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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Use of Discretionary Funds for Personal Purposes
Misuse of church funds can lead to legal problems.

Key point 7-21. Embezzlement refers to the wrongful conversion of funds that are lawfully in one's possession. Embezzlement is a common occurrence in churches because of weak internal controls.

A Florida appeals court affirmed the conviction of a parish priest for embezzlement of church funds. A Catholic priest was charged with grand theft of funds from his church based on his use of church funds for his own personal benefit, rather than for the benefit of the church. The evidence at trial included the following:

  • Testimony of the church bookkeeper, who stated that the priest asked to see the cash collected in the offerings, and would keep some cash and return a reduced sum to the bookkeeper to be deposited into the church's operating accounts.
  • Testimony of another church employee, who stated that the priest would keep cash from the weekly offering and would instruct her to deposit only a part of the weekly offering. She testified that the priest retained $4,600 in cash from just one week's offerings.

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Posted: July 1, 2012
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