The latest revelations that yet another Connecticut Catholic priest has stolen yet another million dollars from his own parishioners to support a flamboyant gay lifestyle in New York City are especially disappointing to those of us who thought Connecticut’s religious leaders had learned a lesson the first time this happened in 2009. Many of us defended our bishops then as Connecticut’s most liberal Democratic legislators attempted to transfer financial control of Connecticut’s Catholic churches from the pastors to parishioners and the State. Then, the two Democratic State legislators proposing the bill claimed to be responding to a case in the affluent town of Darien when Rev. Michael Jude Fay, a Bridgeport diocese pastor, was convicted of stealing more than $1.3 million in parishioner donations to lead a luxurious life with his gay partner.
Now, Rev. Kevin Gray, a pastor from an inner-city Waterbury church in the Hartford Diocese, has been charged with stealing more than $1.4 million from his parishioners to pay for a series of male escorts, New York City hotels, restaurant meals, and clothing. In a police affidavit, Father Gray told the police that he is gay and “has a problem with the Church’s stance on homosexuality.”
While Father Fay spent money from his Darien church on limousines, stays at New York hotels, elaborate meals in New York restaurants, jewelry, clothing, and a Florida condominium for himself and his gay partner, these latest revelations about Father Gray are even more sordid. In a 14-page police affidavit, Father Gray stated that he spent the money on male escorts from Campus Escorts in New York and would have the escorts meet him in hotel rooms he had rented — using parishioners’ money. Since May 2003, $655,936.48 worth of checks from the church funds were cashed by American Express to pay for charges to Gray’s account. These charges included more than $200,000 to restaurants in New York, Boston, and Connecticut, and more than $150,000 in stays at high-end hotels in New York City, Boston, and New Haven. His favorites were the W Hotel and the Waldorf Astoria. The rest of the money was spent on his clothes at Brooks Brothers, Barney’s, and Armani, as well as jewelry stores — including Tiffany.
In the police affidavit, Father Gray claimed that the Church “owed” the money to him because they had transferred him to the “worst” parish in the state. He said he became “bitter” because of this. And, to make him feel better, he wrote several hundred checks worth a total of $1,475,944.67 from his Sacred Heart Church parish account.
Responding to all of this, Rev. John P. Gatzak, Director of Communications for the Hartford Archdiocese, said “[w]e are deeply saddened by the events which have recently had such a profound effect on Sacred Heart/Sagrado Corazon parish.” Many of Waterbury’s Catholics are beyond “saddened” at this point.
In their defense, Diocesan spokesmen said that diocesan officials discovered the financial discrepancies this spring. Even though each parish is supposed to have a parish financial council, Sacred Heart did not have such a panel. Pastors are also supposed to issue annual financial reports — but Father Gray did not comply. This is what triggered the diocesan financial review. A bit too late: in the affidavit, Father Gray claims to have been stealing the money since 2003. But no one noticed until now. In an especially bitter remark in the affidavit, Father Gray told the investigating police officer that he knew that the bishop would not even say anything about the financial revelations until after the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal was completed.
It is difficult for Connecticut Catholics in the Hartford Diocese to understand this latest betrayal — especially those of us who have continued to give generously to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and vigorously defended our Church from the state takeover in 2009. Some of us wrote op-eds for local newspapers and publicly defended our bishops from liberal Catholic groups which used the Fay case as an excuse to call for ’empowering the laity’ and removing the current leadership structure. These groups — already dissenting from Church teachings on reproductive rights, homosexuality, and women’s ordination — have just been given another opportunity to weaken our Church.