Affidavit: San Antonio Catholic Church employee stole thousands in donations

St. Francis of Assisi employee Tom Harness charged with theft

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church parishioners said Friday they are saddened to hear that a church employee is accused of stealing $25,000 in collection plate money.

Tom Harness, 40, the church's maintenance manager, was arrested Thursday on a charge of theft.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, San Antonio police detectives said Harness admitted to stealing money since June in order to buy drugs. The affidavit stated that the money was taken from weekly offerings parishioners made to the church.

The church's operations manager began his own investigation after noticing that weekend donations had been dwindling from the usual $2,500 to a few hundred dollars, the affidavit stated.

The manager then set up a hidden camera in a room where the church safe is located, as well as inside the safe, the affidavit stated.

The camera captured an image that appeared to be Harness, according to the affidavit.

A parishioner also found donation envelopes that had been emptied and tossed in the trash, the affidavit stated.

"The fact that someone is stealing, now, it's a sad thing, especially at a church," said a woman after attending Friday morning Mass. "Evidently, the man was desperate. But that's no excuse."

Matt Scherer, a St. Francis parishioner for nearly two decades, seemed to take the news in stride, calling it "sad, but not surprising."

Scherer said, in keeping with his faith, he prefers to let Harness be judged by a higher power.

"I'm sure that in the course of the investigation, they'll find out if this person is truly at fault," Scherer said. "If he is, the people at St. Francis will pray for him because that's the kind of church that St. Francis is."

Police said although Harness admitted to stealing about $25,000, the church is still working to come up with its own total of money lost.

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