Behind the sensational headlines about a New York priest (Rev. Peter Miqueli) accused of pilfering church coffers to pay for an extravagant lifestyle – “Priest paid his male ‘sex master’ from collection plate: lawsuit,” as the New York Post put it — is the surprisingly common accusation of a trusted employee or volunteer stealing cash from a parish …
“Miqueli’s case is tailor made for tabloid coverage, but it’s hardly unique. This year alone, a number of high-profile embezzlement cases involving Catholic institutions have been made public. While the reporting to civil authorities has increased, resulting in more publicity about such cases, one thing hasn’t changed: Pastors are too trusting and unwilling to implement strict financial controls.”
By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group’s long-time efforts in this area at the diocese and parish levels can be reviewed at votf.org under Programs/Financial Accountability.
#1 by Terry Rice on December 23, 2015 - 1:13 PM
Please feel free to read my blog – http://churchembezzlement.blogspot.com/
#2 by Michael W. Ryan on December 23, 2015 - 6:55 AM
Among the various ways in which a parish can be victimized internally, i.e., by staff, clergy and/or volunteers, repetitive embezzlement from inadequately protected weekly collections constitutes by far the greatest threat. Sadly, this extreme vulnerability has been recognized and addressed by only a few courageous bishops, most notably the late Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop Thomas Wenski and, most recently, Sean Cardinal O’Malley. All three prelates adopted collection security guidelines developed in the 1990s by this respondent, author of NONFEASANCE – The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income. The Archdiocese of Chicago codified and implemented those guidelines in 2005 and, only a few years later, the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM) adopted them as their one and only recommended Best Practice for securing a parish’s collections.
In spite of the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is well aware of the average diocese’s weekly collections’ extreme vulnerability, they claim they (the USCCB) are “not empowered” to mandate that all 195 arch/dioceses adopt and implement those genuinely secure procedures; they insist that such authority is the sole prerogative of each individual bishop. Technically, that’s true: the USCCB is not automatically empowered to issue such a mandate. But they can become empowered in the matter by availing themselves of the provisions of Canon 455, something they have done in quite a few other less important Church matters. The question, therefore, is not what the USCCB is or is not empowered to do, but rather what it does or does not wish to do. And for reasons best known to the USCCB hierarchy, they do not feel obliged to end the revenue depleting, sin-proliferating scourge of Sunday collection theft.
Why would the USCCB shirk its obvious responsibility in this vital area? We’re left to guess about that, but a couple of possibilities come to mind. First, the enactment of “particular legislation” under Canon 455 requires a 2/3 majority approval by the bishops eligible to vote. Think of how embarrassing it would be if they failed to meet that requirement; picture the headline: ‘U.S. Bishops Reject Procedures to Protect the Catholic Church’s Primary Source of Income!’ or words to that effect. Other possibilities revolve around fear; fear of the publicity that could flow from the implementation of genuinely secure procedures that produce a sudden spike in the cash portion of collections at multiple parishes and become know to the local media, and/or fear of a rebellion among pastors accustomed to making pre-deposit deductions from the weekly collections for so-called petty cash that, to put it mildly, is nothing more than under-the-table supplemental income. Whatever the USCCB’s underlying reason(s) for their inaction might be, however, none are or ever can be deemed valid.
Finally, underlying this problem is the element of subservience and blind obedience that has been bred into generations of Catholics who remain loath to confront a clearly errant pastor and tell him in no uncertain terms that he’s wrong and needs to take corrective action. Unless and until that father-is-always-right mindset is relegated to the history books where it belongs, it will continue to produce ineffectual parish and diocesan finance councils that fail to fulfill their responsibility.
Kudos to the parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal parish for taking decisive action against their wayward pastor, and shame on the Archdiocese of New York for its inaction.
Michael W. Ryan, Member
VOTF Board of Trustees