A Jersey City man has been posing as a priest – leading Mass and attempting to solicit donations – for St. Paul of the Cross Church in Jersey City, according to parishioners and Archdiocese of Newark spokesman Jim Goodness.
According to both Goodness and church parishioners, the man showed up on Sunday and led the first part of a morning Mass before officials realized he did not belong.
"Someone is walking around . dressed as a priest," Goodness said. "He’s asking for donations for some parish functions and he is clearly not authorized to do this."
The man is not ordained as a priest nor is he part of the Archdiocese, according to Goodness. At this point, Goodness said, it is not clear how much money the man may have accepted in donations.
A St. Paul parishioner, Rafael Torres, who on Monday filed a police report about the recent incidents, said the man introduces himself to people as "Father Chris."
Goodness said that St. Paul of the Cross has an upcoming annual festival and is holding several fund-raisers. Apparently, the man has been using the upcoming celebration as a way to solicit funds, he said.
"St. Paul is having a celebration . and at this point there have been some fund-raising activities," Goodness said. "I think he latched himself onto it."
Parishioners first saw the man when he suddenly showed up on Sunday to preside over Mass, Goodness said. At first, church officials thought nothing of it because they were expecting a visiting priest that day.
But when the real visiting priest showed up, the man told church officials that he was visiting the area and asked if he could still lead Mass. Because Catholic churches sometimes get requests from out-of-town priests to assist with services, the church officials saw no harm in it and told him that he could preside over the Mass with the help of the visiting priest, Goodness said.
"Apparently this fake priest made some mistakes," Goodness said. "He read the Gospel from the wrong place. He didn’t read it from the pulpit. He also interrupted the priest a couple of times during the Mass."
At one point, Goodness said, the man temporarily left the service to get a glass of water. When the other priests realized that he was acting strangely, they asked him to leave while the visiting priest completed the Mass, Goodness said. (source)
So the next time a priest acts strangely during Mass and deviates from the Lectionary and the GIRM I now have a more charitable excuse for the behavior – maybe this is another fake priest instead of a real priest that should know better.
Update: Fake priest has been arrested.