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A Catholic writes
Do you see any similarities in her comments about this article
LOOKS LIKE BRICKS--BUT THEY HAVE ALL THOSE CLOSED CHURCHES THAT WILL BE SOLD FOR GAZILLIONS. PEOPLE HAVE TO STOP GIVING THEM MONEY FOR TONS OF BRICKS TO FALL. I WONDER SOMETIMES WHAT MY PARENT'S REACTION WOULD HAVE BEEN TO FIND OUT THE SCOPE OF THIS SCANDAL----GIGANTIC DENIAL AT FIRST, LIKE ONE OF MY SISTERS---BUT THE DAY THAT THEY ADMITTED TO THEMSELVES THAT IT IS TRUE. FROM MY PAST "TALKS" WITH MY MOTHER ABOUT THE CHURCH AND CLERGY AND THE HINTS THAT I SAID---BET SHE WOULD KNOW THAT I WAS ABUSED. GLAD SHE IS NOT ALIVE TO REALIZE HOW EVIL MANY OF THEM WERE. MY PARENT BELIEVED THAT PRIESTS WERE GODS ON EARTH.  L.
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Audit pegs diocese's deficit at $20m

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, reeling from the aftereffects of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, spent $20 million more than it took in during the last fiscal year, according to a new audit.

The unusually large deficit -- twice what Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley has said the archdiocese is losing annually -- reflects costs associated with the sale of 43 acres of land in Brighton to Boston College, but also illustrates the archdiocese's dire financial condition.

The archdiocese faces continuing liabilities, including multiple lawsuits by people who assert they are victims of abuse by priests, which led the accounting firm, Grant Thornton LLP, to decline to express any opinion about the church's financial statements.

The archdiocese ''is involved in numerous lawsuits relating to claims of sexual misconduct by certain individuals beyond the claims covered under the December 2003 settlement agreement," the audit says.

Neither church leaders nor lawyers could estimate the potential financial impact of the abuse claims, the audit said, but ''the nature and magnitude of the potential effects of these claims on the financial statements is significant."

The audit for fiscal 2004, which ended June 30, was completed in late October, and a copy was provided to the Globe by Peter Borre, the chairman of the Council of Parishes, a recently formed organization of parishioners concerned about parish closings. Borre would not say who gave him the document. The archdiocese has in recent years released its audited financial statements, but only after they were completed and reviewed by several Archdiocesan committees.

The archdiocese did not dispute the authenticity of the document, but said it is a draft. Nothing on the document indicates that it is a draft, and it is signed and dated by the accounting firm. Joel Anik, managing partner of Grant Thornton's Boston office, declined to comment on the report, saying that the firm never speaks about financial statements it prepares for its clients.

''The archdiocese believes that drawing conclusions from this draft report would be irresponsible," said Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. ''Our financial condition is appropriately reflected in the archbishop's November letter. The financial information included in this document has not been finalized. Once the information is complete, our financial statement, along with substantial and detailed backup, will be published on our website."

In his November letter, O'Malley said the archdiocese is running a $10 million annual deficit. The audit shows the deficit was $20.6 million last year.

An individual familiar with the church's budget said the higher deficit, attributed in the audit to the costs of administration, is the result of onetime costs of borrowing from other church entities to finance the complex real estate deal.

The report also showed that the archdiocese has been cutting spending on pastoral, educational, and ministerial programs, to $12 million from $13.9 million, while administrative costs rose to $24.2 million from $13.2 million.

The church has promised not to use contributions from parishioners to finance the costs of settlements with victims of sexual abuse by clergy. In keeping with that promise, the increase in administrative costs associated with the settlement were covered by a portion of the $99 million Boston College paid the archdiocese for the Brighton property.

Borre said his organization believes that the audit demonstrates a need for greater financial transparency by the archdiocese, and he called on the archdiocese to publicly release financial statements for all of its many different funds.

The audit covers only the archdiocese's central fund, which covers the centralized spending and administrative expenses of the archdiocese. The archdiocese's parishes, its endowments, a revolving loan fund, and insurance funds are not included in the audit, nor are the statements of other Catholic institutions affiliated with the archdiocese, such as schools, seminaries, hospitals, charities, and Boston Catholic Television.

''The current financial condition of the archdiocese as a whole is clouded with such a degree of uncertainty that it is not prudent to take any actions beyond 'housekeeping' until a thorough, independent financial audit is conducted on all aspects of the archdiocese," the council said in a written analysis of the audit.

The financial openness of the archdiocese has become an issue of growing concern to critics of the archdiocese. Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization, has called for greater disclosure by the archdiocese, and 33 legislators, led by state Senator Marian Walsh, a West Roxbury Democrat, have responded by sponsoring a bill that would require more detailed financial reporting by religious organizations.

The audit includes language likely to encourage those groups, saying ''the financial statements of central funds are not intended to present the financial position and changes in net assets of all of the activities of the archdiocese."

The archdiocese has in the past released only the financial statements of its central fund, also the subject of the current audit, and not the statements for parishes or other archdiocesan funds.

O'Malley has pledged greater openness -- on Nov. 13 he said, ''I am committed to financial transparency" -- but he has not been specific. Last month, he announced the appointment of a Parish Reconfiguration Fund Oversight Committee to review the financial aspects of the parish-closing process, which has been controversial in some communities. The archdiocese has closed 49 of 357 parishes since July and is planning to close another 31 in coming months.

The archdiocese's annual fund-raising is essentially flat. The goal for the current Annual Catholic Appeal is $10.5 million, up from $10.3 million last year.

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