Printer Friendly

Commerce causes parish perils.

Lawsuits play havoc with the spiritual life of a California parish

LOS ANGELES - Welcome to the arcane world of church-goods suppliers. Such commerce, in All Souls Parish, Alhambra, may have been instrumental in involving the pastor and some parishioners in a great deal of personal trouble, not to mention legal embroilment.

Not helping the scene is the fact that two parishioners, in less than 18 months, sold the parish about $100,000 worth of liturgical furnishings and other goods. Those parishioners, William Turbay and Richard Rock, are principals in the church-goods firm of Martinez and Murphey.

The story starts back in the early 1980s, when there really was no Martinez and Murphey - it was just a suitcase with some chasubles (the sleeveless capes worn by priests at Mass) in it. What a difference a decade makes.

The names Martinez and Murphey were selected by William Turbay and Richard Rock almost randomly from a list of deceased San Francisco archdiocesan priests. It had a nice alliterative ring to it. Turbay and Rock, then in their 30s, had known each other for years; both had taught at Los Angeles Catholic high schools.

The first chasuble

Turbay had left teaching to start a school-uniform business; he said it was seasonal and inventory-heavy business and looked around for what to do next. Rock's priest-brother needed a chasuble.

The school-uniform firm had some people operating sewing machines for alterations. Turbay designed a chasuble, which the seamstresses made. (Later, Turbay would design miters and chasubles for Pope John Paul II and the headgear and vestments worn by more than 300 bishops at massed gatherings.)

That first chasuble was a hit. Encouraged, Turbay and Rock had the seamstresses produce more chasubles, and Martinez and Murphey took them door-to-door in San Francisco. It was the early 1980s, and the Catholic church's post-Vatican II (1962-65) polyester experimentation period was in decline. Priests were looking for something slightly more traditional, more subdued, and the U.S. Catholic church was looking around its parish halls and walls, catching up with Vatican II liturgical setting requirements.

Turbay has a good eye for design, and ex-seminarian Rock is versed in liturgical norms. When Los Angeles-based Martinez and Murphey (the firm had office space in the scruffy fishmonger area) was ready for church-design business, many churches were ready for them. That, too, eventually became part

of the Martinez and Murphey concept.

Risky business

In the early 1980s, the two men wanted some venture capital money, start-up money to get a little company going. The concept was reduced to an attractive brochure that remained behind locked doors when the capital-raiser-to-be went out of business.

Apparently, a salesman applying for a Wall Street job included one of the brochures with his presentation. Wall Street underwriter J. Morton "Morty" Davis, owner of New York underwriters D.H. Blair & Co., liked the Martinez and Murphey concept, called Turbay and Rock to New York and said he could raise $4 million for them in an initial public offering.

That was in 1983. The Wall Street Journal a decade later described D.H. Blair as "a frequent underwriter of very risky companies."

Turbay and Rock actually received $1.4 million, but their M-and-M business plan had not been pared down from one that needed $4 million to succeed. The money went mainly on 30,000, 6-pound, full-color catalogs mailed nationwide promoting Martinez and Murphey and their wares.

If nothing else, M-and-M and their concept and catalog gained attention - in People magazine, in Forbes magazine, in chanceries, at bishops' conference meetings and in the boardrooms of rival church-goods suppliers.

Who were these men? Where had Martinez and Murphey suddenly appeared from? Turbay said, "The rumors were wild, that we were backed by oil money, anything, amazing."

At one bisbops'conference in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, Turbay and Rock offered a free miter (worth about $180-225 retail) to any bishop who stopped in at their conference showroom. Nearly 200 did, and M-and-M soon had the head sizes of practically every U.S. bishop.

Mahony's gala

New developments in a relatively short period set the M-and-M story on its next course. In July 1985, Stockton Bishop Roger Mahony was named archbishop of Los Angeles; in 1986, M-and-M mounted Mahony's first gala, Celebration '86, in Dodger Stadium.

Mahony originally had entered the seminary for the Los Angeles archdiocese, but he wanted to work in Hispanic ministry. To do that, and with then Los Angeles Cardinal James McIntyre's blessing, he transferred and was ordained for the Monterey-Fresno diocese.

