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A former Chester County pastor was spared prison time after admitting to stealing from a Catholic church

Msgr. Joseph McLoone was sentenced to five years of probation for the theft.

Msgr. Joseph McLoone, seen here in 2013, admitted to using a secret bank account to siphon $30,000 from St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown.
Msgr. Joseph McLoone, seen here in 2013, admitted to using a secret bank account to siphon $30,000 from St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown.Read moreFile

A former Downingtown pastor pleaded guilty this week to stealing $30,000 from his parish to pad his salary, fund vacations to the Jersey Shore, and finance his secret romances.

Msgr. Joseph McLoone, 58, entered the plea to misdemeanor theft charges during a hearing Thursday before Chester County Court Judge Jacqueline C. Cody. He was sentenced to five years of probation, the first nine months of which he will complete under house arrest.

McLoone, who has been on administrative leave since his resignation from St. Joseph Parish in 2018, must also perform community service and write letters of apology to both the parishioners of St. Joseph and administrators at the Philadelphia archdiocese.

» READ MORE: Downingtown pastor resigns after 'inappropriate' expenses, relationships

His attorney, Melissa McCafferty, declined to comment Friday on the outcome, but noted that McLoone has already completed a significant amount of community service since his arrest and resignation from St. Joseph.

Prosecutors in Chester County charged McLoone in 2019, saying he used a secret bank account to siphon funds from his parish. McLoone was assigned to the church in 2011 as a replacement for Msgr. William Lynn, who weathered his own scandal as the former archdiocesan secretary accused of hiding reports of sexual abuse by priests.

McLoone initially faced more serious felony charges when investigators estimated his theft from St. Joseph at nearly $100,000. But through the plea deal, those charges were reduced.

Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan said in a statement Friday that McLoone’s conduct was a “disgraceful violation of the trust of the members of St. Joseph’s Church for his personal gain.”

“Given the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility for his illegal activity, the agreement of the parish and archdiocese, and his intention to make restitution to the church, we believe this was a reasonable resolution,” Ryan said.

At St. Joseph, McLoone opened an off-the-books “activity account” on Nov. 2, 2011, his first All Souls Day as pastor there, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest.

Over the next six years, he deposited more than $125,000 in parish checks — including nearly $40,000 in All Souls collections that parishioners donated to honor deceased family and friends — into the account, investigators said.

He withdrew $4,000 in cash in Ocean City, N.J., authorities said, and spent about $3,000 on men with whom he had sexual relationships. None of them were parishioners, the archdiocese said.

McLoone also doubled the stipends he was paid for officiating at weddings, funerals, and Masses to supplement his $26,000-a-year salary, authorities said.

He disclosed the theft to church officials when questions were raised about the payments during a routine audit in late 2017, which led to an investigation by the archdiocese. The Chester County District Attorney’s Office began its own probe about a year later.

Ken Gavin, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said in a statement Friday that its leaders “are grateful for the resolution in this matter along with the closure and healing it brings.”

“Consistent with Archdiocesan policy, the required canonical investigation regarding Monsignor McLoone’s behavior was stayed until law enforcement had completed its work,” Gavin said. “Now that civil authorities have reached a conclusion in this matter, that work will begin.”