocesan project.

Kevin Wandra of Carmel Communications, which handles public relations for Veritatis Splendor, said, “This is not a diocesan effort.” But the bishop is indisputably using his name and his office to direct donations and support to the project.

Also, his services as priest are included in the highest tier of perks offered to donors

Donors who contribute $25 will receive his book, Guard the Deposit of Faith, but donors who contribute $10,000 are entitled to a tour and a private dinner with the founders, and it says “Bishop Strickland will also celebrate Mass for all those in attendance.” 

It is common practice for priests to accept a voluntary stipend when they say Mass by request, and the typical amount is $5 $10. No stipend is required, though, so as to avoid even the appearance that Mass is being sold for money. The voluntary collection of a stipend is distinct from the practice of simony, or collecting temporal goods for spiritual services.

Mass with Bishop Strickland is only listed as a perk for donors at the $10,000 level; it is not offered as a perk to those who contribute $5,000 or less. 

Wandra disagreed that listing Mass as part of a perk might possibly be perceived as simony.

“It is very clear that the donation is for Veritatis Splendor, regardless of whether one gets to receive a gesture of appreciation for that gift. For those who donate more than $10,000, we will be having a special dinner to thank them and show them in person the plans for the property. And Mass will be celebrated for anyone who attends as a courtesy since these will be planned for Sundays on the property,” Wandra said. 

 

Priests who stay put

In a typical diocesan parish, the bishop assigns parish priests according to the changing needs of the community in which they live. Assignments generally last 5-7 years, but are rarely permanent, so that the needs of the entire diocese can be taken into account, and to discourage congregations from forming unhealthy attachments to individual priests.  But in Veritatis Splendor, when the priests arrive, they will stay put. 

“At the center of Veritatis Splendor will be a grand Oratory, led by a community of Catholic priests under a particular charism of apostolic life. These priests will reside in the community and be permanent members of Veritatis Splendor in East Texas and not subject to transfers or re-assignments,”the case statement says.

Wandra clarified that these priests will be Oratorians in the tradition of St. Philip Neri. Oratorians are not a religious order; they are secular priests (i.e., they have not made religious vows). Oratorians must have permission from the local bishop to found an Oratory (which is not a parish church), such as the one proposed for Veritatis Splendor; but the community of priests is relatively autonomous. They answer not to the bishop of the diocese in which they live, but to Rome. The bishop has, according to canon law, a duty to be “vigilant” about their spiritual well-being and about the effects of the community in his diocese, but the relationship between the diocese and such communities is not clearly defined. 

The Veritatis Splendor site gives no information about the proposed community of priests or who would have authority over them. It does not specify that they are Oratorians in the tradition of Philip Neri (the word “Oratorian” does not always refer to this specific community of priests and laymen).

Laymen may not be aware that priests who live and work within their diocese are not necessarily under the authority of their local bishop; and that the diocese would not be obligated to disclose the same information about Oratorian priests that it would about diocesan priests. A confusion of this type occurred in the diocese of Manchester, NH, where the diocese disclosed the names of 73 priests accused of abuse, but did not include the community of Legion priests who lived and worked at a private Catholic school in the diocese, because those priests answered to their superiors in the Legionaires of Christ, and not to the bishop. Many NH residents assumed that the list disclosed by the diocese included all priests who lived and worked in that diocese, but it did not. (The Legion later disclosed its own list, but this, too was not comprehensive.)

 

Financial opacity

The project’s stated goal is to raise $22 million to “build the St. Joseph oratory and more.”

Although the fund drive has already raised nearly $40,000, it does not include any information about the proposed oratory, other than that it will be dedicated to St. Joseph and will be “fashioned to reflect the great Cathedrals you find in the beautiful villages across Italy.”  The “statement of intent” form for donors simply says “I/We understand that my contribution will used [sic] for Advancement Expenses.” 

“This is a brand new mission and much depends on raising money to make it possible like any good mission. So there are things that we just don’t know,” said Lisa Wheeler, one of the co-founders of the project. 

