Suit: Church used its ‘Vito’ power

The Brooklyn Paper
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A major atheist group and a priest are suing the borough’s Catholic leadership, alleging that the church violated its tax-free status by making thousands of pre-recorded calls during the November election campaign that endorsed candidates favored by Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Nobody’s denying that the so-called “robocalls” supporting Lopez — with the voice of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio himself — were placed to voters a couple days before the Nov. 3 general election. But the lawsuit will determine whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn overstepped its legal boundaries when it mentioned Lopez, the county’s Democrat Party boss and a Democratic assemblyman from Bushwick, in automated calls to thousands of Brooklynites.

The suit also accuses the Diocese of placing the calls as a favor to Lopez, who, earlier this year, supported the church by opposing legislation that would give alleged sex-abuse victims more time to file old claims.

There is one a massive problem with the suit: no one has a actual transcript of any of the calls. As a result, this lawsuit is one big game of “He Said, Vito Said.”

Lopez shrugged off the lawsuit.

“The church thanked me [in the calls] for supporting them on [the legislation], and that’s all,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter — I’m a third party in this. How can I control what the bishop releases?”

DiMarzio and a Diocese spokesman did not return calls in time for The Brooklyn Paper’s catholic online deadlines.

The parties that filed the lawsuits — including lawyer John Aretakis, Rev. Robert Hoatson, and NYC Atheists President Kenneth Bronstein — admit that they haven’t heard the robocall and are making their claim on a November article in the New York Times that said DiMarzio openly supported Lopez in an “unusually overt step into politics by a religious leader.”

Aretakis also claims that Lopez is lying about his involvement.

“[Lopez] engaged in illegal quid pro quo with [the church], where DiMarzio would [support] Vito’s slate of candidates,” alleged Aretakis, a suspended lawyer who formerly handled clergy cases. “They paid him back for voting against [the abuse legislation], which probably saved the church millions in lawsuits.”

Lopez scoffed at the allegations and said one listen to the robocall will prove his case. Those juicy tidbits may become Exhibit A in the case — if it gets that far.

Updated 5:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Wasn't The First Time from Carroll Gardens says:
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was quoted in a piece of campaign literature for John Heyer this summer. If I remember correctly the piece had John standing outside a church right in front of a large crucifix. When opened, the inside of the piece had a quote from the Bishop about how John shared the communities "values" and something else I forget. There was a Chaplin quoted too who had a similar values message.

As a Catholic I do not like seeing priests involve themselves in political campaigns. It is one of the few things we can hold over protestants heads.
Dec. 17, 2009, 11:40 am
hypocrit! from Brooklyn says:
Why is it that baptist priests and Christian leaders in general endorse political candidates all the time and no one says anything about that. It seems like your typical anti-catholic rhetoric. If theit seems like seperation of church and state only applies to catholics.
Dec. 17, 2009, 1:25 pm
Isn't this the same Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio who threatened a New York legislator?

Yes, it certainly is.

If I remember correctly, DiMarzio said that he would close the parish church in the legislator's area if the legislator supported the Child Victms Act.

Now we have his supporting this Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

What's wrong with him?

What is needed are a few resignations from the bishops who were enablers and conspirators in protecting sexual predators.
Dec. 17, 2009, 2:56 pm
Eddie from So Brooklyn says:
hypocrit! from Brooklyn says: "Why is it that baptist priests and Christian leaders in general endorse political candidates all the time and no one says anything about that. It seems like your typical anti-catholic rhetoric."

BALONEY. Clergy can personally (as individuals) back candidates, or speak about ISSUES, but can't turn their churches into political tools: They can't tell people to vote for X, say that the church endorses a candidate, or even allow a candidate to speak w/o inviting other candidates as well. (Some nonreligious nonprofits must follow similar no-endorsement rules.)
If they cross the line, they risk losing their tax-exemption -- and non-Catholic churches definitely HAVE been investigated for crossing that line. They're all perfectly free to do political lobbying long as they give up the tax-exemption.
But at least you admit that the bishop was ENDORSING Lopez's slate via robocalls -- and that it wasn't just a coincidence that those calls hit right before Election Day, though they allegedly were a "thank you" for something that happened months before.
Dec. 17, 2009, 8:04 pm
XaurreauX from Manhattan says:
"Why is it that baptist priests and Christian leaders in general political candidates all the time and no one says anything about that. It seems like your typical anti-catholic rhetoric. If theit seems like seperation of church and state only applies to catholics."

