A yet-undetermined number of donations sent by mail to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s annual Catholic Charities Appeal and the annual St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Appeal were handled improperly, it was revealed in a letter that has been sent by the archdiocese to all solicited potential donors on Aug. 24.
As explained in the letter sent by Msgr. Daniel J. Kutys, the moderator of the curia, the archdiocese was notified of this situation by Cherry Hill-based TD Bank.
The solicitations used a return address envelope that directed gifts to a lockbox facility at the bank rather than to the archdiocese directly, as a more efficient way to process large numbers of monetary returns.
This is a common practice not just for charitable organizations but for many businesses that receive monetary returns in bulk, explained Timothy O’Shaughnessy, the chief financial officer of the archdiocese. The bank deposits the funds immediately then notifies the charity or business of the donation or payment.
TD Bank notified the archdiocese that following an internal review by the bank it was determined that some donations were manually mishandled, misappropriated, or not processed. As a result of this review a former bank employee has been arrested and will be prosecuted.
“TD Bank has assured us that they will do the right thing, and we expect they will as we work together to resolve this matter,” O’Shaughnessy said.
It has not yet been determined how many donations were affected. Because the archdiocese never had possession of the mailed funds, what happened was totally beyond its control.
This misappropriation only affects donations sent by mail. Donations sent electronically do not go through the lockbox facility.
Most vulnerable for misappropriation would be cash sent in the mail but this type of gift makes up a very small part of the funds generated by the Seminary Appeal or for the Catholic Charities Appeal, which last year netted more than $10 million in donations.
While the bank does not believe any personal data of the donors has been compromised, it is possible the perpetrator removed many envelopes just for cash and simply destroyed them even if they contained checks or donations by credit card.
“If it was just the cash it would not be as big a deal (because) we really don’t get much cash,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Our biggest loss is going to be check and credit card donations that may have been destroyed. A forensic accountant has been hired to help determine the loss.”
The period covered, O’Shaughnessy said, would be donations by mail between December 2016 and July 2017.
Anyone who mailed a donation to either the Catholic Charities Appeal or the seminary appeal during that period should take the following steps:
- If you mailed cash and have not received an acknowledgment of your donation from the appeal(s) it is possible your donation was misappropriated. Call 1-866-812-8700.
- If you mailed a check and it has not been cleared or if you used a credit card and your donation was not charged after three weeks have passed, it is likely your donation has not been processed and will not be processed.
- Based on information provided by the bank it is not believed anyone’s personal information has been compromised. However if you suspect unauthorized charges or activity on your account, call your financial institution immediately and also call 1-866-812-8700.
TD Bank spokesperson Judith Rusk Schmidt, emphasizing “the safety and security of our customers” is a top priority, said the bank conducted an internal investigation and then “took decisive action” for the archdiocese.
The bank determined that “to the best of our knowledge, all personal information stayed within the bank and was not comprised. We continue to work closely with the Archdiocese to address any remaining concerns,” Schmidt said.
In his letter Msgr. Kutys closed by saying, “We count on your continued support of the Church’s charitable ministries and its program of priestly formation. May God bless you for your goodness.”