Today's temple moneychangers

This morning’s New York Times explores the developing feud among family members operating the Trinity Broadcasting Network, an  Evangelical television powerhouse that also operates the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Florida.

According to the article, the granddaughter of the founders, Paul and Janice Crouch, were disturbed by lavish spending but the “nonprofit” organization and released records to the IRS. The organization raised $93 million in 2010 alone, and among the perks that the couple allotted themselves were a $5.6 million home in California; twin corporate jets; multiple “parsonages” for family use; a combined annual salary of over $750,000; and meal expenses that cost a staggering $300,000 per year.

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The Crouch couple is firm believers in the prosperity gospel, telling their supporters that financial support of the TBN ministries would repay itself over and over again. The head of the Southern Baptist Convention, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., says the Evangelical community has long been embarrassed of TBN:

“Prosperity theology is a false theology,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Between its message and its reputation for high spending, Mr. Mohler said, “TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”

Should people who “earn” this much money for their ministry be able to spend it as they see fit, even financing a life that seems completely at odds with the Gospel? Should the government and IRS take a harder line on corruption in religious organizations? Do you think people such as the Crouches are motivated by greed or truly believe they are living out the gospel call to evangelize?

Michael J. O'Loughlin

(Image: Casting out the money changers by Giotto, 14th century.)

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tom Maher
6 years 5 months ago
Ms. Chapman:

So your saying the author is neutral, objective observer with no biases or judgement on this the activiities of the TBN or the Crouches?  

Does the following caption and picture inserted by the author ?????????????n?o?t? ????s?h?o?w? ?e?x?t?e?r?e?m??e? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????biases and judgement by the author: 
Michael J. O'Loughlin
(Image: Casting out the money changers by Giotto, 14th century.)
?
Craig McKee
6 years 5 months ago
If people are that dumb after reading all of this hard data, then I say take them for every dime they've got. Education, after all, is NOT cheap!
6 years 5 months ago
This guy would fit right in with the Crouch's - in fact you could say he was decades ahead of them.


same Church different pew

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/nyregion/30ike.html would
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 5 months ago
Just wondering how this is different from selling indulgences, or holy water?

I had a priest once tell me that most of the people who are at Mass are there because they think it is their ticket to heaven.
ed gleason
6 years 5 months ago
Here are some planks in our RCC eye. Is the GOP Ryan message also a prosperity gospel? The GOP mantra that  the small 15% tax on dividends, capital gains, carried interest,  for the 1%,  'will bring back jobs'... is their boring, economic complicated message. The 'trickle down' talking point has been replaced with 'job creators'.
 I remember in the 1930s the Bronx poor parishes had a 15c seating charge collected on big tables in the church vestibule by a guy  making change, who was faster then a Vegas croupier.
 
Also the cardinal sitting in the palazzo in Rome with three nun house-keepers is  no slouch either.  
Crystal Watson
6 years 5 months ago
"Should people who “earn” this much money for their ministry be able to spend it as they see fit, even financing a life that seems completely at odds with the Gospel?"

Have you noticed the life styles of the Catholic hierarchy?  Their vestment allowances alone could probably support a small third world country.
ed gleason
6 years 5 months ago
Thanks Mr Peterson for the redacted report from outer-space. right on target. (-:
Jim McCrea
6 years 5 months ago
Pushing the Cdl Newman Society's dreck in a posting about religious charlatans is very appropriate.
Jim McCrea
6 years 5 months ago
"I had a priest once tell me that most of the people who are at Mass are there because they think it is their ticket to heaven."

Do you mean that all of those stamped tickets that I have been saving in shoe boxes over the years are for naught? 

Don't tell me that my buying pagan babies when I was a school kid hasn't given me an inside track!
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 5 months ago
When Notre Dame invited Obama to give the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree, the Cardinal Newman Society screamed that the speech was not an issue, but the honorary degree was an abomination. Sebelius is just giving a speech, no honorary degree attached. What's the big deal?
John Barbieri
6 years 5 months ago
Have these people been giving lessons to the catholic hierarchy, or has the catholic hierarchy been giving lessons to them?
Jim McCrea
6 years 5 months ago
When it cometh to coveting money, NO ONE gives lessons to the Catholic church.
J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
''When it cometh to coveting money, NO ONE gives lessons to the Catholic church.''


