Chesco DA's Office contacts archdiocese about Downingtown pastor's secret bank account

Msgr. Joseph McLoone at the 2013 dedication of a new church building at St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown.

The Chester County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday acknowledged that it is looking into the unaccounted spending and secret bank account of a former pastor at a Catholic parish in Downingtown.

First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone said the office contacted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in response to news reports about the abrupt resignation of Msgr. Joseph McLoone from St. Joseph Parish.

“The archdiocese now has assigned a staff member to confer with Chester County detectives,” Noone said. “We have not received a formal referral yet.”

The archdiocese announced during the weekend that McLoone had allegedly maintained an off-the-books bank account set up in the church’s name for much of the last seven years. More than $110,000 worth of parish revenues were funneled into the account, which could only be accessed by the pastor.

McLoone allegedly told archdiocesan officials that he’d spent approximately $1,500 on “personal expenses of an inappropriate nature” on relationships with other adults. The church hasn’t elaborated on the nature of those relationships, other than to note that they did not involve children or members of the parish.

But they allegedly violated the archdiocese’s Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, which outline appropriate conduct for guiding clergy, staff, and volunteers in areas ranging from sexual harassment to gambling and the use of technology.

The archdiocese said McLoone still needs to account for $50,000 worth of expenses and ATM withdrawals from the account. Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said on Monday that McLoone is being given an opportunity to provide an explanation for those expenses.

“I would not speculate as to how long this process will take,” Gavin said.

McLoone, 55, has not been available for comment, and his exact whereabouts are unknown. His brother is Pat McLoone, managing editor for sports at the Inquirer and Daily News.

A statement from the archdiocese regarding Msgr. McLoone’s resignation was read by his successor, Msgr. Thomas Dunleavy, during crowded weekend services at St. Joseph. The parish, one of the largest in the five-county archdiocese, was jarred by the tumultuous end to McLoone’s tenure.

He arrived at St. Joseph in 2011, after its then-pastor, Msgr. William J. Lynn, was arrested in connection with a grand jury probe for ignoring or covering up the behavior of priests who abused children. McLoone provided a calming presence amid all of the turmoil, and parishioners have struggled to reconcile their positive impression of him with the sense of betrayal that was sparked by the allegations laid out by the archdiocese.

Since the news of his resignation, they have taken to the parish’s Facebook page to work out their conflicting emotions.

“Jesus said those of us who have not sinned throw the first stone,” one woman wrote Monday. “Think about your faith and forgiveness. I will be praying for father.”

Others weren’t as forgiving.

“This is so disheartening!!!” another parishioner wrote. “The Catholic Church wonders why it’s losing their members?!? We trusted him and confided in him to only now know we were being deceived. What a shame!”

The West Chester Daily Local News, citing a parish source, has reported that McLoone’s spending came into question this year when a St. Joseph’s parishioner discovered that McLoone had an account with Venmo — a digital payment service that allows users to easily transfer money to each other — that showed multiple unexplained transactions. The transactions triggered an investigation from archdiocesan auditors.

The archdiocese froze the secret bank account in February. That same month, McLoone went on an indefinite leave of absence.