A group of parishioners who fought to have their concerns about a former pastor’s conduct investigated are not satisfied with the archdiocese’s conclusion on the matter.
The Concerned Parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal sent a letter to Archdiocese of New York officials and Pope Francis taking exception to an ADNY letter to the parish explaining its findings in the Fr. Peter Miqueli debacle that nearly tore the parish apart.
District Attorney Darcel Clark, who was handling the criminal aspects of the parish’s charges against Fr. Miqueli, recently concluded its investigation and found that he improperly reimbursed himself $22,450 in parish funds that he will effectively repay.
The district attorney recommended a series of greater financial controls, which the archdiocese is implementing, according to parishioners.
The ADNY letter, dated Thursday, October 26 and read at Sunday masses that weekend, stated that the district attorney now considers the matter closed, and stated that while $22,000 is a significant sum, it is a far cry from allegations of $1 million to $2 million being misappropriated, that some members of the church claimed was the case.
The Concerned Parishioners of St. Frances’ response, dated Friday, November 10, stated that what the ADNY calls the priest’s “improper reimbursement’ and ‘misappropriation’ of other people’s money is called grand larceny by any reasonable person.”
The group feels that they have been ignored, and one of its members, Janet Bitner, said that their correspondence is meant to inform the archdiocese that they don’t feel this is a satisfactory conclusion.
“We don’t expect responses,” said Bitner, knowingly.
A key member of the St. Frances group, James Corbett, said that he believes that after the Bronx DA made her findings, the archdiocese should not have offered additional comment.
“They should have just let it go,” said Corbett. “There was no reason to send out a letter. We were willing to let it lie, but they wanted to vindicate themselves.”
The November 12 letter accused church officials of putting “a cosmetic spin on the disgrace they allowed to continue, casting doubt on the veracity, decency and integrity of the abused parishioners.”
The group believes that the ADNY’s letter is an effort to recast the issue as an accounting error, said Corbett.
It was the group’s lawsuit in 2015 that ushered in the media’s interest in Fr. Miqueli’s alleged romps with a male bodybuilder, and this appears to have made the ADNY remove him as pastor, said Corbett.
The group had been talking with clergy and ADNY representatives for two years prior to going public in late 2015, yet it took five days of front-page coverage in the city’s major tabloids to prompt his removal, said Corbett.
After conversations with parishioners and at Fr. Miqueli’s previous assignment, a decade-long stint as pastor at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, their group still feels that there could be much larger financial mistakes, misappropriation or wrongdoing, perhaps up to $1 million, said Corbett.
One of the members of the Roosevelt Island parish took part in their lawsuit, said Corbett, adding that someone anonymously left copies of Fr. Miqueli’s financial documents in his mailbox showing that the priest had an investment portfolio worth approximately $700,000, in addition to a owning a home in Brick, NJ that he purchased all cash for $264,000.
Corbett said he believes Fr. Miqueli earned about $32,000 a year as a priest.
The group would like Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney, to investigate the Roosevelt Island allegations those parishioners have encountered, and hopefully determine the source of Fr. Miqueli’s alleged wealth.