Sunday, January 7, 2007

Embezzlement is Found in Many Catholic Dioceses

A survey by researchers at Villanova University has found that 85 percent of Roman Catholic dioceses that responded had discovered embezzlement of church money in the last five years, with 11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen.

The Catholic Church has some of the most rigorous financial guidelines of any denomination, specialists in church ethics said, but the survey found that the guidelines were often ignored in parishes. And when no one is looking, the cash that goes into the collection plate does not always get deposited into the church’s bank account.

“As a faith-based organization, we place a lot of trust in our folks,” said Chuck Zech, a co-author of the study and director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova.

“We think if you work for a church — you’re a volunteer or a priest — the last thing on your mind is to do something dishonest,” Mr. Zech said. “But people are people, and there’s a lot of temptation there, and with the cash-based aspect of how churches operate, it’s pretty easy.”

Specialists in church ethics said they believed this was the first study to assess the extent of embezzlement in a denomination.

Officials at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said they had seen the study, which was released just before Christmas and was first reported in the National Catholic Reporter, and were considering ways that parishes could tighten their financial controls.

“The Villanova study does not come as a surprise,” said Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr, treasurer of the bishops’ conference and jBishop of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. “This is something that the bishops in this country have been looking at for some time. They are aware of a need to look for mechanisms that can assist parishes in accountability and transparency.” [...Snip] NYTimes

A totally unscientific survey of newspaper articles carried out in perverse interest by your esteemed editor informs us that the explosion of gambling opportunities from pull tabls to casinos is a major reason given by those found guilty of embezzlement as the reason as to why they stole.

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