Thanks, bishop, we'll keep our own books

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US Catholic's May cover story (not yet published) covers the shocking level of embezzlement that has been going on in parishes; Father Paul Boudreau chronicled one story in his "When bad things happen to good parishes" essay last December.

The Connecticut legislature is attempting to take matters into its own hands on this one, with State Sen. Andrew McDonald introducing a bill that would allow a parish to withdraw its assets from diocesan control and administer them locally, according to the Hartford Courant. His bill is a response to a case in which a priest stole $1.4 million from his parish (and by association its members). The state's bishops, who are opposed to the bill, argue it would jeopardize religious liberty.

The bishops are probably right on this as a legal matter, but I only disagree with the mechanism (state legislation). The corporation-sole model, by which parish property is held in the name of the bishop, has proven incredibly problematic, allowing all kinds of hanky-panky with the books and exposing parishes to diocesan liability, as in the case of sex abuse claims. Putting fiscal responsibility in the hands of parish finance councils sounds like a good idea to me.