That is why they are closing Catholic School after Catholic School and they are trying to find more money for retirement homes for the religious.  All the money is being taken for vestments, fancy residences, lavish parties and trips.


It is interesting how these OP's bring out the usual suspects with their litany of complaints and negative comments.  I often wonder why America writes these sorts of articles.  They must know it is like throwing red meat at the malcontents and the malcontents dutifully respond.  But America keeps on feeding these articles to their faithful so we can count on a regular stream of them.  What could possibly be America's motives for this?
Tom Maher
6 years 5 months ago
JR Cosgrove # 15

There is a stong  patte?r?n? ??i?n? ??A?m?e?r?i?c?a? ?m?a?g?a?z?i?n?e? ?????of trashing all religions not just the Church.  ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
?
??????Y?o?u? ?a?r?e? also very right to point out that it would be nice for the C?hurch's? minsitries to be as successful as TBS is.  History shows Bishop Sheen in the 1950s was very successfully evagelizing by his TV shows.  But that did not last long becasue he ran out of money - ? TV air time ?is real expensive - Just look at the Presidential campaigns budgets for TV.   A Church sponsored TV programming was non-existant while many small Protestant ministries florished and yes rece??ived widespread public support ??and donations.  Good for them I say and good for TBS that they found a way to so widely spread the word of God?? which would otherwise be unheard of ?in a Godless ?secular world?.  
?         ?
Rick Fueyo
6 years 5 months ago
I think there is little question that adherents of the "prosperty gospel" are sincere in believing they are carrying out Divine will.  Their belief is sincere, if misguided.

While soem of the comments against the ministry and comparing it may be over the top, I am surprised anyone can defend the ministry in good conscience
Carlos Orozco
6 years 5 months ago
I guess Georgetown University must be interested in how former-governor Kathleen Sebelius, juggles to explain how one can be both "Catholic" and partial-birth abortion advocate. Is there no limit to how low some will go to suck up to the Obama administration?
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
Beth (#3) and Jim (#11), I too have often been disconcerted by the church's continuing ''sale'' of indulgences. At one time it was for cash.   Jim, I'm sure you're OK. Most of those of us who are older than 35 or so ''did'' the Nine First Fridays at some point - guaranteed ticket to heaven. Those who missed that opportunity can now buy off their time with Divine Mercy Sunday. 

''James Peterson'' (#5 & 6) and Maria (#9) and JR (#15) and Carlo (#18).  The links and comments about the stories about the Jesuit university in West Virginia and the Georgetown graduation are not relevant to the questions raised about the validity of the ''prosperity gospel'' and the personal use of money by evangelists who raise it through their TV shows.

JR complains ''...these OP's bring out the usual suspects with their litany of complaints and negative comments.  ... and the malcontents dutifully respond''

Perhaps that is also true of ''James'' and Maria and Carlo?  They seize at any straw in order to bash America, or to bash specific Jesuit priests (like Fr. Martin) and, of course, to bash Jesuits and all Jesuit institutions in general. Maria makes one exception - Fr. James Hardon, SJ.  The same Fr. Hardon who is linked to protecting another Jesuit, Fr. McGuire from investigation  - a priest who is now in prison for sexual abuse.  Certainly the entire episode is a black eye for the Jesuits, as Fr. Hardon was not the only Jesuit to protect McGuire (it's a black eye for M. Teresa too). Those who like to bash the Jesuits for anything at all ought not to excuse the one Jesuit whom they ''venerate''.

Tom, #16. Just FYI. It's TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), not TBS (Turner Broadcasting). Quite different. The Catholic equivalent to TBN would be EWTN.  They too most likely rake in a lot of money -  but they are not financially transparent. Nobody really knows what M. Angelica and her sisters do with it all.

Now, as to the ''prosperity gospel.''  Why are these evangelists so successful? It's worth some reflection.  I have attended masses during the ''stewardship'' period at Catholic church where members of the congregation were asked to give little talks relating how they had been blessed (financially) by tithing. So they gave 10% of their income, and God bless us all - God gave them back double what they had given the church!    But, that's an aside - it's not just the evangelists who try this.

