Scandal in Malta
by Paul J. Bonanno and Kent Steinhaug
It was, and still is, a fact well advertised by Jehovah's Witnesses (hereafter referred to as JW) that every member who works in their general headquarters (which is located in Brooklyn, New York, America), and their other worldwide offices, receives only room, board and a few dollars per month. This includes the JW President. However, no explanation is given for their president's miraculous ability to find room in his agenda for lavish holidays.
A recent example of this extravagance took place on Monday, 29 April, 1996. The 6 foot-4 President of the JWs, Milton G. Henschel (who has occupied the highest position in their hierarchy since the 30 December, 1992), and Mr. Walter Farneti (Branch coordinator of JWs in Italy) arrived in Malta with their wives for a supposed 'Pastoral Visit' (The visit ended on the 3rd May, 1996). Normally, when a foreign representative of JW visits the island he is accommodated in the homes of local members. This is in harmony with the biblical pattern set in Second Kings, chapter four, verse ten, by the Shu'nammite woman who said to her husband, "Please, let us make a little roof chamber on the wall and put there for him (prophet Elisha) a couch and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it must occur that whenever he comes in to us he can turn aside there." - New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. But, contrary to what JW leaders teach to their members ("to live a simple life," Henschel decided to stay in the latest, five-star luxury hotel on the island: The SAN GORS CORINTHIA HOTEL. The standard tariff in Maltese Lira per day is from LM 80.00 to LM 120.00 ($223.48- $335.22).
This wasn't Henschel's first visit to Malta. In fact, four years ago, from the 27th till the 30th of April, 1992, Henschel stayed in another five-star hotel, The HILTON INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, accompanied by the same guests. Each room cost over LM 60.00 ($167.61) per day. Although his first visit was also a 'Pastoral Visit,' Henschel was visiting historical places, like a tourist, instead of taking the lead in their evangelizing work.
When Henschel visited the Medina Cathedral and noticed the crypts, he turned to his minions and remarked: "This shows that this is not the house of God." What led Henschel to this conclusion? Since the dead body of a person was unclean according the Mosaic law, it was believed that burying anyone in or near the temple would be an open affront to God, and therefore an obvious and gross violation of the temple's sanctity. But to the contrary, JWs teach that Mosaic law was abolished (see Colossians 2:14,16,17). So Henschel's remarks are rendered irrelevant by the beliefs of his own sect. And isn't it also a fact that early Christians, when persecuted by Roman emperors, used the Catacombs (which were an underground cemetery) as their house of God? In fact, the Christians used to call them "coemeteria" ("sleeping places"), from which the English' word "cemetery" is derived.
JWs think that their religious leaders are very much up-to-date with theological issues. But when a local member asked Henschel what he thought about a controversial thesis written by Dr. Heinz Warneckehof, of the University of Bremen, Germany, which maintainins that Saint Paul was shipwrecked on the west Grecian island of Cephalonia instead of Malta, Henschel admitted that he never even heard about it.
After Henschel's first stay in Malta, another local Witness wrote a personal letter to him (see attached letter). The purpose of this missive was to tell Mr. Henschel that some Maltese members felt that Henschel did not set a good example by wasting all of this money on a five-star hotel. And how can one call this "a simple life"? This letter was never answered.
During Henschel's second visit to Malta, Mr. Paul J. Bonanno, an ex-JW member (Mr. Bonanno, after graduating from the Ministerial Training School in England, served as a Special Pioneer, Elder and was also the first local Pioneer School Instructor), contacted Henschel by phone. In the short conversation Mr. Bonanno asked Henschel,"why are you staying in a five-star hotel?" Henschel started laughing and said "we are guests; a Brother is paying for us." But when Mr. Bonanno persisted by asking, once again, "why in a five-star hotel?" the President of JW arrogantly replied: 'it is not your business," and he abruptly hung up.
The day after, Paul Bonanno phoned again and asked Henschel: "If you know that by what you are doing you are stumbling the Brothers, why are you persisting?" Henschel asked: 'Who are you?' Mr. Bonanno replied, "You know who I am (in his previous phone call Mr. Bonanno introduced himself). Can you call what you did yesterday Christian manners?' But Henschel said, "we don't need to continue talking. Let's terminate our conversation." And once again Henschel put down the receiver. (see Matthew 18:6; 1 Corinthians 8:13). When a journalist of IL-Gens tried to obtain further information about the visit, Henschel's wife answered; "He is not here, and I don't know his schedule, either."
