Jane Ann Morrison

Thieving priest deserves to be treated like any other criminal

Posted: Jan. 12, 2012 | 2:00 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 12, 2012 | 8:20 a.m.

The thieving, gambling monsignor who stole $650,000, mostly from his church's votive candle fund, has his supporters who want him to receive probation Friday.

I'm not one of them.

Nor is the U.S. Department of Probation, which recommends he spend 33 months in prison, which is the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines. The high end would be 41 months.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan won't be bound by the probation recommendation when he sentences Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe at 10 a.m. Friday. He can show leniency. Or not.

McAuliffe's attorney, Margaret Stanish, has an uphill battle when she argues his gambling addiction and his mental disorders and depression are reason to give him clemency. She's arguing for probation, so he can stay an active priest and help other gambling addicts.

Why should an addicted priest get a pass from prison when other gambling addicts don't? That's unfair.

Nevada federal judges haven't been forgiving with others who steal because they want to gamble with money that's not theirs, partly because sentencing guidelines say gambling addiction is no reason for a judge to reduce a sentence.

Elizabeth "Becki" Simmons, a paralegal in the U.S. attorney's office with a fondness for gambling 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.

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.

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.

In a two-hour interview in May, he initially denied stealing from the church. Then he said he only stole from the votive candle fund, not any other fund.

That, too, was a lie. The novenas said for the dead? He took from that fund as well. And the gift store. Could he have forgotten that he asked the church to reimburse him for personal expenses to the tune of $65,000? Not a chance.

He said he didn't seek help because his gambling "relieved stress" and "he felt he could always control his gambling."

Another miscalculation by the monsignor.

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.

Jane Ann Morrison's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at [email protected] or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at

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buzz lightyear wrote on January 12, 2012 10:06 PM: Thanks for all the religious bigotry displayed by the bloggers here. Forget about all the good work the Catholics do feeding and housing the poor. BTW, the priest would only get probation if had a big prize fight coming up and we could fill some rooms.

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Joyce.Barnhart wrote on January 12, 2012 08:05 PM: Now he has "mental disorders" and "depression" in addition to his addiction? He's depressed because he got caught. If he gets off, he can counsel other priests how NOT to get caught. All those people who are praying he gets probation must have drank his Kool-Aid. Let's hope justice is served.

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Jerry T wrote on January 12, 2012 06:32 PM: I have to chuckle. When I see the sentences handed out in Nevada for celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Floyd Meriweather and others that received a slap on the wrist, now the cry is incarcerate the man for life for stealing. Oh how about the two casinos that were robbedfor millions. What was that sentence. Get a life.

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vegasstar wrote on January 12, 2012 02:24 PM: the catholic church has been doing criminal activity and murder for over a thousand years. you have to be crazy to attend a catholic church!

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Kilgore.Trout wrote on January 12, 2012 12:18 PM: At the very least he deserves the same levels of compassion that the catholic church has shown throughout its know...a little torture, some public condemnation, and perhaps an apology 400 years later.

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Frank.Gratian wrote on January 12, 2012 11:19 AM: Justice requires prison time, especially considering the fact that the amount admitted stolen is likely just a small part of the grand total that Msgr. Kevin siphoned off the various church accounts. But the sad part is that Bishop Pepe will not be in the adjoining cell. Pepe is guilty of negligent supervision, never auditing St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in his 10+ years as bishop, providing no procedures for handling cash, and for not supervising his priests properly to make sure that they are living lives consistent with their vocation. If Pepe won't resign, the Vatican should remove him from office.

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Joe C wrote on January 12, 2012 11:17 AM: Don’t worry Jane maybe the monsignor and the church can open up a museum right next to the mob museum or even better next to an all boys schools! Or McAuliffe can turn rat on the church and make the not so celebrity tour. The library could have Monsignor Month and invite all the school children.

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Jordan 11 wrote on January 12, 2012 10:54 AM: I hope the fix isn't in with Judge Mahan. He is a recipient of the Papal Blessing for his service to the Church through the administration of justice. See link below-

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firstlast wrote on January 12, 2012 10:33 AM: The church can "forgive" but, an appropriate punishment, act of contrition by serving prison time is not outside Catholic doctrine.

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EHarris wrote on January 12, 2012 09:32 AM: Scott one more thing dotties didn't break the rules the rules were changed have way through the game... Doesn't matter the worlds supposed to end sometime this year anyways....

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