My Friend, George

News: Commentary
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 20, 2023   

Hard-nosed journalist and man of integrity

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One of the last times I saw George Neumayr was at a private retreat in Sabilasville, Md. last summer. An intimate and rural setting under the August sun, we were with a handful of friends. We would gather each day for various talks and discussions, and meet up at night for a home-cooked meal, drinks and conversation.

I hadn't seen George since Baltimore, when he spoke at Church Militant's "Bishops: Enough Is Enough" rally in 2021. "From faithless bishops come faithless Catholic politicians," George said to the crowd during his talk, indicting the prelates across the street in the Marriott Waterfront Hotel as they held their annual meeting.

George was heartbroken over the state of the Church. He knew much of the blame could be laid at the feet of corrupt and cowardly bishops, many who either refused to preach the truth, or tolerated and even facilitated compromise with the world. He understood that the reason a radically pro-abortion Catholic was sitting in the White House was owing to the failure of the bishops — their decades-long failure to teach the truth to their flock, to confront and vigorously oppose evil legislation, to call out compromised Catholic politicians.

George was that rare type of journalist: dogged in his pursuit of truth, tenacious in exposing corruption, courageous in confronting the powerful.

George was that rare type of journalist: dogged in his pursuit of truth, tenacious in exposing corruption, courageous in confronting the powerful. He was a man of honesty and integrity. He understood the purpose of journalism: to confront and expose corruption, especially among the powerful and the elite, and he did so fearlessly.

Unlike most journalists, satisfied to research from the comfort of their desks, George was a shoe-leather investigator who went straight to the scene. Because of that, he broke stories no one else did. In fact, he broke some of the biggest stories in Catholic media — and never received the credit he deserved.

Breaking Stories No One Else Would

It was George who discovered where Cdl. Theodore McCarrick was living in 2018, during the Summer of Shame, when it was revealed to the world America's most powerful cardinal had been a homosexual predator.

Visiting the 5,000-square-foot mansion at 4110 Warren Street and knocking on the door, he was (amazingly) able to gain entry, engaging in conversation with the maid. Later in the driveway he confronted archdiocesan spokesman Ed McFadden, who contradicted himself by saying he did not know whether McCarrick was inside before flatly denying he was inside at all.

"We need answers from Theodore McCarrick," Neumayr told McFadden in the videotaped confrontation. "We want to know from Theodore McCarrick if Cdl. Wuerl knew about his misconduct. We deserve answers. The abuse victims deserve answers, Ed."

A huge story — but most Catholic media (outside of Church Militant) expressed no interest. 

Because of his exposé, Cdl. Donald Wuerl was forced to scramble to find new living quarters for McCarrick, sending him off to Salina, Kan. in short order.

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George Neumayr exposed Cdl. Donald Wuerl's lush living quarters

in a rooftop penthouse in D.C. elite Embassy Row

It was George who exposed Wuerl's lush living quarters in a $43 million property on D.C.'s elite Embassy Row — a discovery that led to questions about Wuerl's handling of archdiocesan funds.

Going to the scene, George entered the property, where the first floor houses a chapel. Inside, a priest with bleached hair and an earring confirmed to him Wuerl lived on the top floor. George was denied access to that level.

Later observing from outside, he witnessed a Mercedes Benz emerging from Wuerl's garage. He immediately walked up to the driver and struck up a conversation. The man — with a flamboyant and effeminate affectation — revealed he was Wuerl's personal "chef." He would arrive in the morning and spend most of the day in Wuerl's penthouse, leaving in the late afternoon.

After George made inquiries with the archdiocese to confirm if in fact this "chef" was a paid archdiocesan employee — queries the archdiocese refused to answer — the chef abruptly disappeared.

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It was George who exposed the alleged

double life of Msgr. Walter Rossi

It was George who exposed the alleged double life of Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. George exposed Rossi's links to Scranton priest Fr. Andrew Hvozdovic, both of whose names are on the deed to a Florida beach property on Fort Lauderdale's pricey Galt Ocean Mile — a well-known gay hotspot.

