Another Roman Catholic Priest Admits Guilt

Posted on 03 November 2010

I am personally saddened, but not entirely surprised by the news emanating from federal court in Newark today.  Monsignor Patrick Brown, long-time pastor of Saint Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in Stirling, New Jersey pleaded guilty to tax evasion.  The guilty plea is the culmination of a 17-month FBI probe into misappropriation of parish funds by the Monsignor.  According to reports, Monsignor Brown’s guilty plea confesses the fact that Brown failed to pay taxes on at least $63,000 of funds taken illicitly from the church’s coffers.

As a regular attendee of services at St. Vincent’s for more than ten years, I liked Monsignor Brown personally, but commented frequently that I thought that he spent far too much time in the pulpit talking about donations, money, and church projects and too little on the actual meaning and significance of the Bible readings at that day’s services.  Understanding, however, that the Pastor’s job entailed management of the finances of a large, growing church and school, I chalked up his actions as a case of pressing worldly needs overshadowing the religious and spiritual enlightenment of parishioners.  Yet, I always felt a certain sense of uneasiness in how business-like and aggressive were Monsignor Brown’s fund-raising efforts.

When the news first broke about the investigation, explanations about the use of church funds to help parishioners in financial difficulties and to give modest tokens of gratitude to members of the choir and others of service to the church made the charges and investigation appear to be baseless and an unnecessary use of government resources.  And, as time passed, it appeared to many that the Monsignor would be exonerated.  But, that was clearly not the case, as today’s admissions by Monsignor Brown indicate that much of the misappropriated money was diverted to the Monsignor’s personal use, including repairs to his lake house and vacations to Colorado, Hawaii, and Ireland.

The admissions of today are but the latest example of misdeeds caused by human weakness and greed.  They are all the more shocking because they were perpetrated by a purported “man of the cloth,” someone who by virtue of his vocation should have known better and acted in accord with the principles of his faith.

Yet, in the final analysis, we are all human, and we are all sinners.  And sometimes, if provided the opportunity, we will choose the path of personal gratification over virtue.  Monsignor Brown may pay a worldly penalty for his actions in the form of a jail term, his otherworldly punishment – as is ours – is in the hands of God.  He – like us all – deserves our forgiveness.  His misdeeds, however, should not be forgotten, for their memory serves as a reminder that the actions of spiritual leaders, just like others in authority, require our vigilant scrutiny. 

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7 Responses to “Another Roman Catholic Priest Admits Guilt”

  1. Kate S. says:

    As someone who made a very conscious decision to leave the Catholic Church because I felt it had come far from the teachings of Jesus Christ, I am not surprised by this latest development. Quite honestly, I saw the headline on this article and feared that it was another case of a priest sodomizing a young boy. Thank God that it wasn’t.

    I don’t condone what this priest has done; I certainly don’t condone pedaphiles. In fact, I wish a swift justice upon them, though there will be no justice for their innocent victims. I doubt that there is an antidote to human greed. But as far as sexual behavior/predation goes, I think that if the church would face the fact that priests are men, and that men will always be men, it would allow priests to marry, as religious leaders do in so many other faiths. In this way, innocent children would be spared.

  2. Zaz Oozaz says:

    Monsignor Brown was framed. Why was he investigated by NJ Federal Attorney, Paul Fishman, an Obama appointee?