Kari Beckman, founder of Veritatis Splendor, is also the co-founder of Regina Caeli Academy with her husband Rich Beckman. The donation form for Veritatis Splendor asks that checks be made payable to “Regina Caeli Academy for Veritatis Splendor” at Regina Caeli Academy’s address in Roswell, Georgia. Veritatis Splendor is listed on its site as “a division of Regina Caeli, Inc.” 

According to Wandra, the governing board of Veritatis Splendor is the board of Regina Caeli, Inc.  According to RCA’s website, board members are: Rich Beckman, Fr. Peter Idler, Daniel Saegaert, Fr. Augustine Tran, James Faber, Jim Graham, Frank Scarchilli, and Fr. John Paul Walker. 

In 2016, Regina Caeli Inc. (RCA), Rich Beckman, Fr. Peter Idler, Daniel Saegaert, Fr. Augustine Tran, as well as Steven Konsin, Norbert Maduzia, and Joshua Allen were sued by former members. The suit alleges that RCA defamed a whistleblower who threatened to expose RCA’s alleged fraud, tax violations, and violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act, and that they allegedly fired his wife in retaliation.

Regina Caeli is a homeschool hybrid tutoring program in which paying members homeschool their children for three days a week, using a standardized curriculum, and the school provides support and access to tutors and extracurricular activities. Parents who are also tutors receive a discount on the entire program, and all members are expected to fundraise and to recruit new members, in addition to paying tuition. Tuition, which covers two classroom days (for which uniforms are required), ranges from $2,800 per PreK student for a half day to $4,500 per high school student. 

Many members describe Regina Caeli as the best of both worlds, and praise the supportive, close-knit community and structure it provides. But according to the two former members who sued Regina Caeli, Inc. and its board members in 2016, it’s “run like a cult.”

John and Marie Kruse of Michigan alleged that their family of eight children was kicked out of the program shortly before Christmas after John Kruse threatened to expose Regina Caeli’s alleged financial irregularities. 

The suit alleged that, when John Kruse asked to review financial information so he could determine how the school was spending the money their group raised and solicited, the director responded that “it was not RCA’s ‘style’ to provide any financial information, other than the IRS form 990’s,” and then allegedly attacked Kruse’s motive for inquiring.

The suit alleges that, when John Kruse sent a letter threatening legal action if RCA did not provide more transparency, Marie Kruse was locked out of her tutor account so she could no longer work, and that the entire family was abruptly dismissed from the program. The suit alleges RCA threatened to sue John Kruse for communicating with other families in the program, damaging his reputation. 

The Kruses alleged that “complete, blind, unquestioning obedience to RCA’s officers and the Directors is demanded or the family is subjected to humiliation, ostracization and expulsion.”

The suit alleged the RCA was not in compliance with Michigan’s laws covering charities who solicit funds, and that it misled parents about whether their donations would be tax deductible. It also alleged that Marie Kruse invested significant time and money in an intensive “Master Tutor Certification” program, but was denied the alleged promised raise in pay and choice in tutoring assignments. 

The lawsuit was settled out of court.

I asked Wandra whether Veritatis Splendor will be more transparent than Regina Caeli in how it manages and allocates its funds, to avoid similar legal battles in the future. Wandra responded,

“Veritatis Splendor, as a project of Regina Caeli Inc., will be as transparent as a non-profit endeavor is required to be, and has done so explicably in all the ways expected.  Regina Caeli Inc. already files its Yearly 990, issues an Annual Report made available to the public on its website and follows all the requirements of the IRS and the guidelines of the 501 (c) 3 tax code.”

Regina Caeli’s most recent tax forms list their total assets in 2018 at $4.2 million, with $3.4 million in liabilities.

“Any parent who questioned RCA’s lack of proportionate financial support for the Detroit Program was harshly criticized by RCA staff and accused of attacking RCA and pressured to leave the program,” the Kruse suit alleged.

The lawsuit alleged that RCA claimed they ejected the Kruse family for their “effort to ‘create discord and disunity in the community.'”

RCA denied the allegations and threatened to countersue the Kruses for defamation before the suit was settled out of court.

