Father Ignazio Medina found guilty in church trial

The Diocese of Jefferson City has concluded a church trial involving mismanagement of funds by a former pastor.

A panel of three judges constituted within the Tribunal of Jefferson City has found Father Ignazio Medina guilty of “abuse of ecclesiastical power” due to financial misconduct while he was pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Wardsville.

The verdict concludes a church trial initiated by the Diocese of Jefferson City after an investigation into allegations that Father Medina had transferred approximately $300,000 of church money into personal accounts. 

Following the investigation, and as dictated by canon law, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight initiated the church trial in 2022. Judges for the trial were three priests from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, all experts in canon law. 

In addition to Father Medina’s unauthorized transfer of roughly $300,000 in parish funds into personal accounts, the judges found approximately $20,000 in unexplained cash withdrawals were made from parish funds under Father Medina’s leadership. 

On April 6, the judges submitted the guilty verdict via definitive sentence to Bishop McKnight and Father Medina. The judges acknowledged that Father Medina, who no longer holds any office in the diocese, has made full restitution of the missing funds. As a further punishment, they issued a penalty of approximately $26,000, reimbursing the diocese for audit and legal expenses incurred during the investigation and trial. Father Medina has not chosen to appeal this ruling and it is now final. 

“As a community of faith, we are stewards of the gifts God has given us,” Bishop McKnight said at the conclusion of the trial. “Living out this commitment means we must be willing to hold one another accountable for actions that hurt our community. The financial misconduct discovered in our investigation of Father Medina and presented during the trial will not be tolerated in our Church — just as it would never be tolerated by a private business or any organization in our society. 

“The actions of Father Medina have caused pain in our community. He will never again have access to parish funds. As we move forward together, let us pray for healing. Let us especially keep the parishioners of St. Stanislaus Parish in our prayers, as we seek to move forward together with the grace of God.”

Father Medina was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in 2012. The issue of financial mismanagement first surfaced in December 2018. The diocesan chief financial officer assisted the parish’s finance council with resolving financial reporting discrepancies. A bank account established by Father Medina in the parish name, unbeknownst to the parish finance council, was discovered during this investigation. 

In July 2021, Father Medina was appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Ozark and Msgr. David Cox was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus.

After Father Medina’s transfer, the St. Stanislaus Parish finance council reported to Msgr. Cox that the previously undisclosed bank account had been emptied and closed in June 2021, resulting in an approximately $300,000 discrepancy. The parish brought this information to the Chancery, and Chancery staff worked with the parish finance council to resolve this matter.

Father Medina stated in an interview with Chancery officials he closed the bank account prior to moving from St. Stanislaus to Our Lady of the Lake. He granted the Chancery access to the bank records.

A review of the records disclosed Father Medina had written a check to himself for $200,000 and a check to an out-of-state sibling for $100,000. Because of the details of the situation, the diocese notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

During this time, Bishop McKnight put in place temporary financial safeguards at Our Lady of the Lake. An independent auditing firm was also engaged to do an in-depth analysis of accounts for both parishes.

No indications of any discrepancies were uncovered in the accounts of Our Lady of the Lake. However, approximately $20,000 in additional cash withdrawals could not be accounted for at St. Stanislaus.

Determining there was sufficient evidence of a possible violation of canon law, Bishop McKnight initiated a penal process in the Tribunal of Jefferson City. The trial was temporarily postponed to prevent interference with civil investigation. Church proceedings began after law enforcement gave no objection to the commencement of a church trial.

The diocese has no information on whether any civil investigations are ongoing. 

For the church trial, which is a process similar to criminal trials in continental Europe, the panel of judges gathered evidence from the diocesan investigation and Father Medina. He, with the assistance of his counsel, was given full opportunity to provide for his defense and explain his position. Following the judges’ verdict, the trial concluded when Father Medina chose not to appeal.

In a statement provided to the diocese, Father Medina asked parishioners to support Bishop McKnight and Msgr. Cox.

“They are good men, they are true servants of our Lord. I have no anger or animosity toward either of them,” Father Medina wrote. “I ask that you support them and keep them in your prayers. Please give them the love that you so generously gave to me.” 

Father Medina also addressed his trial in his statement: “I wish to assure you that the law of the Church is being followed. The diocese is ensuring that the matter is resolved in accordance with the law and teaching of the Church. This includes my having canonical representation in this matter. This process is designed to ensure that justice for all is protected. This is at the direction of Bishop McKnight, who has the responsibility of ensuring justice is protected in our diocese.”

His statement concludes, “I ask you to remember me in your prayers, as you are remembered in mine.”

Bishop McKnight offered his gratitude for all who assisted in resolving the situation, including Msgr. Cox, St. Stanislaus Parish’s finance council and other lay leaders, the FBI and Chancery staff.

“As a community that strives to shine the light of God in our world, we must hold ourselves to high standards — and continue to practice transparency and accountability at all levels of our Church,” said Bishop McKnight. “I hope that the resolution of this unfortunate matter will give our community greater confidence in how closely we safeguard resources in our diocese. Let us now move forward together. May our diocesan patroness, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, intercede for us, and may God strengthen our communion as a Church at this time.”