WATERTOWN -- After receiving concerns regarding parish finances from St. Bernard Parish, Watertown, parishioners in June, the Diocese of Madison has taken a very preliminary look at the parish's finances and concluded that a careful and independent examination of the parish's finances and records is needed.
These concerns include the borrowing of funds from parishioners and the parish itself and overall handling of parish business affairs.
Upon learning of, and briefly investigating these concerns, the diocese has implemented the following protocol and procedures:
- Fr. Tom Marr has been placed on administrative leave, effective July 16.
- Msgr. Daniel Ganshert, Vicar General of the Diocese of Madison, has been named Administrator of St. Bernard Parish.
- Diocesan officials are working very closely with parish officials and parishioners, gathering relevant information. This includes: parish trustees, pastoral and finance council members, and parish personnel. (Monsignor Ganshert's full announcement made to parishioners on July 19, is posted on the diocesan Web site at www.madisondiocese.org [PDF])
- Third-party auditors have been secured to conduct an independent examination of the parish's finances and records.
"There are a number of important issues currently being addressed at St. Bernard, in Watertown, and we are in the processing of assessing the situation and therefore it is prudent for us to refrain from spreading rumors, speculating, or releasing (currently preliminary and therefore incomplete) information about these concerns, until relevant facts are gathered and verified," commented Monsignor Ganshert.
At this point, the diocese is withholding all judgment, as we address these issues, taking into account the wellbeing of all those involved, especially the parishioners of St. Bernard Parish. Until more facts are known, we ask that everyone do the same. Similarly, as in every circumstance, we ask you to consider the fact that we must respect the reputation and good name of every person, whether priest or parishioner.
As a matter of Church structure and principle, parish governance and finances are independent of the Diocese of Madison. The diocese does not micro-manage its parishes in these regards.
However, when serious concerns are brought to the diocese's attention, the diocese must promptly and carefully address them, for the protection and benefit of parishioners, parishes, and the diocese as a whole.
Father Marr has been helpful with providing preliminary information and allowing the diocese to follow its protocol and procedures.
After being made fully aware of the situation, Bishop Robert C. Morlino mentioned that he is "saddened by this revelation" and noted "Father Marr is a fine priest who has poured himself out for so many. I grieve with and for Father Tom's parish family and promise prayers for all involved. Let us remember the Scripture 'blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.'"