October 22, 2021

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Priest who stole income from N.J. Catholic church sentenced to 7 a long time in jail

A Catholic priest who admitted to transferring nearly $517,000 of parish resources into his private financial institution account experienced been sentenced to seven yrs in condition jail, church officials mentioned Tuesday.

The Rev. Douglas J. Haefner, the longtime pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Somerset, admitted to using the revenue owing to “compulsive behavior” through an audit of the church in 2018, Diocese of Metuchen officials reported.

At the time, the priest claimed he took the cash intending to fork out the $516,985 back again ultimately. He experienced overseen the parish for 27 yrs.

Haefner, 68, was sentenced to seven several years in point out jail by Exceptional Court Choose Peter Tober in Somerset County under a plea arrangement, church officials explained. He pleaded guilty in May well.

The priest is scheduled to begin his prison sentence Aug. 19. On the other hand, he has utilized for the state’s Intense Supervised Parole plan, which lets prisoners to serve all or portion of their sentences at residence. The prosecutor did not object to Haefner’s software for the software, diocese officials claimed.

“This is not an quick day for anybody,” reported Anthony P. Kearns 3rd, chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen. “While we are grateful this issue has appear to its conclusion and justice has been served, there are no winners in the outcome of this unlucky circumstance.”

Kearns questioned for prayers for the priest and the St. Matthias Parish community.

It is unclear how Haefner was capable to consider significant sums of cash from St. Matthias without having anybody noticing. Diocese officers first noted the parish’s financial complications in 2016, but Haefner frequently requested to reschedule an audit due to health and fitness issues and the will need for a lot more time to prepare, diocese officials mentioned.

When the delayed audit last but not least commenced in 2018, the pastor admitted to having the money and the scenario was turned more than to regulation enforcement, church officials said.

At the time, Haefner’s lawyer mentioned only that the priest had “serious wellbeing issues.” He resigned as pastor in 2018 and gained cure for the undisclosed particular and emotional concerns, church officials stated.

Even in advance of finding out of the theft at St. Matthias, the Diocese of Metuchen began overhauling how it tracks the finances in local churches. The diocese has tightened regulations about regular audits and financial methods in its 90 parishes, officers claimed.

Past 7 days, the Diocese of Metuchen also introduced a new tip line that will allow for individuals to anonymously report financial misconduct in their parishes.

The Diocese of Metuchen — which consists of churches in Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties — is applying NAVEX Global’s EthicsPoint, a confidential reporting process utilised by private organizations and other Catholic dioceses about the place.

Beneath the program, people can contact a hotline at (844) 796-1296 or file an anonymous report by an unbiased web-site (diometuchen.ethicspoint.com) if they believe that there is fraud, theft, financial misconduct or other moral violations in their parishes.

The diocese also established a new parish economical services workplace to assistance church buildings handle their dollars and comply with audits and other principles.

The parishes and Catholic colleges can only run with the donations of the devoted, Kearns claimed.

“We need to never acquire their stewardship for granted — and I can assure you, we do not — nor can we underestimate the magnitude of our responsibility to properly steward these presents,” he said.

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Kelly Heyboer might be reached at [email protected].