With a master's degree in social work from Washington, D.C.'s, Catholic University of America, Mahony made his name among Hispanics, particularly migrant workers, and as chairman of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Board. It was not surprising that his first event as archbishop was Celebration |86, a pastoral declaration to the area's millions of Latinos.

Mabony asked Peter O'Malley if he could borrow Dodger Stadium for a Latino liturgical fiesta. O'Malley agreed, just as be would again, for the 1987 papal visit.

Celebration |86 had been given as a project to Father John Jensen of the Hispanic Ministries Office. He, in turn, called in Martinez and Murphey on a cost-plus basis to produce the Latino ceremony. (Jensen, now working in Tijuana, Mexico, later became an M-and-M board member and apparently has recently had his Los Angeles faculties revoked.)

By every account, including the videotapes, the celebration was a public success, and a highly emotional one as - though there was no Mass - the new archbishop in turn blessed each of the five pastoral regions represented by a total of 60,000 cheering Latinos.

In Los Angeles, for Martinez and Murphey, everything was still going along nicely. The firm redid the new archbishop's dining room in his residence at the cathedral rectory, St. Vibiana's on East Second Street. They designed his china, complete with crest, for Pope John Paul II visit. Mahony bought his silver through the firm. Mahony, a tall man, 6-foot-2, had M-and-M make his vestments.

Wits around the archdiocese began referring to it as the "3M" Company, Martinez, Murphey and Mahony. It was to be a one-way familiarity - to Mahony, Turbay and Rock were "William" and "Richard"; to them, Mahony was "Archbishop."

Noses out of joint

NCR: Because of Celebration |86, was anyone's nose out of joint?

Turbay: Absolutely.

NCR: Whose?

Turbay: Father Doug Ferraro's, the man supposed to be in charge of liturgy, but he wasn't consulted for this liturgical celebration.

NCR: Why not?

Turbay: I think he was brand new - Sister (of St. Joseph of Carondelet) Miriam Joseph was liturgist - he had just arrived from Rome.

As Turbay tells it relationships between M-and-M and the archdiocese continued on an even keel until Mahony wrote to M-and-M stating that any future negotiations should go through Ferraro, who, in turn, invited M-and-M to sit on the liturgical commission board - and to give the commission a list of their suppliers.

According to Turbay, he and Rock told Ferraro they could not provide a list of suppliers, because it was proprietary information. Further, he said, it would be a conflict of interest to be asking for business while serving on the commission judging the business.

(M-and-M would remain quite busy in the diocese: doing business with the Propagation of Faith's Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray, later All Souls pastor; helping with the interior design of Los Angeles' landmark church for the deaf, Holy Angels; and other contracts.)

Rock and Mahony exchanged letters regarding M-and-M's inability to work through Ferraro. Not long after Celebration |86, Mahony was in Rome to receive the pallium (the white woolen shoulder cape worn by bishops as a mark of office); Turbay and Rock were present as members of the Los Angeles contingent.

They were in the piazza of St. Peter's when Mahony delightedly announced that the pope had agreed to visit Los Angeles on his projected 1987 U.S. visit. Turbay and Rock were with Mahony when he called O'Malley from Rome asking again for the stadium,

Turbay said Mahony tben asked them to do for the pope's visit what they did for Celebration |86. They willingly agreed.

NCR: Did you handle the pope's visit?

Turbay: No, we were blackballed.

NCR: Why?

Turbay: Doug (Ferraro) controlled the whole thing. Nothing appeared in the entire Tidings (the archdiocesan newspaper), even though we had given a quarter-million dollars worth of vestments to all the bishops. We begged Mahony for tickets the day before the event; we didn't even have tickets for our people who had worked and helped.

NCR: What was the quarter-million dollar gift?

Turbay: We promised Mahony these vestments for the papal Mass at Dodger Stadium. One thing we knew - it was going to be a Red Mass. For advertising purposes - we're a public company and (the vestments) had to be an advertising expense and approved by the board - it was a fantastic opportunity. We gave a miter and a red vestment to every bishop.

But the liturgy committee (Ferraro) had already given these vestments to the National Shrine (of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.), and they thought they were going to get 350 white vestments, their preference.

