Laying Hands On The Faithful: Police Find Fortune In Cash Hidden In Lavish Home Of Catholic Priest

download-2In a moment reminiscent of the William Jefferson freezer cash seizure, police in Williamston (Michigan) have reported the discovery of $63,392 in cash during a second search of the home of Rev. Jonathan Wehrle.  He is a Catholic priest charged with embezzling more than $5 million from an Okemos parish.  To make matters worse for Wehrle, the cash was still in bundles of $2000 with paper bands reading “For deposit only – St. Martha Parish and School.”  There is a time to pray and a time to plea.  This would be the latter.What is astonishing is that Wehrle was openly living in a lavish 11,000-square-foot mansion.  Pictures of the estate can be seen here.  A rather conspicuous abode for someone making roughly $40,000 a year with a vow of poverty.

The bundles were composed of $20 bills.  So far, more than $1.1 million in assets has been seized by police.

Wehrle will stand trial on six felony counts of embezzlement starting on August 13th.

Wehrle is now trying to raise money for his defense to the tune of $300,000, but his counsel Lawrence Nolan has said that he will be withdrawing as counsel.

The abuse of his position and a charity would be an obvious “trust” aggravator in sentencing if he were convicted.  His expenses reportedly included $45,000 for an indoor pool and nearly $55,000 for stained glass windows. Then there was the more than $134,000 on landscaping at his 10-acre estate in Williamston and other properties.  The lesson here may be that you cannot serve your God and mansion.

Matthew 6:24

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other,Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

61 thoughts on “Laying Hands On The Faithful: Police Find Fortune In Cash Hidden In Lavish Home Of Catholic Priest”

  1. I can hear his defense counsel now:

    “He thought it was a vow of PROPERTY, not a vow of poverty. He was hard of hearing as a youth, just like Ruth in Pirates if Penzance. Then he was told he should pray on his parishioners. So he did! “

  2. Could you imagine going to confession with this guy? Instead of giving you Hail Marys and our fathers, he’d tell he accepts most major credit cards.

    1. Unfortunately that is what a lot of the formerly great Catholic religion has been reduced to these days. Catholics have lost heart and partly because they have been fleeced too much and their American pastors have assimilated them entirely too much.

      Beware all donation rackets of every kind folks, even coming from those who should be trustworthy.

      1. Don’t forget, the Catholic Church was selling indulgences hundreds of years ago. A get out of hell pass, though certainly not free.

  3. “A rather conspicuous abode for someone making roughly $40,000 a year with a vow of poverty.”

    Catholic Diocesan priests do not make vows of poverty.
    Catholic Religious priests like Jesuits and Franciscans do.

  4. God spelled backwards is Dog. Worship Dog not God. Tell pastors and priests to eat …

  5. Mr. Kurtz, as usual, you’re on top of the situation. This fellow has issues to attend to. Buy I do think there are some rather interesting topics of discussion coming up for the Catholic Church to address.

  6. Just curious, how does women being ordained priest have an effect on the basic church doctrine of” Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again”. That doesn’t change even if a woman could become a priest. The church will have to do something, its running out of priest, nuns and parishioners. I read recently that in 2002 some women were ordained deacons. And this was done by a male bishop. The world we live in is a changing place. The Catholic Church will also go through some changes. Women will be ordained priest and priest will be allowed to marry.

    1. go ask a priest, just don’t bother this guy in the story, he’s busy with his embezzlement defense

    1. Diane Giova – there are poor parishes and rich parishes. The parish that served Edina, MN was known fondly as “Our Lady of Cadillacs, Cashmeres, and Minks.” 😉

      1. There are some beautiful old and neglected Catholic churches in Detroit that should get the restitution if he coughs it up. They are not competent at allocating proper resources up there in a lot of diff ways.

      2. Well I’m sure there are rich and poor parishes. It is not a sin to be rich. It’s just a sin to LOVE money more than God.

  7. Nobody saw anything, heard anything, said anything? God must have struck them all deaf, blind and dumb.

    1. Somebody said something. That’s how he was collared. The deficiency here is in the diocesan chancery, which should have auditors on staff or on contract.

  8. Selling indulgences to himself with the church’s money. You have to admire the gall.

  9. Why is Professor Turley ignoring the Obama coup d’etat? It would seem that subverting the law, the Constitution and a duly elected President would capture his attention, not to mention completely corrupting the DOJ/FBI/Intel (what did Christopher Wray know and when did he know it – Chris, can you say Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, right up there on the 7th Floor? And how about those buffoons, Brennan and Clapper?).

