WOODLAND PARK (NJ)
October 20, 2020
By Abbott Koloff and Deena Yellin
A church investigation conducted last year — which has yet to be made public by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York — revealed that a priest who allegedly stole $1 million from two parishes to pay for sex, lavish vacations and a New Jersey shore home was protected for years by clergy at the archdiocese headquarters and avoided criminal prosecution despite significant evidence the archdiocese itself recently found.
After the investigation concluded, the case was sent to Rome and the archdiocese promised parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal in the Bronx and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini on Roosevelt Island that the priest, Peter Miqueli, would be laicized. The parishioners were also promised that the findings would be made public.
But the promise to release the findings has not been kept.
Rev. Peter Miqueli resigned Saturday after a lawsuit against him accused him of stealing church money and paying a male prostitute.
Over the summer, Miqueli’s body was found at his Brick Township home, where he had used stolen money to pay a man for bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic sessions, according to a lawsuit filed several years ago.
Days after his body was found, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar and lead investigator in the case, Father Richard Welch, was transferred to Rome. In a recent email, the New York Archdiocese said the priest’s death put an end to the case, and “no judgment was ever passed.”
“I think the cover-up continues,” Jack Lynch, a St. Frances de Chantal parishioner, said in a recent interview. “He told me he had overwhelming evidence,” he said of Welch.
Parishioners say they are still waiting to be briefed on the findings from the archdiocese’s investigation of Miqueli — and that the findings remain relevant. Linda Heimer, a parishioner of the Roosevelt Island parish, said Welch’s investigation appeared to be “the last chance to do something about this,” and that she had been hoping there would be some restitution for her parish, where the bulk of the money was allegedly stolen. She said that her church should receive proceeds from the sale of Miqueli’s Brick home, which was purchased in 2009 while Miqueli was her parish pastor.
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