Gwendolyn Wu San Francisco Chronicle
A pastor with the Diocese of Santa Rosa allegedly stole more than $95,000 from his parishes, church officials discovered following a June car accident. Bishop Robert F. Vasa, of the Diocese of Santa Rosa,
Bishop Robert F. Vasa, seen here in January, says a Santa Rosa priest allegedly stole at least $95,000 from five Northern California churches.
Bishop Robert F. Vasa knew something was amiss as the bags of cash started piling up.
First, it was the six security bags — used for collecting parish donations — found in a Santa Rosa priest’s car after the pastor was injured in an accident. Then it was the dozen sacks — both sealed and unsealed — in the same priest’s office, as well as a $10,000 stack of cash found in his desk drawer.
But a final trip to the Rev. Oscar Diaz’s home unveiled the extent of the money allegedly skimmed from five Northern California churches — at least $95,000 taken over the course of 15 years from well-intentioned parishioners, church officials said Monday.
Diaz, 56, was identified by church officials as the culprit. The suspended pastor of Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish in Santa Rosa first set off suspicions June 19, when he fractured his hip in a car crash, according to the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Emergency responders arrived on the scene to treat Diaz and take him to a local hospital for surgery, but they also made a startling discovery: The half-dozen bags in the vehicle were stuffed with $18,305.86 in cash, which officials said came from parish donations.
“The chain of custody in the parish is that they’re not taken off-site, put in cars and not managed singly by the pastor,” Vasa told The Chronicle.
Diaz allegedly described the money bags to first responders as his salary, but a hospital employee contacted police after the stuffed sacks arrived at the emergency room with the injured priest. The church told parishioners of the alleged deception Sunday.
Investigators later found Diaz had taken an additional $77,000 from the parishes he previously led for much of his career, officials said.
The week after the crash, Vasa said, Diaz called his staff to report additional collection bags in his office that needed to be processed and deposited. They found a dozen more, along with $10,083 in a stack that consisted “mostly” of $100 bills, officials said.
Some checks written out to Resurrection Parish were allegedly deposited into Diaz’s personal bank account.
Vasa and Monsignor Daniel Whelton visited the pastor’s rectory and apparently found even more bags. Diocesan staff suspect the alleged thefts at the Resurrection Parish began in September 2018, just a month after Diaz began leading Sunday Mass at the church.
Diaz allegedly admitted to Vasa he was taking funds from the parish and is cooperating with the church’s internal investigation. However, no criminal charges are expected, Vasa said, because the protocols around “collection accounting” would make for a difficult investigation.
“Could he argue that he was using this as a collection for the poor and he was gonna keep it and distribute it to the poor?” the bishop said. “It’s unlikely and a violation of policy, but is it clear legal evidence of theft? It’s just not as easy to prove.”
Santa Rosa police did not respond to a request for comment.
Monday’s news comes as the Catholic Church grapples with numerous sex abuse scandals across the country, as well as the recent ban of a West Virginia bishop who was accused of harassment and misspending church money on personal luxuries, such as chartered jets and more than $180,000 in fresh flower deliveries.
It is unclear how Diaz allegedly embezzled parish funds for so long, but church finance experts said collection standards often vary.
The diocese’s chief financial officer should have controls in place to notice the missing donations, said Charles Zech, the executive director of Villanova University’s Center on Church Management.
“Every parish has to have a finance council, but some are just rubber stamps,” he said.
The Diocese of Santa Rosa did not respond to a request for comment about its parish reporting practices.
Vasa said that while it’s difficult to determine the “full extent” of the thefts, the diocese will pay restitution to the parishes affected.
The Diocese of Santa Rosa suspended Diaz, who underwent surgery after the crash, from the ministry during the embezzlement investigation. Church records show the pastor recently celebrated 25 years with the diocese. He previously led several parishes in Lake and Sonoma counties: St. Joseph Church of Cotati, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Clearlake, St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in Ukiah and St. Mary Parish in Lakeport.
