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Dioceses and Charities Hurt by Economic Uncertainty

While Catholic Charities agencies are facing new demands for assistance, an April poll showed that nearly three-fourths of Catholics across the nation are hesitant to give more money to charity because of concerns about their own personal finances. The poll results, released on May 14 by Catholic Charities USA, followed announcements by several dioceses that financial pressures were forcing them to cut back on budgets and personnel.

Along with the economy, the survey found Catholic contributions have been hurt by the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Twenty-two percent of those polled said they reduced their donations to faith-based charities in the past year because of the reports of misconduct by priests.

Just two days before the survey findings were announced, the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., announced plans to cut its budget for the 2003-4 fiscal year by $2 million and reduce its work force by 12 percent, to 236 employees from 270. Those who remain will receive no salary increases. The Archdiocese of Denver on May 9 informed about 30 staff members that they were being laid off in an effort to trim the budget by $1.3 million.

The Louisville cutbacks were prompted by expectations of major settlement costs in sexual abuse lawsuits. Of 250 suits filed since April 2002, the archdiocese has settled six out of court. It is seeking to settle the others as well. In Denver, however, it was the economy that caused the cuts. Our investment income has dried up over the last two-and-a-half years, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

In April the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., announced that a combination of decreased revenue and increased health insurance costs was forcing it to lay off nine employees and freeze the salaries of the rest of its pastoral center staff for the coming fiscal year.

When the Archdiocese of Chicago kicked off its annual appeal this spring, it raised the goal to $7.5 million, even though last year it attained only $6.3 million of a $7 million goal. The Diocese of Cleveland, which reached only $9.6 million of its $11.4 million goal in last year’s annual Catholic Charities appeal, announced in May that it is lowering the goal to $10.5 million this year.

In April the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., set a goal of $2.9 million for this year’s diocesan appeal, the same as last year, even though last year it came up $300,000 short of the goal. Bishop Thomas L. Dupre said he considered the tough economic times in western Massachusetts a bigger obstacle to reaching the target than the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

The Archdiocese of Boston, center of the abuse scandal since January 2002, last year got only $8.6 million of the $17 million goal for its annual Cardinal’s Appeal. When this year’s campaign, renamed the Catholic Appeal, was launched in March, the announced goal was $9 million. The Boston Archdiocese had a $24 million budget in the 2001-2 fiscal year. It slashed that to $16 million in 2002-3 and plans to reduce it to $12 million in 2003-4. In May archdiocesan officials announced plans to publish details of the current and upcoming budgets on the archdiocesan Web site before the end of June as part of an effort to restore trust in its finances. Its budget-cutting efforts have included moving two auxiliary bishops out of their own homes into rectories shared with other priests.

Media Coverage on Abuse Severely Distorted’

Media coverage of the sex abuse story produced a severely distorted view of the bishops and their efforts, according to the communications director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Speaking in Brooklyn on May 16, Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco said the reports of clergy abuse deserved coverage, and sunlight was the best detergent for this kind of stain. But many reporters treated the story as an ecclesiastical Enron, and ignored the possibility that the situation of the bishops reflected a conflict of duty rather than a dereliction of duty, he said.

Msgr. Maniscalco said The Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer Prize for courageous comprehensive coverage of sexual abuse by priests, could have begun in January of last year by reporting that, while documents raised serious questions about the bishops’ handling of sex abuse cases, the number of complaints involving abuse in recent years has been dropping dramatically as the bishops’ policies for dealing with them seem to be taking hold. But he said the question was, Would such a nuanced story have become a nationally read, prize-winning one?

He also said media coverage showed serious undertreatment of the therapeutic model on which the bishops acted for most of the 90’s. Experts advising their Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse said that while these maladies were never cured they were controllable with treatment and post-treatment care and monitoring, Msgr. Maniscalco said. Some bishops did reassign these priests if they had an assurance that these men were not likely to abuse again, he said. In another criticism, Msgr. Maniscalco said media coverage showed serious confusion about the time line, and gave the extremely misleading impression of an immediate and overwhelming crisis. The cases reported on and the victims who came forward during 2002 mostly reflected misconduct which took place anywhere from four or five years ago to decades ago, he said.