“Regina Caeli Inc. was not sued for fundraising fraud,” Wandra clarified.  

 

Communication

When I called Veritatis Splendor co-founder Kari Beckman for comment, she declined to respond, but said that I should direct my questions to co-founder Lisa Wheeler at Carmel Communications, whose name and contact information are listed on the site’s case statement as the person to call for questions about Veritatis Splendor.

I told Beckman’s office that I had already left two voicemails for Wheeler and that she had not responded; but they said again that I should contact Wheeler. I then sent Wheeler, who is a Facebook friend, a private message via Facebook messenger. Receiving no response, I then wrote on Wheeler’s Facebook wall to ask her to check her messages and voicemail. She responded by denying that she had received any voicemails. She also denied that her name was on the Veritatis Splendor website, and denied that she was the point of contact for media inquiries. Wheeler also claimed that someone from Carmel Communications had already responded to the media inquiries I had submitted through the form on the site. (I had not received a response.) 

Wheeler told me, “no one is avoiding answering your questions,” and then furnished me with Kevin Wandra’s name and contact information, which do not appear on the Veritatis Splendor site. Then, about an hour after Wheeler’s response, I received a response from the site’s media inquiry form. 

Bishop Strickland declined to respond to questions either by phone or email.  When Wandra responded, he indicated that he had seen the questions I sent directly to the bishop’s office, and “in order to streamline things” Wandra took the initiative of adding a response quoting the bishop to one of those questions. When I asked if he was speaking for the bishop, since the bishop had clearly shared my email with him, he did not respond.

 

***
Image with VS logo is a still from the promotional video embedded above. All other images are screenshots from the site, from the case statement, and from the fundraising site. 

EDIT 7:25 PM March 3: I stated: “It is common practice for priests to accept a voluntary stipend when they say Mass by request, and the typical amount is $5.” The correct amount of a typical stipend is $10.

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46 thoughts on “Catholic Megadevelopment VERITATIS SPLENDOR is long on rhetoric, short on details”

  1. So very ironic, many of these comments. I’m a devout Catholic but I have no problem admitting that a majority of our bishops have skeletons in the closet (sexual and otherwise). Commenters, your local diocese is probably not at all transparent of what they pay out for sex abuse claims, or to attorney’s to fight them off, or what they take in from the wealthy who get ‘favors’ like dinner parties with the rich and famous in the diocese. All while churches and schools are being closed and the bishop does nothing but ask for more money.
    So, a group comes along saying “we’re done with this corruption, we’re going to build something orthodox, under an orthodox bishop (Strickland) and get back to our Catholic roots”. And what do you all say “Look, it’s a CULT!” You basically echo what the atheists (and some protestants) say about the Catholic church! And you dream up all kinds of cloak and dagger stuff that the founders must be up to. When has your bishop released a detailed financial statement for the diocese. Probably never, and yet you don’t go after him like you do these people! You truly imitate the pharisees in Jesus’ time. I commend them for doing something to maintain the true Faith. You probably would have condemned St. Benedict in his time.

    1. We attended RCA for a year in the corporate location. Simcha’s reporting is accurate. I am a devout Catholic but the leadership is not open to transparency or to any constructive criticism and instead resort to verbal attacks when they feel threatened-basically if you just disagree or point out an area that wasn’t clear. The leader lacks humility. We were charged for a year’s tuition when we went on a planned family pilgrimage out of the country. Apparently it was a standardized testing week in which the date was not publicized and was not in the handbook as being mandatory. So, my middle schooler was dis-enrolled but I still paid tuition. He was allowed to attend but received no grades or transcript. I was demeaned in a phone call for taking a vacation-it was an overseas trip with extended family and involved visits to local Catholic Churches of importance to our family. It was the embodiment of our faith and family culture which RCA claims to embody.

      The idea of a planned community like Veritatis could be lovely but not with the present leadership.

      1. I’m so sorry for your experience. I’ve heard similar stories from others who have enrolled in RCA. Very sad.

  2. Reporting!

    REPORTING!!

