R.T. Neary
A pact with the devil
Madoff, O'Malley, and a 3-headed dog named Cerberus
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By R.T. Neary
December 3, 2010

Bernard L. Madoff is a household name in banking circles. He's a Ponzi-style pyramid schemer who bilked investors out of billions. Now serving 150 years in a North Carolina prison, his personal possessions are fetching additional dollars because of their collectible value.

Bernie Madoff traveled in elite circles from Wall St to Palm Beach, Fla. The percentage return he promised exceeded the market's, and it was delivered with minimal questions from his clients. He was a registered securities broker with all the trimmings.

While his victims ranged the gamut, a large number of investors were Jewish, as was Madoff. In fact, at least one rabbi denounced him for being especially egregious in cheating his religious peers. That mostly fell on deaf ears on the goyim, but one could easily understand the extra hurt. There certainly had to be some unquestioned trust, but my boyhood Jewish friends would simply have called him a schmuck — of the highest order. Chutzpah and no scruples!

Madoff had complex accounting systems to cover the fictitious value of the instruments he was peddling. And in retrospect, people with whom he was dealing had to have had some suspicions as to the nature of his operations. Certainly those with business experience did, but their plan obviously was to stay for a while, getting out before the comeuppance takes place.

Bernie Madoff's pyramids were complicated.. The computer age offered many more opportunities to both complicate and conceal, and the SEC was highly suspect as to their diligence. "Feeder funds" were established such as the Gabriel Fund and brought under the umbrella of Cerberus Capital Management L.P., a multi-billon dollar venture capital enterprise. Cerberus was known for its strict focus on "the bottom line" — and secrecy. Madoff's "paper" had what seemed to be a safe passage. Madoff and Cerberus were a good fit.

Patrick O.Malley was born in Ohio and reared in PA. In his sophomore year in High School, he entered a minor seminary and followed that by studying for the priesthood at Capuchin College in Wash., D.C.

Ordained on Aug 29, 1970 the now Father Sean Patrick O'Malley was prepared to follow in the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi. His education reveals no development of leadership skills or training in financial affairs. Rather, it was studies in Spanish and Portuguese at Catholic University, that led to his being appointed in 1984 as coadjutor bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

In June 1992 he was appointed bishop of the multi-ethnic Fall River Diocese in Massachusetts. Then in 2002 he was assigned as the bishop of Palm Beach, Florida. The following year he became Archbishop of Boston, after Cardinal Bernard Law had requested a transfer in the wake of the infamous predator priest scandals.

Aside from the stay in Palm Beach, Patrick O'Malley's life had no parallel to Bernie Madoff. How then did they both have a connection with Cerberus, the 3-headed dog whose role was to guard the gates of Hades? That comes later.

Receiving a red hat as Cardinal from Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, Cardinal Sean, as he wishes to be known, choose style over substance and has still shown no evidence of leadership ability since assuming the reins. Church attendance in the Archdiocese has declined to an all-time low of 17%, numerous parishes were suppressed with many churches being sold, and seminaries could count new applicants on both hands.

Cash-heavy and "once-Catholic" Boston College bought valuable seminary and chancery properties — with the Cardinal asserting that the funds were not being used for settlements of sexual impropriety claims. A shell game was being played. His claims of zero-tolerance also did not prevent more sexual and monetary scandals to surface. This was no surprise, as the same cadre of enablers in the Archdiocese was never removed. They only changed addresses.

In his early-teen seminary days, the new Sean O'Malley eschewed sports, opting for theatrical offerings instead. As the new Cardinal Sean in Boston, this preference was becoming more in evidence as playing the role became more important than actually being the pastoral leader of the failing Archdiocese.

His persona was never more in evidence than the publication in 2009 of an 80-page supplement to the Archdiocesan publication, the Pilot, in which it states on page 7: "As he celebrates the silver jubilee of his Episcopal ordination, Cardinal O'Malley characteristically wishes not to focus on himself but on others..." In addition to his full- page photo on the cover, he is pictured within over 100 times.

Two of the most deplorable examples of financial incompetence were the sale of St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in East Boston, and on an even larger scale that of the 6-hospital Caritas Christi Health Care System.

The church property was sold allegedly to be a photographer's studio for $850,000, and within weeks this was "flipped" in another sale for $2.65 million. The $1.8 million profit was described to the public as an "anomaly" by the lay spokesman of the Archdiocese, one of the new highly-paid bureaucrats added by O'Malley.