Alluding to the talks given on the 2nd of May, 1996, held at the New Dolman Conference Hall by Henschel and Farneti, Mr. Bonanno said that Henschel's speech, "Remember Your Creator in Your Youth," based on Ecciesiastes, chapter 12, was exactly the same talk he gave four years ago to the Regular Pioneers (see also Watchtower, June 15, 1984, pages 12, 13). Furthermore, what's the point in telling young ones about what might be expected in their old age when JW believe God's war (Armageddon) is very near? It seems that Henschel doesn't share the opinion of the rest of the world's JWs!
Mr. Walter Farneti, in his discourse, related the case of a young Albanian lady who started studying with the JWs. In a short time her personality was drastically changed, and now she is spending nearly 200 hours each month preaching to others. But what Farneti forgot to tell his audience was how much time she is spending in study to check what JWs are teaching her. With all the hours she's spending preaching, it seems implausible that she could practice the example of the noble-minded Beroeans: The apostle Paul said, in Acts, chapter 17 verse 11, that they were: "... carefully examining the scriptures daily as to whether these things were so."
Raymond V. Franz, who was for 60 years a JW, and served 9 years as a member of their Governing Body, said in his book, In Search of Christian Freedom (p.200) that Henschel and other Directors rarely participated in the evangelizing work.
Franz also added that once during one of their Governing Body sessions, Henschel mentioned that he even found it difficult to keep up with the Watchtower articles, and rarely read the Awake! magazine. Ray Franz continued by stating that Henschel also confessed that he doesn't have time to prepare for the Governing Body meetings. Franz commented: "How then, can they vote in good conscience on approval of the material when they have not been able to meditate on it or search the scriptures to test it out? Once published it is to be viewed as "truth" by millions of people."
During these Governing Body meetings important decisions that will affect all JWs worldwide are made. An example of this is the issue of Organ Transplants, about which Henschel said, "they are another form or cannibalism."
Then, in 1980, the Governing Body changed their viewpoint on this issue. But the damage had already been done. Many, many JW members had lost their lives due to this policy. Couples lost their partners, children became orphans and parents became childless! Why? For obeying man-made rules! A prohibition that lasted from 1968 till 1980.
When false predictions were made concerning the year 1975, Henschel recommended that the wise course would be to simply avoid the matter, and that in time the brothers would stop talking about it.
Speaking about religious leaders of his time, Jesus said in Matthew chapter 23, verse 3, "...but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform." - New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
In the Awake! of October 22, 1988, the Watchtower criticized other religious leaders for their opulent way of life. But what was said in the conclusion can be applied to their own leaders: "When professed Christian leaders adopt opulent lifestyles, might it not make others wonder about their credentials as Christ's true followers?"
We mention this information because JW members naively believe that the position of their leadership represents a sacrifice, as they are said to "subscribe to a vow of poverty." What difference does it make if one officially receives only a few dollars a month when he lives like a millionaire?
For further information please contact: Cult Awareness, P.O.Box 50, Gzira, Malta
Mr. Milton G. Henchel Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania 25 Columbia Heights Brooklyn, New York 1120.
19th August, 1994
Dear Brother Henchel:
Over two years have passed since both you and your wife, brother and sister Farneti came to Malta, I would like to ask you some questions concerning that visit. (27 - 30th April, 1992)
(1) What was the reason you stayed in a five star Hotel (Hilton International Hotel)1 when you know that it's very expensive to stay in it? (Over 60 Maltese Lira a night, about 161 U.S dollars when our minimum wage for a week is only 40 Maltese lire, 'about l09 U.S dollar.
(2) Why didn't you stay in one of the houses of the 500 publishers living in Malta? (I am sure, that it would have been considered a privilege, similar or even more to the visit of the Circuit Overseer.)
(3) Why in the mornings instead of going around the island just like a tourist visiting historical places, didn't you take the lead to go out with the brothers on the ministry? (Jesus set the pattern for Overseers, Kingdom preaching was a major part of his earthly activity. Job.1B:37E lPet.5t2,3)
I hope as a responsible brother, you wouldn't feel offended by my direct questions (Eccl. 7:9) But as a member in Jehovah's organization, I feel I have the right to know certain facts.
Thank you for sending those four missionaries to Malta. I would like to take this opportunity to send my warm Christian love to you and your wife.
It is worth noting that the Knights Templars resurfaced as the Knights of Malta after their Grand Masters were burned in 1307, if you didn't already know about the connections between The Watchtower and Knights Templars.
Perhaps Henchel was visiting his ancestors?