    ORIGINAL REPORTING IN THE CATHOLIC MEDIA-SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That is all.

  3. 1000% true
    Our time at RCA introduced us to many wonderful local families, while dealing with the rules and corporate severely undermined my faith.

  4. Warning: this is a bad idea in every way. First… Of you look at RCA and how many of these centers have closed over the years…. And the how and why they closed you wouldn’t dream of signing up for this thing. If you talk to members at higher levels who have been there from the beginning then evicted for questioning things or disagreement you’ll see things more clearly. Also if you notice the only RCA who has their own building is Georgia. Three is no investment into the other centers who rent from mostly Protestant organizations and therefore cannot have Mass as the Georgia center does…. Or three other things the George center does. RCA is all about expanding but does not invest in that center and then ultimately still seems to control every minute details yet lacks understanding how cultures are different North to south and east to west and how that applies to each center. It’s very easy to see how RCA is focused primarily on monetary gain especially those who are higher up. Much money is spent on travel and other expenses. You are either in or you’re out. If anyone disagrees or challenges anything it’s an attack from Satan. Stay away… Pray for those in the organization. Pride comes before the fall. Jesus didn’t live in a Catholic bubble… He lived with the poor the needy and the sinner…. The faith often flourishes in the most unlikely places…. Not in a greenhouse. We are called to be in the world not of the world. Beware of the cult like mentality. If you can find those who have left and speak frankly to them… You’ll learn a lot by listening.

    1. 1000% true
      Out time at RCA introduced us to many wonderful local families whole dealing with the rules and corporate severely undermined my faith.

  5. I live in Texas. I grew up near Tyler. It’s important to remember that there really aren’t very many Catholics in that area at all and almost none that aren’t recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I doubt those people are the target market for a fancy housing development. I also question how they’re going to manage basic services. Will this be part of the city of Tyler? Will they have a municipal utility district? In Texas, MUDs are taxing authorities and considered local governments subject to the Texas Government Code, which has strict rules about the conduct of meetings and maintenance of entity records. How is that going to work? Heck, I can’t figure out who actually owns the houses? Is this entity going to own all the houses and lease to residents or can residents buy their lots? What happens when someone sells the house to a Baptist?

    Actually, this doesn’t smell like a cult; it smells like affinity fraud. That’s a good phrase to know, affinity fraud, because knowing it will keep your money safe.

  6. This feels like an exclusive, tiered-access, spiritual HOA. The promotional video and website leave me with more questions than answers. Is this a retreat center? Are they creating a lay order? Who actually owns the land this community is being built on? How much are the BoD’s making? Do the residents who meet their standards own the homes they purchase? Is there an eviction process (Texas is very pro-landlord)? Does one have to pay extra for the proposed amenities? Who has final say on what behavior is or is not acceptable? What disciplinary actions are taken for the residents who violate their behavioral/moral/ethical code? If you’re interested in permanent residence or even annual access, I would have every piece of paperwork examined by a contract lawyer.

  7. Wow! As much as I like the thought of something like this, it really does scare me. I’m a parent who spent some time at Regina Caeli Academy and despite sharing many of the same beliefs with leadership I couldn’t shake the cult-like atmosphere. You don’t have to be a left wing type to experience it – all you have to do is have simple questions and ask for answers. It’s totally possible that Bishop Stickland doesn’t know what he’s getting into.

    1. This is a charitable outlook, but I would guess that Bishop Strickland knows exactly what he is getting into.

  8. They might want to re-think the Veritatis Splendor logo. Kinda looks like the covid virus. Or is that just ominous.

  9. Here’s the thing. People always think: “I am going in with my eyes wide open.” And, “If there’s something weird, I will notice it.” And, “I can always just leave. I can just walk away.”
    No one thinks they’re signing up for spiritual abuse/mind control/cult-like manipulation. No one. They think they’re signing up for something lovely, all together new, a maybe-misunderstood project, but promising and well intentioned, and hopeful.
    And they think it would be easy to tell the difference between a toxic group and a healthy one. They always think it would be easy to just “walk away” if something goes wrong.

