Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Inappropriate Use of Church Funds in Burlington Parish

As reported in the Racine Journal Times, Fr. Jeff Thielen, has resigned from St. Mary's Immaculate Conception Parish in Burlington, WI. He had been there since 2004 and at this time they estimate that he misspent $75,000: some of that he used to overcompensate himself and $58,000 was used in purchasing gift cards to thank people. In the wake of this scandal, the trustees and the business manager resigned, though they are expected of no wrong-doing.

It seems odd that this appears in the news so shortly after just talking about this issue on the blog. Julie Wolf, the archdiocesan spokewoman, also made a very interesting comment. "Sometimes the parishioners - and even staff - are deferential to the pastor out of respect. Not that (they) shouldn't question the pastor, but it makes it difficult for them to do so."

We are supposed to celebrate "The Year of the Priest," but in one sense this only reinforces a stereotype that parishioners should always defer to the priest. Trustees need to realize that they are on the board of directors of their parish according to how each parish is organized in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They need to take that responsibility more seriously. Trustees are an already built in defense to try and protect the financial integrity of a parish.

A Faithful Catholic

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