All 177 United States dioceses have different parish accounting policies, according to Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay organization calling for sex-abuse-policy reform.
The nonprofit publishes an annual report after auditing each diocese’s fiscal practices and examining how open it is to sharing information about donations.
Voice of the Faithful lauded the Diocese of Santa Rosa in 2018 for greatly improving its financial transparency webpage, but the organization also noted that the diocese was only above average when it came to explaining how parish collections were used.
Jason Berry, an author who investigates sexual and financial abuses in the Catholic Church, said embezzlement schemes, which are now “numbingly common,” and reports of sexual misconduct run “parallel.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommends regular and frequent auditing in every diocese and its parishes, but each diocese has its own collection policies, much like varying child sex-abuse-reporting policies prior to the 2002 Boston Globe investigation that found widespread abuse in the church.
Policies on best practices, such as sealed security bags and having at least three parish staff members count collections, have been adopted by parishes nationwide, but they are not uniform for every church.
“If the priest had been found or accused of abusing children under their national guidelines, they would immediately report to the police and let the legal system follow through,” Berry said.
If the Diocese of Santa Rosa declines to press charges against Diaz, Zech said, it could show a double-standard for what is morally correct for laypeople versus clergy.
“If the bishop doesn’t prosecute,” Zech said, “he’s saying to the rest of the priests in the diocese, ‘It’s OK, you’re allowed to get away with this.’”
The Rev. Aaron DePeyster, a priest previously with the Archdiocese of Detroit, is leading the Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish in Santa Rosa in the interim.
Gwendolyn Wu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Another serious case of clerical financial abuse.
There is a yet untold story of all the pilfering bishops and priests making their own of church monies.
Many a priest has built a retirement home out of parish funds.
Many a bishop and priest have travelled the world on first and business class flights with church money.
When I first visited Belfast in 1978 I stayed with a curate who later went to prison for child abuse. I was amazed at the number of people coming to the presbytery door pushing notes into his hands as gifts or for saying Mass.
The priest kept a steel waste paper bucket on the floor inside the door full of 5, 10 and 20 pound notes.
Every time we went out he would grab a handful of notes and push them into his trousers pocket for his food and drinks needs.
He also had a very serious drink problem and the bucket was used to fill the drinks cabinet.
I once was given a bottle of Russian vodka that was st strong I could not even tolerate one sip.
My priest friend drank the whole bottle in my sitting room and then drove home!!!
I think things are tightened up these days.
But I also think that a motivated cleric could cream off a lot of funds for his personal use.
“One for me and one for God” 😈
39 replies on “PRIEST WITH MONEY BAGS HURT IN CRASH ALLEGEDLY STOLE $95K FROM SANTA ROSA CHURCH.”
Stinking, evil Christ-betrayers.☺
Please, keep your kids away from these utterly, filthy paedophilic perverts and criminals.
Anyone today who wishes to serve the Roman Strumpet as one of her priests must automatically be suspected of paedopholia. ☺
Poster at 1:13am!!!!
Here we go again this dreadful poster still posting in the early hours of the morning, when all good Christians are asleep,but then again you have to have a clear conscience to sleep, maybe some good soul could send her some pills.
The constant mantra of this seriously deranged person, that she equates all priests as criminals is very concerning,she really needs help. Lets all start a Novena for that intention. Maria Auxilium Christianorum ora pro nobis.
10.54: A Nivena wouldn’t be sufficient. The angels of God would have to embrace this poor, pitiable soul, such iscthevdepth if its depravity. 🐱🐱🐱🐃🐃🐃😀
“Magna Carta” at 1:13am – whoever/whatever you are – you are seriously sick and you sound demonic. Your daily mantra of hatred repeated ad nauseam. I wouldn’t allow my children near you.
