One Troy church, and its leadership, is under the microscope this week after the Archdiocese of Detroit announced that more than $400,000 had gone missing under the leadership of one priest.
The Rev. Edward Belczak was asked to step aside earlier this week as pastor at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church, located on North Adams Road, after an audit by the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed "questionable financial transactions and practices."
In total, according to a statement released by the archdiocese Tuesday, Belczak may have misappropriated $429,000 over six years, funneling some of that money to pay his salary and some to a "ghost employee."
During the investigation involving both the archdiocese and the Troy Police Department, Belczak has been removed from the office of pastor and will not be staying at his residence on church grounds. Msgr. John Zenz, head of Birmingham's Holy Name Catholic Church, will take over the administrative duties of the parish during the investigation.
According to the archdiocese's statement, Belczak's public ministry as a priest is not impacted at this time.
In total, the alleged mismanagement of funds includes:
- Taking excess compensation beyond the church's policies, resulting in an estimated loss of $92,000 to parish over six years.
- Accepting and directing about $16,000 in funds to himself that should have been poste to parish accounts.
- Paying a "ghost employee" $240,000, benefits included, over the past six years.
- Maintaining improper medical/dental insurance coverage for an individual, resulting in a $26,000 loss to the parish over six years.
- Authorizing a long-term disability policy for an employee while not providing a similar benefit to other parish staff members, a loss of $20,000.
- Allowing the St. Thomas More Travel Group to be a parish-related activity though none of the group's financial transactions were disclosed for financial reporting.
- Accepting residual commission checks to St. Thomas more Travel Group while not depositing them, a loss of $25,000.
- Failing to record and deposit money received through the Mother's Day and Father's Day special collections according to church policies.
Belczak has been at St. Thomas More since 1984, before that working as an associate pastor at Our Lady Of Sorrows in Farmington, and as a co-pastor and associate pastor at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak.
Belczak was ordained in 1972, receiving his education at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth.
On the Troy Patch Facebook page, the reaction was largely shocked and sympathetic to Belczak.
"As a longtime parishoner of (St. Thomas More), this is shocking to me and saddens me so much," wrote Amy Pasternak Gora.
"Fr. Belczak is not an accountant, he is a great priest and we support him 100 percent," added Jean Crane.
Besides serving at Birmingham's Holy Name Church, Zenz is also episcopal vicor for the Northwest Region and will remain at St. Thomas More during the investigation.
According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, St. Thomas serves about 2,500 families in Oakland County.
Neither Belczak nor Zenz could be reached for comment Wednesday.