    Obama created the Obama/Rosenstein/Mueller “Witch Hunt” and “malicious prosecution'” through intrigue and a fraudulent “dossier” criminally presented to the FISA court following extensive, illegal “unmasking” and machinations regarding 30,000 missing e-mails and a missing DNC server, etc., etc., etc.

    After the pedophilia disaster, America doesn’t need more “Catholic,” biblical “Revelation.”

    The Turley Blog could at least occasionally mention in passing the most prodigious political scandal in American history.

    1. George, don’t imitate the Trump hate bandwagon by bringing up stuff that’s totally unrelated to the blog post. just a suggestion.

        1. R. Lien – no one died and made you boss. It is not your blog. If JT has a problem with what he says, the post will disappear. We could all disappear.

          1. Neither did he you, PCS. It’s been noted how many times you’ve admonished others for going off-thread; you’re a hypocritical chump, plain and simple.

            Actually, Georgie Boy’s rants are needed here as he makes your ridiculous posts appear somewhat balanced.

              1. So do I, PCS; you elevate yourself here beyond your demands of others on a regular basis. Your arrogance is astounding in its ignorance.

                1. R. Lien – I do acknowledge the areas of my ignorance and strive to overcome them. However, I shall be forever ignorant of the gasoline engine and how to repair it. I did learn this week how the new lights for theatres are built and operated, I have been wondering about those. I am taking 4 courses on 4 topics of ignorance and I am starting to read all those famous books I didn’t read in college, one at a time. Plus I am reading five other books and have 23 on the back-burner.

                  1. Gee, with all that effort how do explain forgetting the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East with your response to Cindy Bragg on the ‘bad week’ thread:

                    “Cindy Bragg – any Christians, including Mormons, who are not Roman Catholic, are Protestants.”


                    You always brag about how you taught history, and how much you still read, etc., yet you claim Roman Catholicism and Protestantism encompass all of Christianity. This is laughable and flat wrong.

                    You are a pretentious, rude, and condescending jerk.

                    1. R. Lien – answer is the same. And calling me names does not change the answer, it just makes me smile knowing that I have hit a nerve. 🙂

                    2. The answer is not the same, and you know it. You’re a pretentious fraud.

                    3. You’ve hit no nerve, your smugness in light of many factual errors by you in the last three days is something I wish to call attention to.

                    4. R. Lien – how dare you attack a patriot like me, wearing my red, white and blue tie. And that is a smirk you see. 😉

        2. You monitor this blog obsessively. I am just making a suggestion to George to stay on topic. It’s a polite suggestion, you just want to pick a fight. S### stirring, we call it. Go do something constructive.

          A demain mes amis!

    2. We could refute your argument (Conspiracy Theory) with objective reality and facts but what’s the point? You could look up the salient facts yourself if you ever bothered to stop worshiping at the altar of Hannity and use Google to educate yourself. Frankly I’ve had it with all this rubbish. Your guy won. Okay? You won. You should be happy but no. It’s not enough that you succeeded in putting an imbecile in the Oval Office. Now you want to jail anyone who has a contrary opinion. (Throws up hands and walks away.)

      1. The reason you don’t refute is precisely because you can’t refute.

        The facts proving the Obama coup d’etat in America are irrefutable.

        You communists better get to work burying the facts because, when they are revealed, they will be more toxic for and lethal to communists (i.e. democrats) than Putin’s Novichok nerve agent.

        And thanks for reading, comrade.

    3. Obama coup d’etat ??? Did I miss something? Did Obama move back into the White House?

      But to respond to one of your comments – Can a duly elected president commit no crime ? Is a duly elected president above the law?

      1. In a Sept. 2, 2016, text exchange, Page writes that she was preparing the talking points because

        “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.”

        Peter Strzok, dated May 17, 2017, reads:

        “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there.”

        A few months before the 2016 election, FBI agent Peter Strzok sent the phrase in a response to FBI attorney Lisa Page, who’d

        texted him worried Trump might win.

        “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok reassured her.

        “Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.

        Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.”

        January 13, 2017 (7 days before President Trump’s inauguration – what’s the rush, citizen Obama?)

        “On Thursday, the Obama administration finalized new rules that allow the National Security Agency to share information it gleans from its vast international surveillance apparatus with the 16 other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.”

        Etc., etc., etc.

