Signs of the Times

Conservatives to Meet With Bishops on Sex Abuse Crisis

Several leading U.S. bishops are expected to attend a discussion forum with self-styled conservative Catholic voices on the clergy sexual abuse crisis on Sept. 8 in Washington, D.C.

We should be talking about the 25-year legacy of our pope and how that can guide our actions for the immediate future, said Deal W. Hudson, editor and publisher of Crisis magazine and an organizer of the meeting.


Several initial news reports on the planned meeting described it as a counterpoint to a similar meeting of about 40 lay Catholic leaders with some of the same bishops in Julya meeting Hudson publicly criticized, saying it was stacked with left-wing dissidents. There wasn’t a conservative to be seen.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, other executive officers of the U.S.C.C.B. and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington attended the first meeting. Hudson said those bishops and two others suggested by the conference have been invited to the second. But when he was asked if the September meeting was meant as a counterbalance to the July session or was prompted by it, he answered No to both questions. He acknowledged a parallel of structure between the two meetings but said, whenever you talk to bishops about problems in the church, parallels are going to arise.

Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, director for communications for the U.S.C.C.B., said the September meeting is an activity of those who are organizing the meeting. It is not a U.S.C.C.B. activity, and the bishops attending will be doing so as diocesan bishops and not in an official U.S.C.C.B. capacity. He had a similar comment in July about the previous meeting.

Hudson said he asked for the meeting with some leading bishops to discuss the future of the church after the sex abuse scandal, and particularly to talk about the way in which the teaching of Pope John Paul II shows the way of recovering from the crisis. He said he did not think the pope’s legacy was on the table at that earlier meeting.

Asked what specific issues he hoped to discuss, he said: One is the problem of dissent in the church. Another is, I think, some of the bad advice being given to solve the sexual abuse crisis. You know, do away with celibacy, ordain women and open up the priesthood to married men. I think this is all bad advice.

He criticized Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization started in Boston as the sexual abuse crisis was mushrooming there, for seeking to bring structural change to the church. I think we have to change our way of implementing our structures.... I don’t think the structures themselves are bad, he said.

The earlier meeting with leading bishops was organized by Geoffrey T. Boisi, a former chairman of the Boston College board of trustees and former vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. It consisted mainly of Catholic business leaders but also included Catholic academic and professional figures. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., editor in chief of America, also attended. Because the meeting was off the record, he would characterize it only as a useful and positive conversation between the bishops and lay leaders. He expressed surprise that that a group of C.E.O.’s would be characterized as flaming liberals.

Archdiocese Plans for Recovery After $25.7 Million Settlement

Property sales, cutbacks in high school tuition aid and higher parish assessments are part of a five-year financial plan the Archdiocese of Louisville has unveiled to get back on its feet following this summer’s $25.7-million settlement of lawsuits over sexual abuse by clergy. The settlement covered 243 lawsuits by 240 alleged victims. The archdiocese nearly emptied its unrestricted investment portfolio to pay the settlement. The amount is to be divided up among the plaintiffs, taking into account the severity of the abuse and other factors, under a court-supervised mediation process.

The financial recovery planparts of which have already been implementedincludes the first hike in decades of the cathedraticum, an assessment paid by the 123 parishes of the archdiocese to help fund the ministries of the bishop. It also includes lowering interest rates the archdiocese pays on parish deposits, consolidating archdiocesan offices, shifting some parish-related expenses from the archdiocese back to parishes and cutting back clergy benefits to priests suspended for abusing minors.

There’s a principle behind all of this, said Brian Reynolds, archdiocesan chancellor and chief administrative officer. All of us benefit from a financially healthy churchthe staff, priests, everyone. And this plan of recovery will have an impact on everyone, he said. All of us will contribute to the re-establishing of a financially healthy local church.

The current assessment on parishes is 5 percent of parish income1.86 percent to fund clergy retirement, 1.14 percent for the archdiocesan newspaper, The Record, and 2 percent for the cathedraticum. Under the new plan the yearly assessment will increase to 7 percent in January 2004 and 8 percent in the summer of 2005. Parishes will also have to start paying the cost of life and disability insurance for their employeesa total of about $500,000 a year, which in the past was paid by the archdiocese.

The archdiocese will halve its salary and housing allowances for the eight priests permanently suspended from ministry for admitted or substantiated sexual abuse of minors. Two of those are in prison. While many have objected to clerical child molesters still receiving church support, church law obliges a bishop to make provision for the decent support and social assistance of all his priests, including those retired, ill or barred from ministry.

Other financial adjustments to be taken under the archdiocesan plan include:

Canceling a final $1.7 million expansion grant to Trinity High School in Louisville. The archdiocese has already given Trinity $4.8 million for the expansion plan.

Selling the buildings and property of a now-closed parish and a farm it bought six years ago for a possible future parish site. The estimated value of the two properties is $1.85 million.

Reducing interest paid on regular parish deposits in the Archdiocesan Deposit and Loan Fund from 5 percent to 3.5 percent and on long-term deposits from 7.5 percent to 5 percent.

Cutting financial aid to Catholic high schools, in the form of tuition vouchers to parents, by 50 percent, to $225,000 a year for the next five years.

Further consolidating archdiocesan offices and selling surplus properties that result.

On June 30, the end of the last fiscal year, the Louisville Archdiocese had $31.1 million in restricted investmentsnearly half in the form of deposits of parish funds and the rest in endowed or otherwise restricted funds. Those funds were given to the archdiocese for specific purposes and cannot be used for anything else. It had $26.2 million in unrestricted investments and $1 million in a fund from closed parishes. After it paid the $25.7 million settlement from those resources, its unrestricted investment portfolio dropped to $1.5 million.

The archdiocese began tightening its belt before the settlement, reducing its workforce by 12 percent and cutting its budget by $1.5 million. This summer it trimmed its budget an additional $900,000 and cut 13 more staff positions.

News Briefs

The Archdiocese of Boston reportedly raised its offer to settle all sexual abuse litigation against it to $65 million on Aug. 21, up $10 million from its offer earlier in August.

John J. Geoghan, the defrocked Boston priest whose widely reported serial molestations of children sparked the national clergy sex abuse crisis in 2002, was brutally murdered in his prison cell on Aug. 23 by a fellow inmate. The inmate, already serving a life sentence, allegedly hoped to be convicted of a hate crime so he would be transferred from a state prison to a better federal prison.

The Vatican has called a meeting for Oct. 21 of presidents of bishops’ conferences in countries where English is used in liturgical celebrations to discuss and clarify questions about the translation of liturgical texts.

The Catholic Church erred when it pressed Galileo Galilei to repudiate his finding that the earth revolves around the sun, but it did not persecute or torture the 17th-century astronomer, a Vatican official said. Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it was an oversimplification to view Galileo as a symbol of human freedom and progress against a dogmatic and immobile church. When Galileo stayed at the Vatican for 20 days, he was lodged in the apartment of one of the highest officials of the Inquisition and was served by the official’s servant, Archbishop Amato said. During his remaining time in Rome, Galileo lived comfortably as a guest at the Florentine embassy, he said.

The Jesuit Conference on Aug. 26 announced that as a result of questions raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about certain writings of John R. Sachs, S.J., and at the request of the congregation, Father Sachs has formally declared his assent to the church’s teaching concerning homosexuality as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (editio typica, No. 2357, 2358, 2390) and the church’s teaching concerning the ordination of women as taught in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

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