A Whistle-Blower in a Scandal at a Church Decides to Resign

By Alison Leigh Cowan
The New York Times
August 11, 2006

Darien, Conn., Aug. 10 — One of the two whistleblowers who helped expose a financial scandal at St. John Roman Catholic Church here that led to the ouster of its longtime pastor has resigned as the parish's bookkeeper, her lawyer said on Thursday.

"She basically had enough," said the lawyer, Mickey Sherman, citing what he called aggravation that the episode created for her and hostility from her superiors as she tried to continue on the job.

Mr. Sherman said that the bookkeeper, Bethany D'Erario, resigned "in the last few days" and that a letter from her explaining her decision would appear in the parish's upcoming bulletin. He said she did not receive any settlement and has no plans to sue.

Ms. D'Erario has worked for the church for five years, and had been working without a contract since the end of June. She did not return phone calls to her home. The church's new pastor, the Rev. Frank C. McGrath, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Largely because of evidence she had compiled along with the parish's associate pastor, the Rev, Michael J. Madden, the diocese demanded and obtained the resignation of their boss, the Rev. Michael Jude Fay.

A forensic audit commissioned by the diocese recently concluded that the parish had lost about $1.4 million since January 2000 alone, because of Father Fay's habit of using church money to support an extravagant lifestyle at odds with his priestly mission. Federal authorities are now pursuing their own investigation. Father Fay and his lawyer, James A. Wade, have not commented.

According to the audit, the bookkeeper had complained to Father Madden last fall about Father Fay's spending and the strains it placed on the parish. Together, they took their concerns to the diocese in April, but were frustrated with the pace of the diocese's response and hired private investigators, they told the auditors.

Church officials have said that Ms. D'Erario's and Father Madden's jobs were never at risk. Many parishioners have been especially protective of Father Madden, whom they would like to stay on.

Father Fay's replacement at the parish, Father McGrath, said on May 6 that he was planning to keep the staff intact. "Oh, I'm not going to change anybody. I've very happy with the staff," he said.

Allison Dolcetti, a recent appointee to the parish's advisory council, said the parish owed a debt to Ms. D'Erario, whose experience she said must have been exceedingly stressful. "She certainly has stuck her neck out for us," said Mrs. Dolcetti. And if she had not, "we'd still have Father Jude."


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