Church to get back its gambled money - Sunday 12th of June 2005
An order of priests plans to reimburse St. Alphonsus Catholic Church after an audit discovered a fellow priest's gambling addiction cost the parish more than $90,000.
The Redemptorist order by June 30 will reimburse the church for $90,555 the Rev. Thomas Donaldson acknowledged misusing, but no criminal charges will be filed.
The Rev. Thomas Picton, Redemptorist provincial superior, said he is not sure how much of the money was used for gambling, "but we know it was misused."
"We feel very bad for the parishioners," Picton said. "We want to apologize to them for the misconduct of one of our members."
The Redemptorists' Denver-based province staffs St. Alphonsus.
Donaldson was removed from the parish in December. A letter sent to 1,800 parish households said a new priest will be announced by the end of June.
"We're not a wealthy parish," said 20-year member Lynn Rabaut, a Grand Rapids city commissioner. "It's really nice to see that money will be replaced so we can use it when the community needs it."
Rabaut said she feels no animosity toward Donaldson, who is undergoing treatment at a Toronto-area addiction program.
"He's paid quite a bit for this, and he is working hard at healing himself," Rabaut said.
Fellow commissioner and parishioner Richard Tormala said he recently sent Donaldson a letter of prayer and support.
"My concern is still for Father Tom and his rehabilitation," Tormala said. "It's not a small amount, but when someone suffers from an addiction those things can happen."
Picton said Donaldson is "in full compliance with the treatment program and is doing well."
Sister Patrice Konwinski, chancellor of the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese, declined to provide details about how the money was taken. She said the audit is incomplete.
"It's being worked on right now, and it seems to be zeroing in on one or two accounts," Konwinski said. She added that parish financial controls will be strengthened.
Konwinski said the diocese is not pressing charges because Donaldson is receiving medical care and the money will be repaid.
Donaldson had told Redemptorist officials he tried to repay the funds before acknowledging the problem. The priest had told order officials he quit gambling about two years ago.
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