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indicted without evidence

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 05, 2006

Now here's a story that will surprise you, if you've been living on a mountaintop in Nepal for the past five years:

In the Palm Beach, Florida diocese, some of the faithful at St. Patrick's church had suspicions about their pastor's handling of parish finances . So they brought their concerns to the bishop, and-- can you guess?--

Ultimately, then-Bishop Keith Symons and his financial officer backed Guinan and told the parishioners to drop the matter.

Now mind you, the bishop didn't dismiss the parishioners' concerns lightly:

After receiving the petition, Symons assigned the Rev. Richard Murphy, diocesan vicar for pastoral services, to conduct an audit. Eight days after receiving the petition, Murphy wrote the parishioners.
Notice: The reply came after 8 days. Maybe you can do a thorough audit of a piggy bank in 8 days. But by the usual standards of chancery work that's just enough time to sharpen a few pencils, call the accused pastor and have a few chuckles with him over those pesky laymen, boot up the word-processing program, and personalize the fits-all-purposes form letter telling parishioners that their complaints are baseless. Sure enough:
"There is no evidence of any errors or wrongdoings," Murphy wrote without any details of the audit.

That was in 1994. In 1998, we learned why Bishop Symons had no interest in serious investigations of clerical misbehavior. A few weeks ago we learned that more than $8 million was missing from the accounts of St. Patrick's parish, and the former pastor was under indictment for grand theft.

It's odd that secular authorities were able to find enough clues to support felony charges against two priests, since there was no evidence. In fact the priest who did the audit warned the unhappy parishioners:

If it continues, it becomes apparent that this is a witch hunt against Father Guinan which brings us to a very serious situation of the defamation of a person's character....

As I've mentioned in the past, witch hunts are always inappropriate-- if you have the a priori certainty that there are no witches.

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Show 19 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Italiana - Oct. 07, 2006 8:42 AM ET USA

    Laity 1: The bishops apology is a sham. The guilty priests did not make "mistakes". They committed a MORTAL SIN. Sex abuse & stealing are NOT MISTAKES. They are SINS...MORTAL ONES sending a soul to HELL if unrepentant. A "mistake" is if I make a wrong turn or put too much salt in the cookie batter. Since God said, "Revenge is mine", my first prayer to Him would be, "Oh God, Let's see some of that revenge you talked about. Take ACTION and let's see Your Divine Justice at work. Thank You."

  • Posted by: Laity1 - Oct. 06, 2006 9:06 PM ET USA

    The Bishop's apology is correct in that prayer is our strongest resource. Because, unlike tithes and virginity and innocence, prayers cannot be stolen.

  • Posted by: Italiana - Oct. 06, 2006 7:08 PM ET USA

    Here is Bishop Barbarito's apology to parishioners at St. Vincent Ferrar for Pastors stealing $8.6 MILLION. "I'm truly, truly, truly sorry." Then he continued, "Priests are humans, and they make mistakes. Some mistakes we can certainly understand. Others not so. Sexual abuse, stealing money, we cannot understand this. Prayer is our strongest resource. The Lord is the only perfect one, and we rely on his strength." What a very very very weak statement

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - Oct. 06, 2006 12:20 PM ET USA

    I wonder how much of the $8 went to former Rep. Foley's Palm Beach PAC? Foley did vote for the Preservation of Marriage Bill. Curious

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 8:42 PM ET USA

    The pastor or the bishop or any church appointed layman may or may not uncover evidence of malfeasance in office. Largely thie is because nobody really wants to find that a cleric has been acting contrary to expected behavior. No one wants to cast the first stone. I have advocated an open books policy in the past and I continue to do so. Priest in general are prepared to administer to the souls in their care(or should be). They are Not really good accountants.

  • Posted by: hughsigh - Oct. 05, 2006 7:32 PM ET USA

    We are seeing the next giant scandal in the American Church. And some of it is tied to the homosexual scandal.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 7:02 PM ET USA

    Not to let crooks off the hook, BUT: "Parishioners at St. Patrick Catholic Church tried for more than a year in the early 1990s to get diocesan officials to investigate the Rev. Francis Benedict Guinan's management of parish finances" It's kind of hard to feel sorry for people who for over a decade thought something was wrong within the parish (enough to take action) yet continued to give money. Faithful does not mean stupid!

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Oct. 05, 2006 6:29 PM ET USA

    Our school, by Board action, will now be audited every year. Why should parishes be held to a lesser standard? Moreover, does your parish finance person count the Sunday collection by him/herself? There should be sealed containers for every Mass, and multiple people counting the money under the eye of a member of the finance committee. The count on Sunday should be verified on Monday and the money never out of a secure chain of custody.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Oct. 05, 2006 5:27 PM ET USA

    This is truly another outrage. We know where the bishop was, but why did the Vatican ignore the situation? The key comes in the quote from Fr. Murphy, the "investigator": "I have known Father Guinan for about 30 years and he has always been a man of the utmost integrity...." Once again, we have to keep repeating the mantra: ex opere operato. Ex opere operato. Read the comments following the story in the first link. A lot of people have, alas, forgotten it.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 5:14 PM ET USA

    You know it's the media and the lawyers and other anti-Catholics who are to blame for all this. Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. Those who find fault over perceived impropriety are perforce anti-Christian and Jesus would shun them. Any accusations, private or otherwise, are gravely sinful character assassination. No, the only incredible part of this eternal return of the same is that the two priests, evidently, are not homosexuals.

  • Posted by: opraem - Oct. 05, 2006 3:42 PM ET USA

    hollywood produced a movie about this phenomenon several years ago, 'groundhog day' starring bill murray. it seems we ever decreasing catholics in the pews are doomed to hear our shepherds 'say wha?' every time they hear about a pederast among the clergy or a thief with the parish checkbook. most people don't understand serial child rape, but everybody gets the theft of parish funds. expect the authorities to 'help' unless the bishops/vatican clean out their own houses, asap.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 3:23 PM ET USA

    So we see the Lavender Mafia is still entrenched within many diocese.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 3:12 PM ET USA

    If you write most Bishops today about anything, you get that same form letter. In my recent attempted communication with Cardinal O'Malley, the form letter came 4 months later, signed by a Monsignor who missed the entire point of my letter. The episcopacy learned nothing from the scandal... they think the problem was sexual molestation. WRONG! The problem was and is the same thing that sank Nixon. To paraphrase Clinton: "it's the cover up, stupid" Nothing has changed

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Oct. 05, 2006 3:00 PM ET USA

    Sometimes I wonder if and when the consecration of Russia is finally done, the evil within the Church will be crushed by Our Lady and that is why they are afraid to do it. What do you think?

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Oct. 05, 2006 1:49 PM ET USA

    You know, much can be said in favor of the inquisition and the cathedral jail.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 05, 2006 1:22 PM ET USA

    It's absolutely startling how similar crimes involving clergy are! Whether homosexual capers or money capers, you can always count on the bishop to play the same role, speak the same lines.

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - Oct. 05, 2006 12:43 PM ET USA

    Dante should be living now and revising his infernal circles--or perhaps adding to them. Why do I sense that the only remorse here is the fact that the hand was finally caught in the cookie jar and in other even less appropriate places?

  • Posted by: rpp - Oct. 05, 2006 12:24 PM ET USA

    "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen." Matthew 23:2-5 (Douay-Rheims) I cannot really add anything to the words of our Lord.

  • Posted by: Sterling - Oct. 05, 2006 12:15 PM ET USA

    It's clear that a policy of no regular outside audits is crazy. A high-and-mighty pastor bashes concerned parishioners for years while their bishop hums a little tune to himself like Winne-the-Pooh. Guinan's partner in crime, Fr. Skehan, delays his arrest by pleasure-cruising in Australia on the parishioners' dime! Oh, for a mean Florida D.A.! Because if Murphy turned a blind eye, he should end up in the clink. It's become a Catholic Cosa Nostra in places, and it needs breaking up.

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