    Why is Brown prosecuted when our Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, goes scot free after not paying income taxes for FOUR years on compensation amounting to a whole lot more than Brown’s supposed $64,000? In ’06 the IRS found Geithner didn’t pay self-employment tax for ’03 and ’04, so he paid his back taxes, plus interest amounting to $16,73! But Secretary Geithner also failed to pay his self-employment tax in ’01 and ’02 (on returns he prepared himself!). The IRS didn’t examine these returns and so didn’t order him to pay up– but the why didn’t he voluntarily amend those returns and pay the tax and interest at the time of the ’06 audit? Instead, the man waited until after Obama’s team vetted him and revealed the shortfall — $19,176 in taxes and $6,794 in interest. Further, on returns for ’01, ’04, and ’05, our current Secretary of the Treasury wrongly claimed expenses for his kids sleep-away camps in calculating his dependent care tax credit. Even though his accountant told him this wasn’t allowed, Geithner didn’t amend his returns for the previous years, so along with other adjustments, Mr. Geithner owed an additional tax of $4,334 and interest of $1,232. All together, that’s $23,510 in tax and $8,026 in interest he didn’t pay the IRS until he was found out– and this is our current Secretary of the US Treasury! And you’re going to tell me Brown should get the book thrown at him for a $12,400 TOTAL tax shortfall over the course of SIX years! monsignor Brown’s \crime\ was that he used two \secret\ bank accounts for parish expenses and to help people in financial trouble. In times where the government didn’t punish American citizens for political transgressions, these would have been called \the pastor’s discretionary accounts.\ Sometimes he used the accounts to cover his own expenses, which he paid back once he had the money. His so-called lake house is in fact his elderly mother’s house, so please give us a break when you try to paint it like its some kind Kubla Khan pleasure-dome. In fact, he already paid the $64,000 back. Monsignor is guilty of poor judgement and sloppy bookkeeping– that’s it. The parish was not hurt financially because of his actions. He had to cop a plea because the government was being far more severe than it needed to be. It had no business running an investigation, especially a fishing expedition like this one! No there’s a different story here… The Democrat machine in this state considered him \too big for his britches\ politically. Brown convinced a lot of people to stop voting Democrat, myself included, because of its culture of death stands on many issues. I’d like to know why he was targeted for an FBI investigation in the first place. This is government persecution on a unprecedented scale.

  3. MsgrEmbezzler says:

    To Zaz:

    Yes, Msgr. was framed– by himself! How did the feds frame him when he opened a secret slush fund a mere 3 days after he became pastor of SvdP? Another apologist for the thief, just like the ones who stood and applauded him at Sat’s mass. You people make me sick with your blind support of a man who stole from you! Msgr. made the plea– if he is innocent, as you claim, then his high-powered attorneys would have defended him, and the charges would have been dropped. If you think it’s only $63K that wa stolen, you’re sadly mistaken. All of you people who support the thief just condone stealing.

  4. OneWhoKnows says:

    Citing to the Treasury Secretary who got off light just plunges people into discussion of moral relativity, of “worse than” and “better than” comparisons. Yes, it seems unfair when one man gets off light and only has to pay money in back taxes while another faces criminal charges and possible imprisonment. The only thing that would be fair would be if BOTH got hit with formal charges for evasion.

    The difference I see is that Geitner was under-reporting income and misreporting deductions that unquestionably were all about money he personally had earned or spent. On the other hand, Monsignor Brown was taking funds intended for the parish and converting them to a form of personal income through how he spent funds from two successive secret bank accounts. That distinction might have been the big one in the minds of the feds, too. I know that Brown’s legal defense team tried to get his case put on a civil track and off the criminal track. The fact that three of the most well-regarded defense lawyers in NJ were unable to get prosecutors to agree to move it off criminal tracking suggests that more might have been found than the plea alone admitted. Well over a half-million dollars was suspiciously handled; it kept forensic CPA efforts on Overdrive to untangle it all.

    I know a few people who sat on parish finance council at one time or another who had disagreements with Brown. He took the position that he raised funds and should be the Supreme Boss of where the money went. The people I knew felt the parish as institution was what encouraged Sunday collection giving while projects inspired pledges if donors found them worthy and not just the individual pitching the projects to solicit support. They counseled greater prudence while worrying about about what some saw as the pastor’s propensity to spend.

    This priest brought character traits of ego and stubbornness, and insistence upon retaining large discretionary powers, to his position as pastor. All of that resisted advice sometimes. That was clearly shown when he was told to close out the first secret account at Chase bank after Morris County prosecutors came sniffing around, years ago. Those local authorities never prosecuted but that probe got the attention of the diocese, which ordered Brown to stop handling money directly. That was in 2006-07. Then what did he do? He went back to the same old tricks, closing the Chase account and almost immediately opening up the second secret account at Sovereign Bank and once again diverting deposits intended for the parish into it.

    Someone who doesn’t learn is someone who might have been seen as a future risk where handling money is concerned. What a local low-key probe with no formal filing of charges could not accomplish the first time, a high profile probe and admission of guilt did accomplish in the second, and federal, matter. Namely, a man who should not be entrusted with directly handling money, because he can’t meet institutional (and tax-exempt) standards in properly accounting for it, is now being given the very public “black eye” that will separate him from any position that brings him into contact with money-handling in the future.

    It’s a shame it had to be this way, and that the case came to this sad ending. He has done a lot of good for a lot of good causes. He will probably do more good in the future, too, once his fate is determined at sentencing. Jail time? Highly unlikely. But a long period of probation and possibly some psych counseling is not out of the question.

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