1.13: Magna: isn’t it a pity you drink so.much.late into the night where you become devoid of all moral compasses. It seems you don’t care much for your self-respect, dignity or any semblance of no our. Why behave so tellingly? What’s really the discontent that erupts with such hatred and angst? Are you having cognitive dissonance and memory confusion as you have repeated these sentences so often? Perhaps have MRI’s done…..just good advice.
And I will certainly heed that ‘good advice’ of yours.😆
+ Pat, maybe Rev. Diaz was simply a misunderstood latter day Robin Hood of the Santa Rosa Diocese.
To answer a question asked yesterday, a spoiled seminarian is one who has too many offers of gifts in exchange for sexual favours.
What kind of gifts? Ordination?
Wherever there is large sums of money lying around without proper accountability and transparency we will always have theft. It happens in many businesses. It happens in the Church. I’ve witnessed it myself and on immediate suspicions I alerted situation to the authorities, including The Gardai, and action was taken swiftly. To suggest that many priests have built retirement homes out of parish funds is a LIE. It is not possible that such an amount would go under the radar by Finance Committees or by Diocesan Finance Secretariat or by Revenue. Some priests have been left a family legacy, a farm or property of some kind which would enable them to spend as they wish. You know that Pat and you should validate your wild assertion with fact and TRUTH. Your “Pat Says” is a narrative of easy spin.opinion designed to paint the worst possible scenarios for priests. There are priests, who, sadly are alcoholics and presenting memories of a priest is unfair. Alcoholism deserves to be treated without the ridicule, flippancy and joking with which you analyse it. Yes, there are dishonest priests, but don”t exaggerate with conjured up stories to suit your anti priest hatred. Produce the hard, researched analysis and clinical data to validate your thesis. Come on Pat….
I Googled “Catholic Priest Fraud” and got 6,750,000 results. Also, “Catholic Sex Abuse” returned 9,280,000 results.
What a shower, Bp Pat.
Mind you, “Bishop Pat Buckley” returned 2,340,000 results! LOL.
If you want an in-depth examination of the church’s financial underpinnings and practices, read Jason Berrys book, ‘Render Unto Rome’.In it Berry exposes the secrecy and deceit that run counter to the values of the catholic church.
The response of the church to painful questions about money and sex is, according to Berry, always the same,
– secrecy and silence. In a public talk in 2011, Berry claims, since 1965 the church in America has lost at least 2.3 billion dollars in embezzlements. The talk is on Youtube.
I think the poster who suggested M. Carta’s name was Evelyn was on to something. It’s a unisex name but I’m beginning to think M. C. is not a male. Seriously. No offence to female readers.
12.38: MC – she/he/it/ – is all sexually cofused and frustrated. That frustrated reject is vicious, bitter and angry. Live a in a world of dark loneliness, drink and disconnect from humanity. No empathy: no positivity: no joy: no feelings: no meaningful relationships. Whoever is the real MC – time to face reality.
Are you sure you’re not projecting yourself! 😝
12:28 & 1:47
I hurt you both, didn’t I?😢
Shall we talk?😎
Magna Carta is an ex Dublin seminarian. He has dirty blonde hair and has blue eyes with glasses . He is skinny and very nerdy looking. He is not attractive at all. He was eccentric and very feminine in Maynooth. He also had a problem with alcohol which led to his departure.
Wow! I’m impressed…by the detail.
Knowing so much about Magna means you must know his name.
Er, why did you spare us the juicest detail of all?
Magna darling, mummy is quite disturbed that the people on Bishop Buckley’s blog would think you were a girl merely because your name is Evelyn. It’s a manly name, Evelyn, as I used to tell you to tell those nasty boys at school.
8.08: Whow, Magna: the 5.14 comment is closevto the bone…..must be very disturbing! After your promise in the last few days to reveal your full Baptismal Name, I think the time has come for you, the great intimidator, to reveal yourself. Have COURAGE, DEARIE!
May I borrow some of yours, Anonymous?😆
What era are we talking about in reference to the Dublin ex- seminarian?