    So how would you know whether a group/church/community has morphed into something else? What signs would you be looking for? It’s not enough to *think* you’d know warning signs without ever having done any research.

    Lack of financial transparency is definitely on the list.
    Making excuses for questionable fund-raising tactics: yes.
    Feeling oneself to be above the law, or that the Noble Cause is what’s important, not some silly tax code is a big red flag for any organization.
    A sense of special-ness in being part of a holy community/cause/endeavor.
    A sense that it is Us Against the world.
    Feeling that protection from the outside, from evil influences, is paramount to the success of the Cause, and particularly the feeling that one’s children are especially vulnerable and in need of special protection. (That’s not special, that’s just called Life.)
    Safety within the confines of the group and a tremendous sense of unity in the mission, and urgency.
    After all, we are the One Last Hope for society (or the world, or the Church).
    A sense of cosmic significance to every action, even small actions—and that without it, a great evil (the loss of souls, for example) is at stake. (Often the origin story of the group would be repeated as justification)
    A need for purity within the group: the special call of the specially chosen because it is all so special. Perhaps, for example, an idea of preserving a climate of holiness within the community so that the instructors of an Institute could do their cosmically important work, hmm…?
    Defensiveness : a persecution complex quickly takes hold and all criticism is viewed from that lens. “We must be onto something here, or they wouldn’t be after us like this!”
    ….

    These are just a few of the characteristics of this particular project which are already evident. From its inception, its ideals are flawed and we hardly need to know anything else about it, at this point.

    Later on, if this community were to continue to form, we could expect other characteristics of Lifton’s 8 criteria for Thought Reform to show up. People’s voices, rights and even their bodies would be overlooked in favor of the all-important Mission (Doctrine Over Person), for those who leave to be shunned (Dispensing of Existence) and for a particular jargon to develop among those on the inside (Loaded Language). And so on.

    For the sake of everyone involved and those who are considering getting involved, I hope that common sense will prevail and a better use of funds and energy can be found, before any more is wasted.

    Lord have mercy.

    1. You nailed it! This whole project smells very bad. Red flags and sirens are in full force here. I feel really bad for the kids who will be caught up in this and raised in it.

  10. I’m trying really hard not to form snap judgments, but when I read the announcement in the Register, Veritatis Splendor did seem sort of cultish to me.

    That said, I feel like there’s a lot of innuendo here about improprieties when all that’s being highlighted is Catholic sausage making (fundraising). Do big donors get to attend a Mass said by the bishop in a small group? Yeah. Just like every big Catholic fundraising effort ever. Will the hoi polloi have access to the building plans? Not yet and maybe not ever. Can million dollar donors ask to see the plans for an oratory as a condition of their donation? Heck yeah.

    And maybe priests in some areas are only on 5 to 7 year assignments, but that’s not been the case for pastors of parishes in Philadelphia. Our pastor has twenty plus years with our parish and has told us (as he was told by the new bishop) that he will stay here until he retires, as did the pastor before him. In my experience, shorter assignments in Philadelphia happen more for training purposes or because someone (priest or congregation) was complaining. But even more so, aren’t long term assignments the norm among (non diocesan) order priests which these Veritatis Splendor priests presumably will be? Look at two large Catholic colleges – Boston College has seen only two presidents (Jesuits both) since the early 70’s and Notre Dame has had two presidents (Holy Cross Fathers) since the early 80’s. Lots of the in residence priests at both places have spent many decades there.

    And while paper trails of actual improprieties would have been useful, highlighting allegations made in a lawsuit filed by disgruntled ex-members does not make a persuasive article. Nuisance law suits get filed and settled all the time. And I’m assuming a condition of settlement was that the Kruses would not be allowed to speak of the case and so this information could only legally be obtained from the public filing where (again presumably) everything including the kitchen sink has been thrown at the wall to see what sticks (i.e. what will get the biggest payout). Was no response in the case ever filed? If not, where and when did Regina Caeli threaten to countersue for defamation? Wouldn’t another public filing have been the place to seek and publish answers to the allegations rather than trying to get answers from a publicity firm?

