Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Roman Catholic Embezzlement Scandal.

Imagine the horror of Catholics across the nation. No... they aren't responding to another rash of revelations about perverted priests. Their current concern is a much more worldly matter. A Villanova study recently released survey results about Roman Catholic finances. The numbers are shocking. They found that 85% of dioceses that responded to the survey experienced some amount of embezzlement over the last five years. To add another level of anxiety- 11% of those dioceses reported that amounts in excess of $500K were stolen. When all this thievery is accounted for, we're talking about a staggering amount of money.

Every Sunday Christians attend church and fulfill what they see as their sacred duty- tithing. They take their hard-earned cash, and drop it into the plate with the belief that church authorities will use the money to advance the interests of Christianity. Because religious activities are faith-based, it makes sense that adherents give of themselves without the same level of analysis they would invest in secular financial activities. The idea that God's representatives could be guilty of greed and deceit runs counter to their assumptions and training. Apparently the wolf occasionally dons the shepherd's cloak.

Here in the Pittsburgh area we have a perfect example of priestly avarice. Father Walter Benz, of the Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary of the Assumption Church Parishes (covering Harrison and Hampton), admitted in 1998 to stealing more than $1 million over a 25-year period. It is alleged that he stole an average of $1K per week from his two congregations. He had extravagant appetites. Much of the money was spent on a lover that he treated to regular trips to Atlantic city. His tastes also ran towards luxury cars, antique handguns, and fancy jewelry. Proper details of his sin came to light through his own deathbed confession, in which he implicated his female companion.

The Roman Catholic Church does require each parish to form financial councils. These regulatory bodies are supposed to keep a close eye on the collection plates. But it is up to the individual parish to set the standards for council members. Therefore many folks without proper finance or accounting backgrounds end up providing their services. And even a fancy degree has no way of guaranteeing that its holder is honest or God-fearing. Some volunteers may have ulterior motives. Tellingly, ony 3% of dioceses that reponded to the Villanova survey reported that they conducted annual internal audits of their parishes. That means there are a lot of people relying on God's own omniscience to address this issue. It seems that while parishoners are putting their faith in God's hands, thieves are filling their pockets with church coin.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dagrims said...

Our firm actually conducts parish reviews for a significant number of churches in the diocese in our area. There is obviously an untapped market for our services throughout the country.

There are so many opportunities for theft of cash out of the offering plate. With so many trusting souls, it's no surprise. It's probably easy for the thief to rationalize the taking of some money ("I've earned the right for a bit of extra coin given all I do for this place", "I am seriously underpaid", "I am God's favorite in this joint", etc.).

This reminds me: I need to volunteer to be an usher.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Yeah, hell... the Vatican's loaded. They're not gonna miss a few bucks.

Seriously though, heaven should be its own reward.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous jefg said...

Not my church, so I shouldn't comment. However, in a way I can understand it...Internet fees have become very expensive, and probably aren't in the annual approved budgets.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

They must be thrilled this one's not about man/boy sex.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Do we hear a collective sigh of relief?? No way. I can hear the response already... "Well, sure... you can diddle my kids. But you better stay the hell away from my cash flow."

1:51 AM  

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