Anne Hathaway’s files aren’t “Diaries”

Well the Depart­ment of Jus­tice must be a Quak­er Ranter read­er because they fol­lowed yesterday’s advice and con­fis­cat­ed the pri­vate papers of actress Anne Hath­away, ex-girlfriend, board mem­ber and busi­ness part­ner of con man Raf­fael­lo Fol­lieri.

But yet again her pub­lic­i­ty machine rolls on. Most news out­lets are call­ing the papers her “diaries” in oblique ref­er­ence to her appear­ance in the 2001’s “Princess Diaries” movie. One tongue-in-cheek head­line read “The FBI knows whether Anne Hath­away dots her ‘I’s with hearts.” Finan­cial papers, pho­tos, doc­u­ments, etc., are reduced to “diaries”. Boy oh boy. I won­der if the celebri­ty blogs will start describ­ing the D.A. as a “fire breath­ing drag­on.” Poor lit­tle Anne bilk­ing mil­lions of dol­lars from investors, how was she to know?

The NY Dai­ly News arti­cle says the papers includ­ed pho­tos of Fol­lieri with the Clin­tons, Pope John Paul II and John and Cindy McCain. Down here in South Jer­sey we can’t help but won­der whether a few chum­my shots of the Ital­ian con man with pal Bish­op Joseph Galante. Such pic­tures cer­tain­ly exist some­where, whether in Anne’s col­lec­tion or in the pho­to shoe­box of some South Jer­sey priest. I would love to see them.

What’s Anne Hathaway doing in Cape May anyway?

One of the things I don’t get about the press treat­ment of the Follieri/Galante scan­dal is their atti­tude toward actress Anne Hath­away. Until a few weeks ago she was the dap­per Italian’s girl­friend and they were con­stant­ly pho­tographed togeth­er. But they broke up the week before the scan­dal hit the tabloids, and all we’ve got­ten are these sil­ly human inter­est sto­ries. We hear spec­u­la­tion she must be heart­bro­ken, we hear how she’s mov­ing on with her life, we even hear details about get­ting her dog back from her old apart­ment with Fol­lieri. She’s lost a lot of weight of her lat­est movie pro­mo tour and mys­te­ri­ous­ly showed up at a Cape May bar singing Jour­ney songs this week­end with a pho­tog­ra­ph­er con­ve­nient­ly in tow.

Hel­lo? She was on the board of direc­tors of the Fol­lieri Group’s char­i­ties. The New York pent­house they shared was paid for by conned mon­ey as were their lav­ish trips and high fly­ing lifestyle. Boyfriend dra­ma is the last thing she needs to be wor­ried about right now. I sure hope the FBI is care­ful­ly going through her check­book and date book right now. She both solicit­ed and received stolen mon­ey. No won­der she’s lost a lot of weight.

And what’s up with her get­ting off the plane from Lon­don and dri­ving a cou­ple of hours to the south­ern tip of the New Jer­sey? The Cape May Coun­ty house Fol­lieri bought from the bish­op was report­ed­ly just sold again. Could Anne Hath­away be on the deed or autho­rized to sign for  Fol­lieri? Idle spec­u­la­tion of course but I do wish her pub­li­cists weren’t mak­ing fools of the pop­u­lar press like this.

The Andrew Walton Idiot Defense

Please read Galante and Fol­lieri: the Bish­op and the Con Man, which lays out the details men­tioned in this post.

The Dio­cese of Cam­den is in fran­tic spin con­trol mode after yesterday’s rev­e­la­tions that Bish­op Galante per­son­al­ly received $400,000
from high fly­ing Euro­trash con man Raf­fae­lo Fol­lieri for the sale of a
beach house the Bish­op had been unable to unload. Follieri’s the guy
who’s been try­ing to buy up Catholic church prop­er­ties across the
coun­try while mak­ing out with his Hol­ly­wood girl­friend on San Tropez
beach­es
and par­ty­ing it up with Bill Clinton’s sleezy bil­lion­aire
bud­dies.

