Edward Braxton, Bishop of Belleville, has issued a public apology for spending restricted mission funds on liturgical vestments, altar linens, and office furniture. Bishop Braxton said he had mistakenly believed he had discretionary power over the money he used.
Over $18,000 was spent, some of which came from a restricted account for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith whose funds are normally sent to Rome.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the diocesan financial council had written the U.S. papal nuncio concerning the use of the money.
Father Jerry Wirth, head of the diocesan Presbyteral Council, told the Belleville News-Democrat on Monday that Bishop Braxton would have to take action. “In the light of what is going on, he is going to have to do something to regain the trust of a lot of people,” Father Wirth said.
Bishop Braxton issued a statement on Tuesday explaining his view of the matter, saying, “it was my judgment that these were funds over which I had some discretionary power. At the time of this decision I stated, in writing, that if it was determined that my judgment was incorrect in this matter, I would replenish both funds with revenues obtained from an outside benefactor.”
Bishop Braxton said the diocese’s Chief Financial Officer and the Diocesan Finance Council had judged the use of the funds was legally beyond the bishop’s authority.
The bishop said he had secured a gift from a benefactor to replenish the disputed funds, but he noted that the controversy has caused confusion, mistrust, and a loss of confidence.
“I regret this very much, and I apologize for anything I may have done, even unwittingly, to contribute to this situation.”
Bishop Braxton said the February Finance Council meeting would decide how to proceed in the future. He also renewed his commitment to doing nothing in violation of civil, canon, or moral law