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Church in Crisis

Catholic Charities board members reject Law’s ban on donations from lay fund

A day after Boston Cardinal Bernard Law rejected a plan formed by lay group Voice of the Faithful in which members would make donations to Catholic Charities and other Catholic charitable programs without submitting them to the archdiocese, Catholic Charities board members criticized Law and said they should not reject such donations.

“We will not turn down any donation,” Catholic Charities’ spokesperson Maureen March told The Boston Globe July 23.

The archdiocese issued a statement written by Donna M. Morrissey, archdiocesan spokeswoman, issued a statement that July 22 that explained its rejection of the plan: “The archdiocese cannot accept this initiative of Voice of the Faithful, or the monies collected in this manner because it undercuts that customary means of financial support to the mission of the church in this archdiocese, which is the Cardinal’s Appeal.

“This approach of donating money to the mission of the church,” Morrissey said, “does not recognize the role of the archbishop and his responsibility in providing for the various programs and activities of the church.”

According to the Globe, that statement elicited expressions of shock by board members at Catholic Charities who said they would support the Voice of the Faithful plan.

Catholic Charities board member and public relations specialist Geri Denterlein told the paper, “I was surprised because it was inconsistent with what we’ve been saying about accepting donations from people who perhaps are not comfortable giving to the Cardinal’s Appeal.”

Law’s former adviser Thomas P. O’Neill III, once lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, told the paper that he considered the decision “another example of the archdiocese not listening and not understanding the flock.”

O’Neil was among the advisers Law had relied on in January when he first faced a public outcry over diocesan records unsealed by a Boston court that deal with the archdiocese’s mishandling of former priest John Geoghan, a convicted pedophile alleged to have sexually abused over 130 minors while in ministry in Boston.

According to the Globe, officials “retracted” much of their July 22 statement July 23, saying that Catholic charitable organizations with their own boards of directors, such as Catholic Charities, could accept contributions but that those run by the archdiocese could not.

Archdiocesan spokesperson Fr. Christopher Coyne said that Law’s preference would be for charitable organizations not to choose to accept Voice of the Faithful’s contributions.

“Just as it is out of order for a bishop to carry out the pastoral work of the archdiocese without consultation with the laity, it is just as out of order for a lay church group to seek to carry out the pastoral work of the church without consultation with the bishop,” he said.

-- Gill Donovan

National Catholic Reporter, August 2, 2002