It seems like a pret­ty clear cut case. Galante had his hand in Follieri’s cook­ie jar.
Sold his beach house to the guy who stood to prof­it most from the
Bishop’s plan to sell off half of South Jersey’s church­es. Old­est sto­ry
in the book. Give him the cell next to Follieri’s and they can rem­i­nisce about
the good old days (NSFW).

I’ve been won­der­ing just how the Dio­cese would try to spin this sto­ry
as it waits for fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors to come knock­ing at the door. And
today the offi­cial Spokesper­son in Charge of Fairy Tales called up all the papers. Ladies and gen­tle­men, we present you with:

The Andrew Wal­ton Idiot Defense

Turns out some­one at the Vat­i­can called some­one at the
Dioce­san offices back in 2004 telling them to sell to Fol­lieri. That’s
it. No one can remem­ber who made the call. No one can remem­ber who took
the call. For all we know Fol­lieri filled his mouth with cot­ton balls
and did his best Mar­lon Bran­do imi­ta­tion from the pay phone across the street. 

The Arch­dio­ce­ses in Boston, New York, Newark and else­where told Fol­lieri they had enough bridges thank you very much, but poor Grand­pa Joe was con­fused and start­ed lend­ing him priests and giv­ing him the keys to the beach house.

How could any­one imag­ine that Fol­lieri was a crook? He seemed like any
oth­er Moth­er Tere­sa choir boy with his $10,000 suits, New York pent­house,
hero­in habit, con­vict­ed mob asso­ciates, San Tropez week­ends and expensively-maintained Hol­ly­wood girl­friend. “Nobody was aware of prob­lems with Mr. Fol­lieri or his com­pa­ny at that time.” Yeah right. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody. And I’m the wid­ow of the late John Paul II, recent­ly deceased Pres­i­dent of the Vat­i­can, with frozen assets in Nige­ria I’d like your help in secur­ing. Please email me back at your ear­li­est con­ve­nience Andy Wal­ton, I know you won’t be dis­ap­point­ed.

Reach up high, clear off the dust, time to get started

It’s been a fas­ci­nat­ing edu­ca­tion learn­ing about insti­tu­tion­al Catholi­cism these past few weeks. I won’t reveal how and what I know, but I think I have a good pic­ture of the cul­ture inside the bishop’s inner cir­cle and I’m pret­ty sure I under­stand his long-term agen­da. The cur­rent lightening-fast clo­sure of sixty-some church­es is the first step of an ambi­tious plan; man­u­fac­tured priest short­ages and soon-to-be over­crowd­ed church­es will be used to jus­ti­fy even more rad­i­cal changes. In about twen­ty years time, the 125 church­es that exist today will have been sold off. What’s left of a half mil­lion faith­ful will be herd­ed into a dozen or so mega-churches, with the­ol­o­gy bor­rowed from gener­ic lib­er­al­ism, style from feel-good evan­gel­i­cal­ism, and orga­ni­za­tion from con­sul­tant cul­ture.

When dioce­san offi­cials come by to read this blog (and they do now), they will smile at that last sen­tence and nod their heads approv­ing­ly. The con­spir­a­cy is real.

But I don’t want to talk about Catholi­cism again. Let’s talk Quak­ers instead, why not? I should be in some meet­ing for wor­ship right now any­way. Julie left Friends and returned to the faith of her upbring­ing after eleven years with us because she want­ed a reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty that shared a basic faith and that wasn’t afraid to talk about that faith as a cor­po­rate “we.” It seems that Catholi­cism won’t be able to offer that in a few years. Will she run then run off to the East­ern Ortho­dox church? For that mat­ter should I be run­ning off to the Men­non­ites? See though, the prob­lem is that the same issues will face us wher­ev­er we try to go. It’s mod­ernism, baby. No focused and authen­tic faith seems to be safe from the Forces of the Bland. Lord help us.

