when the other shoe drops

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 25, 2006

There's a funny sequence of events this year in the Cleveland diocese:

  1. In January, Bishop Anthony Pilla announced that he had asked the Vatican to accept his resignation. That seemed odd, since at the time he a couple of years short of canonical retirement age. Bishop Pilla ducked questions about his reason(s) for wanting early exit. Odd.
  2. In April the Vatican accepted the Pilla resignation, and immediately announced that his successor would be Bishop Richard Lennon. Again, odd. Usually a bishop's resignation is followed by a lengthy search for an appropriate successor. And the choice of Bishop Lennon-- who had made his bones in Boston by serving as apostolic administrator after Cardinal Law was run out of town-- indicated that Rome wanted a battle-tested soldier on the ground, fast.
  3. To be sure, the Cleveland diocese had its problems. Bishop Pilla had faced nasty accusations that he had lied under oath in testimony involving sexual abuse by Cleveland clergy. But that had been several months earlier, and the perjury charges were no longer in the headlines at the time of the bishop's rather sudden resignation.
  4. Then another nasty story arose in Cleveland: about the diocesan finance officer being investigated on charges of fraud involving over $700,000 in diocesan funds. The criminal investigation that produced this week's indictments would have been gaining steam at just about the time Bishop Pilla stepped down. An odd coincidence?

Now, from Cleveland's Channel 5 news, we hear the allegation that "Bishop Anthony Pilla gave the green light for a secret church bank account" involved in the fraud charges. The defense attorney for the indicted former diocesan official claims that Church officials knew what his client was doing with the money, and specifically that "the bishop was aware of it."

That's a defense lawyer talking, of course; we shouldn't take his perspective as Gospel truth. But then frankly, Bishop Pilla's reputation as a straight shooter has been pretty thoroughly tarnished (see item #3 above). And if the former bishop was implicated in the financial misconduct, that would explain the timing of his departure.

Not for the first time, we're left to observe that when a bishop mishandles the financial affairs of his diocese, the Vatican takes action promptly. If only Rome would act as quickly when a bishop's misdeeds involve spiritual affairs!

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Aug. 28, 2006 1:10 PM ET USA

    Yes, Diogenes, another "successor to the apostles" for whom we must pray. And, thanks for reminding us of another prayer: that the Holy See act promptly with regard to all misdeeds of bishops -- personal, spiritual, liturgical, and financial -- beginning with Cardinal Mahony & his whole band of cronies in the episcopacy, applying Canon 401-2 to every traitorous bishop; then, ordain orthodox/millenial priests to the episcopacy, including ones who have not studied at the NAC.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 26, 2006 3:46 PM ET USA

    Relative to #3. That suit was settled out of court for $500,000. I don't know who paid it - Bishop Pilla or the diocese.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 4:00 PM ET USA

    Di, I'd like to think that Rome acts quickly in the case of financial "shenanigans" because it's a no-brainer, and financial "shenanigans" often go hand-in-hand with other kinds of shenanigans (of the homosexual sort). It's an easy way to bounce a bad bishop without a lot of guff from the press.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 2:43 PM ET USA

    It looks like we are going to need my screen name in more dioceses...how does "where'sthemoneytony" sound? Listen not only the Vatican but the laity will pay far more attention to financial shenanigans. The average guy doesnt know or care much about theological distinctions but mis use his donations and that he understands!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 2:38 PM ET USA

    Just because one is a bishop does not make him a financial expert. A CPA should be in charge of all Church financial holdings. It should be a transparent account-open to public view. What have we got to hide? The laity should be able to know the financial condition of the diocese--to thelast penny.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 11:30 AM ET USA

    Patience, Uncle Di, patience! 'One step at a time' goes for Popes 'n peons both. Gen 3:17-19. Any competent surgeon cleans his instruments before surgery. In commenting on the CWNews April 5 '06 report captioned 'Church must defend truth against unbelievers, Pope says', I wrote, "The 'other shoe' is set to drop - hard." I was confident then. I'm more confident now. Maybe CWNews is playing a tiny role in having the Shoe of the Fisherman drop a bit sooner 'n a bit harder.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 25, 2006 11:13 AM ET USA

    Some commentary on the role of bishop: "Serving the kingdom of this world rather than the kingdom of God tempts those in positions of power including clerics. Because they hobnob with the rich and powerful, bishops and cardinals face serious temptations to act more like politicians than shepherds. In our rampantly secular culture many bishops seem more worried about offending the world than offending God." "The Role of a Bishop: Politician or Shepherd?" By Mary Ann Kreitzer Les Femmes 2006