Controversy Over College Commencement Speakers

Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of Worcester decided not to attend the commencement at the College of the Holy Cross on May 23 because it chose the broadcaster Chris Matthews as its speaker and an honorary degree recipient. Likewise, Bishop James C. Timlin of Scranton, Pa., decided not to attend the May 25 graduation ceremony at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton, where Matthews was also the scheduled speaker. Matthews, who graduated from Holy Cross in Worcester in 1967, is a best-selling author and host of the show Hardball on the cable news channel MSNBC and has been criticized by some alumni for supporting laws favoring abortion.

St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia had an entirely different protest during its May 18 graduation ceremony, when about 100 graduates walked out before Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, was introduced to receive an honorary degree and deliver his address. The students objected to the senator’s comments during an interview in early April, in which he called homosexual acts a threat to the American family. The students were offered an opportunity to leave before Santorum was introduced.

At St. Louis University, school officials announced in April that their scheduled commencement speaker, Donald J. Carty, the former American Airlines chairman and chief executive, was being replaced by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan by mutual agreement. The decision came after the news that while American Airlines had asked workers to accept huge pay cuts, the company had approved of the bonuses and pension payments for its executives. Carty has since resigned. He also came under fire for his views on life issues.

In California, demonstrations were held on May 10 on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College in Brentwood in opposition to two commencement speakers, Representatives Loretta and Linda Sanchez, both Democrats of California, for their stance on abortion.

At Quincy University, run by Franciscan friars in Quincy, Ill., the scheduled speaker, Paul Harvey, a well-known radio broadcaster, canceled his planned address after he was criticized for saying abortion is a decision that should be left to a woman and her God and her doctor...and the government ought to stay out of it altogether.

About 70 faculty and students at Georgetown University signed a letter protesting comments by Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was the commencement speaker for the College of Arts and Sciences. In many parts of the world, the family is under siege, Cardinal Arinze said. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalised by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.

Vatican Stops Suspending Ordained Married Men

Despite a rule the Vatican insists is still in force, it has stopped suspending married men ordained to the priesthood for service in the Eastern Catholic churches of North America and Australia. The ordinations are occurring regularly, although they are not great in number, and they are celebrated quietly. Rome will allow the ordinations, but it does not want a bishop to ordain married men, then splash pictures all over the place, said the Rev. Kenneth Nowakowski, rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Ottawa and spokesman for the Ukrainian bishops of Canada.

Msgr. Lucian Lamza, an official in the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches, said on May 22 that the Vatican’s ban on the ordination of married men for the Eastern churches in the West remains unchanged. The ordinations are against the norm, he said. But, of course, these priests can validly celebrate the liturgy and sacraments, since the ordinations are sacramentally valid. He would not discuss the Vatican’s reaction or lack of reaction to the ordinations.

In 1929 the Vatican, at the request of the Latin-rite bishops of the United States, ruled that married priests could not serve the Eastern-rite churches in the United States. The ban was applied to Canada in the 1930’s and to Australia in 1949. But Ukrainian, Ruthenian and Melkite Catholic bishops who support the ordination of married men throughout their communities have said the Second Vatican Council’s call to respect the traditions and disciplines of the Eastern churches and similar affirmations in the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches have nullified the ban.

Vatican Convinced It Was Right to Oppose Iraqi Conflict

Although the war in Iraq was shorter than expected and resulted in the fall of President Saddam Hussein, Vatican officials remain convinced that they were right to oppose the conflict and say it has weakened, not improved, global security. In interviews, editorial commentaries and speeches in early May, officials from Pope John Paul II on down contended that unilateral action is not the way to stop terrorism and that the United Nations must be strengthened in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The officials said the easy military victory and the subsequent failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraqat least so fardemonstrate that there was no real reason to go to war. And while the fall of a tyrant opens the prospects for new freedom in Iraq, the war also unleashed a power struggle among opposing factionswith Muslim fundamentalists the likely winners, the officials said.