    Veritatis Splendor is in its very early planning stages. And I suspect the big announcement in the Register was to get some real seed money going (40k is a drop in the bucket for a project of this scope). And it may very well end up being that VS is a Catholic cult. Or it may be a place of Christian community where two or more people can freely gather in His Name. I’m continuing to withhold judgment.

    1. Philly area, I agree with you about the innuendo. Regarding the length of time that priests are assigned to a parish, canon law allows national bishops councils to set term limits in the U.S. it is 6 years renewable for another 6 years, with exception for needs of the diocese – so a bishop can keep someone in place for a longer period of time or move them sooner, depending on diocesan needs, but the standard for a pastor is 6 years in one parish, renewable for another 6 years. I saw the guidelines for Archdiocese of Los Angeles online and there they have a different standard for newly ordained priest which is four years, or five years for “associate pastors” which can be renewed for up to two more years. As the Church continues to experience a shortage of priests everywhere, different bishops may have to make difficult decisions, considering health needs of aging priests and too few priests to fully staff every parish which leads to some variability from one diocese to another, no doubt. When I was very young, there was a tradition of “permanent pastors” that the US bishops conference ended decades ago, though those who were appointed on a permanent basis were never required to move, and even now the bishops could leave a priest in place longer term depending on the needs of the diocese.

    2. https://www.kctv5.com/the-renegade-catholic-clerics-who-shamefully-backed-trumps-big-lie/article_a552a4f5-e056-530e-8ef8-c4e6261f70e1.html

      Hi Philly,
      I miss hearing about your family. SEVEN of mine ended up with me for the summer of Covid. They were all interested in what was on the menu each day. Even their dogs wanted to know when dinner was being served.

      Anyway, if you don’t read the article, it’s important to point out that Strickland is all wrapped up like a sausage with the Q-deep-state-Vigano-Pavone-Church Militant-Francis is a heretic circus. It is the most astounding display of Catholic Kool-Aid I’ve ever seen in my life. Anything Strickland puts his name on alone would make me run for the hills.

      Vigano is a frustrated opera star that missed his calling. (But truly entertaining.). I hope they make it into a Broadway play.

      1. *actually, it’s not even Catholic, it never was. It’s just fundamentalism with Catholic trappings.

    3. I worked for Tom Monaghan. I know the Ave Maria story from the inside (like those folks on here who say they know RCA from the inside). He told everyone at Ave Maria that the BVM told him to build his Catholic utopia down there in the swamp. When it turned out he had designs on that swamp years before. He used his (illegal) control of the BoD to consolidate his educational assets down there while attaching to it a captive resident market, namely students and staff (which staff would now comprise such people as those running the porn-and-condom-free 7-Eleven where students might safely buy their munchies and Juuls). Smell history repeating itself? Don’t worry, Kari Beckman has clarified to CWR that she’s not building a city around her new university… just a “village.”

    4. Never mind armchair legal analysis. Listen to the people who have experienced the RCA dysfunctionality (a.k.a. “Catholic exceptionalism” masking avarice) firsthand.

  11. This is ringing all sorts of alarm bells, and $22 million is both a lot of money and not even a fraction of what they would need for this kind of project. I doubt this place will ever be built and any money donated will, regretfully, have already been spent on architectural plans or surveying or something else that makes it nonreturnable.

  12. I’ve felt for many years that RCA subscribes to a “one way and only one way” to be Catholic. Which is why I felt it wasn’t for me. I’ve witnessed RCA destroy the faith of many children by expecting them to fit into the “shape” of RCA’s rigid Catholicism.

    1. I completely agree. After spending spending several years at RCA, my family finally left due to similar concerns. The cultlike feel of the entire organization is very real. If you do not conform to their exact standards, the community attempts to put you down and ostracize you. Blind obedience is expected and even a simple question is usually met with disproportionate backlash. From what I’ve seen, these children end up rejecting their faith later on because of the exact reason you mentioned of there being “one way and only one way” to live out Catholic ideals. If you are considering RCA, I highly encourage you to look into it extensively and discuss it with both current AND former members. The picture that they initially present to you is far from what actually goes on and hides a darker underside to the community.

