Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kicking Bishop Bruno Up The Arse

British and Irish television viewers over 30 years of age will recognise the (slightly modified) title of this post instantly. First shown in April 1998, "Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse" was an episode of Father Ted, a sitcom widely regarded as one of the best ever.
Having cheated in the All-Priests Five-a-Side Over-75's Indoor Challenge Football Match, the manager of the Craggy Island team Father Ted Crilly is set a forfeit by Father Dick Byrne, manager of the opposing team from Rugged Island - to kick his bishop.

What makes this an especially terrifying challenge for poor Father Ted is the fact that the Bishop Leonard 'Len' Brennan character is a man characterised as "a foul-mouthed, lecherous, hypocritical and sometimes even violent narcissist", not averse to exacting the most painful revenge on those who cross him.

But, of course, Len Brennan is a fictitious Catholic bishop... so bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to any real-life prelate of the Episcopalian church.
Kicking Father Brennan Up The Arse

That being the case, I'm sure the Bishop Diocesan of The Cathedral Center of St. Paul pictured in the aerial shot below is a servant of God who will look kindly on all those involved in the story I'm about to relate and who will - in true Christian spirit - offer the other cheek to be kicked...

The Cathedral Centre of St. Paul, Echo Park, Los Angeles

We are, of course, discussing Yolande Beckles here - though I hasten to add that she's not the Bishop Diocesan. I'll introduce him in a minute. She isn't even a newly-elected Bishop Suffragan in this most liberal of churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion. What I mean is that Yolande is at the heart of my story. I've not got so bored waiting for her arrest and deportation that I've started to watch old television comedies about Irish priests. Rather, I've discovered a brand new real-life comedy taking place in Echo Park that I simply have to share with you.

My story focuses on the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, the administrative and ministerial hub of the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Located on the banks of Echo Lake at the junction of Echo Lake Avenue and Laguna Avenue, the Center houses the congregation of St. Athanasius, formed in 1864 as the first Episcopal church in Southern California, with parishioners worshipping in English, Korean and Spanish.

Bishop J Jon Bruno of The Cathedral Center of St. PaulSt. Paul is also home to a variety of community outreach programs ranging from youth services and a Federal Credit Union to the Cathedral Center Grants Program and Scholarship Program; plus the offices of the bishops and Center staff. It hosts retreats, daytime meetings, and a variety of other events for Episcopal-affiliated and community groups including The Family Preservation Program, which creates an alternative to foster care in 22 families by providing in-home counselling for parents and children; offices for the diocese's AIDS ministry; and, last but not least, a food distribution program providing 60,000 bags of groceries per year and employing 25 former clients as workers. I'll return to that in a bit.

Most importantly, The Cathedral Center houses the Episcopal Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles, The Right Reverend Joseph Jon Bruno... who is currently being kicked up the proverbial by some of his trusted flock... and one Miss Yolande Beckles.

I'm not claiming that Miss Beckles isn't a God-fearing woman. It's just that her theological beliefs tend to wander in the direction of the next open door - especially if that door houses financial opportunities (somehow I just can't see Yolande Beckles joining the Hare Krishnas, unless it's to take up the role of the person who collects the worldly goods given up by new recruits and converts them into cash). Back home in England, she was a devout member of the happy-clappy New Testament Church Of God, formed to address the specific needs of the Caribbean immigrant community. Several members who encountered Yolande ended up spiritually renewed, if financially impoverished. Shortly after fleeing to Los Angeles to escape her creditors, Yolande was introduced her to a very different ministry - Michael Beckwith's sect, the Agape International Spiritual Center. "The worst thing", wrote landlady Mrs Goodson-Shields, "is she wanted to get involved with a church here and I introduced her to dear friends who attend Agape. She moved right in trying to worm her way into another con... She is an evil woman." When devout Christians start referring to you as "evil", you know you've got something of an image problem. You'll need a very convincing reference if you want a job... or to get elected.

And what better place to turn than The Cathedral Center of St. Paul? A departure towards the more liberal end of the theological and social spectrum... and an organisation with loads and loads of wonga. In particular, funds devoted to the Center's food bank. Of course it may simply be the case that Yolande is now down on her uppers, having been forced to flee several addresses in the city by landlords seeking their rent, unhappy flat-sharers, angry schoolparents and the prospect of arrest on charges of fraud and theft.