    4. I will not defend the “pedophile scandal”. I am a practicing Catholic but was ashamed it happened.

      It is disgraceful that this particular priest committed embezzlement. He should be punished.

      HOWEVER, WHEN ARE PEOPLE going to highlight those priests (and there ARE many!!) who work quietly every day, sacrificing their time for the good of their parishes and those who do not have much? They ARE out there!!

      Professor Turley, I am not sure if this priest was a diocesan priest or in an order. I don’t think diocesan priests take “Vows of Poverty”. Only those in orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, etc). Correct me if I’m wrong. That does not excuse what he did. He betrayed his flock and stole their money which they, in good faith, donated, made to help the church, diocese, and other charities. Shame on him! And it destroys the credibility for those who are decent and hard-working and true to their vocation.

    5. “Why is Professor Turley ignoring the Obama coup d’etat”

      Perhaps the same reason he hasn’t donated any space to reports of Bigfoot or tales of Alien Abductions?

      Good morning Crazy George!

  10. Parish priests do not take a vow of poverty. Only some religious orders do that.

    1. A stipend of $42,000 a year appended to your berth in a rectory, your medical insurance, your claim on a pension (albeit one generally not received until one is past 70), and your contingent claim on a berth in a retirement home actually seems somewhat de trop. He’s a childless bachelor, for crying out loud. It’s not as if there’s a functioning market in priestly services.

      Fr. Paul Shaugnessy, SJ offered some time ago that you visit a rectory and you see a full liquor cabinet and slick magazines, you can bet the priest’s life of chastity is disordered. One of the parish administrators I’ve known over the years died of cancer in 2008. His speech and mannerisms were mildly disgusting, but there wasn’t anything substantively wrong with him and I was told by another priest, “He’s a good priest, a prayerful priest, the other priests respect him…”. After he died, one of his priest chums offering a remembrance recalled the number of Broadway shows they’d seen together during their years in the priesthood. They had to have traveled to New York City monthly in order to see that many. It’s about an 8 hour round trip by car.

      Andrew Greeley was assigned to attend some shindig in Europe and managed while there to purchase a small red Benz which he had shipped to the United States. He said he bought it for $2,500 (in 1965), which amounts to $15,000 in today’s currency. Taxes and shipping charges he did not specify. In 1965, nominal personal income per capita was about $3,000 per year. The price he paid was 85% of nominal personal income per capita. A contextually similar sum today would be $37.000. There was a particular professor in the sociology department at the University of Chicago who thought it unseemly for a Catholic priest to be tootling around in a little red luxury car. Recalling this in 1986, Greeley professed to not understand why the man would take a dislike to him.

      Fr. Shaughnessy has noted that ‘poverty issues’ are the 3d rail in many a discussion among priests and between priests and bishops.

      1. you might add that Greeley made a lot of money writing fiction.
        not all priests take vows of poverty. many do not. most diocesan priests do not i believe
        certain orders of priests, however, require it
        it’s commonly misunderstood

        1. He was already high on the hog in 1965. He bought a cottage on Lake Michigan that year for $28,000. Not sure where the funds came from. Perhaps the University of Chicago was paying really good salaries, or the contract work done by the National Opinion Research Center allowed him premium compensation. He insisted he didn’t make much from his non-fiction. His first work of non-fiction was published in 1959.

          His first work of fiction was published in 1981. He claimed a net worth of just north of $1 million in 1986.

          1. The cottage in question was one of two residences he owned in 1986. The other was around Tucson. He’d been hired to tenure in a sweet deal by the University of Arizona which only required him to be on campus a semester a year. He had a notional residency at a parish in Chicago, but performed no duties there and didn’t live in the rectory. He actually never lived in a rectory after 1965. He contended in 1986 that neither Cdl. Cody nor Cdl. Bernardin would allow him to do pastoral work in the diocese. His explanation of that is not very credible.

    2. of course some parish priests are in orders. nothing in the article I read identified him as a member of an order that requires poverty

      of course some of those poverty swearin priests command enormous organizational budgets but that’s a different matter

  11. There was a serious lack of oversight if anyone can embezzle $5 million and live in a mansion his salary couldn’t afford in plain view.

    I was raised Catholic, and still feel a fondness for the Church. However, I have long felt that there is a sickness in the entire global administration and the Holy See. A thousand years ago, the Council of Nicaea declared that priests must be celibate and never marry. It was to handle the question of inheritance of Church property. In those days, the Church was quite wealthy. What was to happen to the offspring of Bishops after their father died? What would they inherit? So they neatly solved that problem and declared that no priest could marry. Priests have struggled with celibacy ever since. Rather than merely being the human condition, the Church set up a particular shortfall in this case. Most people feel an instinctive drive for human contact and a meaningful relationship. That was denied them.