 Why do people respond? Is it just personal greed - they give $100 to the preacher and will get back $1000? Perhaps instead it's because these evangelists tend to preach ''good news.''  God loves you. God will bless you. God will always be with you. Look at the sparrows and the lilies of the field and do not be afraid. Donate to us who are preaching the good news so we can spread the word. The people are reassured that God really does love them. They sing cheerful hymns.  It's generally a positive message and experience. And they send their money because that makes them feel good too. At some point they may be disillusioned by their all-too human heroes. But, frankly, is it more disillusioning to learn that they use the money for personal pleasure (and don't hide it apparently) than to learn that men who claim to literally be God's voice on earth (who are the only ''authentic'' teachings of the church) turn out to be liars who have been protecting thousands of priests who sexually molested tens of thousands of the children?
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
JR (#15) -  Catholic schools are closing, and there is a need to contribute to the support of the aging religious (or is it only the relative few orders who do not belong to LCWR that ''deserve'' support?).  Why not enough money?


 Have you considered the impact of the loss of tens of millions of cradle Catholics in the US during the last 30 or so years? Although the pews have been refilled to a degree by immigrants from Latin America, most of them do not have the disposable income available to those who left. They would give more but just can't afford it. Maybe in another generation or two - if the Catholics keep those generations. There are already signs that they too may depart at some point.

 And have you reflected on why those Catholics have left? Certainly there has been a lot of discussion about this in America and other Catholic media. Have you thought about the role the current and previous pope played in creating an environment (one that reeks of both clericalism and patriarchy) that encouraged many to leave? And of course, have you thought about the $3 billion and counting spent to settle litigation - cases that multiplied by the tens of thousands because the bishops - forgetful of God, but obedient to their vow of silence to Rome - protected sex molesters instead of the young?   And then, of course, there is the matter of lavish lifestyles provided to the highest executives (called princes - and who seem to believe they really are) of the church courtesy of the people in the pews. Few forsake their mansions, limos, and two-zone wine coolers. And speaking of the nuns- the bishop with the $5 million renovation for his own condo in Long Island essentially seized a building that some  religious sisters had been using for ministries to the poor. He kicked them out, and didn't even help them find a new place to live.  Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles kicked out three sisters working with the poor in Santa Barbara - he needed to sell their house in order to pay for sexual abuse settlements. He did nothing to help them either.  The sisters were taken in by Episcopal sisters who run a retreat center in Santa Barbara. The male clergy of the Roman church had no concern for religious women at all. They have no concern for women except for how women can ''serve'' them.  The people in the pews have always paid for the upkeep of the clergy, sometimes quite lavishly.  Those who live in affluent parishes also get the benefit of their parishoners money. The priests (2 of them) at my former Roman parish live in a 4200 sq ft home appraised at more than $1.7 million.  The women religious who ran the schools and hospitals for next to nothing have always supported themselves without a dime from the clergy to help them. And some of these religious women still do the laundry, cooking, cleaning and scrub the toilets for these men in their silken robes - with little pay and, given their attitudes, no appreciation.


The bishops may not ''preach'' the prosperity gospel in so many words, but they clearly think that if they  make it to the ''top'' in their careers, they are entitled to a certain degree of luxury - at the expense of others.  Close a parish or two, a school or two. Frees up money for the silken vestments and the wine coolers. Oh yes, and for the lawsuits that occurred because of their moral negligence.
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
Tom (#16) - you state ''There is a stong  pattern in America magazine of trashing all religions not just the Church''

Do you have any examples of the magazine ''trashing all religions''?  The opposite seems to be the case, actually. It seems to me that America goes out of its way to highlight religion in general - not just Catholicism, but others, with Fr. Clooney's posts about his interfaith work at Harvard being prime examples. Rather than interest, many ''conservative'' posters often criticize Fr. Clooney's posts - it seems they are not interested in all religions -  nor even in the entire spectrum of views that are part of the Roman church - ''liberal'' views which they also generally ''trash.''

To quote Maria - People in glass houses and all...
Tom Maher
6 years 5 months ago
Anne Chapman #21

As for evidence of trashing all religions this very article cynically smears as criminal the good work of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and then suggests that the state should audit and evaluate all religions' theology and religious practices.  This is the trashing of all religions. 

This article asks: " Should the government and IRS take a harder line on corruption in religious organizations?" as if corruption and religion goes together.  As if government  must entangle itself in religion. Or religion is a form of criminal enterprse in need of policing. 