    2. I find that hard to believe. I know many students whose faith flourished and grew at
      rca. They speak of wonderful experiences there. I also know that rca works with the parents as the primary educators of their children and the parents are and should be very involved in their childrens attendance at rca. And what does “rigid Catholicism” even mean? Its a two day a week homeschool support system where they have Mass and rosary, theres nothing rigid about that. That is beautiful and something most programs don’t offer. And there really is only one way to be Catholic; following the truth of Christ. What did rca do that strays from that?

  13. I hear there’s going to be a gold plated Trump statue in the rotunda if they can raise the 50k.

      1. One board member pitched the idea of a lion and a lamb carved in pure white carrera marble nestled together at his feet. I think it’s a great idea.

    1. wow. I hope you arent saying these things as a Catholic. Mocking something that intends to glorify God. You are swimming in dangerous waters like that.

  14. Fun!
    For the tour, I’ll be sure to wear my BLM hat, an I <3 Pope Francis T-shirt, and the fancy yoga pants my kids bought me for Christmas last year.

  15. The beautiful thing about this project is that no one is obligated to donate unless they want to, and no one has to participate unless they want to. And it’s not at all unusual for Catholics to form non-profit organizations as 501 ( c ) 3 corporations which are operated under state and federal law that govern this type of organization – which can indeed be located within a Catholic diocese and can even receive the support and endorsement of a bishop, without the organization being a department of the diocese. For example, there are Catholic maternity homes which provide housing and various services to pregnant women who may be homeless or in need of a support system – while a diocese could own and operate such ministry under one of their own departments (perhaps through Catholic Charities, or through diocesan Family Life Ministry), when lay people incorporate organizations to do this, they are headed by a board of directors as specified in their articles of incorporation, and governed by state and federal laws. There is nothing to prevent a bishop or a priest from sitting on the board of directors if invited to do so, and if they wish to do so. I’m aware of priests having served on the boards of local pregnancy centers in the past, which were incorporated as non-profit organizations. In these cases, the organizations clearly are located within a Catholic diocese but are not under the direct control of the diocese – rather the organization answers to its board of directors which must operate according to the law. There is nothing unusual or sinister about Bishop Strickland endorsing or helping this project being located within his diocese. Due to the desire of the organization to have an explicitly Catholic identity, and a desire for people to move into the diocese from elsewhere to create the organization, it was important to obtain the bishop’s support in advance. There are many instances of organization desiring to be identified as Catholic organizations (again, in some cases maternity homes or pregnancy support organizations), which is possible if the bishop agrees and if specified words are added to the incorporation papers. But even in the case of an organization which is not incorporated to be officially Catholic, there is nothing to prevent a priest or bishop from supporting it, helping with fund-raising efforts, or sitting on it’s board. I am thinking now of homeless shelters, non-denominational pregnancy centers and many community organizations which are sometimes partially supported by parish or diocesan funds, in which clergy may participate in fund-raising efforts, without the community organization being owned or controlled by the church, but again, operating under their own board, and under the law. What is going on in Texas with the involvement of the bishop is not unusual and should not imply anything sinister. As far as the lawsuit you mention – in the U.S. anybody can sue anybody for any reason, no matter how ridiculous, but not all allegations are true – that has to be proven in court. You cite allegations by one family, in fact, I counted at least 6 times that allegations were mentioned – but I wanted to see, what did the court actually find? Because allegations are just claims by one side that must be proven. Checking online, I see that in the end both sides agreed to an out-of-court settlement, which often is less costly to both parties than going to full trial. But by settling, it is impossible to know whether any of the allegations were supported by provable facts. If any allegations regarding legal violations had been true, I would have expected that this would have been investigated by the IRS and a settlement between the Kruses and the organization would not have ended the matter. In regard to the supervision / oversight of any priests involved in the project – whatever may have taken place with the Legionaries, who unfortunately have been involved in scandals that don’t need to addressed in my comment, I do know that every bishop has the right and the responsibility to have oversight over any priest who comes into his diocese. In the past, I coordinated a conference, cosponsored by a diocese, at which priests from other states and other countries were involved; every priest had to submit information and have a background check in advance of the conference in order to be given faculties to celebrate Mass during a conference of less than one week, which involved only adults and not children. The diocese checked to make sure that the priests were in good standing in their home diocese. For a priest to move into a diocese, it is normal for a bishop to require being informed before a religious order priest can be assigned to his diocese, and if there are problems, he can insist on the priest being removed – and a bishop certainly can refer a case to law enforcement if there are allegations of illegal acts. If bishops fail in exercising their authority in these matters, that is their responsibility, and unfortunately we all have read of cases where some bishops have not been vigilant about reporting wrongdoing. However, there is no reason to expect that Bishop Strickland would not be vigilant. It is true that bishops do not involve themselves in the internal matters of religious order priests or Oratorians, but they do have authority over public ministry in their diocese. It seems to me this article makes a great deal out nothing. There is no reason to expect problems from this new project, which will benefit from Bishop Strickland’s involvement.

    1. Thnak you for the long commentary. I read it to understand where you are coming from with your defense of this “project”. I am sorry to say I still doubt that it is a “good” thing for Catholic Christians. As Pope Francis says, let us build bridges, not walls.

    2. I agree. I think it is not problematic to have a Bishop endorse a lay project. We may not see it happen often that a Bishop is willing to do it without having control over the organization. That is different than it being problematic.

      Also, the reference to the suit over financial information is mentioned so many times to discredit the organization, but it doesn’t discuss the fact that RCA began as a little Catholic homeschool co-op that has grown and spread throughout the country because people want to bring it to their cities. Every organization has growing pains and policy development. It would make sense to me that if I was being sued by someone I would not interact with that person until the matter was settled. Saying the family was shut out of the organization is an interesting choice of words when they are the ones filing suit.

      My hope is that this article will help to provide clarifying answers to people who do desire to know more. I would think those who don’t shouldn’t really care.

      The most concerning thing I read in this article is that a person impatiently pursued a “Facebook friend” to get a response on their own timeline and then defamed them publicly because the answer was not quick or sufficient enough. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

      1. KS, your comment about the lawsuit brings up a good point. In the U.S. if one party brings a lawsuit, neither party is to contact each other EXCEPT through their attorneys – each party to the suit has a lawyer and the lawyers do the talking to avoid misunderstanding. That is just the way it is done. If you bring a lawsuit against another party, you are shutting yourself off from that person or organization. The attorneys will tell their clients exactly that – no contact except through the lawyers.

  16. I thought we already had a “first wave of apostles.”
    I also thought that the Catholic Church was responsible for safeguarding the deposit of faith.
    But good on these people for not leaving things up to Jesus and Rome.

    I won’t go into the scales of justice being used as the symbol for their liberty institute, but I feel like that is somehow emblematic of the general not-quite-right vibe.

    In summary, my Lenten alms will be going in a different direction.

    1. But that wave was sooooooo 2000 years ago and pre-MAGA so clearly not really the kind of apostles these people want.

  17. Troubling on so many levels.
    Since when are apostles supposed to be “planting seeds for other Veritatis Splendor locations”? That vision is very telling isn’t it? The authentic work of the church and calling of faithful is to planting seeds for Christ. It is as if Christ and His church is just a prop for a slick marketing plan. They’re missing the mission. Jesus said ” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus did not say build enclaves to save yourselves and your children from the discomfort of dealing with a world which holds views different from your own. If the Apostles had taken this approach the faith would not have spread past Galilee.

  18. Hiya Mrs Fisher
    Totally off point comment but a new book you might wish to read, historical fiction but an excellent look at the world in 55AD in Judea.

    Man at Arms by Steven Pressfield, he also wrote Gates of Fire my favourite book.

  19. This sounds really cult-like. There’s a part of me that sees the appeal of the “Benedict option” and similar models, given certain things that are going on in mainstream society regarding gender, etc. But I know it would never work for me. I would probably get kicked out for something like wearing a mask during a pandemic.

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