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Diocesan distrust

While the long process of receiving justice for the thousands of Catholics who live in the Diocese of Steubenville moved another step closer to being resolved recently, there are still questions that must be answered.

A step in that direction happened when David Franklin, the former comptroller of the diocese, entered a plea deal in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

The list of illegal activities committed by Franklin includes falsification, theft of funds and defrauding creditors. Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller sentenced the 69-year-old Franklin to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay $532,115 in restitution. The first 366 days of his sentence will be spent in federal prison, time he received in July after admitting to embezzling nearly $300,000 over nine years.

It all marks a sad end of a career that ran from 1985-2017. That’s when the diocese claimed it had discovered “irregularities” in Franklin’s accounting records and financial reports, after an independent accounting company determined $2.8 million in payroll taxes had been collected but not turned over to the Internal Revenue Service. As a result, the diocese had to liquidate unrestricted investments to cover the tax debt and $999, 713 in interest and penalties due to the IRS.

While there are those who might think Franklin got off lightly, prosecutors say that is not the case. The former comptroller will now offer testimony, documents and a debriefing to help them determine whether other people benefited from his financial misconduct. He is expected to help prosecutors determine what was criminal mismanagement and what was pure theft.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, who was installed on Sept. 10, 2012, and his predecessors have a lot of questions to answer.

Monforton said it is important to regain the trust of the thousands of parishioners who live in the 13 counties of Southeastern Ohio that make up the diocese.

It’s a process that will take time, but one that is necessary to ensure Catholics in our region that their donations and support for the church and the diocese will be used to help others and not line the pockets of those in authority.

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