Skip to comments.Church breaks silence on NJ, priest, former Air Force Chaplain, accused of theft of $500,000
Posted on 12/23/2004 8:32:20 PM PST by Coleus
The Rev. William M. Naughton made a surprise announcement one Sunday in February 2001 from the pulpit of Resurrection Church in Randolph. He needed a change of scenery, he said, so he was leaving the parish he had served as pastor for half its history.
The true reason for Naughton's sudden departure was whispered at spaghetti dinners, rummage sales and other places where parishioners gathered, but it remained officially a secret, never addressed by Naughton's successor and never explained by the church.
Connell made no mention of the amount of money involved, but some parishioners have said it was around a half-million dollars.
Because the former bishop of the Paterson Diocese decided not to report the incident to prosecutors, Connell was not allowed to address the missing funds with members of the church, until now.
Naughton was placed on administrative leave in 2001 after the funds were discovered missing, but Bishop Frank Rodimer, at the time the head of the Paterson Diocese, decided not to report the missing money to civil authorities. Rodimer's successor, Arthur J. Serratelli, reviewed the matter after he was installed in July and decided to turn over to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office all of the materials the diocese had collected on the incident.
The prosecutor's office is investigating to determine whether Naughton ought to be charged with a crime. Neither the diocese nor the prosecutor's office has said how much money is missing or how it was discovered.
(Excerpt) Read more at nj.com ...
Most Catholic Churches, probably most churches of all faiths, do NOT undergo an annual certified audits.
The Rev. William M. Naughton doing his part to keep this a 'Non-profit' organization
It never ends.
This is one priest in one Diocese.
If it's like the sex scandal, there are 100 priests in each of 500 Dioceses doing this.
Money that should be going to good works.
The RC Church is starting to make the Mafia look like a bunch of choirboys.
I was under the impression that parish councils looked over the books.
My mother is on the parish council of her parish. I'll have to ask her at Christmas.
"Most Catholic Churches, probably most churches of all faiths, do NOT undergo an annual certified audits."
When they do undergo audits, it's not surprising to find bishops still lying about the scale of their embezzlement and financial mismanagment...
The RC Church is starting to make the Mafia look like a bunch of choirboys.
Many of those (lavender) mafia choirboys are now in the sacred college of cardinals.
Can you imagine what kind of pope these corrupt cardinals will elect when John Paul II dies?
Wow, the mods moved this to religion.
It was front page "local section" news in NJ's largest Newspaper.
How are the people in NJ going to find this now since you can't put states in the topic section on threads in the religion forum?
Flaws in church system let another scandal strike
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Catholic Church law has required since 1983 that every pastor appoint a committee of lay members to help set spending priorities and manage the parish's money.
But when the Rev. Joseph Hughes was allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an off-the-books bank account at Holy Cross Parish in Rumson for his own use, he didn't need to worry about being caught by a finance council looking over his shoulder.
He simply never appointed one.
The Catholic Church has been reeling for two years with revelations about clergy sex abuse. But critics say the arrest of Hughes last month and the disclosure this month of an investigation involving a former Morris County priest suggest the church has not done enough to address another scandal: the theft of parish funds by priests.
"I would guess that there have been many, many more priests that have abused parish finances than ever abused children," said Maria Cleary, regional coordinator of the reform group Voice of the Faithful in the Paterson, Newark and Metuchen dioceses. "The church has never done enough to stop it."
In the case of Hughes, authorities in Monmouth County allege he used money raised at golf tournaments and other charitable events to travel, dine and lavish a $57,000 BMW and other gifts on the young man who was the head of maintenance at the parish. Hughes has been free on bail since his arrest last month.
In the Morris County case, the prosecutor confirmed this month his office is investigating charges the Rev. William Naughton misappropriated money from Resurrection Parish in Randolph, where he was pastor for more than a decade. Parishioners say the amount of money is more than $500,000. Naughton has been on administrative leave since the money was found missing in 2001. The Paterson Diocese did not report the incident to the prosecutor until just a few months ago.
A 2002 survey by the National Federation of Priests' Councils put the annual salaries of priests at between $15,291 and $18,478, plus benefits. That is less than the clergy make in most other denominations.
IT'S NOT JUST PRIESTS
But clergy theft is not a uniquely Catholic problem. There are examples of religious leaders in other denominations stealing money donated by their flocks. Nor is church theft a uniquely clerical problem. There are examples in the Catholic Church and elsewhere of lay members who enrich themselves by abusing positions of trust.
Nationally, there were at least a dozen other priests being investigated, charged, tried or sentenced for stealing parish money this year. Some took money from the collection plates; others took it from secret parish bank accounts. Some, as is alleged with Hughes, did it in the absence of oversight from a finance council; others did it even though a council was in place, as allegedly was the case at Resurrection.
Some were found out after getting caught in other criminal behavior. A Chicago priest was suspended in July after he was caught with a prostitute. Sunday collections shot up once he left the church, arousing suspicions he had been helping himself. He eventually agreed to repay $1.2 million.
Others were caught only after they aroused the suspicions of parishioners. In Florida, the Palm Beach Diocese began an investigation after a parishioner leery about his pastor's spending habits went through his trash and found receipts and credit card bills.
"Every time people hear about a particular pastor committing fraud, it hurts all pastors and all parishes," said Charles Zech, a professor at Villanova University who studies economics of religious organizations. "There will always be some folks who will be more reluctant to give money to the church."
