I have a test for the stories I post about clergy behaving badly. I ask my, "Is it ethical?"
It is a simple test, but I think it leads me in the right direction. For example, I did not post on a recent high-profile suicide because I felt the pastor’s actions were his own business and the situation way too personal, painful and complex for me to discuss with any meaning or insight. I’m troubled by the case, but that is because it is hard to understand suicide. Another case, where a pastor accepted a $120k check from a 99-year-old man with dementia, fails my test. Of course it is unethical to accept money from anyone under custodial care and suffering from dementia.
A Catholic priest named Rev. Rodger Bauman of the Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minn., received a $120k check from an elderly dementia patient. Bauman cashed the check and then dispersed part of the funds to family members and friends. He had no intention of returning the check and in fact, viewed the check as a gift. When confronted by Lou Dziengel’s caregiver and the local police, Bauman eventually returned the funds.
Bauman still serves as pastor of Guardian Angels parish in Oakdale, and declined to be interviewed for this story. The day he received it, Bauman wrote his former parishioner and Dziengel's longtime girlfriend a note saying he was "truly moved" by the gesture.
But to Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, accepting the money was inexcusable.
"The conduct and the behavior itself is concerning and disturbing. We have a vulnerable adult, we have a person who [is] in a position of authority, certainly a person of significant influence in another person's life," Schnell said. "And to be given $120,000 and not to have some gut check about that? It just seems unusual."
Do you see the point where Bauman failed? It is pretty obvious to most of us. Why did a priest miss it? Why does he still have a job if he does not understand the basics of his job? It’s his job after all.