We can blog the ques­tions of course. Why would some­one who dis­likes Catholic cul­ture and wants to dis­man­tle its infra­struc­ture become a priest and a career bureau­crat? For that mat­ter why do so many peo­ple want to call them­selves Quak­ers when they can’t stand basic Quak­er the­ol­o­gy? If I want­ed lots of com­ments I could go on blah-blah-blah, but ulti­mate­ly the ques­tion is futile and beyond my fig­ur­ing.

Anoth­er piece to this issue came in some ques­tions Wess Daniels sent around to me and a few oth­ers this past week in prepa­ra­tion for his upcom­ing pre­sen­ta­tion at Wood­brooke. He asked about how a par­tic­u­lar Quak­er insti­tu­tion did or did not rep­re­sent or might or might not be able to con­tain the so-called “Con­ver­gent” Friends move­ment. I don’t want to bust on any­one so I won’t name the orga­ni­za­tion. Let’s just say that like pret­ty much all Quak­er bureau­cra­cies it’s inward-focused, shal­low in its pub­lic state­ments, slow to take ini­tia­tive and more or less irrel­e­vant to any cam­paign to gath­er a great peo­ple. A more suc­cess­ful Quak­er bureau­cra­cy I could name seems to be doing well in fundrais­ing but is doing less and less with more and more staff and seems more inter­est­ed in donor-focused hype than long-term pro­gram imple­men­ta­tion.

One ene­my of the faith is bureau­cra­cy. Real lead­er­ship has been replaced by con­sul­tants and fundrais­ers. Finan­cial and staffing crises – real and cre­at­ed – are used to jus­ti­fy a water­ing down of the mes­sage. Pro­grams are dri­ven by donor mon­ey rather than clear need and when real work might require con­tro­ver­sy, it’s tabled for the façade of feel-goodism. Quak­er read­ers who think I’m talk­ing about Quak­ers: no I’m talk­ing about Catholics. Catholic read­ers who think I’m talk­ing about Catholics: no, I’m talk­ing about Quak­ers. My point is that these forces are tear­ing down reli­gios­i­ty all over. Some cheer this devel­op­ment on. I think it’s evil at work, the Tempter using our leader’s desires for posi­tion and respect and our the desires of our laity’s (for lack of a bet­ter word) to trust and think the best of its lead­ers.

So where does that leave us? I’m tired of think­ing that maybe if I try one more Quak­er meet­ing I’ll find the com­mu­ni­ty where I can prac­tice and deep­en my faith as a Chris­t­ian Friend. I’m stumped. That first batch of Friends knew this feel­ing: Fox and the Pen­ing­tons and all the rest talked about iso­la­tion and about reli­gious pro­fes­sion­als who were in it for the career. I know from the blo­gos­phere and from count­less one-on-one con­ver­sa­tions that there are a lot of us – a lot – who either drift away or stay in meet­ings out of a sense of guilt.

So what would a spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty for these out­sider Friends look like? If we had real vision rather than donor vision, what would our struc­tures look like? If we let the gener­ic church­es go off to out-compete one oth­er to see who can be the bland­est, what would be left for the rest of us to do?

20080608-xcjchpscnwekhsh85kg2hr7nbf.previewI guess this last para­graph is the new revised mis­sion state­ment for the Quak­er part of this blog. Okay kids, get a step stool, go to your meet­ing library, reach up high, clear away the dust and pull out vol­ume one of “A por­trai­ture of Quak­erism: Tak­en from a view of the edu­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline, social man­ners, civ­il and polit­i­cal econ­o­my, reli­gious prin­ci­ples and char­ac­ter, of the Soci­ety of Friends” by Thomas Clark­son. Yes the 1806 ver­sion, stop the grum­bling. Get out the ribbed pack­ing tape and put its cov­er back togeth­er – this isn’t the frig­ging Library of Con­gress and we’re actu­al­ly going to read this thing. Don’t even waste your time check­ing it out in the meeting’s log­book: no one’s pulled it down off the shelf in fifty years and no one’s going to miss it now. Real­ly stuck?, okay Google’s got it too. Class will start short­ly.

