Priest Who Gambled Away Church Funds Must Keep Factory Job, Judge Says

By Clifford Ward
Chicago Tribune
May 10, 2012,0,1458927.story

Rev. John Regan, left, is greeted by a friend as he arrives for his Aug. 16, 2011 sentencing in Wheaton. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune / May 10, 2012)

A priest working at a factory to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars he stole from his parish and then gambled away heard some straightforward counsel today from a judge: Don’t quit your day job.

DuPage County Judge John Kinsella ordered the Rev. John Regan to continue working at his low-wage job, which Kinsella mandated as part of Regan’s 2011 sentence on theft charges.

Regan and his attorney appeared before the judge Thursday, seeking court approval for Regan to return to full-time ministry work and quit his $9-an-hour job in a Joliet air filter factory.

Attorney Jack Donahue said Regan could earn twice as much as a priest, and, therefore, could more quickly make restitution.

The Joliet diocese reimbursed St. Walter parish in Roselle, where Regan stole the money, and Regan is repaying the diocese almost $300,000 he used to finance gambling binges on riverboat casinos in Elgin and Joliet.

But the judge turned down the plan, and said he wanted Regan to continue to work a regular job as long as he is under court supervision.

In August, Kinsella placed Regan on four years’ probation, meaning he would be under court jurisdiction until 2015.

“It wasn’t just the speed of paying back the money, it was how the money was to be repaid,” said Kinsella, who said he wanted the priest to understand that parishioners who contributed the money Regan gambled away had worked hard to earn it.

The judge did say that if the diocese wants to allow Regan to say Mass or administer sacraments, he has every right to do so, but he must keep working a regular job.

Regan, 48, was arrested in 2008 when parishioners alerted authorities that a substantial amount of church money appeared to be missing.

An investigation revealed Regan had looted the parish of $297,000 over a two-year period to support what he described as a compulsive gambling addiction.

Donahue said that Regan has served the county jail time and work-release ordered by Kinsella, and is within days of finishing a stint on the DuPage Sheriff’s work detail.

Regan’s cooperation with probation officials had been “exemplary,” his attorney said.

But with those obligations ending, Donahue asked whether that meant, too, an end to the court’s order of a menial job.

Donahue also presented a letter from the Joliet diocese, saying it wished to assign Regan to a parish, but not as a pastor and in a role where he would not handle money.

With his jail and work details obligations, Regan has been working his factory job only about two days a week, Donahue said.

“His full-time prospects are minimal,” Donahue said after the hearing.

Assistant State’s Atty. Helen Kapas objected to Regan’s return to full-time priesthood.

“His conduct may be exemplary on probation but his conduct before then was quite less than exemplary,” she told the judge.

Regan, who declined to comment following the hearing, is an active Gamblers Anonymous member, his attorney said.

Doug Delaney, executive assistant to Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, said the idea of returning Regan to full-time ministry was a suggestion only, and that the diocese would continue to cooperate with the court.

"We made a suggestion. If the judge doesn't agree, it's his call," Delaney said. "First and foremost, we will go by the judge's decision."








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