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Friday, March 9, 2007

Pilla Does Poverty

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2007 at 3:02 PM

In a heartwarming tribute to youthful idealism, more than 1,000 local Catholic high school students gathered this week for a poverty summit. They discussed such pressing issues as homelessness, education, and workers' rights. Punch is certain that every single one of the youngsters was motivated by a sense of moral obligation, and not at all by the chance to skip class on a Friday. Unfortunately, they didn't have the best role model for the cause. The keynote speaker was retired Bishop Anthony Pilla. Apparently, the good bishop's idea of fighting poverty involved letting high-ranking officials steal at least $784,000 from the Cleveland diocese ("Crimes Against Catholics" Sept. 6, 2006). His former chief financial officer, Joseph Smith, and ex-employee Anton Zgoznik have been indicted in an elaborate kickback scheme that involved funneling church money to their companies. Yet their lawyers allege that Pilla not only knew about the scam—which included a secret bank account for Smith -- but also benefited from his own numbers game. Some money from a secret account was used to fix up Pilla's vacation home in Geauga County, the lawyers say. The diocese, of course, has denied all allegations. But the scandal still begs the question: What kind of wisdom can Pilla impart to these students, aside from holding a workshop on how to evade the IRS. — Lisa Rab

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