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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Crooks and church finances

Knucklehead Rev. John Skehan may not just have stolen from the parishoners of the church he was pastor of, but a dead woman's estate also.

DELRAY BEACH — When legendary hat designer Lilly Daché died on New Year's Eve in 1989, she left a sizable estate. Among the beneficiaries: St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, bequeathed $330,000. The court appointed two personal representatives for the estate. One was Daché's daughter. The other was the person who would control the money turned over to St. Vincent Ferrer: its pastor, the Rev. John Skehan.

The Daché probate is one of dozens of financial transactions, including some bequests, that Skehan handled during four decades at the church. Delray Beach police and auditors hired by the Diocese of Palm Beach are trying try to sort out alleged diversions of millions of dollars of church money by Skehan and his successor, the Rev. Francis B. Guinan.

Police and the church have said they probably won't look that far back.

Delray Beach police spokesman Jeff Messer said Saturday that the department has a statute of limitations of only five years.


Diocesan spokeswoman Alexis Walkenstein said Friday that the diocese's audit is not going as far back as Daché's case.


The French-born hat designer, who moved to America as a teen, was one of the world's most famous milliners, creating Marlene Dietrich's felt fedoras and the fruit-laden hats that made Carmen Miranda an icon. Some of her famed turbans are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York, and she donated a collection of materials to Delray Beach's Cason Cottage Museum.

Després died at 84 in August 1988. Sixteen months later, Daché died at 93 at a nursing home near Paris. Five weeks after that, on Feb. 6, 1990, about 60 people attended a memorial service for her at St. Vincent Ferrer.


On Jan. 9, 1990, Lilly Daché's estate was probated in Palm Beach County Court. That's where it labored for more than two years, as various players fought over it.


On Jan. 9, 1990, Lilly Daché's estate was probated in Palm Beach County Court. That's where it labored for more than two years, as various players fought over it.

When Daché died, three people filed petitions calling on the judge to admit three different wills to probate: J. Clinton Scott, a Vero Beach lawyer who worked with Manor House; Suzanne Daché Gauld, Daché's daughter; and St. Vincent, through its representative, Skehan. Twenty-six months later, in March 1992, a settlement was reached. The judge selected the will Skehan submitted and appointed him and Gauld as personal representatives.

According to the court documents, Gauld received $120,000 in cash, her mother's Delray Beach condo and all her mother's personal property in America and France. She also got the rights to, and any royalties from, the Daché name. Her two sons received $100,000 in a trust. The charity operated by the famed Mother Teresa received $250,000. And St. Vincent was given $330,000, to be administered by its pastor, Skehan.
It looks as if the thievery Skehan commited had no bounds. At age 79 he won't spend long in jail. His sentence from God is likely to far more harsher.

Burn in hell.

The diocese is taking steps to prevent such theivery from happening again.

A change in accounting methods at St. Vincent and at the other parishes that serve about 250,000 Roman Catholics in the five-county Palm Beach Diocese were part of what Barbarito and diocese chief financial officer Denis Hamel have described as efforts to improve a previous system under which parish audits were possible only when requested by the pastors.


In the wake of the scandal at St. Vincent, Hamel said, the diocese now requires that all church properties be audited every two years and be regulated by "internal controls at each location ... to safeguard the financial assets of the church or school."

That will only work if the individual parrishes and bishop are transparent about church finances. Something that is seldom done with the church today.

Like most bishops, Barbarito is well meaning but distant from his flock and day to day operations of the diocese. Maybe this will change, but some how I am still skeptical.

Full disclosure- My wife is an employee of the Diocese of Palm Beach. She works at the church nearest our home.

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