The Archdiocese of New York says that it takes seriously accusations in a recent lawsuit claiming that a New York priest embezzled money and maintained scandalous personal habits, while also saying that a diocesan investigation has found nothing to substantiate the allegations.
“The Archdiocese has been investigating these allegations for many months, and has repeatedly requested any information or documentation that might substantiate the allegations that have been made,” Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA in a statement.
“Thus far, no evidence has been offered, and our forensic audit has thus far failed to uncover evidence of embezzlement,” he said. “We have been in touch with the District Attorney since the summer, and have promised to turn over anything that might be criminal in nature. We urge anyone with such evidence to do the same.”
The suit alleges that the Fr. Peter Miqueli, former pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church on Roosevelt Island and St. Frances De Chantal Church in the Bronx, was engaged in a “million dollar embezzlement scheme,” taking funds from his former parishes’ collections over the course of a decade.
In addition, the suit alleges, Fr. Miqueli “used the donations to grow his personal wealth, purchase a house in New Jersey, take dozens of international vacations, purchase and use illegal drugs,” and pay for the sexual services of a male escort.
The suit further claims that the Archdiocese of New York, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, were made aware of the situation, and that the archdiocese confirmed its knowledge in Nov. 2014.
Fr. Miqueli resigned as pastor of St. Frances de Chantal on Dec. 11, after publication of the allegations in the New York Post.
Zwilling responded to the situation in a Dec. 11 e-letter to the parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal.
He declined to comment on the specific legal matter of the suit, saying the legal matters would best be addressed in court.
Speaking more generally, Zwilling said that the “archdiocese has, from the beginning, taken these allegations seriously, and has been investigating them, including conducting a forensic audit of the parish, which is still on-going.”
“To date we have found nothing to substantiate the allegations that have been raised, and, in fact, with regard to the parish finances, we know that the allegation that Father Miqueli stole $1 million from each parish, as was alleged by the plaintiffs’ attorney, is completely false,” Zwilling stated.
However, he noted, the archdiocese did find Fr. Miqueli “had deficient management and administrative practices,” and that the archdiocese placed forward directives to address those practices.
Zwilling, also noted that auxiliary bishop, Bishop John Jenik, has met with parishioners “in an effort to try to hear their concerns and reach a resolution.”
Continuing, Zwilling stated that the archdiocese has asked that those making claims “please provide us with documentation, but they have thus far failed to do so.” He reiterated his request that anyone with information or documentation contact the Archdiocese or the District Attorney. “If, in the course of our ongoing investigation, we find additional information, we will, of course, take appropriate action in response,” the communications director concluded. Photo credit: Sean Pavone via www.shutterstock.com