The bishop gets THAT LOOK

I’ve been busy with work late­ly and much of my free time has been spent help­ing Julie and the Savest​marys​.net coali­tion. St. Mary’s is one of about six­ty South Jer­sey Catholic church­es the bish­op is try­ing to close down and replace with smi­ly hap­py Megachurch­es. I’m still not going Catholic on you all, I just don’t like short-sighted reli­gious bureau­crats with secret agen­das, and I like places and peo­ple and church­es with roots and his­to­ry.

On Tues­day night Bish­op Galante and his posse came to vis­it St Mary’s and were greet­ed by an over­flow crowd. He came with charts and a game show host of a priest for MC who tried to start the meet­ing with a pasted-on smile and crowd-control speak­ing rules. The St Mary’s parish­ioners were hav­ing none of it. There were over five hun­dred peo­ple in the pews ask­ing why the Bish­op want­ed to shut down a church with sound finances, an impas­sioned priest, an involved laity and the where­with­al to con­tin­ue anoth­er hun­dreds years.

“Vibrant” has become the Bishop’s stock answer, his new favorite code word. Like a Pres­i­dent backpedal­ing on the ratio­nales of an unpop­u­lar war, his spokes­peo­ple have admit­ted under pres­sure of evi­dence and easy solu­tions that the clo­sures aren’t due to a priest short­age,  finan­cial prob­lems at the tar­get­ed church­es, or the lack of lay par­tic­i­pa­tion and involve­ment. The only expla­na­tion the bish­op can offer for clo­sure is “vibran­cy.” But every time he tries to define “vibrant” he ends up describ­ing St. Mary’s and dozens of oth­er local church­es he wants to close.

There’s obvi­ous­ly more to the def­i­n­i­tion than he’d like to share. One parish­ioner asked whether he thought a small church was even capa­ble of dis­play­ing the “vibran­cy” he demands. He refused to answer, which sug­gests we’ve final­ly dug down to a real answer. His fix for South Jer­sey is Megachurch­es that cop strate­gies from the Evan­gel­i­cal move­ment and con­sol­i­date pow­er more close­ly in the dioce­san offices. 

The bish­op gave the church-saving move­ment its best metaphor when he dis­par­aged the lit­tle church­es he wants to shut­ter as “Wawa church­es.” Read­ers from out­side the Mid-Atlantic region might know that Wawa is a local con­ve­nience store chain but that’s like say­ing water is a com­mon chem­i­cal com­pound. You can’t dri­ve more than twen­ty min­utes with­out pass­ing three Wawas. South Jer­sians prac­ti­cal­ly live there. The bish­op might was well con­demn moth­er­hood, base­ball and apple pie if he’s going to take on South Jersey’s Wawa.

One dis­grun­tled “Catholic in name only” cam­paign sup­port­er rose to reclaim the Wawa label, say­ing that all these lit­tle church­es were indeed like Wawa: ubiq­ui­tous, open at all hours, with good food that brought peo­ple in. The bish­op obvi­ous­ly prefers the Wal­mart mod­el: big box, big park­ing lot, hid­den Eucharists, gameshow-host priests and clowns for music direc­tors (seri­ous­ly: check out this post of Julie’s and scroll down to the Great­est Amer­i­can Hero dude). I’m not sure why some­one who dis­likes Catholic cul­ture so much would want to become a priest and I’m real­ly not sure why some­one who dis­likes South Jer­sey cul­ture so much would agree to be its bish­op. One blog­ger recent­ly wrote “I have gone through enough merg­ers and con­sol­i­da­tions to know one thing
is true: reduc­tions in man­pow­er and assets are made for tighter
con­trol” which sounds like as good an expla­na­tion as any oth­er I’ve heard. Pow­er and mon­ey: same as it ever was. 

