An American priest with Irish roots has been accused of stealing funds from his parish to spend on his male lovers and a lavish lifestyle.
Fr Joseph McLoone (56) is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 (€88,746) from his parish and spending it on a beach house, travel, dining and men he dated.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office said Fr McLoone had been arrested on Wednesday for alleged theft from St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors allege the priest, whose parents emigrated to the US from Co Donegal, diverted funds into a secret account and allegedly misappropriated fees charged to parishioners.
They have claimed he used the money for a beach house in Ocean City, New Jersey, as well as to fund his lifestyle.
Prosecutors further allege that Fr McLoone gave himself a pay rise by doubling the amount he collected as a stipend for each Mass, wedding and funeral held at the parish, where he had worked for eight years.
Information posted on the Chester County District Attorney’s Office website said Fr McLoone, a resident of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, was charged with “theft by unlawful taking” and related offences.
It said he had been arrested on August 21 and his unsecured bail had been set at $50,000 (€45,077).
District attorney chief of staff Charles Gaza said: “Fr McLoone held a position of leadership and his parishioners trusted him to properly handle their generous donations to the church.”
The office said it was alleged in the criminal complaint that in 2011, Joseph Connell McLoone took over as pastor of St Joseph’s Parish in Downingtown, Chester County.
“During his tenure at St Joseph’s Parish, the defendant used his position as pastor to circumvent financial controls and illegally change practices which benefited him financially,” court papers say.
It is alleged that on November 2, 2011, the defendant opened an account at TD Bank which he named the ‘St Joseph Activity Account’.
Over the next six years, he diverted around $125,000 (€112,665) in donation cheques written to the St Joseph’s Parish into this account.
“The sources of these diverted funds included donations for the use of the church and school by community groups, donations from the congregation related to special collections held during masses, fees paid to the parish for weddings and funerals by those married at the church or holding funeral services for a loved one, and other gifts made out to St Joseph’s parish,” the court papers say.
Some money from the account was recovered.
The papers allege Fr McLoone created the activity account for the purpose of avoiding disclosure of the funds to the diocese.
“The defendant took full advantage of the lack of control over the activity account and used it to fund his personal lifestyle,” it is alleged.
“His lifestyle included a beach house, travel, dining and spending on adult men with whom he maintained sexual relationships.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the priest was on administrative leave and it was continuing to cooperate with the authorities.