Faith — it’s the cornerstone of nearly every religion and charity. Faith in humanity. Trust in each other.
That trust has been shattered in the Tri-Cities after a deacon and pastoral associate at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church was arraigned and accused of skimming from the collection plates more than $20,000.
He’d been employed by the church for 11 years. Church elders entrusted to him many ceremonial duties. His job, however, didn’t require the handling of money.
Yet, here he is facing charges for the second time in a decade. The prior, unrelated charge of theft was later dismissed.
No matter what comes of this new case, it will take quite some time for this community to reclaim an almost blind faith in one another.
And that, unfortunately, is a good thing.
As a forensic accounting firm executive, John Peters, said in a newsletter by the Church Mutual Insurance Co.: "Trust is nice. But ‘trust me' is not a good philosophy when it comes to financials."
Peters — like law enforcement officials and risk management executives around the country — sees this kind of white-collar crime every week, every month. It happens in churches, at charities, in government agencies and in social organizations. Everywhere.
"Good economy or bad economy, Thursday or Friday — it doesn't matter,” Peters wrote. “It happens all over the country, any time of the year or any year.”
These cases seem to have ratcheted up in recent years as the economy tanked. In fact, these types of crimes have jumped nearly 50 percent from 2007 to 2011, according to FBI statistics.
But this isn’t a new crime.
It could be that, as the purse strings tightened, agencies and congregations started paying more attention to the financials. Perhaps they’ve spotted white-collar crimes that persisted unnoticed for years.
Or perhaps these criminals — and, make no mistake, what they are doing is every bit as criminal as, and perhaps worse than, grabbing cash from a bank vault or gas station till — are becoming more desperate for money. Perhaps they’ve been emboldened by getting away with it for so long.
We must remain vigilant. We must ask uncomfortable questions of our co-workers and leaders.
And we must move forward. Just make sure to do so with one eye open.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.