Priest suspended over suspected money mismanagement

Rev. Richard Fritz.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Catholic priest in southwestern Michigan has resigned after an audit into the two churches he presided over found questionable financial transactions.

Rev. Richard Fritz, 69, was the pastor at St. Mary’s Assumption Parish in Bronson and at St. Barbara Mission in Colon.

The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo says it started looking into the finances at the two churches this spring after hearing about “suspected irregularities.” The diocese said in a Sunday release that the mismanagement appears to involve the distribution of inappropriate checks between 2010 and 2016. The release did not list how much money was involved.

Fritz lost access to church funds in June after irregularities were confirmed. Thursday, the day after the diocese received the results of the independent audit, he resigned as pastor. He was also suspended from ministering.

He became pastor of St. Mary’s in 1990 and took on St. Barbara in 1996. The diocese is still looking into the parishes’ finances from before 2010 to see if there was more mismanagement.

Michigan State Police have also launched an investigation.

Parishioners at St. Mary’s and St. Barbara were informed of the situation Sunday, the release from the diocese said. Very Rev. Mark Vyverman — who already serves as the Dean of the Eastern Deanery and the pastor at churches in Coldwater and Union City — will take over as their pastor for now.

Fritz was ordained in May 1975 and previously worked at churches in Battle Creek, Coldwater, Bridgman and South Haven. His longest appointment before becoming pastor at St. Mary’s was five years.