The parish finance councils, which have been required since the church adopted a revised Code of Canon Law in 1983, have not been an effective check on the great financial autonomy Catholic pastors exercise, critics say.
Even though the councils are required by church law, not every parish has one. Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Paterson Diocese, which includes Resurrection, estimated that one in four parishes in that diocese do not have functioning finance councils.
Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trenton Diocese, which includes Holy Cross, did not know how many parishes had finance councils. She said it should be clear to pastors that they are expected to have them. Not only are they called for in church law, she said, but the diocese took the additional step of requiring them in a measure that was approved by a 1991 synod.
The discovery that there was no lay finance council in place at Holy Cross was disclosed in the same audit that found the missing money and led to Hughes' arrest, she said.
The diocese audits parishes periodically, Miller said. Audits are done when a new pastor comes in, when a large capital project is undertaken or when there are complaints about possible improprieties, she said. Some parishes in the diocese are chosen randomly for audits. One thing auditors check is a parish's finance council, she said.
The diocese tries to audit every parish at least once every three years. It had been longer since the last audit at Holy Cross, but Miller could not say how long. The audit that proved to be the downfall of Hughes was done because the parish planned to build a new church.
There was a parish finance council in place when Naughton was pastor at Resurrection. In fact, members of that group were the first to sound the alarm about missing money, the Rev. John Andrew Connell said during Mass last weekend when he told parishioners for the first time about allegations against Naughton.
That the money could go missing even with a finance council in place shows some of the weaknesses of the system, critics contend. Canon law has little to say about how the finance councils are supposed to operate. In many cases, the councils do only what the pastor asks. A pastor intent on stealing money and not getting caught is unlikely to ask his finance council to do much at all.
"Even in parishes where they have a finance council, they tend to meet very infrequently and perfunctorily, if at all," said David Castaldi, an accountant who once served as chancellor for the Archdiocese of Boston and who is now a member of the board of Voice of the Faithful. "Months or years can go by in a parish without a ... meeting because the members of the committee just don't insist with the pastor."
As part of the Voice of the Faithful's efforts to force structural changes on the church in the wake of the sex abuse scandals, it is working on a set of principles it hopes will help standardize the operation of the councils and make them more effective watchdogs.
Critics say reducing theft will require more than just beefing up the finance councils.
A retired federal investigator has tried to convince the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church since 1990 that it needs to adopt procedures to ensure no money is stolen from the collection plate. M.W. Ryan, of Canton, Mass., a practicing Catholic, has urged the church to adopt procedures for counting money, sealing deposit bags and delivering them to the bank. The Saturday or Sunday collection ought to be as secure as the daily take at the local McDonald's, he said.
Ryan provides information free to churches through a Web site, www.churchsecurity.info.
"They know it's vulnerable," he said. "They also know that a small number of pastors supplement their income through regular deductions from Sunday collections. Nobody seems to want to stop it."
Zech, the Villanova professor, said parishes ought to hire an outside firm to audit the books every year, rather than wait for the infrequent audits done by the dioceses. Few parishes do that, he said.
"The vast majority of priests are tremendously trustworthy because they're good men," said David Castaldi, "But no man, no woman, should be put in a position where they have power over money without a review process. It leads to temptation to do something you just shouldn't do."
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There were never that many priests involved in the sex scandals, and there are likely not that many involved in financial scandals, either. Count on the media to make it look like that, though.
It's usually a financial committee that does this, at least it has in every Parish to which I've belonged.
You must mean that were caught. According to some researchers and even Priests willing to talk about it, the number of homosexuals in the Priesthood could be as high as 50-60%.
The 2% number that you hear so much about is purely damage control.
IMO many Bishops and Priests treat their diocese as a cash cow that they have been granted unlimited access to. Much like a business franchise.
The fact that there is a religion forum indicates that there is NOT an anti-religion attitude in FR managment. If it were up to me, I'd disband the religion forum and not allow any religious postings of any kind here.
FR is a political forum, not a soapbox for promoting one religion over another or for bigots to ply their scurrilous trade.
Religion and politics go hand in hand. This country was founded by religous people, and if the government wants to be truely representative, it needs to understand that the vast majority of the population are what the MSM would define as devoutly religious. This year and this election have given me a lot of hope. We CAN take the country back. I think the Great Depression did a lot of damage to our nation's brain. And some of the medicine was worse than the cure. But devout Christians and Jews alike helped found this country. My favorite Founding Father (and a guy whose grave I walked past every day on my way to my job at the WTC) Alexander Hamilton was part Jewish. This has and never will be about Christians and Jews, as the MSM is so found of coloring it. This is about religious people getting fed up with how special interest groups have perverted the so-called Constitutional separation of church and state.
I agree - when the moderators move valid new items off to the religion thread WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
there is no separation of news and religion on Free Republic - OR IS THERE?
I think they probably read only the thread titles without reading the articles and making their decisions based on that.
From what I've read, those researchers don't have hard data; they've relied on anecdotal 'evidence'. I would think that if there were that many homosexual priests around, I would have run into at least ONE, and I never have. I've lived in 5 states and attended at least seven parishes, and have known many more priests than just those in my parishes because my b-i-l is a priest and I know many of his priest brothers, and I've never met a homosexual priest that I'm aware of. Of course THAT is anecdotal as well, but that's my experience.