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WESTON, MO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Missouri bishop is shutting down a questionable fundraiser reported for fraud.
Martin Navarro, who refers to himself as an Augustinian monk, in spite of having no recognition from any religious community, announced in a May 17 video that Bp. James Johnston of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO is refusing to grant him permission to establish a religious community in his diocese, along with a number of other prohibitions.
"I will not allow nor encourage the founding of another Augustinian diocesan 'religious' community," the bishop writes in his May 6 letter. "I have not given nor will I give approval or permission to explore, found or establish the community about which you have previously inquired."
The bishop goes on to forbid him from representing himself as a religious.
I further direct that you do not use the religious title of 'Brother Martin' at any time nor dress in a religious habit, since in justice and truth, your canonical status is not one of membership within a religious community; such continued usage is both disingenuous and dishonest.
In response to Navarro's prior communication informing the bishop he had used donations from his fundraiser to build a chapel on leased property, the bishop writes: "I have given no approval whatsoever for such a chapel to be erected nor do I permit the use of the aforementioned 'leased property' for any sacred celebrations under any circumstance."
Citing "additional information" he received that "greatly troubled and perplexed" him, Bp. Johnston bans Navarro from further fundraising in his diocese: "I direct that ... you and those you have gathered around you are to cease and desist immediately your 'pious and ecclesiastical' collecting of alms and/or fundraising."
Church Militant previously reported on Navarro's fundraiser, launched in May 2021, ostensibly to "purchase a monastery" for Navarro's "growing community."
That fundraiser was launched with the help of and bearing the logo of Restoring the Faith Media, owned by Mike Parrott. Parrott also served as team member on the fundraiser, bringing in donations from others.
Parrott has been involved in other questionable fundraisers that have drawn federal scrutiny.
In the May 2021 video, Navarro — wearing a habit and giving the appearance of a being a monk in a recognized religious community — raised more than $170,000 on the promise his community would offer the Traditional Latin Mass and other sacraments.
To bolster this impression, the fundraiser prominently featured Augustinian priest Fr. John Melnick.
Fr. Melnick has confirmed, however, that he is not a member of Navarro's community, nor has he lived with Navarro for nearly a year.
Navarro himself admits in his latest video that his community has no priests.
"I told him [the bishop] before that there were no public liturgies, no priests offering any of the sacraments whatever here," Navarro says at about 25 minutes into the video.
Church Militant has confirmed Navarro's charity is not registered in Missouri. Thus his fundraiser lacks both legal and canonical approval.
Last year, both Navarro and Parrott hid from the public their plan that Navarro live on Parrott's property in Missouri, refusing to answer questions and deceptively claiming in November that Parrott had not received "a single penny" of donations, in spite of a lease dated Sept. 21, 2021 signed by both Navarro and Parrott agreeing to pay Parrott to live on the property.
In spite of a legal and moral obligation to be transparent about use of donations for his charity, Navarro would not respond to the following queries in November:
He and Parrott were forced to admit the arrangement after Church Militant exposed it in December.
Church Militant also discovered Navarro's charity, the Oblates of St. Augustine, was out of compliance with Florida bylaws, failing to have the required three members on its board of directors, and falsely claiming the charity was still headquartered in Florida after Navarro had moved to Parrott's home in Missouri.
Parrott purchased his four-home Missouri property in August for more than $600,000 cash. It remains unclear where and how Parrott obtained so much cash.
Church Militant also confirmed that Navarro's community remains a community of one, with no other members.
The Missouri fundraiser has drawn the scrutiny of federal agents, along with another fundraiser Parrott launched for a priest arrested for child porn in Rhode Island.
Emails between Parrott and John Calcagni III, the attorney for Fr. James Jackson, FSSP, reveal Parrott tried to get a kickback in donations for personal expenses. That could be considered wire fraud.
Church Militant sued Parrott for defamation in November, after he launched a smear campaign in an attempt to deflect questions about his Jackson fundraiser.
Parrott has spent months trying to raise money for his litigation, airing deceptive videos defaming Church Militant, then profiting off his falsehoods.
His latest video falsely accused Church Militant of being funded by "dark money" from a "secret" for-profit corporation, Concept Communication, LLC.
Parrott's accusations fall apart in light of the fact that Concept Communication was dissolved in 2017, as clearly stated in public records, and does not exist.
This information is easily found online. Parrott either failed to exercise due diligence or deliberately omitted the information in an attempt to paint Church Militant as "slush-funded liars" in order to raise more money for himself.
In spite of the bishop's lawful orders, Navarro spends the remaining time in his video arguing that the canons cited in the bishop's letter do not apply to him.
Disobeying the bishop's bans, Navarro continues to refer to himself as "Br. Martin" and dons a religious habit in his videos.
In a May 13 "Rundown" episode, Navarro directly defies the bishop's order not to fundraise, urging other Catholics to disobey as well.
"One of the things he explicitly asked me not to do was to fundraise money," Navarro says, then directs viewers to donate at his fundraising page so they can "help us preserve the traditional Augustinian charism and Catholic religious life."
In his May 17 video, Navarro paints himself as a victim of the bishop's "persecution" of a traditionalist community, rather than admitting it is the bishop's clear concerns over Navarro's problematic fundraiser that led to his refusal to grant permission to establish a religious community.
Navarro's disobedience may trigger canonical penalties, as warned by Bp. Johnston in his letter.
"The gravity of these matters requires me to state further that failure to observe these provisions shall be deemed a violation of canon 1371, sec. 2 and could result in further disciplinary actions," Johnston notes. "Accordingly, this letter itself stands as due canonical warning of the same."
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