A day after parish staff found illegal drugs in a package addressed to the recently reassigned pastor of St. Cornelius Catholic Church in Chadds Ford, state police on Wednesday executed a search warrant at the offices of the Delaware County church and said they were in the early stages of a criminal investigation.
Troopers were seen searching facilities around 11 a.m. as lay employees stood in a parking lot that separated the St. Cornelius Parish Life Center from the grade school affiliated with the church. Both buildings are on a sprawling campus along the Chester County border.
The search followed the discovery Tuesday by church office staff of drugs in a package that was addressed to the pastor most recently assigned to the parish, Msgr. Gregory Parlante, according to Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Parlante had left his job there in recent days and was on personal leave due to health problems.
Administrative staff uncovered the package during the course of normal duties, Gavin wrote in an email. "It was believed to contain illegal drugs," he added. Gavin did not specify what type of drugs they were, but added that "both the parish and the archdiocese are cooperating fully with law enforcement in the course of their active investigation."
State Police Capt. Bruce Williams said police secured the search warrant after receiving a call about suspected criminal activity at the parish. He would not say who was under investigation.
Parishioners learned on the weekend of May 20-21 that Parlante had decided "his health issues would not permit him to return as pastor," Gavin said. That same weekend, the archdiocese announced that Parlante was taking a leave of absence. Gavin did not specify the condition from which the pastor was suffering.