Maybe, facing the prospect of starvation, she's just after a meal and the thought of financial misappropriation has never crossed her mind. Informant JAFO tells Beckles Watch that Yolande has been found from time to time at the food bank on Friday mornings as a volunteer handing out sustenance parcels. Her appearances on Thursday afternoon, when the food is delivered and sorted, may be a genuinely altruistic act. On the other hand, it may be because the Thursday volunteers are usually offered the perk of an under-the-counter bag or two of canned produce along with "spiffs" - chicken, fish, pork, candy and ice cream - not usually offered to the public at large on Fridays. Maybe we should feel really sorry for Miss Beckles.Yolande Beckles - LA's latest freegan?

All entirely plausible, were it not for "just one more thing", as Lieutenant Columbo would say. And that is that the Inventory Control & Volunteer Coordinator of the Cathedral Center of St Paul Food Bank Mission is one Francisco Torrero, Treasurer and Vice President Elect of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council and sponsor of Yolande Beckles as an Action Coalition slate candidate in the GEPENC elections.

And then there's the letter he arranged for her.

The letter in question is a reference to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), affirming Yolande's eligibility to stand in as a candidate in last Saturday's GEPENC elections. It gives her address as 840 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (the address of the Cathedral Center) and describes Yolande's good deeds not only as a volunteer at St. Pauls but as their "grants administrator". It's a letter written on Cathedral Center letterhead, attesting to Yolande's important job at the Center and the fact that she is a member of the congregation. Strange, as JAFO points out, as "no church member can recall seeing her at Mass". Even stranger as the letter was not written by a priest or other clerical official, but apparently by the person who runs the maintenance and janitorial crews at the Center. A man who is hardly in a position to communicate officially on Episcopal Diocese notepaper... as he is a practicing Roman Catholic. The US Episcopal Church describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic", but somehow I doubt that Bishop Bruno's liberal ecumenical views extend as far as issuing spare keys to his escritoire to the local Rabbi, Mullah or Cardinal.

Still, at least a group of local parishioners did the dutiful thing and wrote to The Cathedral Centre questioning Francisco Torrero's support for Miss Beckles, given her dubious past. Those who wrote received the following email (slightly redacted in order to protect the identities of recipients and others mentioned):

Email from Francisco Torrero to concerned electors

So there you have it. Kindly cease and desist any enquiries as to why GEPENC Treasurer Francisco Torrero might have sponsored a non-Episcopalian Brit of dubious migration status and very un-Christian past to stand as a candidate on the slate for his Action Coalition in a Neighborhood District where she doesn't live or work and is virtually unheard of except for the odd appearance at the Food Bank run by him, with a letter of reference approved by him and written by a Roman Catholic janitorial employee on Bishop Bruno's headed paper.

Right now entire world's media is reporting allegations that, in his former role as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope was personally involved in a cover up by remaining silent in the case of an American priest who admitted the sexual abuse of 200 boys at a deaf school in Milwaukee. And that as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop of Munich, he kept silent over the case of pedophile Father Peter Hullerman who molested many local children. So whatever one's church, perhaps this isn't the best of times to explain to concerned members of one's congregation: "since there are some very personal and sensitive matters, I will reserve the right of silence".

Oh dear! I'm sure all this is just a dreadful administrative error that will soon be resolved by Bishop Bruno - a man whose mission is to "plan and prepare for God's service, work for abundance and care for the community as we would care for Jesus." I'm sure the fact that the Bishop was formerly a tough police officer in the Burbank Police Department who once shot and killed an armed man suspected of drug-dealing and kidnapping will have no bearing on the way he views fraudsters, thieves and political conspirators operating in his mission.


  1. Yo's biggest fanMarch 27, 2010 8:05 AM

    So there is no truth in the rumor that Francisco Torrero is helping Yo apply for this job?

  2. "Bilingual (Spanish/English) communication skills" required. Does she speak English properly?

  3. Dr Yulondi BicklesMarch 27, 2010 9:30 PM

    Yeh but she no rite it preperli yet

  4. I'm looking forward to the Board meeting this evening. The agenda looks very boring, but I'm looking forward to Item F and anything under AOB.