The Rev. Francis Guinan was outraged in the fall of 2003, facing two parish audits by the Diocese of Palm Beach -- one at St. Patrick in Palm Beach Gardens, the other at St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach.
He professed disbelief to his bishop that his integrity would be questioned. He wrote to his bishop that priests pledge to live, if not a life of poverty, one of modesty rewarded by serving the faithful.
But diocese policy calls for a parish audit whenever there is a change in pastors, and Guinan had just left St. Patrick after 16 years to take over St. Vincent from his close friend, the Rev. John Skehan, who was retiring after 40 years. Diocese auditors were eager to crack open the books.
Guinan called on Bishop Gerald Barbarito, new to his post, to abolish the diocese's audit policy.
"My reasons for this request are as follows: It is demeaning, embarrassing and humiliating. It accomplishes nothing that could not be accomplished in a more dignified fashion," Guinan wrote to Barbarito in October 2003. "The money spent on an audit is a waste and should be spent more wisely."
He wrote that the sacrifices and commitment of priests are "without parallel."
"They devote their lives to the church with little thought for personal gain. They are generous, charitable and compassionate. They have earned and deserve trust, at least until proven otherwise," Guinan wrote. "May I be so crude as to ask you to `call off the dogs.'"
But Barbarito was not persuaded, and an independent audit of St. Vincent eventually uncovered an alleged $8.6 million theft going back decades.
This scandal has shown how lax the Catholic Church can be when it comes to finances. Guinan was embezzeling money for maybe 40 years, but since no one but him and St. Vincent Ferrar employees knew of it, it took till 2006 to come out. Its scandalous, but just more proof to me how corrupt the Catholic Church on earth is. From the priest abuse scandals, to stories like this, or how a Diocese planned to cut off a pregnant diocesan employee's health insurance while she was on hospital bedrest. The church can't find the $1,000 it would have needed to keep the mother's coverage in place? What is more important to the church, money or the almighty dollar. Since this hypocrite ignored letters from the woman's husband, we can assume that the answer is the dollar. Is any of this the work of God? I don't think so.
The mother lost the baby, and the stress caused by the idiots at her workplace and the Diocese could well have caused this. None of them ever apologized, they actually ignored the father's simple request for insurance help three days after the baby died. And O'Malley, who looked the other way, became a Cardinal within a year of this. How sick is that?
The rest of the sordid details concerning what Guinan and Skehan did are below. May they both these priests rot in hell, and the same goes for Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Full Disclosure- My wife is an employee of the Diocese of Palm Beach.
Linked to- Basil, Right Wing Nation, Shadowscape,
When he was arrested after returning from Ireland, Skehan admitted to investigators he established "slush" funds, bank accounts that were kept off St. Vincent's books. One of the slush funds was dubbed "Holy Name."
The cash was skimmed weekly from the collection plates at St. Vincent, money that bookkeepers helped Skehan and Guinan hide, according to the court records. Those bookkeepers were given immunity for their cooperation. When it became clear auditors were going to pore through the books, financial documents were shredded.
"Skehan told investigators that he felt that anything that he took ... he had coming to him, as the diocese was cheap and never paid for his education," a Delray Beach police detective wrote in one report released Thursday. "Skehan gave his opinion that he had never been properly paid by the diocese; he was running a big business and getting nothing for it."
The elderly priest told investigators that it was a "mountain of money" he had misappropriated, but he said he didn't recall where all the money went. He expressed surprise the figure was so high. He said he had no regrets about giving unauthorized payments and bonuses to church employees. He also told investigators he stashed some of the cash in bank accounts in Ireland under his brother's name, but he would tell them no more about that, according to records.
Guinan jetted off to Las Vegas and the Bahamas with a woman witnesses told investigators was his girlfriend. Skehan bought himself a $300,000 gold coin collection. Both men collected real estate and upscale homes. They created a complex maze for accountants to sort out, including multiple bank and stock investment accounts that were kept secret from the diocese.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Palm Beach said she would not comment on the documents because the criminal case is pending.
A bookkeeper interviewed by investigators portrayed an atmosphere of paranoia that she saw as normal in the St. Vincent offices. Money was hidden in ceiling tiles. Employees searched the room of a priest who they thought the diocese had planted as a spy. Books were falsified to cover up the missing money.
There was a limo trip to Joe's Stone Crab restaurant on Miami Beach with Guinan and Skehan and their close church employees and their spouses. They continued the outing at another bar.
Skehan had a bedroom closet that was padlocked with documents allegedly dealing with past pedophiles within the church, according to the records. It was "maybe some blackmail and stuff so he didn't want anybody ever to be able to get into there," one church employee said. When the criminal investigation got under way, Skehan told the employee to give his apartment keys to a relative to "offload some documents from his home," the employee said.
At St. Vincent, one of Palm Beach County's largest and oldest parishes, Skehan was well liked and even revered by parishioners. Guinan didn't enjoy the same reputation.
"He was never there," one church employee told investigators. "He didn't really care about St. Vincent's. He was gone most of the time."