Tag Archive | "Monsignor Brown admits wrongdoing"

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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