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Hooked on gambling, priest steals $226,000

Aug. 30, 2004 at 12:47 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Ill., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- An Illinois priest has issued an apology for stealing $226,000 from the church to support his gambling addiction, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said Monday.

Gerald Bunse, 52, told the newspaper he resigned in January as pastor from St. Mary Catholic Church in Edwardsville, Ill., east of St. Louis, after realizing he needed counseling.

He was recently reassigned to a church in Jacksonville, Ill., and said he had attended a treatment course for gambling addicts, and still attends weekly meetings.

Bunse said he had made an arrangement with Bishop George Lucas to repay the money. Diocese officials refused to say how much Bunse is paid, but priests with his background are typically paid at least $1,937 a month for salary and expenses. He has been a priest for 21 years.

While Bunse said he hoped his former parishioners could forgive him, longtime church member Clyde Hartung said he wants Bunse to be prosecuted.

"If that would have been me, I am sure I would be in the penitentiary right now," he said.

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