Monday, June 10, 2013

Where do You and Your Money Go When You Join?

Seven IVE Priests and one seminarian - World Youth Day Trip 2011

We'd like to re-iterate here that the reason we've published this site is to give those considering the IVE fair warning on exactly what they are getting into.  If the IVE were were more transparent or normal this wouldn't be necessary, but until things change we'll keep posting so you can have access an additional point of view.  You can read more here to see that we are not alone in having concern for how the IVE handle finances. 

You Cost the Institute Money

In this post we'd like to cover the very murky, yet important topic of money.  You might not think that quitting school or your job and taking a vow of poverty to study for the priesthood came with a bill attached, but with the IVE it unfortunately does.  In this post we'd like to go back to a previous letter we received regarding practices at the IVE seminary in Italy and highlight our own experience with this  particular issue:
"In the seminary the superiors would publish on the notice board what each individual seminarian was costing the Institute, putting pressure on seminarians to ask friends and family to donate money to the Institute."
"In Rome we were expected to find the money for our own cassock and also for flights home.  The superior frequently gave talks on the need for novices and seminarians to come up with money for the Institute - that's a lot of pressure for some who just don't have access to the kind of money the Institue was looking for."
It was sad, but not surprising to learn that the the Institute pressured its seminarians in Italy for money. After some digging we found a very similar account regarding the seminary in Argentina (from the original Spanish and recounted in English here:)
 "At the Institute they give religious instruction, food (Editor: free donated food, by the way), and a place to live, but they ask financial aid, Daniel said.  That amount is not fixed, but you have to get it somehow. The lifestyle inside is very martial.... 
Daniel told that each seminarian has the possibility of going out twice a year to 'get money' to keep their place."
We know from our own experience that seminarians in the USA Seminary are subjected to similar, sometimes worse treatment.

At first we were very surprised to find that seminarians in the US were made themselves or through contributions from friends and family to pay for things like cassocks, flights home over summer/Christmas breaks, trips to pilgrimages like World Youth Day, and even for living expenses.  We are still unaware of any established orders that ask those in formation to fundraise, let alone directly ask seminarians for money.

This practice seems to be a clear violation of both the group's fiduciary duty to care for those who have sacrificed their means to support themselves and its own constitution which says it must "provide its members with all the necessary means."  One isn't exactly living a vow of poverty if he or his family is constantly dipping into their accounts to pay for things around the seminary.  Unfortunately, within the IVE this appears to be common-place worldwide.  

Cassocks Aren't Cheap

This begins only weeks after arriving to the novitiate when novices are hit up for money to pay for the custom fit cassocks they will receive (and the cassocks aren't cheap.)  The institute will first ask you to contact your "benefactors" for the money.  This request will be general to the group at first, but many, especially the hispanics, will pressured one on one or in small groups by the novice master priest and bedels (seminarians who to stay at the novitiate house to spy on the novices) to come up with the money themselves or contact their family and friends to pay.  

"Welcome to the Novitiate, Now Give Away All Your Money - Preferably to Us"

A few weeks after being asked for cassock money the novices will be told it is time to get rid of all their money.  It starts as "give it away to friends, family, or the institute, but you can't have money anymore."  Americans know better, so this is usually communicated in Spanish to the hispanics.  

For these poor individuals (ie. the illegal aliens) they are told they will be ordained and the institute will take care of them.  They are told of how the institute has to pay rent and it would be immoral for them to keep money (the institute has a number of folk tales to illustrate the negative consequences of these actions.)  They will be told how they need to look for benefactors to help pay their expenses - all before they even take vows (and let's be clear that the pressure only increases after vows.)

The result is that illegal aliens who worked on landscaping crews or in restaurant kitchens only a few months before are now giving over their meager savings and contacting their fellow working-class family members for help.  American's will be dealt with on a case by case basis, allowing them to keep any savings for the time being - however, that doesn't mean the institute won't ask them to use that savings in the meantime.  (For reference, in normal religious orders members aren't supposed to give up any money or property until final vows, in which case they don't have to give it to the group they are joining.  In fact, in some groups they aren't allowed to take the money due to the conflict of interest it would involve.)