This is the Religous Liberties issue all over again.  And yes America magazine editorially and in its articles such as this very article has been horrible in attacking First Amendment rights of Religious Liberties of all religions including the Church despite the USCCB's to alert to all citizens that Religious Liberties are under attack in America by the government. 
Rick Fueyo
6 years 5 months ago
Tom:

Your Syllogisms are faulty.  "This is" - no it's not.  "As if" - not close.  The logic just does not follow
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
Tom, it seems there are differences in definitions of ''religious liberty.''  And the government most definitely should be involved when there is corruption, whether in religious or non-religious organizations who break the law.
The government should also be involved whenever taxpayer money is involved - if a religious organization is using taxpayer money to operate then it must assume the same contractual obligations as any other government contractor and not try to play the ''religious liberty'' card.  If it does not agree to the strings attached to government money then it should not seek it.  They should instead rely on their own fund-raising rather than using government money.

You wrote: " [the article] suggests that the state should audit and evaluate all religions' theology and religious practices.  This is the trashing of all religions. "

There is nothing in the post that suggests this. You are misrepresenting what the author actually wrote.

 Do you disagree that the govt should investigate when there are appearances of lawbreaking? Of abuse of the tax system? Or do you think that all religious organizations get a pass - they don't have to obey the laws because they are religious?  Is that what you are saying? Or am I misreading your words and jumping to wild conclusions just as you did with Mr. O'Laughlin's words?

Apparently TBN claims that it is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization. If the IRS is involved, it is because it seems that there is at least a credible possibility that TBN may actually be a profit-making business that is manipulating the laws - using ''religion'' and ''non-profit'' status  to protect assets that are really for personal enrichment ($5.3 million dollar houses for a start. $300,000 for food for two people in a year? That strains credibility more than a bit)  in order to avoid paying taxes. It is perfectly appropriate for the government to investigate and I certainly am glad that it is doing so. And in fact, those who really care about religious liberty should be cheering the government on in cases of what seem to be blatant abuse of religious and/or non-profit status.

Why is investigating the Crouches and their TV network ''bashing'' ''all religion?'' Is TBN ''all'' religion? Are the Crouches ''all religion''?

Where is the evidence that the IRS is investigating TBN's ''theology''?  It is their financial affairs that are being investigated - not their ''theology.''  Nobody but you has suggested that religion and corruption ''go together.'' Nobody but you has suggested that religion is a ''criminal enterprise that needs policing''.

Maybe you should read what the author actually wrote instead of putting your thoughts into his piece and then attacking him for something that he never said - only you did.

If religious organizations or individuals are breaking the law, they should be policed, investigated, charged if warranted and brought to trial just as any other person or organization would be under the same circumstances. ''Religious liberty'' does not exempt people or organizations from following the law nor from the consequences of criminal activity.

I have no objection to the Crouches becoming millionaires from their TV network. I do object if it is really a profit-making business, as are other networks, and if they are using it and religion as a tax dodge. This has nothing to do with ''trashing all religions'' nor with ''religious liberty.'' It has to do with whether or not these people are operating within the law.
Tom Maher
6 years 5 months ago
Anne Chapman #24

This article begins and ends about a family fued around Trinity Broadcasting Network that makes a series of accusations that are not proven around which Mr. O'Laughlin passes judgement that this is a case of using religiion to make money.  Mr. O'Loughlin overlays the article with a painting by Giotto of Christ driving out the moneychangers but fails to show how the Crouches have done anything wrong. Yet this article asks: " Do you think people such as the Crouches are motivated by greed or truly believe they are living out the gospel call to evangeli?z?e???"? ??.? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
Mr. Maher, #25 - You did not answer any of the questions I asked you in post # 24. Would you please respond to them? I repeat some of them in this post.

You assert that Mr. O'Loughlin ''judged'' the Crouches. - '' Mr. O'Laughlin passes judgement that this is a case of using religiion to make money''

He did not ''pass judgment'' . He presented background information on the case and he asked several questions. One might call them ''leading'' questions, but he did not at any time make a statement that could be called a judgement.

The author asked some questions - he made no statements, no judgments.

''Do you think people such as the Crouches are motivated by greed or truly believe they are living out the gospel call to evangelize?''

''Should the government and IRS take a harder line on corruption in religious organizations?''

 Did you note the punctuation? The author asked questions - he did not make statements.

On the other hand, YOU made several judgments - all without providing any evidence for your judgement.

