Msgr. Joseph McCloone (Photo by Sarah Webb)

A former pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown has pleaded guilty in a Chester County court to two charges of mismanaging money.

Msgr. Joseph C. McLoone, 58, faced two first-degree misdemeanors of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the parish, of which he was pastor from 2011 to 2018.

The charges of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and theft by unlawful taking indicate he not only misappropriated the money to himself, he also tried to conceal his actions unlawfully.

In accepting his guilt, Msgr. McLoone was sentenced to five years of probation, the first nine months of which will be under house arrest.

He must also repay $30,892 in restitution, perform 300 hours of community service, undergo a mental health assessment and receive any indicated treatment, provide a DNA sample and write letters of apology to St. Joseph Parish and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In the future, according to the sentence, the priest must not hold a position of financial responsibility.

Msgr. McLoone was arrested and charged in August 2019 after an investigation began the previous year into alleged financial and personal improprieties by him at St. Joseph’s, one of the archdiocese’s most populous parishes.

According to the archdiocese, when Msgr. McLoone arrived to lead the parish in November 2011, he set up a bank account in the parish’s name that was off the parish’s books and therefore not subject to the review of the parish finance council or the archdiocese.

As the only signatory on the account, he had an unchecked ability to use in any way the monies he deposited there, in particular the monetary contributions from weddings, funerals, second collections and other sources at the busy parish.

It was a violation of the archdiocese’s financial reporting protocols required of every parish.

When the account was discovered in 2018 its assets were frozen and officials of the archdiocesan Office for Parish Service and Support launched an investigation that found more than $110,000 had been deposited into the account. The officials did not believe Sunday collections, contributions to the parish capital campaign, or school and PREP tuition fees were deposited into it.

While some of the expenses were documented as going toward normal parish expenses, others were not.

In the spring of 2018 the archdiocese acknowledged that some $50,000 had been paid from the account since 2011, and of that amount, Msgr. McLoone had taken $1,500 “for personal expenses of an inappropriate nature” concerning “relationships with adults” not involving members of the parish, nor children, according to a statement at the time.

The archdiocese at that time also informed the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and cooperated fully in its own investigation.

The resulting criminal complaint by the District Attorney’s Office said Msgr. McLoone misappropriated more than $98,000 to fund a lifestyle that “included a beach house, travel, dining, and spending on adult men with whom he maintained sexual relationships.”

After admitting to his behavior that violated the archdiocese’s Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries and financial rules, Msgr. McLoone offered his resignation as pastor in 2018 to Archbishop Charles Chaput, who accepted it.

Since that time Msgr. McLoone, ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1988, has remained on administrative leave and may not function publicly as a priest. He is living in a private residence.

The archdiocesan administration, along with St. Joseph Parish, “are grateful for the resolution in this matter along with the closure and healing it brings,” read a statement issued Sept. 30.

Now that the civil phase of the matter has been concluded, a church investigation into Msgr. McLoone’s conduct will begin under canon law, according to the statement.