Secret Identity
The Strange Case of Father Rodis

Free Lance-Star [Virginia]
January 18, 2007

How Curious is the case of the Rev. Rodney Lee Rodis, the Catholic priest accused of embezzling perhaps $1 million from two Louisa County churches while living a second life as a married-with-kids householder in Spotsylvania County. Put away that comic book. Batman has nothing on this mystery man with a clerical collar.

Father Rodis, 50, evidently sustained his suburban alter ego for at least 13 years, without even an Alfred to help him change duds, until November. Then a parishioner asked for a tax receipt on an earlier donation, putting diocesan officials onto a bank account into which police say the priest socked his boodle. While to the good folks of St. Jude and Immaculate Conception churches Father Rodis was a kindly padre, to his neighbors in Sheraton Hills East subdivision he was a happily hitched father of three girls, a personable neighbor ringing up the jack in the import-export business. Thirteen years. Most Broadway actors never have that kind of a run.

Diligent oversight can protect donations. Had deacons of the two churches insisted that all monetary gifts come through the parish council, no one individual would have been led into temptation. Institutions awash in love, no less than casinos or auto-body shops, need cold mechanisms of financial verification.

Also, what about the Diocese of Richmond? Father Rodis reportedly seldom darkened the doorway of the rectory, the house in which a parish priest typically lives. Why didn't diocesan officials learn of his chronic absence through, say, unannounced visits? Why didn't a diocesan Inspector General check up on the churches' gift-receipt system to see if it was vulnerable to sticky fingers? Such healthy vigilance can shorten the career of any thief.

Today Father Rodis is to answer a felony embezzlement count in Louisa Circuit Court. The Vatican may defrock him. His former flock may sue him. This can't be the way he imagined his ministry would end. A fellow Filipino, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, under torture by the Japanese, told his killers, "If I have a thousand lives to offer, I will offer them to God." Justice will determine if Father Rodis will answer for a thousand lies.


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