Tag Archive | "Father Patrick Brown"

Monsignor Patrick Brown Sentenced

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Before a visibly stunned courtroom including many former parishioners, U.S. District Court Judge Susan D. Wigenton sentenced Monsignor Patrick Brown to five months in jail, five months of home detention, and a $30,000 fine – bringing to a close the sorry story of another trusted, well-respected religious leader who used his office for personal gain.  Pleading guilty to a charge of tax evasion for falsifying his 2005 Federal income tax return and diverting more than $63 thousand in funds from St. Vincent de Paul Parish between 2004 and 2009, Brown and his many supporters and admirers had been awaiting sentencing since last November.

At the time of his guilty plea, it was reported that much of the money diverted had been used by Brown to purchase gifts, make repairs to a Budd Lake, NJ residence he owns, and take vacations to Colorado, Hawaii, and Ireland.

At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Prosecutor Lee Vartan provided more detail regarding the beleaguered Monsignor’s improprieties, stating that Brown’s scheme involved the diversion of more than one-half million dollars from the Parish!  Additionally, a news release by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman provided more detail concerning the misappropriation of funds.

Apparently, within three days of assuming the leadership of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in 1992, Brown opened an account with Chemical Bank in which parish money was deposited.  He used proceeds of that account for many of his personal expenditures until its closing in 2007 – at which time Brown became aware of the federal investigation into the Parish’s finances.  Thereafter, however, he opened another account, this time with Sovereign Bank, that was partially funded via church donations.

Despite the fact that the court had been inundated by more than 200 letters detailing acts of generosity and kindness performed by Monsignor Brown, Judge Wigenton expressed the need to impose a sentence reflecting the “seriousness” of the Monsignor’s crimes.  Before imposing sentence, Wigenton reflected that “for a person who has taken an oath before God…to then mislead parishioners…that’s just very disturbing.”  She further added “there’s a level of deception here that seems almost pathological.”

In light of the new revelations regarding the Monsignor’s criminal activities, Judge Wigenton’s sentence appears almost too lenient.  Yet, the very fact that Brown’s misdeeds have come to the light of day and caused his rapid fall from grace likely provide a more profound level of punishment than any incarceration could, as well as a warning for others who would use positions of prestige and authority to defraud those whom they should be serving.

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Another Roman Catholic Priest Admits Guilt

Another Roman Catholic Priest Admits Guilt

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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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