Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

Financial woes follow pastor


Cook County, Ill. - A Cook County state's attorney's investigation into missing money at St. Christopher Catholic Church in Midlothian has expanded to Infant Jesus of Prague Church in Flossmoor.

The Rev. William Killeen, who was the pastor at St. Christopher for 13 years, was reassigned to Infant Jesus 13 months ago.

Doug Peterson, the former business manager at Infant Jesus, said he has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

Peterson held the position for 11 years until Killeen forced him to resign Sept. 2, granting him two weeks' severance pay. Also subpoenaed was a parish secretary, Peterson said.

Peterson said Killeen implemented financial practices that made him uncomfortable.

He said the Flossmoor parish is nearly $2 million in debt, partly from an extensive renovation of the 50-year-old church. The project included renovating and enlarging the church hall and making other interior improvements, including a chair-lift system to make the cafeteria and gymnasium accessible to people with disabilities.

The project was planned when the Rev. Michael Hack was pastor but was completed after Killeen took over in August 2004.

Of the $2.7 million that Infant Jesus hoped to raise for the renovations, $1 million was pledged by one parishioner.

Peterson said he and other staffers warned Killeen the $1 million donation might not materialize. Killeen OK'd the project, and the money was never donated, he said.

Infant Jesus owes $1.4 million to the Chicago archdiocese, which fronted money to complete the project. The parish has between $400,000 and $500,000 in unrelated debt, Peterson said.

Killeen has previously denied any knowledge of missing funds at St. Christopher. Until now, the only name directly linked to the county inquiry was Jim Nelson, the former business manager at St. Christopher. Authorities seized Nelson's computer at the beginning of the investigation in early August.

Killeen on Tuesday declined to comment on Peterson's departure or the state's attorney's investigation.

"I'm not sure what's going on," he said.

In a letter to parishioners published in the parish bulletin on Sept. 11, Killeen says he has tried to improve the "recording, allocation and communication of our income and expense."

"One aspect of that process is that Mr. Doug Peterson, who has been our business manager for the last 11 years, has decided to go in a different direction," Killeen says in the letter.

Peterson described Killeen as a micromanager. Soon after becoming Infant Jesus' pastor, Killeen insisted that Peterson's name be added on church bank accounts in addition to those of Killeen and the associate pastor, Peterson said.

He said he would routinely make deposits of tuition in the accounts and because of potential problems, "I would always keep my name off checking accounts. I showed (Killeen) in black-and-white the recommendations from the archdiocese that (my name) be kept off (them). I ended up putting my name on one or two accounts (out of about 15 to 20)."

Under Hack and another pastor that Peterson worked for at Infant Jesus, the pastor was always the signatory on the accounts, he said.

Killeen's insistence that the church safe be kept unlocked troubled church staff, according to a source. The pastor told staff that he wanted to do so in case the church was robbed at gunpoint and the staff didn't have the combination.

Killeen's expensive tastes also raised some questions among the staff. Although Infant Jesus was in debt when Killeen became pastor, he had the church install a wet bar in his rectory suite, a source said.

Missing cash at St. Christopher was revealed during a routine audit that the archdiocese performs when a parish changes pastors. Discrepancies in that audit led to a more extensive audit. The archdiocese and the new pastor at St. Christopher, the Rev. Mark Walter, voluntarily turned those findings over to the state's attorney's office.

State's attorney's spokesman Tom Stanton declined to comment on the investigation.

Last spring, Walter stunned parishioners by announcing St. Christopher was roughly $400,000 in debt. After the audits, Walter said that figure was not accurate, but it's not clear whether the correct figure is larger or smaller.

Killeen said he inherited much of St. Christopher's debt when he became pastor 14 years ago.


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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