After bombshell revelations about an illicit relationship between board members and possible financial misconduct, there’s massive restructuring afoot at Regina Caeli Academy, and the organization will undergo a forensic audit, the board announced early this morning.
Rich Beckman, the husband of disgraced founder and former Executive Director of Regina Caeli and Veritatis Splendor Kari Beckman, has resigned, and Nicole Juba is now the Executive Director.
The Board said in a letter to RCA families and staff:
“The Board will initiate an independent forensic audit to determine if there were any financial irregularities and take appropriate actions based on those findings.”
The changes they’ve announced are making some parents consider coming back to Regina Caeli.
“If they do what they say they’ll do, I’ll be a happy camper,” said Debbie Sercely, a Texas mother of three and former RCA tutor.
Sercely quit Regina Caeli when the homeschool hybrid academy abruptly announced their affiliation with the utopian megadevelopment Veritatis Splendor.
“The biggest problem I had was with their financial opacity. There wasn’t a lot of clarity about where the money [for Veritatis Splendor] was going to come from or how it was going to be spent. There was a lot of, ‘It’s all part of RCA, so it’ll be fine,’ Well, no,” Sercely said.
RCA had been accused, in an anonymous letter to the board and in a formal complaint sent to the IRS, of financial misconduct. It charged that, while she headed Regina Caeli, Executive Director Kari Beckman used Regina Caeli as her personal bank account, used RCA funds for Veritatis Splendor expenses without the knowledge or consent of donors, required RCA employees to work for Veritatis Splendor, and made personal use of a luxury home and vehicle paid for by Regina Caeli funds while promoting Veritatis Splendor. Regina Caeli was listed as a parent company of Veritatis Splendor, and the finances of the two organizations were apparently merged, although the Veritatis Splendor project is a planned community that did not and would not benefit the homeschool hybrid academy in any way.
The purchase for the land on which Veritatis Splendor was to be built was made with a loan from James Faber, a Regina Caeli board member. According to the letter from the board, Faber has been named the new interim board president.
The letter states that “a generous benefactor, with full knowledge of Mrs. Beckman’s situation, has emerged to make the separation of Regina Caeli and Veritatis Splendor (VS) a reality. ”
“This donor will be purchasing the remaining land at VS, which will provide the funds that will repay all RCA expenditures for VS. VS will become its own non-profit organization completely separate from RCA. This will relieve RCA from all financial burdens with regard to VS. This separation will allow each organization to successfully pursue its own mission. The Board is committed to providing periodic updates as to the progress of these efforts to ensure accountability and transparency,” the letter said.
More than one family expressed concerns that, even if Kari Beckman were to be removed, the current board was hand-selected by Beckman to do her bidding; but the letter says the board is soliciting nominations from families “to reconstitute the Board of Directors.”
The letter ends:
“Regina Caeli was not built upon one person, but has continued to grow and develop by virtue of the talents and sacrifice of all our staff, families, tutors, assistants, volunteers, and, of course, our children. Regina Caeli is bigger than one person. Let this now carry us forward to sustain the mission of training the mind to form the soul.”
The IRS complaint against Regina Caeli Academy was mailed late last week. Federal law prohibits the IRS office from commenting on private taxpayer matters, but if a criminal case results from an investigation, that information will become public record.
Sercely said she had had some hesitations about Regina Caeli when she first joined. She wasn’t happy that their history curriculum included glowing praise of Robert E. Lee, and she describes their dress code as misogynistic, focusing heavily on females covering their bodies, and ignoring the need for males to learn to control their eyes.
“Because of that, there have definitely been some families that have hesitated about joining Regina Caeli. That was kind of a red flag,” Sercely said.
“But I’m really hopeful that, with a significant change in leadership, we might see some real changes in some of the policies that are trying to out-Catholic the pope,” she said.
She said that the format of RCA works very well with her young family, with classroom days providing the structure and stability they need, while still allowing for flexibility and down-time.
No change for Veritatis Splendor
Yesterday, Veritatis Splendor sent a letter to its mailing list reassuring “Viculus familes” that there will be no interruption in its mission.
“We want to assure our Viculus families that the mission of Veritatis Spendor will continue without interruption, and that if anything, this shows just how important the work of this community really is. Bishop Strickland, our clergy and the seminarians are unwavering in their support for VS and have assured us that they will be united with us to keep up our fight for the good.”
The letter also informs participants of the donor referenced in the RCA board letter.
“You should be aware that a generous benefactor, with full knowledge of Kari’s situation, has emerged in the midst of this great challenge to ensure that the plans for VS are not hindered, stalled or delayed in any way,” the Veritatis Splendor letter said.
It is not clear how many people have actually invested in Veritatis Splendor. One purchase has been confirmed. Plots of land are available for sale for between $90,000 and $250,000. Their fundraiser, whose stated goal was $3.2 million, raised $100,128. It was last updated on April 30 with a conceptual rendering of the oratory.
We called Bishop Strickland’s office for comment, but were told he was “not available this week” and that “nobody in the building has anything to do with Veritatis Splendor.”
Sercely had another reason besides her financial concerns for leaving Regina Caeli, once they announced their affiliation with Veritatis Splendor.
“The reason I will never support that cult is the permanence of the priests. There is no option to remove a priest who is abusive. It’s a breeding ground for grooming and abuse, and I will not contribute one breath of my efforts to allow other people to be abused. Not one red cent, not one nanosecond of my time,” she said.
Sercely is referring to the fact that, in the proposed “village,” there will live a community of priests who are not subject to transfers or re-assignments,” according to the Veritatis Splendor case statement.
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.
“With the board of directors saying Regina Caeli and Veritatis Splendaor are completely separate, I’m sobbing, I’m so grateful. We’re seriously considering coming back to Regina Caeli,” Sercely said.