Bronx priest allegedly stole $1 million for male BDSM master

The latest swirling Catholic Church scandal is in many ways familiar. A New York City priest is accused of embezzling roughly a million dollars during the past decade—all to support his role as slave to a professional BDSM master.

The lawsuit, filed by parishioners at New York’s state supreme court, names Father Peter Miqueli, his alleged BDSM master Keith Crist, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and the Archdiocese of New York. Miqueli is accused of secretly pocketing the donations given to both the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church on Roosevelt Island, and the St. Frances de Chantal Church in the Bronx over a 10-year period.

“Rather than use parishioner donations for religious and charitable purposes,” reads the lawsuit, “Father Miqueli used the donations to grow his personal wealth, purchase a house in New Jersey, take dozens of international vacations, purchase and use illegal drugs, and pay for the weekly services of his homosexual prostitute and ‘sex master’ Keith Crist.”

According to the 39-page lawsuit, Miqueli began paying Crist $1,000 per session for domination in 2009. The relationship quickly expanded into sugar daddy territory, with Miqueli allegedly allowing Crist to live with him at the rectory for two years, later renting Crist a Park Avenue apartment in 2014. Miqueli is also accused of using the church’s money to pay for a $200,000 New Jersey house in cash, as well as taking “multiple vacations around the world with Keith Crist.”

The lawsuit goes on to directly accuse Cardinal Dolan and the archdiocese of not only knowing about Miqueli’s scheme, but of looking the other way and allowing it to continue for years.

The church parishioners also made an online petition, a Facebook page, and a website on which people who attended the churches run by Miqueli could submit anonymous “shared experiences.” The comments appear to date back to at least October, and reference the accusations of embezzlement and a secret gay BDSM relationship. They also suggest a long pattern of bad behavior.

Other comments suggest that the parish is $1.8 million in debt, and that almost all church amenities—including musicians—have been cut. 

One comment accuses Miqueli of smoking in the church office. In others, he’s accused of refusing to baptize babies if party members were late, being “rude, obnoxious, and condescending” to church members, going on an expensive vacation during Lent, and of increasing collections at the church to multiple times per Sunday mass. Other comments suggest that the parish is $1.8 million in debt, and that almost all church amenities—including musicians—have been cut.

The most damning of the “shared experiences” submitted on the page were from two separate commenters who each identified themselves as Miqueli’s brothers, Joseph and Richie.

“I am Joseph Miqueli, Peter Miquelis older brother,” reads one comment. “My phone number is 410-xxx-xxxx. My heart goes out to your congregation. I feel very sorry that he is anybody’s pastor, & [sic] I am embarrassed that he is my brother.”

The Daily Dot reached out to both Richie and Joseph Miqueli but only received a “no comment” email back from the former. A request for comment sent to attorneys for the parishioners did not receive an immediate response. 

Two people who did offer comment to the Daily Dot were both professional dominatrixes. One, a New York City pro-domme named Mistress Cora, told the Daily Dot via Facebook that while the embezzlement part of Miqueli’s case was unusual, she’s had “hundreds of clients similar to him: religious figures, Ceo’s, and Hasidic men.”

Mistress Matisse, a Seattle-based dominatrix and writer, told the Daily Dot that it is “unrealistic to demand celibacy from priests,” and such repression can lead to all kinds of acting out—especially in the Catholic Church.

“As someone who was raised Catholic, the constant equating of ‘suffering’ with ‘love’ can build ideas in one’s young head that later find expression in BDSM behavior,” Matisse wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “There’s nothing wrong with being kinky. The problem is when shame about sexual feelings drives people to extreme lengths, such as stealing.”

The Catholic Church’s official stance is far from affirming. The language used in the lawsuit against Miqueli doesn’t just shame him for allegedly embezzling money, but also refers to his “perverted” lifestyle. 

There are a smattering of LGBT-friendly Catholic churches across the U.S. But the church’s official stance is that while homosexual desires themselves are not a sin, acting on them is “always objectively sinful.” Were the church accepting of openly LGBT priests the way that other Christian faiths are (the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, and United Church of Christ are among the largest LGBT-affirming denominations in the U.S.) would these scandals stop? 

The organization DignityUSA, which advocates for LGBT Catholics, called the Miqueli scandal a “tragic scenario” in a statement emailed to the Daily Dot—but one that can be avoided.

“The Catholic Church’s unrealistic requirement of lifelong celibacy for its priests, and its incredibly unhealthy views on sexuality, set up situations where some priests engage in illicit and shameful behaviors,” said DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.

“God continues to call people to service without regard for gender, sexual orientation or relational status,” Duddy-Burke said, “And our Church should be making room for people to serve in a way that is true to who we are.”

Photo via Pixabay/Senlay (CC0)

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.