Missing Money Scandal At Queens Church – QNS.com

Missing Money Scandal At Queens Church

Parishioners attending Sunday Mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills last weekend were stunned to see Bishop Thomas Daily get up to the lectern to tell them that their beloved former pastor of 18 years may have inappropriately directed $2 millions of their money.
Monsignor Thomas Gradlione, who retired in January, is being investigated by Queens prosecutors for drawing the money from parish collections, direct solicitations from parishioners and other church accounts. In a highly unusual move, Daily, the leader of the 1.6 million Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, addressed the congregants at the conclusion of all five masses. The mood was one of shock and sadness in the large gothic church on Ascan Ave. and Queens Blvd. as Daily explained the mystery surrounding the missing money.
"I have learned that substantial sums of money have passed from Monsignor Gradlione to one or more individuals in amounts that greatly exceed the bounds of charity normally accepted as a response to people in serious need.
"I asked him on a number of occasions to fully identify these individuals and to tell me why they were the beneficiaries of these funds," the Bishop said. "I have not yet received a satisfactory reply," Daily said.
The Bishop continued, "I struggle to determine whether he is, for some reason, a victim of these individuals who have been the beneficiaries, or merely a victimizer, or perhaps both," Daily said, his voice echoing through the gothic church. "I am even pursuing the possibility that his actions have been caused by an unknown physical condition."
Church auditors became suspicious when they determined that significant amounts of money appear to have been overturned over several years. The church has commissioned a more extensive audit of the parishes books and final records. Diocesan officials alerted both the FBI and the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, whose office acknowledged that there is an investigation but would not comment further.
The churchs new pastor, Monsignor Joseph Funaro, said his congregation of 2,900 families is extremely concerned about its former priest. Many of the parishioners at last Sundays masses were near tears on hearing of the news and most of those interviewed remembered Gradlione as an extremely kind and community-minded priest who was always ready to help parishioners with any problem they had. They also said he was always giving food to the homeless and the unemployed.
Gradlione was also a leader in interdenominational relations in the community and he was the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library.
The New York Post reported on Tuesday that investigators believe a drug-abusing ex-con has emerged as a key figure in the case. The paper says that a professional burglar from Howard Beach may have gotten tens of thousands of dollars from the priest.
Gradlione who had been living near the church, has been relocated to a site outside the diocese, according to Daily.

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