WILL PRIEST WHO 'STOLE' [Euro]500,000 AVOID CHARGES? Cleric Who Allegedly Dined out in Style on Parishioners' Donations Could Be Given Reprieve as Canon Law May Stymie DPP's Actions; Church Law Issues Could Shield Priest from Legal Penance

Daily Mail (London), January 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

WILL PRIEST WHO 'STOLE' [Euro]500,000 AVOID CHARGES? Cleric Who Allegedly Dined out in Style on Parishioners' Donations Could Be Given Reprieve as Canon Law May Stymie DPP's Actions; Church Law Issues Could Shield Priest from Legal Penance


Byline: Ali Bracken Crime Correspondent

A PRIEST suspected of stealing half a million euro in parish donations to fund a lavish lifestyle could get off scot-free because of Canon Law ramifications.

Director of Public Prosecutions Claire Loftus is examining the case but may not be able to prosecute the cleric because of the laws governing the Catholic Church. An astonishing [euro]500,000 in parishioner donations was alleged to have been 'stolen' by the priest over a 12-year period.

The Irish Daily Mail previously revealed last year that the Dublin-based priest was reported to gardai by fellow clerics when their suspicions were piqued by his fine-dining and regular holidays to far-flung destinations. He was arrested and gardai sent a file to the DPP last February, but senior security sources say the public prosecutor will first have to examine the implications of Canon Law.

A legal expert told the Irish Daily Mail that the extraordinary situation may have lawyers perplexed because they are not sure exactly how the priest might have come by the money he is alleged to have taken.

For example, if he was given the cash in the form of a gift, prosecuting could be problematic. A senior security source told the Mail: 'This is a complex case. From a legal point of view, one thing the DPP must be looking at is Canon Law.

'The last thing the DPP or An Garda Siochana would want is for this priest to be criminally charged only for there to be an issue down the line with Canon Law.'

An Irish legal expert in Canon Law said there 'might well be an issue' in relation to Church laws in this instance.

The barrister, who declined to be named as the case is ongoing, said: 'Criminal law is the code of the State. But, on the basis of what you have explained about this case, an issue could arise in terms of what he was entitled to do with this money. If this priest was given some of the money in the circumstances as a gift, an issue could arise.

'The question is in what context was the money given? So there could be issues with Canon Law.'

Adding that she did not know all the details of this case, the barrister said: 'It could boil down to diocesan structures and whether the money was an unconditional gift.

'On the other side of it, if it is considered straightforward theft, then Canon Law might not be a consideration at all.

'It is important not to secondguess the DPP before a decision is made. There could be various reasons for the length of time the file is with the DPP.'

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Dublin did not respond when contacted for comment. The Mail previously revealed the priest was allegedly ul y using the money to finance a lavish lifestyle for more than 12 years. A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church in Dublin confirmed in February: 'The Archdiocese is actively co-operating with the gardai. …

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WILL PRIEST WHO 'STOLE' [Euro]500,000 AVOID CHARGES? Cleric Who Allegedly Dined out in Style on Parishioners' Donations Could Be Given Reprieve as Canon Law May Stymie DPP's Actions; Church Law Issues Could Shield Priest from Legal Penance
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