A Catholic priest was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing almost $100,000 in church donations to supplement his personal life, which included traveling and sending money to men he met on gay dating app Grindr.
Father Joseph McLoone, 56, was charged with felony theft and other related crimes after allegedly depositing into a personal account thousands of dollars in donations from parishioners of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, between 2011 and 2018, according to the Chester County district attorney’s office.
The diverted funds were allegedly contained in a bank account named “St. Joseph Activity Account,” which McLoone opened Nov. 2, 2011 — his first All Souls holiday as pastor of the church.
“Father McLoone held a position of leadership and his parishioners trusted him to properly handle their generous donations to the church,” Chester County District Attorney Chief of Staff Charles Gaza wrote in a statement. “Father McLoone violated the trust of the members of St. Joseph’s for his own personal gain.”
In addition to pocketing the All Souls’ collection each year, along with other donations addressed to St. Joseph’s, the district attorney’s office also said McLoone doubled the stipend he collected for saying each mass and performing weddings and funerals.
McLoone, who as a Catholic priest took an oath of celibacy, told investigators that he used some of the stolen funds to pay for “personal relationships” with other men, according to an affidavit from the Chester County DA’s office. In 2018, he made 10 deposits totaling more than $1,200 via J-Pay, an app that allows users to send money to inmates, to a man in a New York correctional facility. The inmate was identified in court documents as Brian Miller, whom McLoone allegedly met on Grindr. Between April 2015 and April 2017, McLoone allegedly also made 17 payments totaling $1,720 to other men he met on the gay dating app.
McLoone’s attorney, Melissa McCafferty, denied the allegations against her client in an interview with NBC News.
"Father Joe wants, needs and deserves a lot of pushback," she said. "These assertions are absurd.”
McCafferty also said this was not a case that should have been taken up by law enforcement.
“This DA’s office is notorious for filing charges on suspicions and conjecture,” she said. “These accusations came about from a private letter sent to his employer, not from anything criminally substantial.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia began investigating McLoone in early 2018 and subsequently placed him on administrative leave. McLoone later resigned and a new pastor, Rev. Stephen Leva, was named in August 2018.
McLoone replaced Monsignor William Lynn as pastor of the church in 2011 after Lynn was arrested for concealing other priests’ child sex abuse while he worked for the Archdiocese of Pennsylvania.
In a statement issued Wednesday following McLoone’s arrest, the archdiocese called the charges “serious and disturbing,” adding that it plans to pursue full financial restitution on behalf of the parish for the misused expenditures. The statement claimed McLoone “acknowledged that some expenditures” were used “for personal expenses of an inappropriate nature.”
“Those expenses were related to relationships with adults that represented a violation of The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries established by the Archdiocese,” the statement read.
McLoone’s bail was set for $50,000 unsecured.
Despite the charges, John McCarraher, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s, said McLoone is “in our prayers constantly.”
“Let all the facts come in and we’ll see what happens,” he told NBC’s local Philadelphia affiliate.