Catholic priest arrested for allegedly stealing church funds to pay for drug-fuelled orgies

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A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested under suspicion of stealing over $117,000 in church funds to buy drugs for his gay sex parties.

Father Francesco Spagnesi, 40, a highly regarded priest from Prato, Italy, has been placed under house arrest while police interview 200 people who are said to have attended his lavish parties over the past two years.

He was caught after police were tipped off that his roommate had imported a litre of the “date rape” drug GHB from the Netherlands, The Times reports.

The two men are alleged to have used online dating sites to invite guests to their home, where drugs were used and sold. In the raid on Spagnesis’s apartment police found bottles that had allegedly been adapted for smoking crack cocaine.

Spagnesi is a former medical student who dropped out to join the priesthood at the age of 26, reportedly saying he found a “fullness and a joy in making myself available to others”.

Suspicions were raised when a parish accountant discovered that Spagnesi had withdrawn more than $100,000 from the parish’s bank account. This activity prompted the local bishop to step in and end the priest’s access to the funds, which police believe he was using to buy drugs.

When Spagnesi was no longer able to withdraw money from the church’s account, he allegedly began taking money from the collection plate and soliciting money directly from parishioners, who were told he was raising money for low-income families.

Local newspaper La Nazione reports that parishioners had “great faith in their young, brilliant, all-involving and refined priest,” but have now begun legal action to reclaim their money. At least two lawsuits for fraud have reached the prosecutor’s office, the publication said.

According to Milanese daily Corriere Della Sera, Spagnesi blamed a “cocaine vortex” for his actions and also disclosed that he is HIV positive.

“I don’t recognise myself anymore, the cocaine vortex has swallowed me,” he said tearfully before lawyers. “The drug made me betray my parishioners, it made me tell lies, it made me take actions that I am ashamed of. Now I’m HIV positive…”

Spagnesi added that he was taking antiretroviral medication which meant he could not transmit HIV.

He promised to return the money and sell everything he owns, even his house, to repay the parishioners

“I ask everyone for forgiveness,” he said.

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