I was fol­low­ing the kids around out­side for much of what turned into a speak-out ses­sion but I got to see twen­ty sec­onds of my wife Julie’s tes­ti­mo­ny on the Fox affiliate’s 10 o’clock news. Julie had THAT LOOK when address­ing the bish­op. It’s a look I know too well, it’s a look that means “I’m right, I know it, and I’m not back­ing down.” If I’ve learned any­thing over the course of the last sev­en years of mar­riage it’s that I don’t stand a chance when Julie gives me THAT LOOK: it’s time to con­cede that yes she is right, because any oth­er option will just pro­long the pain and delay the inevitable. I saw hun­dreds of peo­ple giv­ing the bish­op that same look last night.

It’s nice to see South Jer­sey stand­ing up to an out­sider who hates its cul­ture and wants to force change for the sake of his own pow­er and prof­it. We get a lot of it down here. The pow­er guys usu­al­ly end up win­ning: the woods get chain­sawed and the farm­lands buried under vast expans­es of gener­ic box stores and cookie-cutter McMan­sions financed by Philly mon­ey and greased by the pro-development laws of North Jer­sey politi­cians. I could be wrong, but after this week I don’t think the bish­op stands a chance. The ques­tion now is how long he’s going to pro­long his . And how many church­es will he suc­ceed in tak­ing down in the name of “vibrance?”

Save St. Mary’s

Julie’s been busy this week­end fol­low­ing up on the ral­ly she attend­ed Fri­day, hook­ing up with all of the orga­niz­ing that’s hap­pen­ing to save St. Mary’s Church in Mala­ga NJ. She’s tak­en lots of pic­tures of St. Mary’s and yes­ter­day made up t-shirts for the cause!
One pos­i­tive ele­ment to come of the Bishop’s deci­sion to close down St. Mary’s and half the Catholic church­es in South Jer­sey is how parish­ioners are com­ing togeth­er for their church­es. Julie’s already typed in half of a 1997 his­to­ry of St. Mary’s onto the inter­net, and there are plans to inter­view elder­ly mem­bers, the old­est of whom remem­ber the church being built.
The sto­ry of a lit­tle church in a sleepy rur­al town is the real­ly the sto­ry of the Ital­ian Catholic expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca. There’s a cer­tifi­cate in the back of the church that lists all of the dona­tions that were col­lect­ed to build the church, some from dirt poor farm­ers who couldn’t even afford a dol­lar but still put all they could to build a house of wor­ship.
To my Quak­er read­ers: don’t wor­ry, I’m not going Catholic on you all. It’s just that even I can tell there’s some­thing spe­cial about St. Mary’s and the devo­tion and the newfound-feistiness of it’s com­mu­ni­ty (how did they makes the Times?! And two pic­tures!). The bish­op wants to sell all these lit­tle rur­al church­es and replace them with imper­son­al mega-churches. The strug­gle for authen­tic­i­ty, human­i­ty and the remem­brance of the expe­ri­ence of those who strug­gled before us tran­scends reli­gious denom­i­na­tions. We’d all lose some­thing if church­es like St. Mary’s were all torn down to make way for more Super Wawa’s.

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Rally to save St Mary’s Catholic Church in Malaga NJ

Rally to save St Mary's MalagaJulie and Theo took a bus into Cam­den NJ this morn­ing to attend a ral­ly in sup­port of St Mary’s. It’s one of dozens of church­es that the Dio­cese of Cam­den has slat­ed for clo­sure. St. Mary’s Father Romanows­ki was sched­uled to meet Bish­op Galante today but the Bish­op can­celed at the last minute. Chan­nel Six Action News pro­filed St Mary’s a few days ago and the video gives you a lit­tle idea why it’s a spe­cial lit­tle church.
More pic­tures of the St Mary’s ral­ly here.

The Young Conservative

The Young Conservative
Fran­cis on the cov­er of the mock mag­a­zine.

Pho­to: A new pub­li­ca­tion of the Neo Post Con­ver­gent Dia­per Set. An irony I have to point out is that I’ve agreed to have the boys raised Catholic, the faith to which Julie returned after eleven years with Friends. Can I help it if the kids look so dern pho­to­genic in front of Quak­er meet­ing­hous­es? Enlarged pho­to.