Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Diocese’s financial policies hurt churches

May 4th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Gretchen Garrity and Susan Miller of All Saints parish in Corning have a thought-provoking piece at stargazette.com …

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is a wasteland of closed churches. Parishioners are told repeatedly that there is not enough money to keep them open. Yet the diocese and Catholic Charities (which receives parish money) remain financially strong. How? The answer is found in the appropriation of parishioners’ offerings and government money.

First, parishioners contribute to the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA). Begun by Bishop Matthew Clark in the 1980s, this effort has raised tens of millions of dollars for diocesan ministries. The diocese sets a goal for individual parishes, and each parish must meet it. If contributions run short, the parish must take the remainder from collections and/or savings. Consider All Saints Parish in Corning, with one church demolished and two others slated for sale or destruction. Still, the parish’s CMA goal this year is more than $107,000.

Second, Catholic Charities receives about $625,000 from the CMA. This is more than twice what diocesan schools receive. Between the CMA and government funding, parishioners subsidize Catholic Charities twice through contributions and taxes.

The next beneficiary is Providence Housing Development Corporation (PHDC). From its beginning in 1994, it envisioned using diocesan lands for redevelopment. The PHDC board president is John Balinsky, also director of Catholic Charities. PHDC gains access to taxpayer funds through government grants, while acquiring church properties at bargain prices for redevelopment.

The diocesan web of relationships directs the flow of CMA and taxpayer money for the redevelopment of church properties. The diocese, either directly or through its affiliates, transfers money and property from the faithful to nonprofits and taxpayer-funded organizations. Since PHDC is a corporation with diocesan officials as principal members (including the bishop, vicar general and chancellor), the property essentially remains in diocesan hands.

Catholic Charities and PHDC do some important work, and Catholics are called to serve the needy. However, reasonable people can debate how to do this most effectively where government programs, taxes and personal donations of time and money are concerned. Catholics can certainly question whether they are obligated to meet CMA goals that may be the difference between keeping open their churches or not.

The prospering of the diocese’s CMA and its affiliates, Catholic Charities and PHDC, has come at the expense of parishes. Closing churches has consequences: the alienation of the faithful; less ability to support local charities; reduction/withholding of contributions; and the loss of parishioners. This means fewer people to support parishes, the diocese and, yes, the worthy activities of Catholic Charities. Most seriously, it means the destruction of faith communities and possible loss of souls.

Garrity and Miller are parishioners at All Saints Parish in Corning

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UPDATE: Several weeks ago Ben Anderson posted an article which mentioned another, more detailed critique of DOR priorities by the same authors.  That critique is located here.

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10 Responses to “Diocese’s financial policies hurt churches”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    Good for the authors! I wonder what the reaction has been to their article?

    I would add to the last paragraph that under the guise of charity, the Church (at least in Rochester) is at risk of becoming nothing more than a social work agency. Certainly charity is crucial to our Christian identity, but it seems to have trumped all else in proclaiming the Gospel in its fullness.

  2. avatar militia says:

    Fantastic article by Grethchen Garrity and Susan Miller. Every parishioner of every parish in the diocese should read that. In addition to hearing of the role of diocesan hierarchy in PHDC, I would like to know if their control is only through directorships or are they also shareholders who will financially benefit too? There is far too little explanation of how money is being handled in the diocese and certain parishes. I hope others will also share their awful financial stories.

  3. I agree with you, Nerina. To think that a faith community must literally sacrifice its holy and sacred tabernacles in order to aid the needy is something straight from the pit of hell.

  4. avatar Monk says:

    Militia says “Every parishioner of every parish in the diocese should read that” Wouldn’t it be great to get this published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle? Maybe a Speaking Out article?

  5. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    We’d love to see it published in Rochester.

  6. avatar JLo says:

    The newspaper which published the fine article is also a Gannett paper. Tells me that the D&C knows about this; they just do not choose to run with the story. Obviously no one at the D&C wants to make a try for a Pulitzer or Bishop Clark has great friends at our only daily. +JMJ

  7. avatar Dr. K says:

    “Bishop Clark has great friends at our only daily.”

    He most certainly does! Mark Hare comes to mind immediately. Doug Mandelaro, who now does spin work for the diocese, also wrote for the D&C. I’m willing to wager that our next bishop, if he comes out strong on the Catholic side of issues such as abortion and homosexual marriage, will not have many friends at the D&C.

    Can’t wait to see how they spin this year’s CMA: “Despite tough economic challenges, people responded generously to the CMA and the appeal was able to achieve it’s highest total to date.”

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    If you were well organized, you would have contact people in each parish. Then they could copy the article or anything that would be of interest. The contact people would then disseminate the literature to people in each parish. And you can bet that the DOR would be more than a bit miffed.

    But endeavors like that take a committed group of people. Perhaps a central committee. But you would get your messag out and at least the DOR would sweat a bit more than what they are now doing.

  9. This topic is of personal pain to me as St. Andrew Church has been slated to close. What is even more painful is to learn that one of the two bids on the church is from an outfit who wants to buy he entire grounds, including the school it plans to run, and has plans to turn the church into A GYMNASIUM. It’s difficult enough to see your lifetime family church close, but to have it turned into A GYMNASIUM! Parishioners that I have talked with regard it as sacrilegious. Parishioners do not want our church to close, but if it is, they would rather it be used as another site of worship rather than a GYMNASIUM. I agree ith them.

  10. I can’t help but wonder what my grandparents and mother would say about all of this and how the would respond. I also can’t help but wonder what Monsignor Eckl would say about all of this and how he would respond.


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