Pastor Resigns Following Allegations of Financial Mismanagement

amNew York [Greenwich CT]
January 21, 2007,0,1869717.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire

The pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish has resigned after a financial audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent without proper documentation, the Bridgeport Diocese said Sunday.

Authorities informed diocese officials last July that the Greenwich parish had a second operating account "not reflected on the books of the parish" and not known to the diocese and the parish finance council, the diocese said.

Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the diocese, on Sunday would not identify the "civil authorities" who brought the matter to the diocese. He said fraud has not been uncovered.

The allegations were first reported on Sunday by The Greenwich Time and The Advocate of Stamford.

The parish finance council and the Rev. Michael Moynihan, who resigned Friday, said spending from the account was proper, but auditors said more documentation is required. It listed several "red flags," such as large reimbursements paid to Moynihan and other individuals without supporting documentation, the diocese said.

Among unsupported transactions were $194,000 to vendors, $44,000 to Moynihan, $141,000 to Moynihan's personal credit cards and $89,000 to individuals, the diocese said.

Moynihan and the parish finance council gave descriptions and explanations for most of the undocumented disbursements to Moynihan and his personal credit cards, the diocese said. Payments to Moynihan have been explained as reimbursements for legitimate parish or school expenditures.

"However, most of these disbursements lack the necessary third-party corroboration that is a minimum requirement for reimbursement," the diocese said.

Bishop William Lori of the Bridgeport Diocese relieved Father Moynihan of financial administration of the parish on Aug. 16, appointing Monsignor J. Peter Cullen to oversee the financial administration of the parish. Moynihan led the pastoral ministry.

Lori asked for Moynihan's resignation as pastor on Dec. 30 and again on Thursday, the diocese said. Moynihan complied on Friday, and was succeeded by Cullen who will serve as temporary administrator of the parish.

Lori announced Moynihan's resignation to the parish on Saturday.

"In his 14 years as pastor, Father Moynihan has dedicated himself to deepening the faith of his parish family and displaying a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of both young and old," Lori said in a statement released Sunday.

McAleer said Moynihan would not be available for comment.

Moynihan said in a resignation letter provided by the diocese that the audit "will illustrate my deficiencies as a financial administrator."

He said "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," Moynihan said.

The financial trouble is the second in less than a year in the diocese. In May, the Rev. Michael Jude Fay of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien resigned following allegations he spent at least $200,000 in church money to finance a lavish lifestyle with another man.

An investigation into that matter continues, McAleer said.


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