You Have To Pay to Play

At the Seminary trips such as World Youth Day are mandatory for seminarians who can travel (ie. the ones that are in the country legally and can get travel documents.)  These seminarians are required to pay their own way to the event at the cost of almost $3000.  In some cases, if the Seminarians had savings, they can use this money to pay.  For others, especially since these seminarians enter at a young age and have very little contact outside of the IVE, they depend on their families to fund these mandatory trips.  This often leads to poorer families being unable to pay for their kids to visit home during Christmas/summer holidays - because they used all their spare funds to pay for the IVE required trip.  Those seminarians who can't afford to visit home are usually assigned some sort of work duty, (eg. sometimes they are sent to parishes over the holidays so they can do maintenance.)

This isn't how religious orders work.  If a seminarian is under a vow and is visiting home for vacation, the order is supposed to pay for it.  That's what the vow of poverty and living in community mean.  

Despite the conflict of interest involved, it's apparent that the Institute is very happy to accept donations from the family of those in formation.  Yet, if the institute is supposed to judge a candidate's fitness for a vocation (and at the IVE they constantly tell you that you don't need to worry about discernment, they will discern for you) and a candidate's family is regularly donating money, how can the institute be sure it's formators are being objective?  How can anyone be sure they aren't keeping people around because their parents now send monthly donations or are paying for expensive fixtures around the seminary and novitiate?

Likewise, if a candidate is discerning whether to stay with the IVE (to the extent that real discernment is possible within their formation process) and the seminarian's family has had to make a significant donation to pay for the cassock only weeks after arriving, how much pressure does that put on the candidate to stay rather than risk disappointing those who had donated?

We have certainly seen situations with both the seminarians and the sisters where individuals probably did not belong in a religious house (due to conditions psychological, medical, or otherwise) yet they stuck around much longer than was healthy.   We can't help but think it was because they or their families gave significant amounts in donations.  The same can be said for some of the older people senior citizens with savings who are encouraged to enter the seminary or SSVM in both the US and Europe:  is it the individual that has the vocation to the IVE or just their bank account?

More Clericalism

None of this should surprise anyone.  It's just another example of the clericalism we pointed out earlier, played out to its logical conclusion.

On one hand, US seminarians are told they have to come up with almost $3000 to pay their way to World Youth Day, where they can act as "the help" for the Argentine priests whose trips they are subsidizing.  Once there, the priests go off on their own, putting the seminarians in charge of the youth who have also paid to come on the trip and whose parents probably think are being supervised in this foreign country by priests, not by young seminarians.  (And let's also be clear that trips like WYD are big recruiting opportunities for the IVE and SSVM.  If they like you, you will get the hard sell during the trip.)

While seminarians have to pay their to visit family during holidays, the priests have the Institute pay for their trips back and forth to Argentina, Ski trips in Vail, and Pasquetta holiday outings to the Caribbean.  The  IVE leadership has even held its leadership meetings in exotic locales like Cancun, Mexico.

UPDATE:  Since we've posted the links to the IVE priests home videos of their Easter vacation trips to Vail and the Dominican Republic, the IVE have attempted to cover their tracks.  They first changed the account name and marked the videos private.  When that still left too much evidence, they hid/deleted the account altogether.  

And yes, the IVE leadership reads this site.  They apparently don't want you to see their favorite Argentine priests taking expensive vacations.  This profligacy looks especially bad since seminarians are stuck doing parish maintenance over holidays because their parents spent all their disposable income sending their kid on a $3000 IVE recruiting trip and now they can't afford to buy their son a ticket home for Christmas.

In the meantime we've added some screen shots of the youtube pages as they originally appeared and have added new links to the videos.   We want to be clear that this behavior is not limited to these two brothers.  After all, Buela had the entire IVE leadership conference at a posh Cancun hotel.  These two were simply the only IVE making their behavior so easily accessible online.   

We'll take the following two IVE priests as an example only because the information was already so readily available on the internet.  One is (was?) based at a very poor parish in the US, the other is a formator at the seminary in Argentina.
And here they are snowboarding in the Andes (this is the only link the IVE didn't break) last year with some expensive equipment:
At the Summit:

And here snowboarding in Vail (broken link, new link herewith 8 other priests (we hope they all weren't IVE, but they very likely were since this was probably the IVE's "Pasquetta" trip for 2013):

Multiple IVE priests frolicking in the Dominican Republic for their 2012 Pasquetta trip (broken link, new link here):
and many other adventures (broken link, we will update soon) - nice camera and underwater footage by the way, was that a GoPro?

