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Catholics deserve better

There’s nothing wrong with buying expensive clothes.

There’s nothing wrong with booking stays in hotels.

There’s nothing wrong with a bonus for work well done.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those items — as long as you are able to pay for them with your own money.

Monsignor Kurt Kemo, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Steubenville, was reminded of that in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, when he admitted to diverting nearly $300,000 in diocesan funds for his own use, including the things mentioned above.

And, while stealing from his employer was bad enough, the money Kemo helped to divert had been donated to the church in good faith by its parishioners, including funds intended for various projects. It also led to others who depended on the diocese for employment to lose their jobs and to austerity measures to be implemented.

Kemo, who served as the longtime pastor of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Wintersville, pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with two counts of aggravated theft without consent, two counts of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and falsifying financial records.

And, while he was able to reimburse the diocese the $289,000 he had diverted, Kemo will have to spend six months at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center, plus two years of community control on each count.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton and the diocese already have taken steps to ensure greater oversight of the funds in the future. Those include yearly independent audits, use of a third-party payroll system, the requirement of two signatures — one of which must be the bishop’s — on every check issued by the diocese and an entirely new set of employees in the finance office.

Monforton has not backed away from the issues surrounding the missing money, and has demonstrated great transparency while working with the authorities and in answering questions. Catholics in the 13 counties of Southeastern Ohio that make up the diocese must be assured that money they give to support the work of the church will be used for just that purpose.

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