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Florida Family: Priest Took Advantage of Elderly Woman




From Ocala.com, 11.8.2007.

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Article published Nov 8, 2007

Family: Priest took advantage of elderly woman
Villages man given homes, car, cash worth $500,000

AT A GLANCE
THE ISSUE:
A family is accusing a now-retired Catholic priest at St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in The Villages of taking advantage of an elderly woman. The Rev. Frank Mutsko received thousands of dollars, two homes and a car from Delores Raucina, who is now deceased.WHAT’S NEXT?:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando Priest Council will meet to set new standards for what gifts priests can and can’t accept.

THE VILLAGES – A Roman Catholic priest retired from St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in The Villages in October because of health problems. But that may not be the whole story.

The Rev. Frank Mutsko received cash, a car and two homes from an elderly woman who attended the Orlando church where Mutsko was based before coming to St. Timothy’s. The combined value of the gifts exceeded $500,000.

Delores Raucina’s family said she was often disoriented and confused. They say the priest took advantage of her.

“He took a lot of her money, he took everything. It’s an absolutely horrible thing,” said Raucina’s sister, Polly Sacco, during an interview Wednesday with the Star-Banner. She and her husband, Peter, live in Orlando.

Raucina died in May. She was 90.
Mutsko has not been charged with any crime and will not face any action from the Diocese of Orlando. Because Mutsko was a diocesan priest, he was allowed to take gifts from parishioners, according to diocese communications director Carol Brinati.

“If anybody wanted to give a diocesan priest a gift, he would be allowed to accept it,” Brinati said. “In this case, he didn’t break any rules.”

The rules may change soon. Brinati said the Diocese of Orlando Priest Council will meet to lay out new standards for what gifts priests can and can’t accept. The diocese also issued a statement suggesting that Mutsko should give the money back to Raucina’s family.

“It is our understanding that a large portion of the monies received by Father Mutsko came through the lawyer handling Ms. Raucina’s financial and estate planning matters,” the statement reads. “Bishop Thomas Wenski, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Orlando, has reviewed the canonical and legal aspects of this situation. Bishop Thomas Wenski asked Father Mutsko to prayerfully consider returning the money to the family.

“While diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, they are called to live a simple lifestyle.”

Polly Sacco said the lifestyle Raucina gave Mutsko was hardly simple. Raucina moved to Orlando from Racine, Wis., in November 1999. She was having health problems and wanted to be closer to family.

A devout Catholic, she started attending St. James Catholic Cathedral in Orlando, where Mutsko was based. She and the priest became close and attended many family outings together. After Raucina moved back to Racine in 2003 or 2004, Mutsko traveled a few times to visit.

“I believe she did what she wanted, whether she realized what she was doing or not,” Polly Sacco said. “We talked about it a few times, but once she wanted to do something, you couldn’t stop her.”

Financial records show Raucina had cut checks to Mutsko for thousands of dollars and left her home and $100,000 to him in her will. She also had bought the priest a new Lexus and a golf course villa in The Villages.

Mutsko could not be reached for comment, but Brinati said he retired at the end of last month because of heart problems.

Joe Vanhoose may be reached at joe.vanhoose@starbanner.com or at
352-732-0742.






    3 Responses to “Florida Family: Priest Took Advantage of Elderly Woman”

  1. Catherine Mary Henry Says:

    Should priests be accepting large financial and property gifts from elderly church members especially when such individuals may have diminished mental faculties?

    I don’t think so.

    The story reported here, if factual, is highly suspect. Is it appropriate for the Rev. Frank Mutsko to accept gifts of this kind?

    If Mutsko was a labor union official, he would be in jail.

    Bishop Thomas Wenski, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Orlando, should do a little more than just ask “Father Mutsko to prayerfully consider returning the money to the family.”

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore from November 12 to the 15.

    Perhaps Wenski should petition to add this topic to their agenda.

    It is unconscionable that the Roman Catholic Church does not have a policy already in place given the growing financial scandals that are piling up on top of the mishandling of its sexual abuse problems.

    Catherine Mary Henry
    Havertown, PA
    catherinemaryhenry@yahoo.com

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