Nebraska Archdiocese Sues Nun Accused of Stealing Church Funds

In addition to a lawsuit against a nun accused of stealing church money, the Omaha Archdiocese has filed more lawsuits against her and some family members.

In April the archdiocese sued Sister Barbara Markey in an effort to recover $820,000 the archdiocese says she stole as director of the archdiocese's Catholic Family Life Office.

Her criminal trial on a charge of theft by deception was tentatively set for Sept. 17.

She was initially sued in April. This week the archdiocese filed a lawsuit against 11 of her relatives for a total of $73,800. They were not accused of theft, but the lawsuit says they benefited from the money, gifts or other items from Markey.

Two lawsuits were filed in Douglas County District Court.

A third lawsuit was filed in Park County, Colo., seeking a lien against a house there that has a tax valuation of $262,000. The archdiocese says Markey spent some of its money on the vacation home owned by members of her family, under the incorporated name of Bally Markey.

Attempts to reach Markey on Saturday were unsuccessful. Calls to her lawyers were not immediately returned

Markey, a nationally and internationally known speaker, was fired in January after an audit turned up irregularities.

According to the audit, Markey spent $307,545 for her own use or without documentation between December 2003 and January 2006.

Prosecutors say nearly $900,000 hasn't been accounted for back to 1999, but the state won't be investigating further.

Criminal court documents say at least $67,656 of the total was spent at casinos.

She has denied any crime and has explained her spending as "complex accounting."

One of her attorneys says her accounting was a longtime practice that no archdiocesan official told her to stop.

Another of Markey's attorneys has characterized the allegations as a financial dispute that does not involve any breaking of laws.

Prosecutors say Markey misused secret bank accounts and a credit card the archdiocese didn't authorize.

The Rev. Greg Baxter took part in the archdiocese's investigation. He said it uncovered canceled checks that were written to and endorsed by relatives named in the lawsuit.

The amounts sought from the relatives range from $590 to $24,875.

Ed Hotz of Omaha, who is representing the archdiocese, said it wrote the relatives and sent documentation regarding the money the archdiocese says they received. The letters asked for the money to be returned and gave them 60 days.

None did, and the lawsuit was filed, Hotz said.

Markey co-wrote one of the Catholic Church's most widely used marriage preparation programs, FOCCUS, which stands for Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study. The marriage preparation program is used by most U.S. dioceses. According to the FOCCUS Web site, 400,000 to 500,000 couples in 14 countries use the tool each year.