The Rev. John Regan can go back to work for the Catholic Church as long as he maintains a menial job to repay the $300,000 he stole from a Roselle parish, a judge ruled Thursday.
DuPage County Judge John Kinsella said he sentenced the priest to menial labor because it was more akin to how parishioners earned the money that Regan gambled away.
"It wasn't just simply paying back that money but how that money should be paid back," Kinsella said. "If that means it all takes longer to pay, then so be it. That is the sentence."
Regan's attorneys argued the convicted priest would be able to pay off his debt to the Diocese of Joliet more quickly if allowed to return to full-time ministry.
Defense attorney Jack Donahue said Regan makes $9 an hour working at a Joliet factory when he could double his income by returning to the church with strict oversight.
"He would be monitored by someone specifically for him," Donahue said. "He's not going to have any responsibility over any funds. This is a way for them (the diocese) to have him under their thumb."
Regan, 48, already has served 60 days in jail, 180 days on jail work-release and more than a month on work detail for the sheriff's office. He will be free from the court's jurisdiction, Kinsella said, once he completes four years of probation and 500 hours of community service.
In court Wednesday, prosecutors objected to Regan's request, noting the significant amount of money taken and how it left his former parish, St. Walter Church, in turmoil.
"This defendant is very fortunate he was sentenced to probation," Assistant State's Attorney Helen Kapas said.
Regan remained an ordained priest after pleading guilty last year to felony theft -- a charge that could have landed him in prison for up to 15 years.
Prosecutors said he began stealing from St. Walter within two months of starting there in 2006 and, in two years, lost about $300,000 at riverboat casinos.
The diocese later repaid the church, and Regan was ordered to repay the diocese. He is currently engaged in a 12-step recovery program for gambling addicts, according to his attorneys.
Donahue said Regan has performed "minimal" religious services, including saying Mass for nuns, since his removal from St. Walter. But he would like to return as a parochial vicar or chaplain in a specialized ministry.
Kinsella said Regan is free to work for the church in his spare time.
Regan declined to comment as he left court.