Priest Removed

ABC 30 [Merced CA]
Downloaded December 3, 2004

The Fresno Diocese is investigating the finances at Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in Merced.

The priest, Mike Lastiri was let go this summer for allegedly posting internet solicitations for gay sex. Now parishioners have questions over how he spent some of the church's money.

Both Saint Patrick's and the Fresno Diocese said they've opened the books and are looking in to some irregularities.

They were asked to review the church documents after questions over how Father Mike Lastiri paid for trips where he allegedly had sex with men.

But the biggest concern Father Mike's travel and hospitality expenses 53-thousand dollars in one year and more than two-hundred thousand over four years.

Stephen Brady is with the group Roman Catholic Faithful and feels these "if you can justify, as a priest, that type of immorality, the homosexual activity and solicitation of such, surely you can justify the use of 40, 50, 60,000 a year to support your lifestyle." But he says the real issue that Saint Patrick's parishioners feel their Bishop, John Steinbock isn't taking their concerns seriously. Numerous attempts to meet with him they say, have been denied with only a letter sent back saying quote "Lastiri is responsible with his own money to pay for personal travels. The parish financial council would be the group to advise me if there was any wrongdoing in this matter. I am having our diocesan finance officer look over the financial records to be assured of this."


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