He also exposed Rossi's condo in Atlantic City, NJ, a place he shared with disgraced homosexual priest Matthew Riedlinger, caught in a gay, underage sexting sting in 2013. Riedlinger lists among his former addresses Rossi's NJ property, where Riedlinger received mail (directly confirmed by George himself, who visited the condo and saw the trove of letters in Rossi's mailbox).

Shortly after George's exposé, Rossi sold off his Atlantic City condo.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò would later confirm that Rossi had been handpicked by McCarrick for the Shrine.

"Monsignor Rossi is, without a doubt, a member of the 'gay mafia,'" Viganò confirmed in June 2019.

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It was George who exposed Franciscan University

of Steubenville's ties to Wuerl protegé William Gorman

It was George who exposed Franciscan University of Steubenville's troubling ties to Wuerl, employing Wuerl protegé William Gorman as Chief Operations Officer.

"Gorman, whom Sheridan hand picked to oversee the Notre Dame-ization of Steubenville, had worked in Wuerl's chancery under Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout," George wrote in a Nov. 29, 2018 article, "whose ruthless service for the molester Theodore McCarrick and Wuerl resulted in his promotion to head up the large archdiocese of Richmond, Virginia." 

He continued:

Before my American Spectator article complicated their plans — in its wake, Sheridan has launched a PR campaign to refurbish the "orthodox" image of the school through conservative-sounding op-eds in outlets such as Real Clear Religion — they had every intention of inviting gay-rights propagandists to speak on Steubenville's campus, and Gorman had been pushing for transgender protections, among other heterodox anomalies.

After George exposed the scheme, Franciscan University — under public pressure — cut ties with Gorman.

George never shied away from asking hard questions, leading to uncomfortable confrontations.

It was George who confirmed — directly from the mouth of Cdl. Joseph Tobin himself — that Tobin had allowed an Italian underwear model to live in his Newark rectory for many weeks, before shuttling him off back to Italy when the scandal became public.

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It was George who confirmed directly from Tobin that he had allowed

an Italian underwear model to live in his Newark rectory

The encounter happened in the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, just as the bishops' 2018 annual meeting was wrapping up. George found himself in the lobby with Tobin, and asked him whether it was true he had housed actor and model Francesco Castiglione in his rectory. 

"He said that Castiglione was taking 'language classes' at Seton Hall," George wrote. "Asked why he would provide temporary housing to a random Seton Hall student, Tobin couldn't offer an explanation."

George continued to press Tobin:

"Was Castiglione the real recipient of the 'Nighty-Night Baby' tweet?" Tobin stuck with his story about sending it to a family member. "I sent that to my sister," he said. I asked him if she could provide proof of that. That didn't go over well. "I don’t have to prove anything to you," he said, as he started to walk away from me.

In Rome, during the 2019 Amazon Synod, George didn't pass up the chance to politely confront Tobin again, accompanied by Boston's Cdl. Sean O'Malley and then-Bp. Robert McElroy of San Diego.

"You said, Cdl. Tobin, that the Church has to rethink human sexuality," George asked in the videotaped encounter. "What did that mean?"

Tobin threw his head back, guffawing, before proceeding to ignore him as they walked the night-time streets near the Borgo Pio.

"Aren't you concerned that that could confuse and scandalize the faithful?" George pressed. "The faithful have a right to know what the Church currently stands for and currently teaches."

O'Malley accused him of asking "hostile questions."

"I don't think they are," George said. "Don't you understand the anguish of orthodox Catholics at seeing the Faith be played with like this?"

"I'm not trying to be hostile, I know that this comes across — but that's the only way we can talk with you, because your communications directors will never give us a hearing," he continued. "We don't get invited to press conferences. We don't get a chance to talk to you guys, so this is the only way I can approach you."
 
O'Malley, the only one willing to engage, listened politely before George ended the encounter with a "thank you" and "God bless you." It was George's consistent sign-off, to friend and foe alike: "God bless you."