It is not possible for this to happen in most Churches in the UK and that is fact.
Church parishes are controlled by Pastoral Finance Committees, Diocesan Finance Committees and usually Finance Managers or Finance Directors.
The days for clergy or Bishops being the bean counters have well gone it is the laity or parish staff and accounts are all done online by SAGE.
I do not know what the others that are part of the Church like SSPX and the Oratory people do maybe their Clergy has time to count the money rather than seeing to the Spiritual and sacramental life of their parish or diocese.
Also HMRC and the charity Commission audit it all now.
The Church is Down and Connor will have an entry for their charity property in Larne.
FFS how many times do some people have to be told. The accounting is like that in the US, it isn’t some banana republic.
This guy was caught with CASH. That is the form you do transactions in if you want to hide them from the tax man, because it isn’t traceable.
That is where corruption is possible and where it happened here.
It’s exactly like cash in hand work, nobody knows about it.
No doubt some priests conscientiously account for every thing they are given but gifts of things or cash are the ‘income’ which won’t appear on the radar.
Do you remember people wondering how a certain deacon could afford his wardrobe?
The only sad thing is it’s the little old ladies giving the priest money who may be paying for his jollies.
Exactly. Financial abuse is most likely another major issue.
The priests have gone silent on the matter which speaks volumes.
God bless your imagination! 😝
2.07: No projection on my part. I’m a happy, contented, fulfilled person. I live my life to the fullest….but MC…. a crazy concoction…crazy.
5:01: Are you sure there’s no projecting on your part? How is MC crazy? What’s so irrational about his/her posts?
7.34: The very fact that you refer to “his/her” posts suggests doubt on your part about the authenticity of MC’s ‘s postings!! His/her comments at times, usually late into the night are suggestive of and a clear indication of a dysfunctionality. QED….
Nothing irrational about generalisation and abusive uses of language. You are either a new reader or a mischievous one.
Are you the poster I trounced two blogs back?😅
2.34: Glad to offer you free advice anytime, Magna!! But make sure you look after yourself…..!!!!!
You’re full of nonsense.
Didn’t do well at logic, now, did you! Don’t give up the day job! You’d never make a detective.
Previous posters claimed MC was a… he/she/it. Clearly, MC, is not an it.
But abusers tend to objectify, threating persons as objects, indicative of their lack of humanity.
(Christianity doesn’t get a look in…😇)
Why you assume posts late into the night are clearly indicative of dysfunctionality is beyond me, Sherlock!
Why do you make such an assumption?
MC might be at work. Thousands work at night. Just sayin, like….( You might be very surprised!) 😎
The clearly irrational posts to this blog, come from individuals, obviously very very threatened
by posts from MC, resorting to ad hominem attacks, due to inability to argue rationally against him.
( Just an observation, like…) 😝
Look at the language at the top of this thread and/or at the top of today’s thread (30.7) and ask yourself some serious questions about your ability to read the signs of incipient if not well-established addictive behaviour. Are you deluding yourself?
Your behavior, in terms of response, is rather predictable, compulsive and incipiently addictive nasty ad hominem attacks. Maybe you’re projecting your own defensive delusion thinking rather than arguing points rationally. Then again, it’s difficult to defend so much that’s indefensible! Hence, the necessity of resorting to attacking the man. 🤪
Clearly the pseudonym M.Carta posting anonymously at 11:20. Your accent betrays you, like Simon Peter’s. Your disgusting and revolting posts at the top of today’s and yesterday’s threads need no further proof of what’s called out at 10:35.
You keep proving my point.
The poster at 11:20 was not M.Carta!
As I said, hold onto the day job, like a good man. 😆
Shane, an Irishman who Tweets as @scary_biscuits has just outed a priest who was sending him messages. Shane warned him. A priest in Godalming, Surrey.
Take a look at CE Pascal (@PaterIndomitus): https://twitter.com/PaterIndomitus?s=09