 You passed judgment on America magazine - ''There is a strong  pattern in America magazine of trashing all religions not just the Church. ''

 Could you please provide specific evidence for this charge?

 Does raising questions about one religious broadcasting network equate to ''trashing ALL religions''?

YOU stated that the author ''...suggests that the state should audit and evaluate all religions' theology and religious practices.  This is the trashing of all religions''.

Can you point out where the author makes the suggestion you cite - please use only what he wrote in the article. 

 YOU added a few additions to what the author wrote ''...as if corruption and religion goes together.  As if government  must entangle itself in religion. Or religion is a form of criminal enterprise in need of policing.

The author did not make any of these statements or draw any of these inferences. YOU made them.  You put YOUR thoughts into the author's work.

You wrote: ''America magazine editorially and in its articles such as this very article has been horrible in attacking First Amendment rights of Religious Liberties of all religions''.

Once again, I ask you to please provide evidence of these rather sweeping charges.

Specifically, where does Mr. O'Loughlin in this article ''attack the First Amendment rights of Religious Liberties of all religions''?

Please also provide links to articles/posts where America ''attacks first amendment rights of religious liberties of all religions.''

Now, I have a question.

Is it right for readers who comment to put words in the mouths of the authors - things they did not write at all  - and then pass multiple judgments on America magazine and about this post specifically that are not based on anything actually written in the article?



Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
Tom,

I said that he asked questions rather than make explicit judgments, and I noted that one question could be called a ''leading'' question. But it was a question, not a judgment. 

The choice of illustration could also be said to indicate what he concludes about misuse of celibrity among some evangelists - but, once again, it is not an explicit judgment conveyed in words nor explicitly about the Crouches. I would interpret it more generally, in the context of the very many financial and personal scandals that have surrounded celebrity evangelists for years, ranging from Jim and Tammy Bakker to Fr. John Corapi.

Your judgments were explicit and based on your own personal additions to his thought, not on what he wrote in the post, which is a bit unfair.

You have so far not replied to any of the questions I have asked you, nor any of my obsrvations regarding your very explicit judgments - made in words - that are based on assumptions and your personal opinions that you have not documented after more than one request for you to do so -  both about America and about this post.

Could you please respond to the quotes from your posts given in  #25 and questions about your statements - repeated below for your convenience.

 You passed judgment on America magazine - 'There is a strong  pattern in America magazine of trashing all religions not just the Church. '

 Could you please provide specific evidence - articles, blog posts, editors' commentary - for this charge?

 Does raising questions about one religious broadcasting network equate to 'trashing ALL religions'?

YOU stated that the author '...suggests that the state should audit and evaluate all religions' theology and religious practices.  This is the trashing of all religions'.

Can you point out where the author makes the suggestion you cite - please use only what he wrote in the article. 

 YOU added a few additions to what the author wrote '...as if corruption and religion goes together.  As if government  must entangle itself in religion. Or religion is a form of criminal enterprise in need of policing.

The author did not make any of these statements or draw any of these inferences. YOU made them.  You put YOUR thoughts into the author's work.

You wrote: 'America magazine editorially and in its articles such as this very article has been horrible in attacking First Amendment rights of Religious Liberties of all religions'.

Once again, I ask you to please provide specific documentation to support  these rather sweeping charges.

Specifically, where does Mr. O'Loughlin in this article 'attack the First Amendment rights of Religious Liberties of all religions'?

Please also provide links to articles/posts where America 'attacks first amendment rights of religious liberties of all religions.'
Tom Maher
6 years 5 months ago
Anne Chapman 

Sorry Ms.. Chapman but surrounding the article with the caption
(Image: Casting out the money changers by Giotto, 14th century.)
and the actual pic?t?u?r?e? ?????o?f? ??C?h?r?i?s?t? ?d?r?i?v?i?n?g? ?o?u?t? ?t?h??e? ?m?o?n????e???y??? ???c???h???a???n????g?????????e???r???s??? ???????????i?s? ??h?i?h?g?l?y? ?prejudicial and conclu?s?i?o?n?a?l? ??s?t?a?t?e?m?e?n?t? a?g?a?i?nst TB?N? ?and th?e? ??????????????????C???r??o?u?c?h?e?s? ?t?h?a?t? ?c?a?n? ?n?o?t? ?b?e? ?i?g?n?o?r?e?d?.???.? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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