News

‘Monkey Jesus’ back in the news after Spanish priest is accused of stealing Catholic Church funds

I RETURNED to Spain today from a series of  Freethinker business meetings in the UK (I do apologise for being unable to update the blog for a few days due to admin matters) to discover that just about everyone here talking about the arrest of the priest in charge of a Catholic church in the town of Borja.

Back in 2011, the church, Santuario de Misericordia, became the focus of international media attention when a pensioner in her 80s decided that that a Jesus fresco in the church – Ecce Homo, which means “Behold the Man” – needed touching-up.

Celia Giménez’s effort turned the church and the town into a laughing stock – but soon the church, and the good folk of Borja were laughing all the way to the bank as thousands flocked to see Gimenez’s botched effort. Thoughts of undoing the damage were ditched when people realised they had a lucrative tourist attraction on their hands.

Ecce

The new icon, which quickly became known as “Ecce Mono” for its likeness to a monkey drew some 70,000 tourists within the first year, bringing much-needed custom for local businesses.

Proceeds from an entrance fee charged by the church were destined to go towards its upkeep and to fund a charitable retirement home with 73 residents.

But what’s got people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes here is that much of the income has allegedly been filched by the church’s parish priest, Florencio Garces, 70. He was arrested on Friday for allegedly pocketing church funds of about £174,000.

Garces was detained by Guardia Civil on suspicion of misappropriating funds, of money laundering … oh, and sexual abuse.

Francisco Miguel Avilla, the mayor of Borja, said last year:

When I first saw it, I thought a vandal had deliberately destroyed a masterpiece. But then we discovered it was Cecilia, who is well known in the town and who has had a hard life, who with good intentions had attempted to restore it.

He added:

We’ve had hordes of people – 35,000 from August to December – coming to the town just to see the painting. They pay a €1 (80p) entrance fee and stay overnight and eat in local restaurants. That painting isn’t making anyone rich, but it’s keeping businesses in this town from closing.

On weekends and holidays it is virtually impossible to eat in Borja’s restaurants without a reservation.

Garces was released without bail after appearing before an investigating magistrate in Tarazona on Sunday and an investigation opened into the alleged crimes. Five other people were arrested on related charges.

Police said they could not disclose whether the alleged crimes were directly connected to entrance fees collected at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church.

Residents of the town, which has a population of 5,000, expressed shock at the allegations and defended their priest. Giménez said:

We haven’t been told the details of the allegations, but as far as I know he is a lovely man who has cared for this community for more than 20 years.

Celia Giménez

Celia Giménez

Earlier, Giménez told the media she believed that she was entitled to a cut of the windfall she created for the town. She complained:

I’ve got nothing from this, everyone else is making money and I’m just criticised for making this ugly thing.

Giménez is actually a fairly accomplished painter. One of her landscapes was donated to Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity, and sold for €1,000 (£880) on eBay after a flurry of bids, and she has been invited to exhibit her work at galleries in Spain and beyond.

Of Ecce Mono she said:

I’ve had lots of exhibitions and sold work to people in the town. As an artist, one wants to be known, but not for creating something one isn’t proud of, not for being a joke.  I would at the very least have liked the chance to finish it in a proper way.

Ecce Mono spawned inspired hundreds of Photoshop artists to create a variety of images based on the Monkey Jesus. Here are just two.

Ecce Mono inspired hundreds of Photoshop artists to create a variety of images based on the Monkey Jesus. Here are just two.

 Hat tip: BarrieJohn

27 responses to “‘Monkey Jesus’ back in the news after Spanish priest is accused of stealing Catholic Church funds”

  1. barriejohn says:

    I still don’t understand what she was blathering on about; you don’t restore a painting by erasing it and doing it again! Perhaps this would help her:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tLg_nI1KbEc/TibCfG3KhhI/AAAAAAAABhM/OBIVlgOHjuM/s1600/paint-by-numbers-jesus3-crop2.jpg

  2. AgentCormac says:

    I see that Michael Adebowale, one of the two muslim murders of soldier Lee Rigby has said in court today that, ‘I did it for my God.’

    Religion of peace my arse.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    Sorry, link to story here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25198859

  4. David Anderson says:

    Residents of the town, which has a population of 5,000, expressed shock at the allegations and defended their priest. Giménez said:

    “We haven’t been told the details of the allegations, but as far as I know he is a lovely man who has cared for this community for more than 20 years.”

    No shit Sherlock. Plenty of people thought Ted Bundy was an ok guy.

  5. barriejohn says:

    More here, including her picture that sold on eBay:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/ecce-homo-cecilia-gimenez-ebay-beast-jesus_n_2283908.html

    Quote: “No one knows what Jesus looked like”!

