Carl Apple, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, confirmed the church fired a staff member who admitted to stealing money from collection plates during the past year.
The employee, Joseph Finnigan, was fired last week. Finnigan, 73, of Grand Haven, now faces charges for allegedly embezzling more than $20,000. He entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment in the 58th District Court on Monday morning and demanded a preliminary examination. A conference with attorneys was set for Nov. 20.
Officials suspected the theft had been going on for more than a year, Apple said. Finnigan worked at the church for 11 years, serving as the pastoral associate and a deacon.
“Parishes have systems of checks and balances in place to make theft very difficult,” he said. “St. Pat’s has that type of system.”
That’s how the church discovered the problem, and they immediately contacted the police. Apple said officials determined it was an employee, and when confronted, Finnigan admitted to the theft.
A statement about the situation was posted on St. Pat’s website. It was also read to the congregation during masses on Saturday and Sunday.
“Sadly, I must inform you that a St. Patrick-St. Anthony employee has admitted to taking cash from the weekend offertory collection; it appears to have taken place over an extended period of time. The worker was immediately terminated. A subsequent review of financial records has been handed over to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety as required by diocesan policy,” Father Bill Langlois read to the congregation.
The statement noted that, although they have protocols in place to prevent thefts, not every protocol is foolproof.
“We are working with the Diocese of Grand Rapids to review and enhance these procedures,” Langlois said. “This announcement was the most difficult message I have ever had to make to the congregation. ...I delivered the same message at four liturgies and each time it was more painful.
“I know that the parish is hurt; they feel betrayed. We will all be grieving together, but with the good Lord’s help, we will rise above this matter. While the behavior cannot be condoned, we must establish a spirit of forgiveness and seek reconciliation.”
Langlois said the incident reminds them that they need to be vigilant.
“As well, it calls us to remember Jesus’ call to pray for those who injure us," he said.