BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop William Lori once made a whistleblower priest deliver a public apology for helping bust another priest's embezzlement.
Archbishop Lori, currently heading the archdiocese of Baltimore, is Pope Francis' new pick to replace Bp. Michael Bransfield in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. For the time being, Lori is acting as apostolic administrator.
Back when Abp. Lori was head of the diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut, Fr. Michael Jude Fay, then the pastor of St. John parish in the diocese, was caught embezzling over $1 million in parish money. Taken to court, Fay pled guilty in 2007 to transporting money obtained fraudulently across state lines. Father Fay died in prison in 2009.
Another priest, Fr. Michael Madden, helped expose Fr. Fay's misdeeds by hiring private investigators. But Lori chastised Fr. Madden for doing so, claiming the priest was overstepping his bounds.
Lori even made Fr. Madden give a public apology during Mass for hiring the private investigators instead of relying on the diocese. A parish secretary was also in on the plan to track Fr. Fay's embezzlement.
Father Madden chose to retire from active ministry in August 2006. News stories from the time noted it was an abrupt departure.
Reporters had a hard time getting hold of Madden after he left priestly ministry. He did give an interview shortly before he left which was published after the fact. In that interview, he said, "My conscience has always been clear as far as my actions go, because I know that I have tried to do right by the people the bishop entrusted to my care. And as the evidence clearly shows, nobody else was looking out for them, or Fay wouldn't have been able to have carried on for all these years."
Father Fay was spending the parish's money on a life of opulence, buying designer clothes, fine dining, expensive furniture and other luxury items. Over the years, he cost the parish a total of about $1.4 million.
Father Madden and parish bookkeeper Bethany D'Erario had brought Fr. Fay's decadent lifestyle to the diocese's attention under Lori. But they went to private investigators because they were frustrated with how slow the diocese was to move on the information.
Lori was instrumental in 2002 in creating the Dallas Charter, a document from the U.S. bishops on how to handle the clerical sex abuse crisis.
During the meeting in Dallas, Lori defended now-disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's decision to alter the language in early drafts of the document that would have held bishops responsible.
For instance, a phrase in the Dallas Charter where early drafts used the word "clerics" was changed to specify "priests and deacons" — thus excusing bishops from being investigated and held accountable.