Detroit Archdiocese removes Troy pastor as police and archdiocese investigate alleged $429,000 embezzlement
By Niraj Warikoo
Free Press Staff Writer
Published: Jan. 22, 2013
Police are investigating whether the longtime pastor of a Catholic church in Troy might have embezzled or mismanaged more than $400,000, the Detroit Archdiocese said Tuesday.
The archdiocese removed the Rev. Edward Belczak, 67, the pastor at St. Thomas More Parish for almost 30 years, saying he may have misappropriated $429,000, using that money to pad his salary and pay a ghost employee. Troy police are currently conducting their own investigation into the allegations.
“Parish staff, council and committees were informed today” about Belczak’s removal, Ned McGrath, spokesman for the archdiocese, told the Free Press.
In a statement, the archdiocese – which oversees 1.3 million Catholics in metro Detroit – said that an audit discovered “questionable financial transactions and practices” at St. Thomas More.
Established in 1963, St. Thomas More has grown to become one of the bigger churches in Oakland County, with about 2,500 families.
Effective Tuesday, Belczak has been “temporarily excluded from the office of pastor, meaning he cannot function as the parish’s pastor until an administrative review process is completed,” the statement said. The pastor also is barred from living in residence at the parish.
“The archdiocese has fully cooperated with civil authorities in this case and will continue to do so,” the statement said.
Belczak, who will remain a priest for now, could not be reached for comment.
Msgr. John Zenz, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Birmingham and episcopal vicar of the Northwest Region, was named administrator of St. Thomas More.
Belczak is accused of:
— Receiving excessive compensation worth $92,000.
— Directing money to himself worth $16,000 that should have been posted to parish accounts.
— Paying a ghost employee $240,000 over the past six years.
— Accepting $25,000 in residual commission checks to the St. Thomas More Travel Group that should have been deposited or recorded in parish accounts.
— Not disclosing or recording the financial transactions of the St. Thomas More Travel Group.
— Failing to deposit or record monies received through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day special collections.
— Not monitoring $10,000 in cash, which was found in an employee’s desk.
— Providing improper medical and dental coverage for an individual worth $26,000 during the past six years.
— Authorizing a long-term disability policy for an employee while not providing it to others, costing $20,000.
Educated at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Belczak was ordained in 1972. He served as associate pastor at National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak in 1972-75, and then co-pastor at the church in 1975-80.
He was associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington in 1980-84.
In 1984, he became pastor at St. Thomas More.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792