    What man would answer the call to a vow of poverty, meager living conditions either solitary or exclusively with other men, and complete celibacy? Hundreds of years ago, the only way to get any education and escape living in a moldy hovel with the pigs, watching half or more of your children die of disease or accident, was to join the clergy. A monastic life was quiet, but it afforded learning, safety, and steady food. That was a tradeoff many would find reasonable who wouldn’t other wise.

    After life got more secure, gay men might have been pleased at the prospect. Gay men were closeted and may have been very lonely, Living as a priest would afford them a reason to explain why they never married. But then they found themselves in a position where the Church viewed homosexuality as a sin. Tragically, pedophiles infiltrated the Administration, as well. Globally, pedophile priests were shuffled from one unsuspecting parish full of lambs to another, and any complaints were hushed. The Holy See itself has been rocked with reports of gay orgies. Gay or straight, meaningless hookups and orgies are not the hallmark of a healthy, Godly life.

    Father Jefferson may have found himself in the position where he felt it wasn’t fare to deny himself all worldly pleasures and succumbed hard. I would not be surprised if there were other sins in his closet. What did he use an 11,000 square foot mansion with a pool for? Was he ghosting about room to room all by himself? Did the Parish know? They would have to know where he lived.

    And that brings me, again, to the sickness in the Administration. For evil and wrong to persist among individual priests, the Church hierarchy had to turn a blind eye. These are the very people who are supposed to be shepherding Catholics, teaching them right from wrong. I would say their own compass has lost True North.

    There are many clergy out there doing good work. Until they clean up the entire hierarchy of the Church, their reputation will be damaged by behavior such as this.

    My humble solution:
    1. Allow priests to marry if they choose, but still allow celibate monastic and convent orders for those who seek a contemplative life.
    2. Allow women access to all positions. Barring women from serving as priests was not doctrinal. Early Christian priests included women.
    3. Expunge anyone in the Church who enabled any pedophiles.

    This isn’t pandering to modern times and watering down doctrine. None of the above was actually required by the faith in the beginning, and reflect the frailty of human bias rather than true faith.

    Many other Christian sects have done the above and managed to survive. In addition, I would like to see the Church allow birth control, that rule that nearly all Catholics ignore. Celebrate men perhaps should not be making such rules. If my entire wish list was going to be granted, I would want the Church to accept homosexuality under the strictures of monogamy, but doubt that would happen.

    However, my phone never seems to ring from the Vatican asking me what to do.

    1. Karen.

      1. The Church was anything but ‘quite wealthy’ in the early 4th century. Fourth century churches are as rare as hen’s teeth because there was no ecclesiastical real estate in the pre-Constantinian Church

      2. Celibacy was the mode among clergy in the pre-Constantinian Church, but not invariable. Around about the 7th century, divergence in practice between the Eastern Church and the Western Church was the order of the day, with the Eastern Church ordaining married men while reserving the episcopacy to those drawn from the ranks of monastics while the Western Church maintained a celibate discipline wherein concubinage was understood as irregular and sinful where it was practiced among clergy (managing to extirpate it by the high middle ages).

      3. Your ‘humble solution’ isn’t. It’s also non sequitur. The man is an embezzler, not a sex offender.

      4. The sacramental theology of the Church does not permit women’s ordination, ever. St. John Paul made a solemn declaration to this effect, walking right up to the line of invoking the extraordinary magisterium.

      5. Trashing disciplines which have existed since the early Church to address topical questions in occidental countries is a foolish suggestion. The only problem with celibacy is that in certain cultural contexts it tends to repel ordinary men at a greater rate than it repels latent sex offenders. This can be addressed with proper screening.

      6. Very few ecclesiastics ever ‘enabled paedophiles’.

      1. TSTD:

        Barring women from the priesthood is dogma rather than regulation for three reasons:

        1. Jesus took a male form, when He could have taken any form He wanted
        2. Jesus chose only male Apostles
        3. The people who declared dogma in the early days of the Church were all men, in a society where women had virtually zero power.

        God has been explicit in his requirements of us. He even listed the 10 most important in bullet form when he gave it to Moses, which was set in stone. If He wanted all of his daughters in perpetuity banned from the priesthood, He would have said so. Clearly. Ordaining a woman as a priest gets you dismissed from the clergy. That’s a pretty strong rule to be so subtly implied in the Bible.