In Nov. 2009 the CEO of Caritas Christi met with wheeler-dealer Robert Nardelli of Cerberus over a meal and drinks in California, and he came away with a deal to sell the system to the controversial $25 billion firm.

Cerberus broke up Chrysler as well as other acquisitions and is known for its "bottom line" orientation. Caritas Christi was clearly unevenly yoked, and red flags should have bedecked the Chancery of the Archdiocese. Surprise! It never happened.

Archbishop O'Malley responded to press inquiries by affirming that Catholic medical directives would be retained, and from that point the double-speak, duplicity and outright falsehoods followed. These characterized the negotiations until an $895 million agreement was consummated in Nov. 2010. Promises to donors over the years, both overt and implicit, were tossed aside with deceptive tales of woe circulated.

Some background is in order. Post-famine Irish immigrants were the lower class in Boston in 1863 when Andrew Carney, a tailor, donated $75,000 to start a Catholic health care system under the Sisters of Charity. Among the first patients were indigent immigrants as well as Civil War soldiers. Nuns in habits administered the hospital under the religious teaching principles of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over the years Catholics from washerwomen to gardeners gave contributions, and their descendents continued this generosity. Often said, however, was that "the widow's mite" kept these church activities going. Catholic health care continued and grew until 1985 when the Caritas Christi (the loving care of Christ) system started, and continued to this day. The term CEO was unheard of, as was the yearly salary of $1.3 million Ralph de la Torre receives. What he is reaping from the sale is a major unanswered question.

The Archdiocese of Boston now has a corporate look. It has clearly sold out to Mammon, mouthing platitudes while following a course, which is literally hell-bent since it aligned itself with the 3-headed dog of pagan mythology. The ultimate result could easily be its own destruction.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, like Bernard L. Madoff is engaged in deceptive practices, and worse than Madoff not a few but almost all of the victims are from his own religion — one in which he holds an official position of leadership.

Unbeknownst to most of the public, the Cardinal not only refuses to answer mail, but also does not acknowledge inquiries. Preferring to be known as the first blogging prelate, he likes shallow water in dialogue. Unlike his predecessor who provoked the ire of the local media from day one by his clear affirmation of Catholic teaching, O'Malley is always in a retreat mode. Falsehoods are not beyond him.

How then could the Cardinal continue to for months that Catholic medical directives will continue, when this is in direct opposition to the agreement he signed? His words are blatantly false, inexcusable, and a culpable offense.

An escape clause throughout the Cerberus negotiations and signed by the Cardinal allows for the removal of the Catholic identity of the hospitals after 3 years if it becomes "materially burdensome." For a payment of $25 million dollars, less than 3% of the supposed purchase price, Caritas Christi will have been handed over to the Cerberus entity, Steward Healthcare LLC. As opponents told the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, this transaction is an insult to deceased benefactors — but politics held sway.

In effect, Caritas Christi will have been sold off in a 2-step process for $25 million dollars. Twenty-five or 30 pieces of silver — take your pick for the analogy, but either way Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley is the lead protagonist.

Press portrayals of Sean Patrick O'Malley as a problem-solver are without any substance. At each diocesan stop he has simply upped the ante in the settlement pot, and in Boston is conducting a fire sale. The 2010 trip as an "apostolic visitor" to Ireland was in the wake of revelations of over a half-dozen new monetary or sexual scandals in the previous 2 months in the Boston Archdiocese. Irony of ironies, he said he came to listen.

Bernie Madoff's jewelry and clothes fit an image, but he really didn't need a schtick. He relied on results. Conversely, Stephen Feinberg, the founder of Cerberus, shuns the limelight, preferring obscurity and secrecy. Patrick O'Malley, though, needed a schtick, first adding Sean as a preface to Patrick and later the beard which has aged with him. Together with the Franciscan robes, he's available for photo ops with everyone ranging from Rep. Barney Frank to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Behind Cardinal Sean's fašade, underlings with conflicts of interest were involved in deception, withholding financial data, and lying outright, as a part of the fare being served to the public about the Caritas Christi sellout. This was clearly antithetical to the lofty Christian calling; yet, the Cardinal remained incommunicado to opponents.

The 3-headed dog, Cerberus, is still in charge. Mr. Madoff, for what it was worth, pleaded guilty and apologized to his victims. Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, with his background in Latin, knows well the meaning of mea culpa. Thus far, we've not heard it uttered — nor yet seen any effort to void this violation of trust.

© R.T. Neary

 

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