Holy S*$% Part I: Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe Siphoned Off $650K From Prayer Funds

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There may be a reason why many of the world’s faiths frown upon gambling.  In this new series, Gambling911.com examines the often ungodly relationship between the church and gambling activities.

Gambling is driven by greed, which God hates. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:3, 5) Gamblers hope to gain money through the losses of others, but the Bible condemns coveting other people’s possessions.—Exodus 20:17; Romans 7:7; 13:9, 10.

Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe, 59 years of age in 2012, got off relatively easy. While initially facing three years hard prison time, McAuliffe instead turned himself in as required at a satellite camp adjacent to La Tuna correctional institution in the Texas-New Mexico border town of Anthony.

"It is common for first-time, white-collar offenders to be put in a camp," said McAuliffe's lawyer, Margaret Stanish. "It's still a significant restraint on freedom despite the perception that it's not hard time."

His first offense of his nearly 60 years on this planet: Siphoning off some $650,000 over an eight year period from his northwest Las Vegas parish gift shop, votive candle collection and prayer funds in order to support his out of control gambling habit.

McAuliffe wasn’t just any religious figure living near Las Vegas’ famous gambling Strip, he was the senior churchman in Las Vegas Roman Catholic Diocese.

McAuliffe, best known as Father Kevin to his parish, expressed "guilt, shame and self-loathing"

A court in Las Vegas heard that McAuliffe used much of the money to gamble on video poker machines and the remaining stolen funds to pay off credit card debts.

No misdemeanor for this fall-from-grace Monsignor, though in the end it sure seemed like one.

A satellite camp for stealing well over a half million dollars from the church?

A piece by Jane Ann Morrison of the Las Vegas Review Journal entitled "Thieving priest deserves to be treated like any other criminal” questions how McAuliffe could get off so easy.

Why should an addicted priest get a pass from prison when other gambling addicts don't? That's unfair, Morrison wrote at the time.

And when her piece went to publication, attorneys for McAuliffe were asking the Court for probation in order that he may continue to act as a priest and help out other gambling addicts.

Ms. Morrison for her part compares the priest’s sentence to those charged with similar crimes.  

Case in point, she cites a case involving a paralegal in the U.S. attorney’s office, Elizabeth “Becki” Simmons, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Johnnie Rawlinson in 1999.

Simmons creating a scheme in which she was able to steal more than $1 million from the U.S. Marshals Service witness fund between 1988 and 1998 by creating fake witnesses. She did the time but never paid restitution.  The prosecution noted the divorced mother of two had a pattern of gambling four hours a night, four times a week.

Then there was this:

In May, U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson sentenced Ely City Councilman Stephen Marich, a cashier at the First National Bank of Ely, to 78 months in prison.  Marich admitted to stealing at least $3.7 million over 12 years. (Auditors estimated it was actually about $5.9 million.) Dawson rejected the "compulsive gambling disorder" defense, noting that Marich was gambling using the bank's money and not his own.

Here Morrison explains the similarities:

McAuliffe was doing the same.  He wasn't gambling his savings, he was gambling money mostly meant for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Summerlin, where he was the pastor.  Most of the theft was from looting the votive candle fund.  He also created false financial records so that St. Elizabeth was underreporting its financial condition and shortchanging the Las Vegas Diocese about $84,500.  That's why he pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud; he mailed fraudulent documents.

Despite his theft, McAuliffe "left the parish and school debt-free and in excellent financial health," his attorney wrote.  A more deceitful image of McAuliffe emerged from Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Brown's sentencing memo.  She noted the priest lied to the FBI when first asked why his income hasn't matched his expenses since 2002....

Should the monsignor be treated different than the thieving Las Vegas paralegal and the thieving Ely bank cashier?  Absolutely not.

Though the Catholic Church teaches forgiveness, McAuliffe should be treated like any other criminal, because that's what he is.  In court, McAuliffe shouldn't be held to a higher standard because he is a priest.  But the priest doesn't deserve a pass from prison.

It’s one thing to get a slap on the wrist for committing such thievery, how about a promotion?

That’s right…. Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe is now out of prison camp and back in the church where, on February 2015, was appointed Parochial Vicar at St. Gabriel Byzan-tine Catholic Church in Las Vegas. 

Need more proof that the Bible condemns gambling?

The Twentieth Century Fund research group commented, “Gambling’s get-rich-quick appeal appears to mock capitalism’s core values: disciplined work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relationship between effort and reward.”

From bible.org:

These core values of the work ethic are all part of the free enterprise system and are part of the Christian life. Gambling corrupts these values and replaces them with greed and selfishness. Rather than depending upon hard work, gamblers depend instead upon luck and chance.

Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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