Priest Resigns, Can't Account For $500,000 Of Church Funds

North County Gazette/January 22, 2007

Greenwich, CT---The Rev. Michael Moynihan, pastor in one of Connecticut's wealthiest Catholic parishes, has resigned amid intensifying scrutiny of his personal finances after an audit revealed that he had spent more than $500,000 in church monies without being to show where he spent it.

According to officials of the Bridgeport Diocese, the priest used $185,000 of the money to pay off his personal credit card bills.

Moynihan, 54, who was the pastor at St. Michael the Archangel in Greenwich, also allegedly spent $32,000 of the money for meals, some $19,000 for travel and another $13,000 for "equestrian training" at a parochial school.

Parishioners of St. Michael's were told Sunday by Bishop William Lori that he had asked for and received Moynihan's resignation. Lori said that Moynihan remains a priest in good standing but it doubtful he will ever be the pastor of a diocese church again.

Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into the matter. Church officials have accused Moynihan of keeping two secret bank accounts which were "off the books" of which only he had knowledge. Officials said that some $1.4 million was filtered through one account but more than a half million of that auditors can't track because checks were sometimes made out to cash, paid various personal accounts of Moynihan as well as his personal credit card bills. Payments totaling $44,000 were made to people who hadn't performed work for the parish. The account containing $1.4 million was opened in 2004, just days after Moynihan was cited for improper bookkeeping.

Parishioners received a copy of the audit results and the priest's letter of resignation which said that the audit would "illustrate my deficiencies as a financial administrator".

He said in his letter that "I believe at the end of this process that there will be no findings of impropriety or wrongdoing on my part as your pastor. If the final report should indicate unresolved or questionable expenditures, I will, to the extent that I can, make an appropriate financial contribution back to the parish I love so much."

Last July, another priest in the same Diocese was accused to helping himself to nearly $1.4 million in donations prior to his resignation in May, 2006.

A report released by Bishop Lori who ordered an audit of church finances conducted by the Deloitte Financial Advisory Services charged that the Rev. Michael Jude Fay, 55, took the money from the St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien over a six year period and used the funds for personal luxuries with his frequent companion, Cliff Fantino, including the purchase of a Florida condo, limousine rides, world wide travel, jewelry and designer clothing.

That matter is also under federal investigation.

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