Cleansing Fire

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$hepherds $hearing $heep – Part 3 “The Case of St. Mary”

May 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is Part 3 of $hepherds $hearing $heep, and the beginning of the second portion of the Andrew Cuomo letter, as promised, “The St. Mary Rushville Case Study”.  While Part 2 brought forth the point that the NYS Religious Corporation Law is not being uniformly applied or enforced, and that strengthening is needed, that letter  to Mr. Cuomo was written  on mostly a theoretical or legalistic basis.  Quite frankly, since it was addressed to Mr. Cuomo, there were references which had particular application to his knowledge and work (e.g. the Sarbanes Oxley regulation of corporations, and the price fix in milk that he had previously combatted) and there was an implicit understanding which he would have had on the difference between enforcement and “taking over an institution.”   So I apologize to anyone who might, in good faith, have been confused by reading the letter to Mr. Cuomo, which obviously  had a different original audience.  However, in the interest of not being accused of rephrasing or of avoiding confrontation, I had decided it was best simply to put it out there exactly as it went to Mr. Cuomo (and Mr. Palladino.)

Again, I was  faced with the same dilemma; whether to rewrite the Case Study (Part 3) which I sent to the candidates, or simply to clarify any confusions or provide defense as needed after the fact.  Again, I choose to present it exactly as it went to the candidates (typos and addresses excepted) plus a few  updates added as needed (in blue), where otherwise an erroneous impression would be created caused by the lapse of time.  

Also, at first, it seemed better to post the Case all at one time, while the prior post was still fresh in the previous readers’ minds.  I did that, and even apologized because it was so long for a blog post; but I had not seen a way to conveniently break it into “two pieces” without destroying the momentum.  However, after this newbie blogger got some advice, I decided to redo and spread the story out through what will eventually be throufgh Part 8.  Here we begin Part 3 of  “$hepherds…” with the history of St. Mary and the comments sent to Mr. Cuomo on Partners in Faith.  (If you did read the prior (very extensive) posting of Part 3, it will be all the same information, but spread over more parts.  So you need not re-read it just because it is now in multiple parts.)

Actual Case for Illustration

St. Mary in Rushville, NY

(With information limited where possible to matters related to NYS Law)

 

Background:  The Catholic Church in Rushville, NY began when the first Mass was celebrated on May 3, 1853.  St. Mary’s was incorporated as a parish on March 29, 1869.  Approximately 130 years later it joined with five other parishes under a Diocese of Rochester Directive to form a non-incorporated entity known as Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community (OLOL).  Ten years later, in September 2009, the pastor stopped scheduling Masses at St. Mary, bypassing the required decree of the Bishop, so it is effectively closed, but the Treasury continues to be drained.  The other entities in OLOL are St. Michael in Penn Yan, St. Januarius in Naples, St. Andrew in Dundee (now closed), St. Patrick in Prattsburgh, and St. Theresa in Stanley, NY.  St. Theresa, being the closest to St. Mary evolved over time as a “sister” parish, and a rectory was build in Stanley which up until about 10 years ago housed the priest who served Rushville and Stanley.  Neither the Rushville nor the Stanley rectory now has resident priests but they are served by priests from Penn Yan (from where a lone priest originally travelled by horseback to say Mass.).  The territories of the six OLOL parishes comprise over 700 square miles, with two full time priests and two retirees to assist, plus 4 ordained deacons.  The two full time priests live in Penn Yan.  The current pastor is Rev. Robert Ring, who coincidentally came to OLOL on September 11, 2001.  There was quite a bit of tension around his appointment especially at St. Januarius parish, where many parishioners believed and continue to believe he was responsible for the mishandling of a sexual abuse case against a Fr. Emo of St. Januarius, accused of molesting a vulnerable adult in the 1990’s.  The pastor has denied it was mishandled, and also has denied that he was responsible for the reassignment of Fr. Emo elsewhere, or to anywhere he continued to molest.  (The pastor was for many years the person in the Diocese of Rochester designated to receive the complaints of sexual abuse.)  In August 2003 there was a forum held at St. Januarius with parishioners demanding the removal of the pastor.  The diocese did not do so.  He was reappointed to a second 6 year term as pastor in 2007. 

While there are many complaints which could be detailed in too many pages, the following are most relevant to Trustee issues, financial issues, and general management of a not-for-profit corporation in NYS, as related to NYS Religious Corporation Law.  However, they are just a sampling.

A Diocesan Capital Campaign was neither spent on promised projects nor funds returned to donors:  In May 2003, the Diocese of Rochester launched a capital campaign drive, prior to the “pastoral planning” which would soon close parishes, and with the promise to return half of everything collected to the parish which raised the funds.  Those monies were raised on the promise that they would be used for identified projects.  Of the $43,723 collected for St. Mary, $21,811.50 was returned to the parish, and a pre-announced 25% was set aside for staffing.  Thus, the net amount remitted to St. Mary for the projects regarding which funds were raised was $16,358.62.  None of the projects promised were done.  One roofing/foyer problem was later charged at a cost of $5500, awarded against church policy which requires a second quote.  That specific project (except for possibly some minor painting) was not an approved project.  Nevertheless, it seems to have been deducted from the total residual remaining.  The balance in this capital account is now believed to be approximately $10,858, if the full $5500 were to be allowed.  Since St. Mary is to be closed, projects will remain undone and there is no visible action to return the restricted funds to the donors. 

….to be continued

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4 Responses to “$hepherds $hearing $heep – Part 3 “The Case of St. Mary””

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    I’m curious what all the Bishop Clark apologists who read this blog have to say about the corruption in this diocese…

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    Diane, I admire your tenacity and steadfastness in all this. We all owe you a good deal of thanks! It’s very sad but I’m afraid this kind of thing goes on all over the diocese. My experience has not been in the financial realm but, rather, in liturgical battles. “Subterfuge” is my favorite word for what I think is the diocese’s preferred strategy in much of what it does.

  3. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thank you to those who put in the work of reading through this post. This newbie to blogging got some advice this morning to break this post into a few parts, regardless of the momentum question, so I will. After I split it and post the first part I’ll remove this longer version, except for comments. But it will all be back eventually. Nothing else will change. Thanks to those who gave advice! Diane

  4. avatar Eliza10 says:

    I’m still following! Just saw this short version (I didn’t see the other), and I thought, “Now that was a digestible amount of information!” So, I am all for breaking it up into smaller bits!

    I am glad to see the dishonest and immoral financial practices exposed here. These people need to be held accountable in some way. I am still not sure that means getting the government involved. But at least just having it in print is a step in the right direction. They have been able to get away with so much because its been no problem to hide their actions and cavalierly ignore any of the unimportant little people (the Catholics they have been called to serve) who challenge them.


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