Universalis

"If you can't trust a priest, who can you trust?"

In the most recent news on the saga of Fr Joachim Kang's case, Emily Chan was quoted as saying:

"If you can't trust a priest, who can you trust?".

I would like to invite your views on this comment.

4 comments:

norman lee said...

We do not know the full facts of the case and the details, so its very hard to give specific comments. So I will frame mine in general terms.

If I had a million bucks to give away to the church, I would give it in smaller amounts as and when needed, and ask to see financial statements and so on. It is absolutely not an issue of trust - its of doing things properly and being accountable.

Let us also remember that priests are human and get tempted too. Therefore we should continue to remember them in our prayersr

Daniel said...

I have received a question from someone who asked whether it was right for Archbishop Nicholas Chia to sue Fr Joachim Kang. Personally, I think that while that was the right thing to do, it wasn't exactly the best thing to do. Then again, that's my personal opinion.

ChrisYeo said...

My first question to Norman is: Why do we not want to know the full facts and details of the case? Is it because we don't want to face and acknowledge an ugly wound? Are we in some sense afraid to acknowledge our flaws and try to improve? Maybe we should be interested in the full facts of this case.

In truth, no one knows the full facts of the case outside of whatever was revealed in court, besides Archbishop, Fr Kang and some others of course. What I will proceed now to do is just to infer some possibilities of what actually happened. Please understand that I am just trying to paint a picture of understanding so that we can understand ourselves and the Catholic Church better, and so grow and improve.

What is certain is that Fr Kang was given a ridiculously large sum by a parishioner and he put it in his name. It still strikes me as incongruous how some priests can have such large fortunes – owning multiple properties, as Fr Kang does, and even a yacht, as another priest does. It also strikes me as incredible that the Church can be given such sums of money and yet still seem poor (witness its reluctance to pay for church upgradings and full-time catechists). Whatever the case, it seems that Fr Kang dealt with the money in an inappropriate way. He put it in an account under his name, and invested or gave it away without consultation ($20,000 to his ‘Goddaughter’). The question is whether this impropriety deserved a court hearing and a jail sentence.

There are of course two possibilities: that he had no intention to embezzle the amount, and that he fully intended to embezzle the amount. It seems to me that he did not fully intend to embezzle the amount. He was too public a figure, it was too large a sum, he was a good priest, and what was he going to do with so much money anyway? However, if he was innocent of intent, and he was willing to return the money, then the matter should have been settled simply and internally. Why did this case then end up as a public scandal?

The truth is that the public case was not really in the hands of the church. The Commercial Affairs Department discovered and initiated criminal proceedings. Perhaps it was the parishioner that called in the CAD, or the CAD just did a routine check. Once begun, I don’t think that the church was able to say that it was a purely internal affair and stop the proceedings. What is interesting is that the church did not come out in full support of Fr Kang. It did not even pay the legal fees of Fr Kang. Instead, it maintained that Fr Kang was in the wrong. I believe that if the church tried to protect Fr Kang, it would appear that the church was trying to cover up its financial inadequacies. It was the lesser of two evils. This way, although it was betraying one of its priests, it was showing that it was willing to correct its mistakes.

This leads me to the question that I think is more important to ask. Daniel says that it was the right decision but not the best decision for Archbishop to sue Fr Kang. What would have the best decision been? Would it really have been better to settle the matter internally? Would that not constitute a cover-up? If a church leader stole $5.1 million dollars, or molested an altar boy, do we not have a right to know, at least to demand that the right corrections are made? I’m sure the local church has endured many such incidents in its checkered history. The continued ‘hush-hush’, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, forgive-and-forget attitude does not inspire much confidence in me about the ability of the church hierarchy to avoid such incidents in the future. I think that the more obvious our flaws our, the better our church will be. You are of course free to disagree.

The opinions expressed are purely mine, but the facts of the case are to my knowledge correct. Please see the following press statement by Archbishop for a fuller account:

http://www.veritas.org.sg/archbishop/past_announce.php?id=20

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that anyone here reading this blog has the full, cold facts of the entire case. Of course, we would like to know all the details so that we can come up with measures to prevent misappropriation from happening again, but I think we must recognise in humility that we don't have all the facts at this moment.

Chris asks whether an internal resolution of the matter would constitute a cover-up. I think the Church has her own system of laws for dealing with such purposes, and fankly I would very much prefer that the matter be resolved via Canon Law and its tribunals rather than Civil Law and the courts. Not least because there is a difference between how Canon Law and Civil Law treats the properties of the parish and who has the authority to make prudent investments. Unless one doesn't even trust the Church's canonical process, I think this route would have resolved the matter in a manner far closer to the Gospel spirit.