Let's be clear that there is nothing wrong or immoral with this in and of itself - except we aren't sure how the Institute can afford or justify this when they say they can't pay for seminarians to visit their parents for Christmas.

We also aren't sure how to reconcile this with the Institute's own constitution which says in paragraph 67 that a member should "prefer for his own use and to choose, whenever possible, that of least value, the least pleasant and the most uncomfortable" and "accept with joy, for the love of God, privations even in necessary things for the sake of holy poverty."  

As we've mentioned before here, it seems like the rules of the IVE constitution - which the priests will repeat constantly to the seminarians during lectures, sermons, and retreats over the eight years of formation - don't apply after ordination - they only apply to seminarians.  

Who is Providing For Whom?

In summary, one enters the IVE with the idea that they are to entrust themselves spiritually, intellectually and financially to the IVE, and that the IVE is going to provide while forming them.  Then the IVE superiors turn around and start asking for money from those it is supposed to be providing for.  It is actually those in its care, especially those in the US, who are are used to finance and support the lives of the leadership.  The idea that, just weeks after quitting school or a job to pursue a vocation, you would get hit up for money by your superiors is something you might expect from Scientology, but certainly not from a Catholic group.

Those in formation are told to beg for money for trips that they are required to go on and beg for the food that they are to eat.  Others outside of the community, including third order members, are asked to provide food and money because the IVE lives such "radical poverty."  Yet they spare no expense when it comes to the desires of the superiors regarding food, drink, and vacations. There is no question they violate their constitutions.  The question is are they lying about not having any money or do they just misuse what little money they have?

Where are Your Donations Going?

Do you want to give to a group so a select few priests can go to Cancun or mountain climbing in the Andes?  How many of the laity who give to them are able to afford such lavish vacations?  Imagine begging for food, then vacationing in the Caribbean.  Imagine a superior requiring you to go on a trip, making you pay for both your and their tickets.  Then because of your family paying they can no longer afford to bring you home for Christmas.  As if this isn't bad enough the superior then goes to see his family and takes a vacation on the money you and other seminarians have raised.

You Can't Take It With You When You Leave

And unfortunately, it can and does get worse.  As we will go into later in an additional post, if one decides to leave, regardless of what they've given, they leave with nothing.  Whether you are told to leave or leave voluntarily, whether you have been there seven months or seven years, when you leave, you leave with nothing.  Those leaving have had to beg to those outside the institute for food, for a place to stay, and for money to get transportation home.

All this is in stark contrast to the old tradition of dowry's.  Dowry's were money required to enter a religious house.  Money that was to be left untouched until the person's death, so they would have something to fall back on in case they ever left.   Here we have people giving money, yet leaving with nothing.  

Yet Another Violation of the Constitution

In closing, ask yourself if this a violation of their own constitution or not: 
70 The members of the Institute with the vow of poverty retain the capacity of having patrimonial goods. However, before professing their temporal vows, the members must cede the administration of their own patrimonial goods and freely dispose of their usage and profit. 
We aspire to live poverty to the maximum degree. And because of this, before perpetual profession they will make a will which is valid in civil law, renouncing all goods, in accordance with Can. 668 §1: “...[a]t least before perpetual profession, they are to make a will which is valid also in civil law.” 
All that a brother gains with his own work or because of the Institute, as well as what he receives as pension, subsidy or insurance, he receives for the Institute.  Before perpetual profession, a brother totally renounces his goods. This renouncement is effective starting the day of profession and is also valid, if possible, in civil law. 
A license from the Provincial Superior is required to modify these norms with just cause.  The professed who has renounced all his goods loses the capacity to acquire and possess. Therefore, his acts against the vow of poverty are null. Whatever he acquires after the renouncement belongs to the Institute. 
71 The Institute must provide its members with all the necessary means according to the Constitutions, in order to reach the goal of his vocation.