The Editorial Board: The Catholic Church Must Set Limits on Clerics’ Bequests to Parishioners | Editorial

The will was not contested in court and an Erie County Surrogate Court judge approved the inheritance after the widow’s death in 2016, but family and friends remain suspicious. Mary Ann Serabjit-Singh had written two previous wills before writing a third which made Klos the primary beneficiary. She also once attempted to withdraw $174,000 – her entire account balance – at the request of the priest, prompting a suspicious bank teller to call Lancaster police.

A separate case involving the Reverend David M. Bialkowski is being contested in Erie County Surrogate Court. Bialkowski inherited $125,000 from a 93-year-old widow who named him executor.

It turns out that Bialkowski was also removed from his priestly duties due to accusations that he molested children. He denies the allegations.

Ruth Peters, retired principal of the Cheektowaga public school system, died in 2019 and left her money to Bialkowski, also giving her control of a $2 million estate. A second cousin said she and other family members were “shocked” to learn that Peters had made such arrangements for the priest. Two lawyers challenge the will in the surrogate court.

Diocesan priests, unlike those of religious orders such as the Jesuits or the Franciscans, do not take a vow of poverty. They are allowed to accept gifts from others and it is not uncommon for a parishioner to treat their favorite priest to a meal or a show, give him a cash contribution or even a car or vacation trip.

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