Priest accused of misusing funds quits

February 26, 1994|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

A 60-year-old Roman Catholic priest resigned from his Aberdeen parish after audits revealed he misappropriated at least $11,000 in church funds during the past three years, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Rev. Howard T. Boyle, pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, has admitted misappropriating the money to satisfy a compulsive gambling habit, said archdiocese spokesman Bill Blaul.

Father Boyle, who resigned in early February, could not be reached for comment. According to Mr. Blaul, Father Boyle has entered an undisclosed treatment center.

Current archdiocesan audits indicate that the losses are restricted to the church's general account and do not involve the building fund and school account, Mr. Blaul said. The total amount of missing funds, which could surpass $30,000, will not be known until more detailed audits are completed, he said.

Audit reports reveal that Father Boyle, who had been pastor of the church for 10 years, obtained most of the money by reimbursing himself for personal credit card charges, said Mr. Blaul.

In a letter dated Feb. 17, Father Boyle asked the parishioners for forgiveness.

"I wish to say how sorry I am for what I have done. I hope that St. Joan of Arc will continue to grow as I attempt to put my own life in order. Your understanding and forgiveness is for me the first important step in my own healing. . . .," Father Boyle wrote.

Parishioners reacted with shock and disappointment, but were also sympathetic.

Some said it's time for the Catholic Church to take a hard look at the priesthood.

"I can't condone Father Boyle's actions. . . . I didn't even want to believe it at first, but I do feel sorry for him and can see how something like this could happen," said Carl N. Corriggio, a parish member since 1968.

"The priesthood has to be a tremendously lonely life at times -- they take their vows, but they are still human beings. Father Boyle has probably been under a lot of stress. It's not an easy job to be the head of a parish the size of St. Joan," Mr. Corriggio said.

About 900 families are members of the parish, which also includes St. Joan of Arc School. The school offers kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.

Father Boyle is known for his ability to draw people together to create a strong church community, said the Rev. Michael Buttner, associate pastor for the past 14 months and now the acting administrator.

"One of his priorities was the support of Catholic education in Aberdeen," said Father Buttner. "Father Boyle was instrumental in getting people to pledge funds for a new addition to the school and the complete renovation of the existing school building."

Suspicions of misappropriation surfaced last July when parish members requested an audit, only citing bookkeeping staff changes as a reason for their request, Mr. Blaul said. "Nothing problematic was found at that time in the areas of general bookkeeping and accounting practices," he said.

A second request, asking for the audit of credit card reimbursements, reached the diocese in November.

"Through a more detailed analysis of those accounts, it became evident that there was some inappropriate reimbursement for credit card charges -- the early signs that something was amiss here," said Mr. Blaul.

Criminal charges against Father Boyle are not anticipated, Mr. Blaul said.

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