A Massachusetts priest facing larceny charges lived with a female parish employee for almost 10 years, apparently without intervention from his diocese, according to court documents in the priest’s criminal case.
The priest reportedly spent more than $100,000 in parish funds for unauthorized purchases, including a snowblower, a riding lawnmower, and dozens of power tools, which he kept at the home of the woman he was living with, court records say.
Father Tomasz Gorny is due in a Massachusetts courtroom Wednesday, for a pre-trial hearing on charges that he stole more than $100,000 from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Granby, where he served as parish administrator.
Gorny, 43, pleaded not guilty to larceny in June.
According to court records obtained by The Pillar, the priest opened between 2019 and 2022 several credit cards on behalf of the Diocese of Springfield and his parish, running up a balance of $99,452 on four accounts.
The priest also reimbursed himself more than $25,000 for unauthorized or excessive expenses, a police affidavit indicates, including more than $1,300 in monthly food costs during 2022.
According to the police affidavit, Gorny instructed one parish employee in 2021 to open an American Express card in both Gorny’s name and her own name, and to pay the credit card bills with parish funds. The priest also instructed the parish employee to give him cash from the parish offertory collection, which he reportedly spent on clothing, wine, and video games.
Another parish employee said the priest used a parish Home Depot credit card to purchase lumber and power tools, which he apparently insisted were necessary for the parish operations — though he did not record them as assets in parish financial records, or make use of them for parish projects.
The priest eventually ran up more than $32,000 in charges on the parish’s Home Depot account, police say.
According to a police affidavit, the priest also fired one parish employee — whom he referred to for a period of time as “Mom” — after she raised concerns about questionable purchases at the parish.
Gorny’s alleged misconduct extended beyond financial crimes.
Court records indicate that in 2013 — three years after he was ordained — Gorny moved from the parish rectory where he was assigned into the home of a parish employee.
The priest reportedly lived at the woman’s home from 2013 until late 2022, when the diocese required him to move into a rectory amid its investigation into financial misconduct.
According to court records, the woman told police last year that Gorny became “very comfortable living at the house, and soon began to act like the house was his.”
“This caused issues with her two daughters, who were uncomfortable with Gorny living at the house,” a police affidavit alleged.
The woman told The Pillar Monday that she was “not speaking publicly” on the allegations against Gorny.
The Diocese of Springfield began investigating Gorny in 2022, when its routine audits reportedly noticed the priest’s excessive personal spending and alleged credit card fraud — including expensive food deliveries sent to the woman’s house.
The Springfield diocese referred the alleged theft to police in December 2022.
Two months earlier, the diocese removed the priest from his parish assignment and ordered Gorny to move out of the woman’s house.
According to court records, Gorny was directed to move into the rectory of the Newman Center at the University of Massachusetts.
When the priest moved, the diocese also contracted a moving company to move Gorny’s property from the woman’s house to a pair of storage units.
A search warrant itemized dozens of power tools and other construction materials stored in the unit, along with an “assortment of vehicle blue lights,” a “Sig Sauer pistol case” with a loaded magazine.
Police told a judge that they suspected the units also contained a kitchen range, dozens more power tools, a snowblower, a riding lawnmower, and other items fraudulently purchased by Gorny — and a later affidavit said those items were recovered during an April 2023 search of the storage units.
It is not clear why the priest seems to have fraudulently purchased so many power tools and construction items.
Gorny could not be reached for comment.
The priests’ attorney declined to answer questions about the alleged crimes, telling The Pillar last week that he “will not be able to comment on this matter outside of the courtroom.”
But a scholarly article published this year on financial misconduct among American clergy found that priests who steal are often motivated by resentment, envy, and a desire to cover up for other moral lapses.
Researchers Robert Warren and Timothy J. Fogarty compiled documented financial crimes committed by American Catholic priests in the last six decades. They looked at environmental and personal factors, aiming to understand how parish pastors and administrators can be tempted into large-scale theft from their parishes. The scholars’ findings were published in the January-June issue of the Journal of Forensic and Investigative Accounting.
The research found that parish priests “would seem to have a strong ability to commit fraud,” because “they command local positions of unchallenged authority over cash-generating operations with weak internal controls that would detect or deter the misappropriation of resources.”
