UPDATED — Msgr. Gregory J. Parlante, 61, former pastor of St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford, was arrested Thursday, Jan. 25 for allegedly stealing money from church collections and using it to buy drugs and drug paraphernalia online.
The priest had resigned as pastor from the Delaware County parish last May to recover from what he told parishioners in a church bulletin announcement was a “near-death illness” in order to “devote my time to becoming well.”
When parish staff subsequently cleaned out his desk May 30, they discovered a postal package addressed to him and discovered possible evidence of illegal drugs.
Pennsylvania State Police executed a search warrant at that time to investigate the contents of the package and discovered drug paraphernalia consisting of clear plastic bags and straws, as well as a white crystalline substance. Later tests revealed it to be illegal methamphetamine – a highly addictive and destructive stimulant.
During the course of their investigation and interviews with parish staff and volunteers, the police allege Msgr. Parlante stole approximately $5,500 in church collections from January to March 2017 and deposited the money into his private bank account.
The affidavit of probable cause states Msgr. Parlante “was making his narcotics purchase using money from (his) account via various sources such as PayPal and other forms of electronic transactions” and shipping them to the St. Cornelius rectory.
The Philadelphia Archdiocese and the parish have cooperated fully in the investigation, according to a statement Jan. 25 by the archdiocese.
Msgr. Parlante, who has been a priest of the archdiocese for 35 years and served as pastor of St. Cornelius for years, faces two misdemeanor charges — knowing or intentional possession of a controlled substance and use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia – and one felony charge, theft by unlawful taking or disposition.
The current pastor of St. Cornelius, Msgr. David E. Diamond, communicated news of Msgr. Parlante’s arrest with parishioners at all Masses last weekend, Jan. 27-28.
A preliminary hearing for Msgr. Parlante is scheduled for Feb. 8 before Magisterial District Judge Wendy B. Roberts in Glen Mills, Delaware County.