Dies Irae

A day of sorrow, and so also of prayer

By Robert Moynihan

“For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” —Matthew 16:26

A Prayer for a Father and a Son

I spoke last time of the Latin phrase “lacrimae rerum” (“the tears of things”).

And now I would like to reflect on one of the saddest things that can be in this fallen world.

Yesterday, the eldest son of imprisoned financier Bernie Madoff, Mark Madoff, 46, took his own life.

Mark took his life by using a dog’s leash which he wrapped around a metal ceiling beam in his Manhattan loft apartment to hang himself.

His 2-year-old son was sleeping in a nearby room.

An abyss of hopelessness, a shudder of horror, and in the end, compassion.

God, in your mercy, grant repose to the soul of this unfortunate man.

God, in your mercy, comfort his father. No father should have to bear the suicide of a son.

God, in all things may Thy will, at once merciful and just, even if mysterious, inexplicable, be done.

A Family Tragedy

I do not know Bernard Madoff. (I do know people who knew him and invested with him.)

I know he was convicted and sentenced to 150 years in prison for running perhaps the largest fraudulent investment operation of all time.

Madoff’s was a $50 billion “Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff tricked investors into entrusting funds to him which he never invested. Instead, he paid out a handsome return from what new investment funds he received. (He admitted telling clients in November 2008 that $20 billion in investments had grown to more than $65 billion when only several hundred million dollars remained — yes, all the tens of billions were gone.)

For many years, Madoff, by all accounts a personally charming man, was a respected presence on Wall Street, living a lavish lifestyle.

Then, two years ago, he admitted his entire venture was a fraud, gave himself up, and was sentenced to a lifetime in prison.

Madoff went to prison for life, but his two sons remained free.

(What follows is drawn from an Associated Press report on this tragic event.)

Mark Madoff had worked with his father at the company since 1986, his younger brother Andrew since 1988.

For the past two years, Madoff’s sons portrayed themselves as honest whistleblowers of their father’s historic fraud.

But lawyers for those who lost money in the Madoff fraud named both brothers as defendants in an $80 million lawsuit brought against Madoff’s London business.

“How ironic it is … to blame the very two individuals who uncovered and reported the fraud, saving the estate more than $170 million, for not uncovering it sooner,” the brothers’ lawyer, Martin Flumenbaum, said in court papers earlier this year.

“Mark and Andrew Madoff had no prior knowledge of their father’s crimes and contacted the US Department of Justice and the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) immediately after their father told them he had defrauded his investment advisory clients,” Flumenbaum said today.

A person who had recent contact with Mark Madoff, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said today that Andrew Madoff, a cancer survivor, has occupied himself by helping his fiancee in a business venture. “He’s been doing much better than his brother,” over the past two years, the person said of Andrew Madoff.

Law enforcement officials said today that they had had no direct contact with either of the brothers or with Bernard Madoff’s brother, Peter, during the last year, and that no charges were imminent.

No member of Mark Madoff’s family — including his wife, Stephanie, who has been on vacation in Florida — has spoken publicly about the death.

Bernie Madoff’s attorney, Ira Sorkin, declined to say Sunday whether he had spoken to his client or whether he would attempt to get him freed to attend a funeral.

Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner, said the death was ruled a suicide after an autopsy on Sunday.

“The Ultimate Punishment”

Mark Madoff took his life on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest.

Ruth Goldstein, wife of 78-year-old investor Allan Goldstein — a Great Barrington, Massachusetts, man who lost his life savings in the fraud — called the suicide “the ultimate punishment” for Bernard Madoff.

By late afternoon Sunday, Mark Madoff’s body still had not been claimed.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” —St. Paul, First Letter to Timothy 6:12

Available: A Talk by Dr. Robert Moynihan about the “Old Mass”

This talk gives a 2,000-year history of the Mass in 60 minutes which is clear and easy to understand. The talk covers questions like:

— Does the motu proprio overcome some of the liturgical confusion since Vatican II?
— Who was Annibale Bugnini?

— The mind of Pope Benedict: How can the Church restore the sense of the presence of God in the liturgy?

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