A Catholic priest in Cleveland didn’t show up for mass Sunday. But he had an excuse. Two days earlier he was busted for offering a park ranger $50 for sex.
And to make matters worse for himself, Rev. James McGonegal is HIV-positive which meant that he was hit with a felony charge.
McGonegal (pictured in mug shot) has been a priest since 1971. He has served at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church on Lorain Avenue on Cleveland’s west side since the 1980s.
He was sitting in his SUV on Friday shortly after noon in the city’s Edgewater Park when he offered the money to an off-duty Metropark ranger who was not on any sort of undercover detail at the time.
The ranger said that the priest offered him $50 in exchange for helping him to “get off.”
The 68-year-old priest then exposed himself and masturbated, the ranger reported.
The ranger was in civilian clothes and just walking past the SUV when McGonegal made eye contact and gestured to him. The ranger said he kept walking then turned and wen back. McGonegal had pulled out of his parking space, but also returned.
The ranger declined to get in the vehicle, as McGonegal requested. He also declined to accompany McGonegal back to his home. He asked McGonegal is he wanted to go for a walk, but this time is was McGonegal who turned down the offer, saying he feared arrest.
That fear didn’t stop him from offering money to the ranger for sex, however.
McGonegal also had a bottle of some sort of liquid in the car with him. He later told police that he bought it at a local sex shop and would sniff the liquid’s fumes to get “a buzz.”
In addition to the charge of soliciting while being HIV-positive, the priest was hit with charges of abusing harmful intoxicants and public indecency.
At the St. Ignatius mass Sunday, the only mention of the absent priest came at the beginning of services when another priest said, "Today we pray for this parish, and our pastor."
SOURCES: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland.com, News Channel 5