Backlash

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Our last photo together, at Church Militant's

Call to Action Conference in August 2022, where George

took part in a panel discussion on research and investigation

While he had the toughness and tenacity of a true investigative journalist, privately George was a gentle and sensitive soul. He wasn't prepared for the backlash to his work. That backlash contributed to his struggles with depression in the midst of exposing some of the Church's most corrupt men.

As any serious investigative journalist knows, our work can often be thankless. We spend months, sometimes years, chasing down a story, gathering evidence, speaking to witnesses, dealing with some of the most unsavory, disturbing, at times heartrending, matters — all in an effort to find truth and expose evil, in the hopes of obtaining some measure of justice for victims and bringing about reform.

The reaction is not always one of gratitude — at times, quite the opposite. 

"Speaking truth to power," the platitude that sums up the work of true journalists, riles the powerful, who have resources and allies in government and media to hit back. And if they are famous figures with a large following, they'll use their unwitting supporters to rally to their cause.

In December 2015, while attending Wuerl's book-signing event in Washington, before asking a single question, the cardinal had two policemen throw George out of the building.

"I've been treated worse than enemies of the Church, and I just don't understand that," Neumayr told Church Militant at the time.

With George, the way they hit back — clergy and laity alike — was to ignore him and dismiss him as unhinged, over the top, inappropriate. He was treated like a pariah. Catholic establishment media, lacking in courage or conviction, looked down on his bulldog tactics, ignoring him while giving a major platform to Wuerl, Tobin and other wicked clergy George was trying to expose. 

During those hot August days in Maryland, George and I talked at length about many of these things.

During those hot August days in Maryland, George and I talked at length about many of these things. He was open about his struggle with depression, his frustration with being treated like a "crazy" outcast by others in media. His work, instead of being recognized as valuable and crucial — which it was — was ridiculed, mocked, written off.

Friends he expected to support him did not always do so, leaving him feeling even more alone. It was something for which he was unprepared, and which he had a hard time handling.

He also spoke about the passing of his father, a man whom he respected enormously and with whom he had been close, someone who had always supported his work. It was clear his father's death had left a profound mark on George, and whose absence he felt keenly.

We conversed, and we commiserated. I and others at Church Militant could relate all too well to his frustrations.

After we achieved one of the most significant First Amendment victories in the nation — winning in court against the city of Baltimore after we sued the city for canceling our 2021 Baltimore rally — Catholic media blacklisted the story, ignoring it and refusing to report on the historic win. George told me he found the media black-out mindboggling. 

"It was the biggest story in the Catholic world at the time, and no one reported on it," he told me, with equal parts disbelief and disgust. 

He was also puzzled by the vicious reaction to our exposés of sex abuse and cover-up in the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

"I've never understood the tribalism among factions in the Church," he told me, affirming my work as valuable and necessary in exposing evil and holding their feet to the fire. 

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My last communication with George

Our last communication took place a few weeks ago, through Twitter. After I privately warned him about an online personality, George wrote, "Thanks, Christine, for the warning. I am sorry you have to put up with these nasty jerks while doing very difficult and invaluable work."

"It comes with the territory and helps me develop a thick skin — as well as develop the virtue of forgiveness," I wrote back. "But thanks, I appreciate it."

"Sure, you have done SSPX a service, though its officials will never admit it, by shining a light on the order's laxity. God bless you," he replied.

Those would be his last words to me on earth: "God bless you."

George died doing what he loved. He was on assignment researching and investigating corruption on the Ivory Coast. Up until a few days before he passed from malaria, he was tweeting photos from the various churches he visited, lamenting the loss of faith and lack of Catholics in the pews.

His final tweet was typical, a subtle expression of his love for the Faith and anguish over clergy who failed to love their flock: "St. Paul said something similar: that a flock will only listen to a pastor if the members of it think the pastor loves them."

God bless you, my friend. I look to the day when we will meet again, this time in the eternal embrace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, where our joy will be complete and no one will be able to take our joy away. 
 

In your charity, please offer a prayer for the repose of George's soul:

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him.
May he and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

1/23/2023: Article updated to reflect updated information on Cdl. Tobin and Cdl. Wuerl 

 

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