The Next Scandal

A few bloggers have been wondering. It came up at the conference this week, too, in various discussions with my colleagues and one or two attendees. What if a significant number of clergy are skimming off? Of course, $1.3M in six years is a lot of skim:

Police said Father Kevin J. Gray, a Hartford archdiocesan priest, used the stolen funds to hire male escorts, buy designer clothing, stay in fancy hotels and dine in expensive restaurants during trips to New York City and Boston. The priest, 64, was charged with first-degree larceny and arraigned in Waterbury Superior Court. According to court documents, he was being held on a $750,000 bond and faced a July 21 court date to enter a plea. Father Gray was pastor of Sacred Heart/Sagrado Corazon Parish from 2003 until April 15 of this year, when the archdiocese put him on medical leave because he said he was suffering from cancer. He was later suspended from priestly ministry. The priest has since admitted he does not have cancer.

What is it with these guys faking serious illness? I can only imagine my mother’s reaction if I tried to fake being sick to get out of something. Speaking of whom, my mother was once caught on the fringes of a financial scandal. She was running parish trips to Canadian shrines every August. Proceeds from the trip were given to the pastor. One year she and a few of her women friends took over running the parish festival when the men complained it was too much work. They made a record profit on it.

New pastor comes and listens to the finance committee’s concerns. They accused my mother, so Fr Tracy comes for a house visit. My mother shows him the records she kept and he asked where the money went. Into the former pastor’s hands, she said. He had redecorated the pastor’s office. He liked to get off to Vegas every so often too. My mother said in the Baptist Church, you had no problem turning the money over to the pastor. Every church had a finance committee, but unlike our parish, the pastor was accountable to the parishioners for the budget, not the other way around. In those days, a priest was pretty much not going to engage in “brotherly correction” in this case. My mother told Fr Tracy her volunteer efforts netted the parish over $100K in ten years, according to the books she kept. I guess they wrote it off.

And people wonder why I sometimes don’t trust institutions.

HuffPo has more:

Police said Gray told them he grew to hate being a priest and was upset with the archdiocese, believing he received the worst church assignments. He said he made checks payable to himself in excess of his salary over the years and admitted to having a secret phone deal in which an antenna was placed in the church steeple to generate cash.

“We are deeply saddened by the events which have recently had such a profound affect on Sacred Heart/Sagrado Corazon parish,” the Archdiocese of Hartford said in a statement.

Archdiocese officials said they are working with the parish to improve its financial controls and deal with its debts.

“At the spiritual level, we continue to pray for healing and consolation for the parish family as it moves forward and for guidance and reconciliation for Father Gray as he encounters the legal proceedings that await him,” they said in the statement.

The AP reports that there was neither parish council nor finance council at the parish. Is it time to wonder if your parish doesn’t have lay oversight there might be something fishy? I’d say so. What if we took a poll on this: should there be a visitation of women religious or of parishes without finance committees? What do you suppose Catholics in Waterbury, in the US, and around the world would say?

I wasn’t so sure when I heard a few people musing about this. I suspect the sex with adults is running scandalously deep in the clergy–minority to be sure, but a potentially explosive matter. But maybe they’re right. Seriously, perhaps it is time to look at parish finances.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to The Next Scandal

  1. Tony de New York says:

    U r right!

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    This scandal has been wide-spread for some time, but under the sexual abuse scandal fascinate media radar. These stories have been quite regularly printed.

    If there WAS a Finance Council in this parish, I’ll bet it was staffed with “Whatever you say, Father; we are here to serve” types.

    Why did this man have single signature authority on checking amounts in excess of $X?

    I wonder how many “secret” accounts existed under his full authority?

    Why were there no regular outside audits of this parish’s books? Waiting until a change of pastors or a hint of scandal is waiting way too long. This diocese some ‘splaining to do. And, if it exists, so does the Finance Council.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    “My bad” for missing the news that there were NO Pastoral or Finance Councils in this parish.

    The diocese is guilty of dereliction of duty by not enforcing canon law that prescribes the existence of a FC in each diocese and parish.

    But I guess if it isn’t abortion or sexual abuse related, dioceses don’t give 2 hoots these days. It’s only the pew potatoes’ money, after all — not that it’s something really important.

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