The “Anthony M. Pilla Charitable Account”

The “Anthony M. Pilla Charitable Account”

When former Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla abruptly resigned last year, folks were a bit surprised and many of us were wondering what the untold story was. Now it seems we may be finding out. A former chief financial officer of the diocese, Joseph Smith, on trial for an elaborate kickback scheme that allegedly defrauded the diocese out of $784,000 over seven years now says that Pilla had an off-the-books account from which he withdrew $177,000 over a decade. In case you weren’t aware, that’s a big no-no. Smith and his co-defendant, Anton Zgornik, also a former diocesan employee, claim that Pilla and another diocesan official, Fr. John Wright, knew of the scheme and approved.

Now let’s be clear here: Smith and Zgornik have a vested interest in deflecting attention and responsibility away from themselves and onto their former superiors. However, their claims should not be too difficult to investigate and proof of their veracity should be easy to find.

In fact, it’s not just Pilla who is supposed to have been getting money off the books.

Robert Rotatori, Zgoznik’s lawyer, said the diocese had hundreds of bank accounts that were not listed on the financial books and records of the diocese. Those accounts were routinely used to give additional compensation to diocesan employees, including Pilla, Rotatori said.

Let’s be clear here: What these people have done, if the allegations are true, is treat the funds entrusted to them for the legitimate use of the Church to enable proper worship and care for the spiritual and corporal needs of Diocese of Cleveland now and in the future as if it were their own special slush fund. They acted as if they were entitled to the money because they happened to be working for the Church. I’ve seen it happen before, folks acting as if their good works for God entitled them to special recompense. Let’s be clear here: It doesn’t.

What’s especially bad is that they’re not just stealing from the ordinary folks who give out of their own need for the advancement of the Gospel, but also from the poor who are the image of Christ among us and thus from Christ Himself. Good luck explaining that one at your particular judgment. I’m pretty sure that’s a goats-and-sheep situation (cf. Matt. 25:31-46)

Technorati Tags:, , , ,

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli