December 9, 2013
If there were ever a contest to determine the best example of Benjamin Franklin’s observation, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, a church's Sunday collection would surely be a top contender.
As a retired federal law enforcement official with significant experience in the detection and investigation of financial irregularities, I have witnessed many cases in which otherwise good, God-fearing men and women succumbed to the temptation presented by easy access to public funds or property. And in virtually every case, the targeted funds were less vulnerable than is the average church's Sunday collection.
A Sunday collection embezzler is likely to begin by telling him/herself they're only borrowing the funds to cover some legitimate personal or family need. As time goes by, however, and they realize how easy it is to borrow (in this case, from the Sunday collection), they can begin to rationalize about how hard they work for little or (in the case of church volunteers) no pay, and how their church really owes it to them. As one can imagine, it's all downhill from there.
Judas was Christianity's first embezzler (JOHN 12:6) but today, some 2000 years later, an unknown but significant number of church embezzlements are ongoing at any given time. No one knows how many, because most church leaders, being unschooled in Security and having a deep-rooted aversion to its connotation of mistrust, have never recognized or accepted the absolute need for effective internal security to both deter and detect surreptitious theft. The preservation and reliance upon what are essentially 19th Century methods to protect the collections is totally unacceptable. It might sound melodramatic, but the long-term fiscal wellbeing of your church, parish or diocese could well rest in your hands.
In early 2005, the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a codified version of our Sunday collection guidelines. While I don’t know to what extent and how effectively they have been implemented, I do know they led to the identification of at least one embezzler (a pastor) who was plundering his parish’s Sunday collections to support a lavish and, as is often the case, perverted lifestyle. To learn more about that sad case, click here.
At this writing, I only know of one other archdiocese that has implemented genuinely secure procedures that, for the record, must begin with each collection being secured within a serially-numbered, self-sealing, tamper-evident container such as the one pictured above. I’m hopeful other archdioceses and dioceses either have or soon will follow suit. However, my inability to generate interest on the part of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or its fiscal arm, the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, causes me to conclude neither one has taken any action to direct or promote the Conference-wide use of genuinely secure procedures. That is simply unacceptable.
It is therefore my sincere and continuing hope that my 2011 book, NONFEASANCE, will provide the motivation the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops presently appears to lack. If you’d like to know more about the book, I invite you to watch the video below. It can also be viewed at www.NONFEASANCE.info.
M W Ryan
Michael W. Ryan
A Message from the Author