Priest sentenced to 3 years

Rev. Kevin Gray, a priest in the Archdiocese of Hartford, has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no-contest to charges that he stole more than $1 million to fund a lavish secret life. Bills for restaurants, hotels, clothes and male escort services were paid from a parish account funded from his parishioners' pockets, authorities say.Even so, according to one news report, the prosecutor said Gray won't have to pay any money back to the church because the Archdiocese of Hartford has not sought restitution. And the Archdiocese said he may be able to continue serving as a priest after serving his sentence, according to another news account.How can this be? I called the public-relations spokeswoman for the Archdiocese to see if there is some explanation, and she released the following statement:

Fr. Kevin Gray's plea demonstrates that he is fully aware and responsible for the severity of his wrongdoing, and is repentant. After he completes his sentence, if devoted to his priestly commitment, he will be eligible to continue serving as a priest, but will never be placed in a position where he will manage finances. Despite conflicting reports, he will be expected to make some type of restitution to Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazon Parish.

The spokeswoman, Maria Zone, declined to answer questions.I don't know what Father Gray may have said at the sentencing, but his decision to plead nolo contendere rather than guilty doesn't signal repentance. Pleading "no contest" could conceivably help to avoid civil liability. Note also that Gray's lawyer reportedly said the charges were exaggerated.The brief statement from the Archdiocese minimizes the wrongdoing by saying that Gray will not "manage finances" if he returns to service as a priest. What about the multiple layers of lies authorities said he told to conceal his double life from his Waterbury parishioners and staff? An affidavit police filed when he was arrested lays out a sweeping panorama of deception. To reduce the case to an inability to "manage finances" is to miss the point, to say the least.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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