FREEPORT – It was obvious to me that Bishop Richard Malone could hardly contain his excitement as he reported the glowing results of the diocesan Capital Campaign.

Whenever Malone asks for money from hard-working Maine Catholics, I can’t help but form the image of the bishop’s 7,000-square-foot mansion in my mind.

Malone pays $20,000 per year in property taxes to live in this six-bedroom home, an amount that is more than many Mainers earn in an entire year.

Malone said that none of the money will provide any direct benefit to the bishop.

That’s like the bishop saying he’s going to pour a gallon of water into a half-filled bathtub and then remove only that particular gallon of water to wash his hair.

One doesn’t have to read too far between the lines to know that Malone considers the success of his fundraising efforts as a referendum on his spiritual leadership.

I, on the other hand, can’t forget that Malone mounted a “charitable immunity” defense against two hurting victims of priest child sex abuse.

Malone never argued that the abuse didn’t occur. Instead, he argued that financial reparations for the harms and injuries (and negligence of church officials) inflicted upon these two men as a result of their abuse should not be fair or just, because the church in Maine is poor.

Yet, after meeting with his attorneys for strategy sessions, Malone would return home to his $1.2 million mansion.

First of all, Malone doesn’t have the entire $42 million raised in the bank.

Mostly, he has pledges for this amount that will be collected over a five-year period. The bishop reported that the campaign took in 8,886 individual gifts.

Telling us that the “average” donation amount was $4,793 is meaningless. Many Catholics worry that a small group of wealthy, conservative benefactors are controlling the agenda in this diocese; i.e., removing funding from a service provided under the auspices of Preble Street Resources as punishment for the parent group supporting same-sex marriage.

A more accurate reporting by Malone will tell us the number of donors at each level of giving.

For instance, if 70 individuals pledged $100,000 per year (or 140 individuals pledged $50,000 per year) over the next five years, then this small group would account for $35 million of the $42 million. In the Catholic Church, money means power and influence.

Malone said only 25 percent to 30 percent of Mainers who identify themselves as Roman Catholic — about one-fifth of the state’s 1.3 million residents — are active in the church. Let’s cut through the smoke and mirrors here. What Malone did not say is that during the six-plus years he’s been in office, the Catholic population in Maine has dropped by 20 percent, or 47,000 members.

Malone even admits that out of the 187,000 registered Catholics in Maine, only 56,000 (30 percent) are active in the Church — which means that only 4.3 percent (not 20 percent) of the 1.3 million Maine residents are active Catholics.

Richard Malone is CEO of a $75-million-per-year organization. He has $10 million in bank deposits and another $75 million in stocks, bonds and real estate holdings.

Per canon law, each diocese is required to establish a finance council to advise the bishop on financial matters. These individuals are hand-picked by the bishop. They are not elected, nor are they intended to represent the concerns of the very same Catholics who dig deep into their pockets to help their church.

Although Bishop Malone has promised transparency in all church matters, he refuses to identify the members of his finance council.

In addition, Malone publishes an annual financial report that speaks only in the most general terms. He will not tolerate requests for more detailed, line item information.

Alfred Loisy, an excommunicated French theologian, once said, “Jesus came to establish the Kingdom, and the Church arrived instead.”

Time and time again, I have asked Bishop Malone to begin every meeting at the parish or diocese level (per Bishop Ken Untener’s example), no matter the purpose of the meeting, with this simple question: “How shall what we are about to do enable the poor and needy?”

After all, the poor are the church.