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Priest Embezzled $1 Mil

Is the adult industry next for Msgr. John Woolsey? Woolsey could certainly give pointers for the start-up of an adult company having done what a few video companies have allegedly done in the past- appropriate funds. And you guys know who you are.

New York- A high-living Manhattan priest accused of swindling an elderly parishioner is being investigated for the disappearance of $1 million from his parish, officials said yesterday.

Msgr. John Woolsey has been asked to step down from his post at St. John the Martyr Church on the upper East Side while Manhattan prosecutors comb through the church’s finances.

Woolsey – who broke his silence yesterday to maintain his innocence – had final control over the parish’s finances and was asked to account for the missing $1 million, church officials said.

“We gave Msgr. Woolsey ample opportunities to explain, and he failed to offer a reasonable explanation, so this week we gave our information to the Manhattan district attorney’s office,” said Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

District Attorney Robert Morgenthau confirmed the probe but declined to discuss how much money is missing or when financial problems first surfaced during Woolsey’s eight-year tenure.

Sources familiar with the investigation, however, said the audit went back to the mid- 1990s and showed $1 million missing from a variety of parish funds.

“He doesn’t make a distinction between his and the parish’s money. To him, money is money,” said a source familiar with the inner workings of the parish. “He has no concept of what he has done.”

Woolsey has been accused in a civil suit of bilking Rose Cale of nearly $500,000, including pocketing much of a $241,500 donation Cale made to St. John’s.

Despite the controversy, the charismatic pastor came out swinging yesterday – addressing parishioners after the 12:15 p.m. Mass.

As his flock gave him a standing ovation, he said there was “absolutely no truth to the charge that I used improper influence to get Miss Cale to make gifts to me and to the parish.”

“Secondly, and I want to emphasize this as strongly as possible, there’s absolutely no truth to the charge that I used money Miss Cale gave to the parish for my own benefit.

“Every nickel that she ever gave to St. John’s has been used for the parish’s benefit, not mine,” the priest said, reading from a prepared statement.

Investigators noted Woolsey was living the good life. He had a tan Lexus that he recently sold, memberships in exclusive golf clubs, several Rolex watches and three condos, in Florida and New Jersey, two of which he has sold, sources said.

“He’s driving a better car than I am,” one investigator snorted.

Zwilling said church officials began an audit of church records several months ago, after the executor of Cale’s estate charged Woolsey bamboozled the 88-year-old woman into leaving him her fortune, valued at $1.3 million.

“We kept digging and digging and had many meetings with Woolsey about the discrepancies,” said Zwilling, who stressed the parish is not at risk of bankruptcy.

The archdiocese asked Woolsey to step down Wednesday. If he refuses, the archdiocese can bring administrative charges against him.

Woolsey said yesterday that Cale gave money to him and the parish “because she wanted to, not because she was pushed or cajoled.”

“As I’m sure those of you who knew Miss Cale will recall, she was a successful, highly intelligent woman with a definite mind of her own, and if I ever tried to tell her what to do with her money, she would have told me what to do,” he said with a slight smile.

When news broke that the archdiocese found “improper financial administration” of their parish, Woolsey’s faithful still said he was innocent.

“It’s all very sad. Maybe it’s all going to work out,” said parishioner Julia Ames. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”



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