Mystic Monks Scandal- Controversy Surrounding the Carmelite Monks Religious Order. Founded in 2003 by Bishop Ricken and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, the Carmelite Monks is a religious organization dedicated to a life of prayer and teachings of the Catholic Church. The organization sits on the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, near the famous Yellowstone National Park.
Over the years, the Carmelite Monks, also known as the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, have been the subject of study and discussion for various reasons. One of the reasons is the brilliant business strategy of Father Daniel Mary, the founder of the religious organization.
Father Daniel Mary left his father’s ranch in Minnesota to establish Carmelite Monks with authority from the Diocese of Cheyenne. Initially, Mount Carmel monastery could only accommodate 13 monks at a time. He had to think of ways to expand the monastery because more faithful were inquiring about joining the monastery.
For this reason, Father Daniel Mary came up with a business idea to help support the daily livelihood of monks and generate revenue to expand the monastery. He had identified a 500-acre ranch for sale nearby, the Irma Lake Ranch, that was for sale for atleast $8.9 million.
Church donations were inadequate, barely reaching the $250,000 mark. Father Daniel had to develop a technique to generate more funds to support his plan of expanding the monastery.
In 2007, he founded Mystic Monks Coffee, a coffee roaster to produce and sells coffee. The monks at the organization worked on and roasted the best Arabica coffee variety, making one of the highest-quality coffee blends in America.
Mystic Monks Coffee became a bestseller, especially among the Catholic faithful who saw an opportunity to support the good cause of expanding the monastery. The monastery was mainly selling coffee online on Amazon and its official website.
Over the years, Mystic Monks Coffee became a success, and the monastery generated enough money. Donors and buyers were happy because, finally, the monastery would buy the million-dollar ranch and expand the organization. The plan was to build a worship center, retreat center, and a hermitage for the monks.
To the surprise of many faithful donors, controversy rocked the Carmelite Monks and Mystic Monks Coffee brand in 2010. It emerged that instead of saving the money to purchase the 500-acre ranch, Father Daniel Mary and his organization were misusing the funds, spending it on expensive repairs of the old monastery instead of building a new monastery.
At the same time, it came to light that they did not buy the original land meant to hold the new and vast monastery. Instead, they purchased a $7.5 million ranch in the Mountains of Wyoming besides using the funds on personal uses.
Another issue raised by the public was a misrepresentation of the monks’ way of life and its widespread use as a marketing tactic. Later, a former postulant, Augustine Inferrera, accused the monastery of abuse and non-religious ways.
He wrote a 49-page report to the Bishop of Cheyenne. He also did an interview with a conservative organization, Church Militant, to share more on the accusations. A major accusation involved one of the monastery’s longest-serving monks, Brother Paul Bennier, assaulting him physically. In the report, Inferrera accused Bennier of choking him and pointing a masonry trawl at him.
The Bennier case also involved the local authorities, and after investigations, he was found guilty of assault. The court sentenced him to six months probation and a fine. However, the police waived the fine because the monk was not in a position toc raise the money.
Amid the Mystic Monks Scandal and the accusations by Inferrera, Father Daniel Mary resigned. The Bishop of Cheyenne also wrote to Inferrera, assuring him that he had thoroughly investigated the monastery and directed the monks to make the necessary changes.
The Mystic Monks Scandal ignited a conversation among the public on how religious organizations are run. Several shortcomings arose, including a lack of transparency, oversight from independent bodies and authorities, and embezzlement of donor funds.
When donors and Catholic faithful discovered the Carmelite Monks organization embezzled their donated funds, they felt betrayed. Their good cause to support the expansion of the monastery was used for personal gains and non-religious purposes. This instance would never have happened if the organization had been transparent in its activities.
If there were transparency, stakeholders would know what the monks were up to and act accordingly. With no one to ask critical questions about the developments going on in the monastery, the monks had their way with the donated funds.
For the most part, religious organizations are exempted from laws that govern other non-profits. These exemptions include taxation, oversight by authorities, or audits on revenue and expenditure. Considering the profits generated from the Mystic Monks Coffee brand, it seems wrong to entrust the management of such huge funds to a few leaders in a private organization.
This is a wake-up call to stakeholders to initiate the necessary legislation to oversee and audit religious organizations like Carmelite Monks. When such laws are implemented, they will protect donor funds and members’ contributions and make it a fair playing field for other non-profits.
Another challenge that clearly shows in the Mystic Monks Scandal is the embezzlement of donor funds. Carmelite Monks is a private organization with leaders who are only answerable to the Diocese of Cheyenne. In case of funds embezzlement, donors cannot raise their concerns with local authorities because such a case would be beyond their role.
In this light, it’s clear that religious organizations need to be held accountable for donor funds’ embezzlement. The best way would be to involve independent authority instead of depending on a higher religious authority like a diocese.
Mystic Monks Scandal involves a Carmelite Monks organization in Wyoming that established a coffee roaster to process coffee and sell it to raise funds to support and expand their monastery. The funds raised through sales and donors would be used to purchase a 500-acre ranch to expand the monastery.
However, in 2010, donors and Mystic Monks Coffee consumers were surprised to learn that the religious organization was using the funds on expensive repairs and renovations of the current site and personal uses.
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