Priests, brothers, removed amid church finance scrutiny

Detroit News staff and wire reports

The pastor of a Catholic church in Metro Detroit has been ordered to step aside in an investigation of church finances.

The Rev. Thomas Belczak, 60, had been pastor at St. Kenneth in Plymouth Township for 10½ years.

His removal comes less than six months after his brother, the Rev. Edward Belczak, was arraigned on similar charges involving a church in Troy.

Archdiocese of Detroit spokesman Ned McGrath said the cases aren’t related.

In a statement, the archdiocese said investigators are looking into possible “improper use” of money at St. Kenneth. McGrath declined to elaborate, saying the parish was not in any financial distress.

“It is anticipated that Fr. Belczak’s status will continue until this matter is resolved,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Robert Blondell, a senior priest of the archdiocese, was named as administrator of St. Kenneth Parish, which has 2,400 families.

Thomas Belczak officiated at a funeral Mass on Thursday before being removed as pastor. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

The archdiocese said although Thomas Belczak is not permitted at St. Kenneth, he “will be allowed to continue his public ministry as a priest only in circumstances with the expressed consent of the Archdiocese of Detroit.”

He became pastor at St. Kenneth in February 2004. He previously was pastor at St. Valentine Parish in Redford Township from 1989-2004; associate pastor at St. John Neumann Parish in Canton Township from 1984-89; and associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lakes Paris in Waterford Township from 1980-84, according to the archdiocese.

Thomas Belczak attended Sacred Heart Seminary, the University of Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, the archdiocese said.

His brother, Edward Belczak, was arraigned in April after federal prosecutors unsealed a five-count indictment that charged the priest and parish administrator Janice Verschuren of Bloomfield Hills with an alleged scheme to steal nearly $700,000 from St. Thomas More Church in Troy and the Archdiocese of Detroit from 2004-12. He was the church’s pastor for more than 30 years when he was removed last year.

The money allegedly included most of a $350,000 gift to the church from the family of a dead parishioner and cash donated by churchgoers during special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections, prosecutors said. The priest spent some of the money on a condominium in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the indictment.

He was freed on $10,000 unsecured bond after U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.