  6. Broga says:

    I wonder what these thieving priests spend all the money on. This priest is alleged to have pocketed £174,000. What does he spend it on: booze, birds, expensive cars, classy holidays. All a bit too obvious for a humble man of the cloth.

    I see Frankie is creeping out at night and giving money secretly to the poor. Tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t I? What a great guy. Don’t you just love him? Except that the nocturnal and secret expeditions are not so secret that the Papal PR machine cannot make them internationally known.

  7. Angela_K says:

    “…misappropriating funds, money laundering and sexual abuse”. The average good Catholic Priest then.

  8. charlie says:

    That old tasty mint doG sure liked blood sacrifices also. Nasty old vengeful critter with a huge thirst for blood as I recall.

  9. Stuart H. says:

    ‘I see Frankie is creeping out at night and giving money secretly to the poor.’
    Comes to something when the head of the Catholic church has to do what it says on the tin in secret.
    What’s he afraid of? Setting an example his employees can’t live up to, or the cardinals cutting up rough because the coke, champagne and hookers fund is a bit light?

  10. David Anderson says:

    O/T Meanwhile, under the leadership of Mariano Rajoy, Spain continues to march steadfastly back to the days of Franco. He has steamrollered throuh parliament “Werts Law” (named after the education minister José Ignacio Wert). This law will allow more religión in schools and calls for the segragation of students by gender. How gender will be determined has not been addressed.

    Also, prompted by the growing discontent towards his government, a new law will come into forcé in January that punishes “offences against Spain”. These offences include “public acts such as shouting or carrying placards that are harmful or abusive of Spain or any región.”

    Dare I mention fascism?

    Sorry for the O/T, but I had to vent.

  11. AgentCormac says:

    I’m just criticised for making this ugly thing.

    Actually, Cecilia, the really ugly thing was made by Paul, Constantine, Benedict, Aquinas, et al. They were the charlatans who managed to sell the world a pack of superstitious claptrap dressed up as truth. (Rather than your own painting of jesus dressed up as a primate.)

  12. Caute says:

    Spain is headed for trouble. The Catalans want out.

    Back to the story. What is so newsworthy about this story. Everyone knows that the rcc is the biggest most brazen bunch of scammers bar none. The BBC suspended my account for declaring on their news website that the rcc is the biggest criminal organisation in the world. And I thought the bbc news dealt in facts and data. Wrong.

  13. AgentCormac says:

    @Caute

    BBC? Talk to Broga about this one!

  14. barriejohn says:

    Did you read that Pope Frankie used to be a bouncer? Make up your own jokes:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/pope-bouncer-francis-buenos-aires_n_4378446.html

  15. Broga says:

    @Caute: BBC, just a couple of snippets from our reliable, objective broadcaster. The BBC said the funding for chaplains in hospitals had been cut by 40 per cent. The National Secular Society, using Freedom of Information legislation, discovered that spending had increased. The BBC refused to correct the lie.

    When the objectivity of the BBC was being reviewed they managed to exclude Thought for the Day. When even one of their own senior staff said secular opinions should be included on TfTD the BBC refused. They said the question of who would appear on TfTD would not be reopened. And we pay the license fee.

    Regarding TfTD you get an honest reaction to this dreary three minutes from Platitude for the Day.

  16. Pluto Animus says:

    Typical Catholic priest — corrupt garbage.

  17. Robster says:

    Good to hear the town’s restaurants are doing well out of the amusingly ruined jesus painting, but no surprises that a clergyman has run off with the cash. Religion really is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Surely £174,000 would buy lots and lots of jesus flavoured wine and crackers, that would help the local restaurants too, mind you they might complain that the jesus crackers and blood wine meals at the local church eatery might be seen as competition for the restaurants and local KFC/Maccas.

  18. barriejohn says:

    Hallelujah – she was right! Here is a sign from heaven to confirm the authenticity of her image:

    http://ts4.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4716502345253191&pid=1.7

    What do you say to that, doubters?

  19. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Er, barriejohn, that looks like a picture of a banana. What’s the connection?

  20. barriejohn says:

    You must look with the eye of faith!

  21. Angela_K says:

    Ah yes, the Banana designed by god in that shape to fit in the human hand! Was it the id-iot Ken Ham that came up with that one?

  22. barriejohn says:

    Angela: It was Ray Comfort, but they’re both cast in the same mould. He later claimed that it was a joke, but I’m not so sure!

    http://zabimaru.hubpages.com/hub/the-atheists-nightmare

  23. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    barriejohn
    Posted December 4, 2013 at 11:13 AM
    You must look with the eye of faith!

    That’s me stuffed then!

  24. John C says:

    Any money kept out of the hands of the catholic church is money well stolen in my book.The priest did us all a favour,hopefully he spent it wisely on wine women and song.

  25. barriejohn says:

    John C: He spent 90% of the money on beer and women and the rest he wasted! (Attributed to George Best, but much older I think.)