This is only the first of many such actions. The line between church and state has been crossed by Protestant and Jewish clergy as well and they can expect to be called on it.

And as for Catholic-bashing, it is the Roman Catholic Church that has been trying to evade responsibility for protecting and enabling priests who have been "bashing" Catholic children. Clergy of other religions have also been abusing children and have had these offenses covered up--usually by intimidation of the victims. While obviously the majority can be trusted, with the cooperation of both religious and non-religious citizens we can root out and prosecute both the offenders and their co-conspirators and drastically reduce, if not eliminate, these incidents across the board.
Dec. 18, 2009, 1:15 am
AAA says:
The question begs, while this reform minded commentator agrees there should be no pro-quid with Assemblyman Lopez, and Bishop Dimarzio if this was the case.

The question begs, however, there is a far worse scandal going on.

The question begs, the blog atlas shrugs for a link which can be seen at is actually blocking free speech from this reform minded commentator and others who speak against the opinions of this blog.

The question begs, the blog atlas shrugs is using personal IP address's to block those who don't agree with the point of view the blog atlas shrugs offers.

The question begs, the blog atlas shrugs run by Brooklyn Young Republicans President Jonathan J. Judge, and Brooklyn Young Republicans Vice President Samuel M. Rivera have been portraying a highly negative view of the Kings County Republican Party while at the same time blocking the comments from those who offer a different opinion such as this reform minded commentator.

The question begs, if one claims to talk about reforming anything whether it's a community or a political party.

The question begs, shouldn't free speech, and the open exchange of ideas count toward reform and openness the platform Mr. Judge and Mr. Rivera support?

The question begs, we all may come from different sides of the political spectrum, but just like this website, shouldn't we be allowed to share our opinions?

The question begs, Mr. Judge and Mr. Rivera should address why are they using personal IP address's, and using them to block those who comment against those who oppose the opinions they support.

The question begs, why are also Mr. Judge and Mr. Rivera using their blog to take personal IP address's store them, and use them to attack their enemies who oppose their agenda?

The question begs, while your at it, those who are vested in true reform should investigate whether Mr. Judge built websites for several political candidates over the past two years, and did he receive money for those efforts, if so why is it not being reported as an expenditure.

The question begs, also those who are vested in reform should investigate whether Mr. Judge violated his own by laws of the Brooklyn Young Republicans by taking in $82 for helping Bob Capano's campaign for state assembly in the 46th Assembly district in 2008, and than giving Mr. Capano $25.

The question begs, also those who are vested in reform should look at whether this was a "Pay to play" situation.

The question begs, also those who are vested in reform should investigate why Mr. Judge denied membership to the Brooklyn Young Republicans to Ms. Lesli Rice after she explained at a meeting fully the campaign finance laws to Mr. Judge.

The question begs, as this very well would be against the idea of equal opportunity for all especially for those who want to be involved in the political process.

The question begs, those who are vested in reform should also investigate why Mr. Judge has a $40,000 a year job on community board 14 in a Democrat controlled Council district, when he is the President of the Brooklyn Young Republicans.

The question begs, did Mr. Judge build the site atlas shrugs on the taxpayer dime at the offices of Community Board 14 where he also works and considering he built the websites of the Brooklyn YR's, Community Board 14, Atlas Shrugs, the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Club, and state assembly candidates such as Lucreita Regina Potter, what was the exchange Mr. Judge received for all those websites he built as they certainly wouldn't come for free.

The question begs, also did Mr. Judge fabricate an assault charge he brought to the police regarding political strategist Gerry O'Brien?

The question begs, did Mr. Judge support Democrats receiving the Republican line in exchange for keeping his job on community board 14?

The question begs, if Mr. Judge and Mr. Rivera do not answer these comments, and these allegations are true for the sake of true reform and transparency they promised when starting the blog Atlas Shrugs.

The question begs, Mr. Judge and Mr. Rivera should resign immediately from their positions in the Brooklyn Young Republicans, Mr. Judge should resign from his position on the executive committee on the Kings County Republican Party, and his job on community board 14 for the sake of true reform.

The question begs, this reform minded commentator thanks you for allowing this comment to go through, supporting political debate, free speech and getting to the bottom of these important allegations brought to fruition.
Dec. 29, 2009, 7:07 pm

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