Sunday, January 14, 2007

Accountability, folks?

I've been sitting in the common room with my visiting friends (while watching the rather exciting Patriots-Chargers game ... which the Patriots just won ...), discussing the case (Amy has the links) of the priest in the Richmond Diocese who embezzled $600,000 from two small rural Virginian parishes over a period of five years (One of the friends is from Virginia originally)... and now the revelations that he lived with a woman in Fredericksburg (Arlington Diocese) and apparently had three children, one of which was baptized in at an Arlington church!

Yes, such things are shocking. And concubinage among the clergy isn't exactly unheard of in some parts of the world (this priest is from the Philippines, from the Order of St. Camillus).

It is, however, quite mind-boggling that (based on the apparent details of the case as reported in the press) he got away with such a double life for so long (he'd been in the Diocese since 1993). But, when one thinks of it -- who exactly will be keeping tabs on Father? Especially in places where it's rare for a parish to have more than one priests (here, two parishes had one priest), there is no oversight of the clergy. And of course, especially if the priest is charismatic (as was the case here), parishioners are not going to complain about anything. And if he shows up and says Mass and at a few meetings, people are satisfied. And then there's that rather disheartening Villanova study.

The point is: what kinds of structures of accountability are really possible given the exigencies of today? I don't know ... but it's high time we talked and did something about it. (And yes, there's parallels with the sexual abuse scandal, of course.)

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