The Monitor / Embezzlement in Cleveland Diocese{more news not found in the DDN} | August 24, 2007

The Monitor / Embezzlement in Cleveland Diocese / 8.24.2007

Dear Friend,

An embezzlement trial opened in Cleveland this week, spotlighting theft at the highest levels of the Cleveland diocese.

For a useful overview of the Cleveland case, read our special version of a recent New York Times article, with links to relevant court documents.

The defendants say the money they took was authorized by the diocese’s financial and legal secretary, a priest they accuse of also routing payments to himself and to his girlfriend. The chancery’s “system of secret compensation” involved dummy corporations and hundreds of bank accounts, the defendants say, including a $500,000 off-book account for former Bishop Anthony Pilla.
Why do cases of financial abuses within the Church interest us?
Over and over again, we’re seeing that the Church’s financial and sexual crises are entangled in the same skein of secrecy and lawlessness. Tug one thread and you pull the other.

Example: As part of bankruptcy proceedings, the Portland OR archdiocese was required to file 50,000 pages of financial records. In 2006, Oregonian reporters sifting through the archive discovered documentation of many more victims and abusers than the archdiocese had ever acknowledged.

But it goes deeper, this enmeshment of theft and sexual abuse. It begins with the crimes themselves.

At every level, theft funds crimes of cover-up. Bishops take money from the unwitting faithful to seal victims’ lips in secret settlements. In Boston, millions of dollars collected to fund priests’ retirements were diverted to pay for sex offenders’ lawyers and therapists. In parishes, embezzling priests blackmail pedophile priests into silence.

Most practically, theft pays for the abuse itself. Priests rob the collection basket to buy child pornography. They steal to buy the tools of grooming: gifts, fine meals, nice cars, and, crucially, overnight trips with the victim.

And when embezzlement is reported to the chancery, we’ve seen the diocese punish the whistleblower, not the priest.
In the Cleveland case, the Church has fought to block the release of financial documents, despite the judge’s order. A lot is at stake for the diocese. And for you and me. If the contents of the documents become public during the upcoming trials, we’ll learn how high the corruption went in Cleveland. And we’ll have a pattern to look for in other dioceses.

We’ll keep you posted.


Anne Barrett Doyle




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