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Update, Dec. 12, 2015: Priest at center of scandal resigns.
A wayward priest of the New York Archdiocese misappropriated more than $50,000 of parish funds for his personal use. Nevertheless the archdiocese keeps this priest on as pastor at another parish while dismissing allegations as the work of disgruntled parishioners. Parishioners from his previous parish, as well as the current parish at which he is pastor, are wondering why.
The priest, Fr. Peter A. Miqueli, has a sordid history spanning 13 years at the two parishes of which he's been pastor. As one parishioner told ChurchMilitant.com:
If a New York City police officer faces any allegations, he is removed from active duty while the investigation is ongoing. So why is this priest currently acting as pastor in the archdiocese instead of being removed, investigated or reprimanded?
Many parishioners suspect a cover-up. Another parishioner said of Miqueli, "This is a man who has repeatedly and proudly stated that he has a protector in the hierarchy of the archdiocese of New York and, therefore, he need not engage with parishioners who displease the 'king.'"
Parishioners have told ChurchMilitant that Miqueli at various times has referred to himself as "King of St. Frances." (Saint Frances de Chantal parish is where he's currently pastor.)
This priest has an extensive history of purported wrongdoing in his personal and professional life as can be viewed here and here. As a result of complaints, Cdl. Timothy Dolan issued seven directives to Fr. Miqueli, including an audit of St. Frances' finances, a publication of parish collections, annual financial statements, and the creation of a parish finance council, among other things.
But parishioners at St. Frances have told ChurchMilitant.com that Miqueli's actions haven't changed. They've even created a website and a Facebook page to publicize his wrongdoing hoping the archdiocese will launch an investigation. But the diocese keeps him on as pastor and remains silent on the issues.
The scandal most recently uncovered by local New York paper The Wire shows how Miqueli, while pastor at his former parish, St. Frances Cabrini, diverted more than $50,000 from a parish-run thrift shop to himself. The proceeds from the thrift shop were supposed to go towards operating the parish.
Priests receive personal income as a salary from the diocese and as stipends received from parishioners when celebrating sacraments such as Mass, weddings or funerals. Such stipends are put into a separate "stipends account" and can be drawn out by the priest only after the sacrament or ceremony has been performed.
As The Wire reveals, shortly after taking over as pastor at St. Frances Cabrini in 2002, Miqueli fired the store's director, Sr. Regina Palmara. He then started depositing proceeds from the thrift shop into his own stipends account.
The Wire has documentation showing that from 2009 to 2012, Miqueli started drawing out large amounts of money from his stipend account totalling more than $54,000.
During that period of time, parish records show only 11 ceremonies performed. A stipend for Mass can average $10 and a wedding around $200. This totals far less than the thousands pulled out by Miqueli. On the other hand, the thrift shop brought in weekly twice the amount of the parish's weekly collection.
This isn't the only clandestine money to land in Miqueli's account.
A few months ago The Wire uncovered evidence showing how money from a pipe organ fund, jointly held with a protestant group, seemingly wound up in Miqueli's stipend account while he was pastor at the same parish. That transfer involved forged documentation.
The same article reveals how many financial records were destroyed prior to Miqueli's being reassigned to his current parish of St. Frances de Chantal.
ChurchMilitant.com reported on the allegations Miqueli faces at his current parish since he was assigned there three years ago.
In spite of this and a host of other allegations, the archdiocese, led by Cdl. Dolan, continues to keep this priest on active duty as pastor. The archdiocese continues to stonewall an investigation, dismiss allegations and blame parishioners.
Parishioners for their part continue to contact the diocese regularly and gather weekly to pray that it remove Miqueli from their parish.