Pilfering Peter's Pence

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If you stuffed a few bucks into Salvation Army kettles this past holiday season, there's good news-- it's very likely your dollars (or coins, if you're a cheap bastard) found their way to wherever General Booth's soldiers intended they should go.

The New York Times reports:

The Salvation Army is widely considered exemplary among nonprofits in handling cash collections. The red buckets in which bell ringers collect donations are covered and locked, and all buckets must be returned to a central location, where at least two people count the number and type of bills, coins and checks, said Major George Hood, the charity's national spokesman.

The money must be deposited in the bank within 24 hours, and different people reconcile the initial tallies with bank records, Major Hood said.

As for the mite you might have dropped in the collection plate at church… well, the news in the Times isn't quite so reassuring.

A survey by researchers at Villanova University has found that 85 percent of Roman Catholic dioceses that responded had discovered embezzlement of church money in the last five years, with 11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen.

This, despite that fact that "The Catholic Church has some of the most rigorous financial guidelines of any denomination, specialists in church ethics said".

Of course, it's not just those who recognized the primacy of the pope who have these problems. According to the Times,

Most denominations have had cases of embezzlement, sometimes by top officials. In June, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. fired its second-ranking financial officer, Judy Golliher, after she admitted stealing money that church officials put at more than $132,000.

While pocketing more than a hundred grand of the gifts of the faithful is impressive, it's nothing compared to the work of a couple of priests from Florida.

In October alone, three large cases of embezzlement surfaced, including one in Delray Beach, Fla., where two priests spent $8.6 million on trips to Las Vegas, dental work, property taxes and other expenses over four decades.

$8.6 million? Even Father Ted never dreamed of that kind of payday.


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