The former pastor of a Throggs Neck church was found to have inappropriately used a parish account for personal expenses.
The Bronx district attorney’s office found that Fr. Peter Miqueli, of St. Frances de Chantal Church, who became a tabloid sensation for alleged romps with a male bodybuilder in 2015, had improperly obtained parish funds for personal use.
Fr. Miqueli is effectively in the process of restitution, for which the Archdiocese of New York has already reimbursed the parish, according to a letter from Bishop Gerald Walsh to the current pastor that was read at masses on Sunday, October 29.
No charges were preferred against the priest, who has not returned to active ministry since being ousted from St. Frances de Chantal.
“This investigation by the Economic Crimes Bureau found that Fr. Miqueli was improperly reimbursed for personal expenses,” said Clark. “The archdiocese has reimbursed St. Frances de Chantal Church for the funds, $22,450 of hard-earned money donated by parishioners for the betterment of the parish.”
Clark’s office also made recommendations to the Archdiocese of New York about fiscal controls that they have agreed to implement at St. Frances.
Among these recommendations are that parish undergo a complete audit and be audited every three years, that the parish have a single general purpose credit card with the pastor’s and parish’s name on it, and that there be a parish council, and that the Throggs Neck church have at least two lay trustees familiar with the finances.
According to the district attorney’s office, evidence wasn’t found to support accusations by some parishioners that the there could be as much as $1 million in funds that were misappropriated.
A second letter from Bishop Walsh to the parishioners addressed concerns about Fr. Miqueli’s future in the Catholic Church.
Walsh’s letter to the parishioners stated that the archdiocese had attempted to investigate “accusations of morally abhorrent behavior” but as of yet the allegations haven’t been substantiated.
“While the archdiocese is in discussions with Father Miqueli about his future, it is difficult to envision a circumstance that would allow him to return to the active priesthood,” the letter stated.
Allegations against Fr. Miqueli dealt with chronic absenteeism, which some parishioners and published reports speculated had to do with an affair with a male acquaintance, as well as general lack of spirituality and connection to his parish.
Jack McCarrick, a long-time parishioner who was active in a working group that sought to bring issues about Fr. Miqueli’s stewardship of the parish to light, estimated that about 85% of the parishioners would be satisfied with the investigation’s outcome.
McCarrick said the money wasn’t his main concern.
He is not sure what was taken but believes the amount was simply what the forensic accounting was able to find.
“It was some kind of a resolution, it is not the whole thing” said McCarrick. “The money was not the main thing that people were complaining about; it was about his demeanor, his absence and treatment of people.”
Janit Bitner, another parishioner active in bring the issue with the pastor to light, believes that there are more misdeeds at Fr. Miqueli’s previous assignment prior to St. Frances, at St. Frances Cabrini on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan.
“We are not all that happy, but you have to take what you can get,” she said, adding “One thing that I thought was glaringly absent in the (archdiocese’s comments) was that there was no thanks to the parishioners who stood their ground and made sure he is not longer a priest in the parish.”
Another parishioner who questioned Fr. Miqueli’s appropriateness for the parish said he believes that there is a cover-up going on.
He said parishioners saw open bags of cash from collections during services in the priest’s room.
He added he was upset because he believes that the Manhattan district attorney did not substantively investigate Fr. Miqueli’s actions at his previous Roosevelt Island assignment.