HomeUSMissouri priest pleads guilty to $300,000 theft from parish 

Missouri priest pleads guilty to $300,000 theft from parish 

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Wardsville, Missouri. / Credit: Diocese of Jefferson City

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

A priest in Missouri pleaded guilty this week to stealing $300,000 from a church at which he was pastor for nearly a decade.

Father Ignazio Medina admitted to “transporting stolen property across state lines” after a federal investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said in a press release this week.

Medina was pastor at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Wardsville, Missouri, from 2013 to 2021. Officials discovered “financial irregularities” at the parish in 2018, after which was discovered “a bank account that was not previously reported” on parish financial documents.

The priest began including the account in annual parish reports, and by 2020 it contained nearly $360,000.

The pastor was transferred to a new parish in 2021, the attorney’s office said, after which “it was discovered that he had emptied that bank account.” Medina had sent a $100,000 check to a sister in Tucson, Arizona, and had written a $200,000 check for himself.

Medina “claimed the bank account was funded by donations that were not intended for the parish itself but rather were intended for his own discretionary use,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

Parishioners contradicted that claim, arguing that their donations to the parish “were intended for parish purposes, not for Medina’s own discretionary use” and that they “never had any conversations with Medina authorizing a different use of the funds.”

The priest further alleged that he was “refunding donations” from the account and that his sister in Tucson “was one of the donors.” The sister, however, told investigators that she had not donated any money and that the $100,000 check was to care for her mother.

The priest faces up to 10 years in prison, the prosecutor’s office said.

In addition to the criminal conviction, Medina faces Church sanctions over the financial malfeasance as well as a separate violation involving sexual solicitation.

The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, announced last year that Medina had been found guilty of “abuse of ecclesiastical power” stemming from the financial mismanagement. The priest had made “full restitution of the missing funds,” the diocese said at the time, and had also been ordered to pay more than $25,000 to cover diocesan audit and legal fees.

In January of this year, meanwhile, Medina was found guilty of sexual solicitation of an adult during confession and was permanently barred from holding any office in the Church or hearing confessions.

He is also barred from celebrating Mass without the express permission of the bishop.

“I want to be clear that sexual solicitation during confession is a sacrilege, a crime in our Church, and a grave form of abuse; it cannot be tolerated,” Jefferson City Bishop W. Shawn McKnight said at the time.

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