While a very small percentage of parish priests are found to commit financial misconduct, the researchers found, some who steal experience a sense of frustrated entitlement, and even jealousy, when compared to the relative lifestyles of ministers of other religions and even their own parishioners.
“The pressure felt by a priest might be closely associated with the very occupation itself, or more precisely the demands that the role makes upon its incumbents,” said the report. “The pressure felt by priests might not be in the nature of a sudden emergency or an unexpected reversal, but instead be the grinding and persistent force of envy.”
More than half of the cases studied showed that priests spent stolen or misappropriated funds “primarily to support a lavish lifestyle.”
Priests who steal often rationalize their conduct, the report said, with a kind of “moral licensing” — believing that taking parish money, or using it for personal benefit, was justifiable self-compensation for hard work, long hours, or even a more general lack of remuneration or appreciation for other good behavior.
Warren, a professor of accounting at Radford University and a retired IRS investigator, told The Pillar that “the allegations contained in the indictment and other court documents are just allegations. Fr. Gorny enjoys the same presumption of innocence afforded to all defendants unless or until he is convicted by a jury or pleads guilty of his own volition.”
While Gorny was arrested after a diocesan investigation flagged his financial misconduct, Warren suggested that better financial controls might have caught the priest’s misconduct sooner.
“The evidence presented to the court details an almost decade-long unfettered embezzlement scheme by Fr. Gorny, which threw up numerous red flags that the internal controls at the parish or diocesan level should have caught earlier,” Warren said.
The “red flags,” Warren said, include Gorny’s nine-year cohabitation with a parish employee and her daughters, his termination of another employee who raised questions, his opening of multiple credit cards, and his purchase of construction and home improvement items which were not listed on parish balance sheets.
Warren suggested several policy improvements which might help dioceses to better track the prospect of embezzlement or theft by priests.
“First, all priests should be required to live at the rectory of the parish where they are assigned, or live with other parish priests and commute to their respective parishes, unless a written waiver is provided by the bishop,” he said, adding that “bishops should see to it that residences are spot-checked for compliance.”
“Second, parish priests should be required to provide annual personal financial disclosures to their bishops, similar to those filed by federal employees at the GS-13 level and above.”
“Third, dioceses should establish fraud hotlines staffed by an independent party to receive anonymous claims of misconduct.”
“Fourth, bishops should ask courts to impose the maximum sentenced allowed in these types of cases, in order to serve as a general deterrent to other potential offenders.”
“Finally,” Warren suggested, “seminarians should be required to take, and pass with at least a ‘C,’ the two entry level accounting courses required for business majors.”
The Springfield diocese declined to answer questions about Gorny’s case, and declined to provide details on the priest’s record of assignments, or prior disciplinary issues.
But in addition to facing criminal charges, Gorny could also face canonical charges — both for stealing, and for his apparent living situation.
The Springfield diocese declined to say whether Gorny had also maintained a domicile at the rectories to which he was assigned, or whether he lived exclusively at the woman’s home until he was ordered to move out.
But it is possible the priest could be investigated for the canonical crime of concubinage, which can be punished with suspension, and even with dismissal from the clerical state.
And it is not clear whether Gorny violated the diocesan safe environment policy when he occupied the home shared by a parish employee and her daughters, as police and court records do not indicate the age of the woman’s daughters.
In response to detailed questions from The Pillar, the diocese sent a statement about the matter:
“The arraignment of Fr. Tomasz Gorny was certainly disheartening. The diocese takes seriously the stewardship entrusted to us by our parishioners. As soon as our internal investigation discovered the scope of the financial discrepancies at Immaculate Heart of Mary last year, Bishop Byrne immediately instructed that this matter be turned over to the Granby Police Department and he placed Fr. Gorny on administrative leave pending the outcome of this case.”
"We are most grateful to the Granby police for their diligence in conducting this investigation and locating items suspected to belong to the parish,” the diocese added.
“We must be mindful that Fr. Gorny enjoys the presumption of innocence until this matter is adjudicated in a court of law. Because of the pending criminal matter, we cannot make any further statements at this time.”
Gorny, a native of Poland, was required to surrender his passport at the time of his arraignment in June. The priest is forbidden from contacting witnesses in the case, and required to stay 50 yards from his former parish.
The Diocese of Springfield is home to 150,000 Catholics in the four westernmost counties of Massachusetts.