Defrocked Seattle priest John Cornelius made headlines as one man after another came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse. Less known, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, is the fact that Cornelius — who allegedly lavished some of his accusers and their families with cash, gifts, and vacations — diverted thousands of dollars of church money for personal expenses, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.
Cornelius is one of “a significant number” of priests nationwide accused of both sexual abuse and misuse of church money. The combination is important, experts say, because many priests accused of abuse used church money to attract their victims. In more than a dozen cases investigated by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer nationwide, priests accused of sexual abuse have also been accused of stealing from the church — some were convicted and served jail time for stealing amounts upwards of $100,000. In other cases, the church either was not aware of the theft, or did not report it to the police, so the priests were not prosecuted. Many accusers have said the priests who abused them used money donated by parishioners to provide them with gifts and entertainment. They said they watched as their abusers counted the collection every week without oversight — and some said they repeatedly saw their pastor pocket cash donated by parishioners. A study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that priests accused of sexually abusing children frequently lure their victims with gifts