Issue Date: February 8, 2008
By NCR STAFF
Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., accused of misusing money from two special funds, apologized Jan. 22 and said the questionable expenditures will be covered by an anonymous donor.
At issue were the bishops purchases last year of a conference table and chairs for a meeting room at the chancery at a cost of $10,100, and five sets of vestments bought for the Cathedral of St. Peter at a cost of about $8,000. For the former, he used money from a special ministries fund, and for the latter, money earmarked for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a pontifical missionary society.
The diocesan finance council had questioned the purchases in a letter copied to the Vatican nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Several priests who are members of the finance council or the priests council have been openly critical of how Braxton handled the purchases and the disagreement has been widely covered by area news media.
Braxtons statement explained that he believed using the funds he tapped for those purchases fell within his discretion as bishop.
At the time of this decision I stated, in writing, that if it was determined that my judgment was incorrect in this matter, I would replenish both funds with revenues obtained from an outside benefactor, he said in the statement. After several weeks of discussion, the chief financial officer and the diocesan finance council have not agreed with my judgment.
In the statement, Braxton acknowledged that the purchases had caused confusion, mistrust, misunderstanding, loss of confidence and even anger. He said, I regret this very much, and I apologize for anything I may have done, even unwittingly, to contribute to this situation.
A serious effort on my part and on the part of those charged by the church to assist me in the stewardship of our finances will be required to move forward, he continued. He and the finance council will develop procedures to ensure that such a problem does not occur again.
Msgr. John Kozar, director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the United States, told Catholic News Service the national office has no formal system of auditing collections in the dioceses, although dioceses are required to send in financial reports.
We trust in the integrity of the individual dioceses, he said.
Kozar said collections for the society from Belleville have averaged about $50,000 in recent years.
This article uses reporting from Catholic News Service.
National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008
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