        Jesus, being omniscient, knew that He was rising as a man in a barbarous time, among uneducated people. If He came down as a woman, He likely would have foreseen that He would have been stoned to death rather early on in his career for speaking out of turn. That would make HIs sacrifice and message rather pointless, would it not? The same holds true if He chose His first apostles as women. His purpose was to die for us and bring us the New Testament. His choice may have been a practical one, not dogmatic.

        The Bible itself was organized, with some books discarded, by councils comprised exclusively of men in a society where women were powerless. In fact, the error in implying that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute appears to be a deliberate act by these early males.

        Excluding the female voice entirely leads to such nuggets of women from “celibate” men that they can think of no reason whatsoever to allow birth control. I rather think that if those men had to go through labor, and had their own lifespans shortened by having too many children, that they would have thought up a reason or two. After all, many the same men who made such a decree 50 years or so ago did not have the moral fortitude to protect the victims of priestly pedophilia. In those days, they would have the victim committed. In fact, in the 1950s, the Church repeatedly castrated boys who reported being raped by priests. The Church also subpoenas SNAP from time to time, asking for all correspondence records. Knowing their most personal correspondence would be taken and viewed by their rapists, outside of the witness stand, may make survivors less willing to come forward.

        Celibacy, on the other hand, is regulation rather than dogma. The Pope, whose office was decreed “infallible” so long ago, could repeal it with a papal bull.

        I love the faith, but not the Administration of it.

        1. Excluding the female voice entirely leads to such nuggets of women from “celibate” men that they can think of no reason whatsoever to allow birth control.

          Your reflexes in this matter (and all others) derive from the concerns of a denizen of a suburban cul-de-sac. Get over yourself.

          After all, many the same men who made such a decree 50 years or so ago did not have the moral fortitude to protect the victims of priestly pedophilia.

          It’s an antique moral teaching which was re-affirmed 50 years ago. I have no clue what you fancy Paul VI or Pius XI have to do with sexual misconduct (much less ‘paedophilia’). Priestly sexual misconduct did not typically involve prepubescent children. The bishops supervising them in the English-speaking world were seldom vigorous promoters of the birth-control teaching after 1965. Accusations contra priests were very unusual prior to about 1982 and the eruption of them after 1982 left bishops in a dilemma because the evidentiary basis for the accusations was usually quite poor and the accusations themselves commonly made in excess of a decade after the fact.

          Karen, it’s just one red herring after another with you, at wearying length.

    2. Karen S – if it makes you feel better they don’t call me either. 🙂

    3. However, my phone never seems to ring from the Vatican asking me what to do.

      The Holy See promulgates Canon Law, issues judicial decisions now and again, and appoints bishops. It does not have the manpower to supervise the dioceses and orders as a matter of routine, though it can conduct occasional inquiries. Either the bishop is on the ball or no one is.

      1. that’s correct. bishops are the princes of their fiefs. that’s not exception it is general rule.

    4. After life got more secure, gay men might have been pleased at the prospect. Gay men were closeted and may have been very lonely, Living as a priest would afford them a reason to explain why they never married.

      The number of Catholic priests in this country has never exceeded 60,000. Survey research suggests that about 1//3 might be abnormal to a greater or lesser degree. That’s 20,000 men. The census of priests was at its peak in 1965. There might have been 2 million men in the United States over the age of 30 for whom latent homosexuality was something of a problem. Really not much of a redoubt.

      1. oh they definitely saw it as tall grass. the seminaries used to try and weed them out and then lapsed, for a time. the issue has come back into focus however due to scandals.

  12. “The lesson here may be that you cannot serve your God and mansion.

    Matthew 6:24

    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other,Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

    If you have to explain the joke … well … E.B. White said it best: “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

  13. Yet in his mugshot he’s wearing a pair of glasses that must have been purchased in the 70s…….


    The priest’s father had been a pro at rehabbing houses. So this priest was basically taking after Dad in building this showcase mansion. To his credit, he had supervised construction of a new church but then siphoned off church funds over a period of 27 years. Still everyone wondered how a priest making $42,000 per year had the money to build such a lavish home.

  15. I can see the Diocese of Lansing employs a crack team of auditors.

  16. We know that almost everyone is capable of acting out roles, as in performing on screen and in live theater. We should not be surprised that many people hold themselves out as something they are not, in order to accumulate wealth.

Comments are closed.