Lest all this Merry Christmas spirit goes to you Christians’ heads and makes you think you are special, let’s remember that professed piety appears not to guarantee better moral outcomes. In Rapid City this year, we have two Catholic priests ending up on the wrong side of the law. First Father Marcin pilfered the collection plate—
Marcin Garbacz was suspended from his ministry duties in May after church officials caught him stealing and sent to a six-month treatment program in St. Louis.
In July, he was charged with first-degree embezzlement of property received in trust and first-degree petty theft in the alternative, which means he could only be convicted on one of the counts. Garbacz pleaded guilty to the theft charge on Oct. 26.
He received a suspended imposition of sentence — which means his record will be sealed from the public, but not the courts or police — from Judge Bernard Schuchmann on Oct 31. Garbacz paid $334 in fines and costs, and $620 in restitution to the church, a clerk said [Arielle Zionts, “Against Orders, Priest Leaves Diocese, Treatment Program After Pleading Guilty to Theft,” Rapid City Journal, 2018.12.26].
—and Father John… well… ick:
Praveen was charged Oct. 2 and accused of sexually touching a 13-year-old girl above the clothes during two separate incidents. Before his duties were suspended, he had worked at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral in Rapid City since June. Before that, he served at churches in Eagle Butte [Arielle Zionts, “Priest Charged with Sex Crime Released from Jail After Anonymous Person Posts Bail,” Rapid City Journal, updated 2018.12.21].
Praveen is back in jail because the folks who took him in after the anonymously posted bond live out on Nemo Road and have crappy cell service, which meant the cops couldn’t get signal from his tracking device.
I work with a priest, and I’m married to a pastor, so I’ve got nothing against clergy. These two cases from Rapid City simply remind us that neither a collar nor a clutched Bible change our status as fallible beings, and the fact that you drop into church every now and then doesn’t prove you’re listening and living a more moral life than anyone else.
- Mark Silk, “Testing the Proposition That Lack of Religion Leads to Violence,” Religion News Service, 2017.10.05. Key line: “The point is, at the societal level the pious association of godliness with good behavior is nonsense. There’s far more evidence that gun control reduces violence than does religiosity.”
- Phil Zuckerman, “Think Religion Makes Society Less Violent? Think Again,” Los Angeles Times, 2015.10.30.
- David Niose, “Misinformation and Facts About Secularism and Religion,” Psychology Today, 2011.03.30.