An embattled church pastor has heard from a higher authority.
The Archdiocese of New York issued directives to the pastor of St. Frances de Chantal Church, encouraging him to improve his stewardship after parishioners raised concerns about his handling of cash donations and his strained relations with his flock.
The parishioners, totalling about 30, have learned that seven directives have been issued by Timothy Cardinal Dolan to Fr. Peter Miqueli, pastor of the Throggs Neck house of worship.
An official Archdiocese of New York spokesman did not respond to requests for confirmation of the directives’ contents.
Two of the church leaders, Jack Lynch and Janet Bitner, said that while they were not permitted to see the actual letter Fr. Miqueli received, key portions were read to them by an Archdiocean representative, acting a a mediator, at a restaurant meeting they attended in City Island several weeks ago.
Among the alleged management directives are:
• the Archdiocese of New York will conduct an audit of St. Frances’ finances
• the pastor must publish parish collections in the church bulletin, with the figures verified by an impartial witness.
• annual financial statements must be issued.
• the pastor must appoint a Parish Finance Council
• Fr. Miqueli must appoint two new trustees, which must be selected from among long-time parishioners
• Fr. Miqueli must form a parish council, with the first step being the establishment of a nominating committee.
So far, said Bitner, it does not appear that the pastor has moved on any of the directive’s demands, but she added that the group has to give the priest some time.
“He has been given six months and he has been given these directives,” said Bitner, adding “I always expect the best indicator of what is going to happen in the future is what has happened in the past.”
But she noted that the pastor now has a great opportunity to make a turnaround.
“If he were meeting us halfway, we would extend our hands to bring our parish together again,” she said.
Lynch, a prominent Throggs Neck activist, said that in about two and a half years at the parish, Fr. Miqueli removed longtime checks and balances regarding handling of cash donations, and ran the parish in a way that alienated large numbers of parishioners.
Many have stopped attending Mass at St. Frances, he said, with many headed to nearby St. Benedict’s.
“(The Cardinal) knows that we are not happy with Miqueli and we want him gone,” said Lynch, adding that he would not like to see Fr. Miqueli continue in parish ministry at any church because of what he termed the priest’s “waywardness.”
Bishop John Jenik, who met with the concerned parishioners early in the investigation into their allegations in November 2014, said that the archdiocese has conducted an audit of the parish finances, and that it did not reveal irregularities.
“There was nothing found,” he said, and went on to confirm that the mediator involved in the investigation was John Feerick, a law professor at Fordham University Law School.
Feerick is an expert in constitutional law and theory, according to his bio.
Jenik said he was not privy to any directives from the Cardinal.