Where there’s embezzlement, there’s usually sex

Where there’s embezzlement, there’s usually sex

Yet again, we see that where there is financial misconduct by priests there is often sexual misconduct (i.e. sinful behavior) as well. In the diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, two priests have been arrested for allegedly stealing $8.6 million from a parish over the past 42 years and spending it in a number of ways, including on female companions. (What does it say about the state of the Church that I’m surprised they’re women? After all, Palm Beach does have a reputation for being gay friendly. This is also the diocese that had two consecutive bishops removed for homosexual abuse of boys: Bishop J. Keith Symons in 1999 and Bishop Anthony O’Connell in 2002.)

In any case, there sounds like deep corruption going back a long time. The charges involve two pastors, one who was installed in 2003 and the other who had been in the parish for nearly four decades.

The investigation started more than a year ago when a parishioner sent an anonymous letter to Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer about Guinan’s removal from the church and an internal audit being done by the diocese.

“As a longtime parishioner, I am concerned that the information found from this audit will remain a secret within the church, hence no criminal charges will be brought if the suspicions are found to be true,” the parishioner wrote in a letter dated April 29, 2005.

...  Another employee told Whatley that she and her mother received greeting cards containing $1,500 cash from Skehan after she refused to help the diocese with the investigation. Skehan told her he was proud of her and that the diocese was corrupt, according to the report. He also offered to pay her legal fees “if ever needed.”

This is clear evidence of the danger of leaving priests in one place for too long. Not that they’re all going to be embezzlers, not by a long shot, but in nearly every case of embezzlement I’ve heard about, the priest involved had become so entrenched in the parish that he had nearly dictatorial control over every aspect of it.

It’s also hearkens back to the way parishes were run before Vatican II. In those days, parishes were benefices, like feudal holdings awarded to pastors for life and everything in the parish belonged to the pastor. I’ve heard stories from priests from those days about pastors who showed up on Sundays to receive the weekly collection and left his senior curate in charge the rest of the time, leaving just enough money behind to run the household and give the curates a pittance of an allowance. There were real abuses in those days and it’s one of the reasons for the change in parish organization and the creation of pastoral and finance councils. Obviously, as these cases show, the system isn’t perfect, especially when the diocese turns a blind eye, but it’s better.

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  • Briefly… NATION/WORLD
    Priest gets 1-to-4 for stealing

    800G to live life of luxury

    Despite letters asking for leniency – including one from Cardinal Edward Egan – an apologetic Roman Catholic monsignor was sentenced yesterday to one-to-four years in prison for stealing more than $800,000 from his Manhattan parish to pay for vacations, country-club memberships and fancy clothes.

    Monsignor John Woolsey, 68, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in return for the sentence, which means he will be eligible for parole in one year. He is eligible for work release immediately.

    Assistant District Attorney Matthew Amatruda told the judge that another $287,000 is missing from the church’s coffers and that his office has not learned what happened to it.

    And my Letter to the Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News:

    From the “Briefly…NATION/WORLD” section” I read that a “Monsignor John Woolsey, 68, pleaded guilty to grand larceny” and “is eligible for work release immediately.”

    His New York Cardinal Edward Egan even wrote a letter asking for leniency. 

    Obviously he received it.

    Why aren’t people like this defrocked and excommunicated?

    Catherine Mary Henry

  • Have there been many cases of parish council corruption in cases where priests are rotated frequently?  I worry that when priests are required to rotate, the parish council clique often becomes the unchecked power.

  • I’ve never heard of such a thing. Parish councils really have very little, if any power. Plus canon law requires separate pastoral and finance councils, which theoretically separates out the functions.

    But then I’ve heard of many cases where pastors ignored the law, ignored the councils, and did whatever they pleased without a peep from parishioners or the diocese.