On May 15 the pope took issue with the Bush administration’s oft-stated willingness to go it alone in the war on terrorism. The pontiff said that when a single country decides to wage this battle alone, it weakens the whole international order. He said the United Nations should help prevent unilateral action which risks leading to an impoverishment of international law and to weakening the pact existing among nations.

Mexican Cardinal Criticizes U.S. for Linking Legalization to Oil

A Mexican cardinal criticized a move in the U.S. Congress to link the legalization of Mexican workers in the United States with demands that U.S. companies be allowed to buy into Mexico’s state oil company. It is a simple case of blackmail. You can’t negotiate in this way. People’s liberty is very different from a commercial product like oil, said Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera in an interview published on May 13 in the newspaper La Jornada. For more than two years, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox has been campaigning for the U.S. government to legalize the estimated 3.5 million undocumented Mexicans who live in the United States, arguing that a guest worker program would benefit both countries. The U.S. House International Relations Committee narrowly approved a measure on May 8 that said any accord on immigration issues with Mexico should include an agreement to open Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, to U.S. investment.

News Briefs

Pope John Paul II’s trip to Croatia on June 5-9 will be his 100th trip outside Italy since the beginning of his pontificate in October 1978. A small outbreak of SARS in Mongolia could complicate prospects for Pope John Paul II’s planned visit there this summer, Vatican officials said.

The Diocese of Manchester, N.H., has settled the claims of 61 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse for $6.5 million. With the May 22 settlements, said diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee, the diocese has settled a total of 176 claims for $15.45 million over the past year.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation have made a $18.9 million grant to create 12 new small college-preparatory high schools modeled after the highly successful Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago.

During a visit on May 18 to Tbilisi’s central Baptist church, Georgian Orthodox Metropolitan Atanase of Rustavi apologized for remarks he made during a television interview in February 2002. In the interview, Metropolitan Atanase urged Orthodox followers to reject ideological peacefulness and to fight and kill members of minority religions.

Pope John Paul II was swamped with e-mail birthday greetings after the Vatican posted an electronic address for the pontiff. More than 10,000 messages were sent to John_Paul_II@vatican.va on the pope’s 83rd birthday on May 18, and thousands more continued to arrive the following day, the Vatican said.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether it is constitutional for the State of Washington to exclude students enrolled in religious education from a government-funded college scholarship program. Washington’s Promise Scholarship program helps students who are high achievers to pay for their college education even at church-affiliated schools, as long as the recipients are not in fields such as theology. A scholarship recipient is suing because he was not allowed to use it to study pastoral ministries and business management at Northwest College, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God.

People want fidelity at Mass, not novelty, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s top liturgy official, said at an international liturgy forum in Washington on May 16. What most of the people who come to Mass are asking for is simply that the Mass is there, according to the approved books. The primary thing they are asking for is not something new, he said.

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20 years 9 months ago
Kudos to Cardinal Francis Arinze who in his commencement address at Georgetown University College of Arts and Science spoke the truth of the Gospel courageously in defense of the family. The Gospel is a double-edge sword; it comforts us when we are afflicted and pushes us out of our comfort zone when we are too comfortable. And in this era of political correctness the Gospel message is counter-cultural.

20 years 9 months ago
Kudos to Cardinal Francis Arinze who in his commencement address at Georgetown University College of Arts and Science spoke the truth of the Gospel courageously in defense of the family. The Gospel is a double-edge sword; it comforts us when we are afflicted and pushes us out of our comfort zone when we are too comfortable. And in this era of political correctness the Gospel message is counter-cultural.

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