Richard (Rock) wrote to Mahony: "We want to give you this gift, but it has to go to every bishop to keep. We cannot give you a quarter-million-dollar gift to do with as you will." Every bishop in the country knows those miters with our name and everything in them. We got a whole lot of thank-you cards.


But M-and-M was riding for a fall. The overexpansion was catching up. Turbay's lawyer, Karen Pulliam, said the overheads were too high. Because it was a public company, she said, M-and-M had been taking on additional expenses, up to a quarter-million dollars annually, to add management staff to cope with Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements and quarterly reports.

Turbay and Rock were on tbe road much of the time, selling; junior management was insufficiently supervised. she said. The firm, at this stage of it, development, said Pulliam, should have been funded by venture capital, not public offerings.

(All this was part of M-and-M's November 1991 decision to take shelter under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws, which allow a company under court protection to reorganize its affairs. M-and-M is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 in "three or four months," said Pulliam.)

Credit card problems

But another event had occurred in Turbay's and Rock's life. Their friend Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray, in October 1990, was named pastor of All Souls. Turbay had known Alzugaray in the early 1970s, when he was an assistant pastor.

Alzugaray was in charge of Propagation of the Faith and the archdiocesan mission activities, and Martinez and Murphey later sold him $300,000 dollars worth of goods for the missions and to refurbish the house where returning lay missioners stayed.

During that period, too, Alzugaray was traveling extensively around the world - though, as Turbay told it, the archdiocesan machinery moved so slowly with Alzugaray's reimbursements that the priest was having credit card difficulties.

No problem, said Turbay. Martinez and Murphey offered to let Alzugaray use one of their credit cards to pay bills until he was reimbursed, which, according to a later exchange of letters between the archdiocese and Martinez and Murphey, was what happened. Or part of what happened, for it took, in Turbay's words $100,000 in fees to straighten out the mess the arrangement got Martinez and Murphey into.

Pulliam: This one, too, is another instance of Richard (Rock) and William (Turbay) making a mistake based on being too generous. Monsignor was having credit cards denied him because the archdiocese was not promptly paying his credit card bills.... He was traveling around the world, and you can't land in Africa with your credit card denied. They tried to come to the rescue.

Turbay: We didn't put "loan" (on the Martinez and Murphey internal computer accounts listing), which was the proper thing to do, in hindsight. Our auditors (inquired about the items), and we opened up our files.

We went through a lot of rigmarole. .. and received a letter back from Bishop John Ward saying everything was OK, you paid Monsignor's credit cards and nobody did anything wrong.

I think they've tried to blackmail Monsignor with this credit card thing. I think the problem (was) this feeling there was something irregular going on.


Alzugaray's new parish was falling apart physically; maintenance problems, asbestos problems, declining enrollment in school and church, a shabby and worsening physical plant. As Turbay described it, Alzugaray hired a woman religious as pastoral assistant, and she in turn asked Richard Rock to assist as unpaid liturgist, with Turbay, also a volunteer, helping out as "chief cook and bottle washer."

Within a year, the parish was popping. It was a lot of fun," said Turbay; attendance at everything was growing. But the woman religious eventually left. Turbay said a rift had occurred between her and him and Rock.

Turbay: She felt in her heart she was not being used properly, that she wasn't part of the boys' club.

NCR: Was she right?

Turbay: I didn't belong to the administration of the parish, had nothing to do with the finances, liturgy. Richard was in charge. Anything she asked me for I put together.

NCR: In a detached way, standing back a bit, did it look as if the three of you - you, Rock and Alzugaray - were running the parish?

Pulliam: The three of you had been buddies for a long time.

NCR: What about the impression you gave?

Turbay. You can ask the monsignor, because Roger Carmody came and asked that same question. Monsignor, without saying anything to us, started asking everybody, "Hey, do you think these guys are doing your job, or have taken over the parish?" Obviously, when you hear the (videotape), we were a total service.

NCR: At the same time, is Martinez and Murphey doing business with the parish?

Turbay: Yes.

NCR: When did that start?

Turbay: About four months after Monsignor came. Problem was, he didn't have any money. We had either extra things in the showroom - we put in the carpet for his room - he knew he was going to get money (from the Alhambra City Council contract) and said, "I'll pay you when I get cash."

Pulliam: On the basis of that (Alhambra deal - estimated to produce $12,500 a month)) the company (M-and-M) took a credit risk?

