Archdiocese accuses Monsignor Benavente - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Archdiocese accuses Monsignor Benavente

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 by Jolene Toves

Guam - Controversies within the Catholic Church continue as more accusations against Monsignor James Benevente have been made public by the Archdiocese of Agana.

Monsignor Benevente is accused of racking up nearly $1 million on credit card charges, cell phone payments, restaurants, air fare, stays at the Shangri-La Hotel in Manila and other five star hotels when he was rector of the Cathedral Basilica and director of the Catholic Cemeteries of the archdiocese. These accusations raised concern with the Concerned Catholics of Guam a group that was formed to investigate controversies within the Catholic Church.

Vice President Dave Sablan said, "As far as these issues in regards to credit card expenditures I am sure there are good reasons why the monsignor made those charges if they were made by him and this is something that the Concerned Catholics will probably look into."

The Archdiocese of Agana over the weekend issued a press release outlining some of the findings of an internal review in which "grave irregularities" were discovered involving the administration of the entities which were formerly administered by Monsignor James. According to the press release included in the questionable $1 million in expenses, Monsignor James is accused of gifting his close friends and family cemetery family crypts valued at $380,000. The archdiocese also calls out the monsignor for allegedly commingling funds and transferring funds between the Cathedral Basilica and Catholic Cemeteries thus making an audit impossible. The archdiocese was also critical of the monsignor for a $7 million loan for projects and the indebtedness its placed the archdiocese in.

However the CCOG contends otherwise, as Sablan said, "Some of the issue that were mentioned in the statement by the chancery in the finances of the Cathedral Basilica and how Monsignor James managed it have already been discredited number one the archbishop is the ultimate authority to sign off on any loan for the archdiocese and for that matter any parish they need to borrow money in a parish for example the archbishop needs to sign off on that otherwise loan cannot go through."

Sablan adds that the monsignor inherited just about all of the debt when he became rector. Although the monsignor did not answer our calls for comment, KUAM News has obtained a copy of an email he has sent to his close supporters disputing each and every allegation in the archdiocese press release. Monsignor James vehemently denies any wrongdoing and in some instances called some of the accusations "lies". For example claims now made by the archdiocese that the Catholic Cemeteries picked up a $13,000 tab to pay for Monsignor James 20th anniversary reception. The monsignor in his email to his supporters said that was not true and that it was paid for by his family and close friends. In terms of the credit card charges, the monsignor defended that he often times had to use his personal credit card to pay for the Cathedral Basilica's power bill as well as other supplies especially if he was ordering them from off island vendors. The monsignor points out that the cathedral does not have a credit card. As for the charges to stay in five-star hotels, he responds there was only one and confirms he did in fact stay at the Shangri-La and as a frequent customer he received a discounted rate. Matter of fact the archbishop himself has stayed at the hotel with him and that he always picks up the tab for the archbishop. In terms of the $7 million loan he questions why the archdiocese is making it look as if they did not approve the projects, considering that it had to be approved by all church bodies including the archbishop and current rector Monsignor David Quitugua. You may remember last year, Archbishop Anthony Apuron suddenly removed Monsignor James from his positions as rector of the cathedral and director of the Catholic Cemeteries citing financial mismanagement. Monsignor James denied the allegations.  
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