Lake Tahoe’s Santa Claus slams Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe’s Santa Claus slams Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Lake Tahoe’s own Santa Claus is making national news again – this time at the expense of Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Catholic Church.

In a press release last week, Claus, 63, of Incline Village, slammed the church for what he called a failure to enact sufficient reform in the wake of clergy sex abuse scandals, and he hinted toward a possible lawsuit.

“Bishop Santa intends ‘to explore and utilize a variety of legal means,'” the statement read in part, “‘to hold the Roman Catholic Church, especially the pope and Vatican, accountable for the suffering of many thousands of vulnerable children at the hands of clergy, straight and gay, young and old, celibate or not.'”

Claus – originally named Thomas O’Connor – changed his name in 2005. He recently was elevated to the title of missionary bishop in the Apostles’ Anglican Church, an ecumenical Christian denomination based in Ohio and Michigan. He also is a Christian monk in The Order of The Anam Cara.

In an interview with Larry Knowles of AOL News, Claus explained why he has challenged the Catholic Church.

“No one’s stepped up to the plate. Of all people, why not Santa Claus?” he said.

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He also shared his criticisms of the Christmas holiday.

“I’m opposed to the crass commercial spectacle that Christmas has become,” he told AOL News. “Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Christ.”

According to AOL News, Claus hasn’t attempted to contact the Catholic Church and has no intentions to do so. It also remains to be seen whether the Catholic Church in the United States is aware of him. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the nation’s official Catholic leadership group, didn’t respond to a request for comment from AOL News.

Claus said he isn’t worried about repercussions. “I’m not Catholic,” he told AOL, “so I can’t be excommunicated.”

Claus has put himself in the national spotlight before, albeit on a largely unknown scale. In 2008, he announced his run as a write-in for the presidential election, eventually won by Barack Obama. His decision came after getting no response from a YouTube video he posted in 2007 asking the presidential candidates how they will take care of the 2 million children in the United States who are “abused, neglected, exploited, abandoned, homeless and institutionalized,” as is part of Claus’ mission for The Santa Claus Foundation, the Incline-based nonprofit organization he chairs. Learn more at http://www.thesantaclausfoundation.org

Earlier this year, he won the 2009 Peace Prize presented by the Santa Claus Peace Council in Antalya, Turkey.