Turbay: Yes, knowing that he would. All our auditors knew about it.

NCR. Get back to appearances. You've got the same (apparent coziness) going on at All Souls (as when Monsignor Alzugaray was at Propagation and M-and-M had lent him a credit card). Don't any alarm bells go off? Ever?

Turbay: I guess ... appearances, you just never ... like when you're trying to be . . . when you're not thinking maliciously ... that's the problem....

NCR: You're a businessman. Don't you (even recognize) an appearance of conflict of interest?

Turbay: Richard Riordan (Mahony's personal lawyer and Carmody's lawyer in the M-and-M and Carmody lawsuit) can give Mahony a helicopter to fly around in all over the place.

NCR: He did it publicly, and here you are having to correct something in a computer (on the credit card matter).

Turbay: We didn't correct anything in a computer.

NCR: Here you are with a code on a computer (that) you have to spend $100,000 to straighten out.

Turbay: Yes.

NCR: Then you go through this "who's doing what?" business (at All Souls) - nothing publicly said in the parish about what your roles are by Monsignor - so, again, people don't know what's going on.

Turbay: That's right. And the easy thing (would have been) to explain what was going on. No one afforded us the opportunity ever to say anything.

Monsignor loses parish

Altogether, said Turbay, M-and-M did about $100,000 worth of business with All Souls, mainly for liturgical supplies, of which $57,486.53 is still owing. In April 1992, Carmody approached Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray about wanting to resign from the parish finance council, and apparently the pastor asked him to wait for a further six months, until there was income from the Alhambra contract.

On May 11, 1992, Carmody wrote his letter to Alzugaray with the blind copy to the chancery.

May 13: the archdiocese's lawyer sent a letter saying no one in the archdiocese could do business with Martinez and Murphey except through Bishop Stephen Blaire - Blaire on May 22 memorialized this in a note to all pastors.

May 21: Alzugaray met with Mahony and was handed a letter informing him of a parish audit. The pastor was asked to ask Turbay and Rock to remove themselves from the parish. The audit apparently found no irregularities (the Los Angeles arcbdiocese would not confirm or deny that to NCR).

Irony augmented tragedy. On the evening of the day Alzugaray was informed he was losing his parish, and knowing the accuser behind the action, Alzugaray evenhandedly praised Carmody at a parish gathering honoring volunteers. In July, Alzugaray was told to take an extended vacation and not return to All Souls.

In a September letter to Mahony , the priests of the deanery made it clear that whatever the circumstances in the parish, there had been a serious lack of due process for the pastor.

Again, without taking a stand on the issues, they sent a letter of personal support to Alzugaray. Not until after the deanery letter was Alzugaray given an assignment, at St. Martin of Tours Parish. And the parishioners? May. June. July. August. September. October.

The were told nothing, despite the rumors surrounding Alzugaray, Turbay and Rock. Finally, the only weak signal given that Alzugaray was not in total disgrace was his eventual reassignment.

Alzugaray, no fighter, has refused to be vocal on his own behalf, refused the urging of priest friends to fight for due process. He did not return telephone calls requesting an interview for this article. Friends say Alzugaray is disillusioned and frustrated, studying his options, including possibly transferring to another diocese.

No hearing date has yet been set for the seven-count suit billed by the plaintiffs as "the Carmody conspiracy."

L.A. archdiocesan

priests will hold

assembly to discuss

their roles, image

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles archdiocesan priests will hold an October assembly to examine their roles and image, an assembly in part prompted by the All Souls and other parish incidents. Last month, the archdiocesan Priests' Council voiced support for the assembly.

In addition to a spiritual component, the October gathering will probably have several elements, including discussions of how to tackle the overall public image of priests while a small minority of priests are accused of sexual abuse, misappropriation of funds or other forms of pastoral nonaccountability. The state of due process for priests is another likely agenda issue.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Catholic Reporter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:All Souls Parish, Alhambra, California
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Mar 12, 1993
Previous Article:Fired pastor tip of L.A. iceberg.
Next Article:'The toughest break is what they did to Monsignor.' (Monsignor Joe Alzugaray; All Souls Parish, Alhambra, California) (Panel Discussion)

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters