all your fault

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 05, 2006

Perhaps you remember the case of Father Michael Fay, the light-fingered priest who evidently lifted $1 million or more from the collection plates at his parish in Darien, Connecticut. This was possible because:

  • A priest whose salary was about $28,000 threw himself a black-tie dinner at the posh Pierre Hotel in New York, and the diocese didn't see any reason to investigate.
  • The pastor was away from his parish for 1-2 weeks a month, and the diocese didn't see any reason to investigate.
  • The priest and his steady male companion were featured as a fun couple, and consulted about ideal romantic evenings together, in Philadelphia Style magazine, and the diocese didn's see any reason to investigate.
  • The pastor refused to discuss parish finances with his own parish financial council, and the diocese didn't see any reason to investigate.
  • The pastor and his boypal shared luxury homes in Fort Lauderdale and Manhattan, and the diocese didn't see any reason to investigate.
  • The diocese hadn't audited the parish for 5 years-- a violation of its own norms-- and.. well, obviously didn't see a reason to investigate that. Shortage of staff, you know.

What was it, exactly, that the diocese wasn't investigating? The Norwalk Advocate offered a sample:

During a single week in November, for example, Fay spent $2,800 at Cartier in New York, $2,300 at the Polo store in Philadelphia, $1,400 on designer men's wear at the Ermenegildo Zegna Boutique in New York, $1,200 at the Tumi luggage store on Madison Avenue, and $473 on tickets to the Broadway production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," according to credit card records.

Finally the Darien parish fell behind in its payments to the diocese. That was a reason to investigate.

But still not a reason to take action. The fingers of suspicion were all pointing toward Father Fay as of last fall, by all accounts; still he remained in place, with his hands still in the cookie jar. His associate and the parish secretary gave a detailed report to the chancery. Same result: Fay stayed in charge.

Things finally changed, as OTR readers may recall, in May, after the associate pastor hired a private eye to expose the theft. Then, after the scandal became public, Bishop William Lori took action, forcing the pastor's resignation (and, just to show who's boss, disciplining the priest who'd had the temerity to hire an independent investigator).

Now, 8 months later, investigators are still unraveling the details of the former pastor's illicit spending, which apparently ran to well over $1 million. And Bishop Lori-- whose diocesan leadership motored so blithely through all those flashing yellow lights-- knows where to place the blame:

"If people within the parish who knew what was going on had come forward sooner, "we could have saved a lot of money," Lori said.

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Show 11 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Milt - Dec. 28, 2006 10:28 PM ET USA

    Thank you for making it clear that everyone has to be so careful ... and, unfortunately, some are not ... the desire for promotion seems to cloud visions.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 07, 2006 9:04 PM ET USA

    Well, we must all at least appreciate the Bp. Lori's brilliant solution post factum: To hire an expensive accounting firm, which will design a totally new financial recording system for ALL 87 prishes. Eventhough there has been no other similar case in the Diocese ever. Could the reason be to show that at fault was actually the SYSTEM, not poor Fr. Fay?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 06, 2006 9:19 AM ET USA

    I often think of the poor assistant, who did the right thing, and then was "driven" from the priesthood. He was a wonderful man and should not be forgotten. Who will answer for that?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 06, 2006 9:05 AM ET USA

    The bishop was probably at a meeting of the USCCB or writing a report on how to handle the USCCB's public relations efforts.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 06, 2006 8:25 AM ET USA

    Next career move for bishop Lori: Transfer to Rome where he will advise the Vatican Bank until Michael Corleone steps in. AMDG

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 06, 2006 12:12 AM ET USA

    And for Bishop Lori: no discipline from Rome. No criticism, even. It's stuff like this that touched off the Protestant "Reformation".

  • Posted by: Clorox - Dec. 05, 2006 11:14 PM ET USA

    Well, Bishop Lori can now be officially classified as a "bad" bishop. Too bad. At one time, he had promise.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 05, 2006 8:55 PM ET USA

    Bishop Lori is absolutely right. The parishioners are sheep. They should have run Fay and Lori out of town with pitchforks. "Look what you made me do!" What a child -- an overgrown two year old who will never, ever develop affective maturity. Give no money to the church. Do not give money to the church. To the church, give no money.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 05, 2006 12:06 PM ET USA

    How about one even older: "Is it I, Lord?"

  • Posted by: - Dec. 05, 2006 11:20 AM ET USA

    Well, to paraphrase Harry Truman, "The buck stops there!" What amazes me is the vast amount of floor space in hell available for bishops' skulls. And so many available spaces for the United States alone.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 05, 2006 10:10 AM ET USA

    As Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations." Then, Hal Holbrook exploded in a Ford Galaxie 500. Bishop Lori and Bishop Lussier seem like real sit down guys.