Q&A: Is Lack of Giving Having Impact in Right Place?

Q. This is a question for Father Walsh. I wonder if he would be able to clarify whether or not there is a specific stipend that each parish must send to the Archdiocese from their donations. If so, will a parish (and possibly parish school) indeed suffer because of a reduction in donations? I need to figure out if our purposeful lack of giving in the last few months has made an impact in the right (or wrong) place. Thank you.
– Jackie

A. Dear Jackie,

Thank you for your question.  I have had conversations about this topic with many people over the last few months, including the people in my own parish. Your concern for your parish is praiseworthy as is your desire to make a purposeful statement around your objections to the manner in which you believe the Archdiocese has handled cases of sexual abuse.

You are correct that each parish in the Archdiocese pays an “assessment” annually. The assessment is a percentage (roughly 10%) of the parish’s Sunday collection. The Archdiocese uses the money from the assessments to subsidize the Archdiocesan High Schools, fund Evangelization and Ministry to Youth and Young Adults, train the seminarians and deacons as well as to fund the other operating costs of the Archdiocese. It is also correct that the parish is liable to the Archdiocese for this annual assessment.

If a parish is unable to pay its assessment for some reason (perhaps decreased Sunday offerings or increased school deficits) the amount of the assessment becomes a liability to the Archdiocese which will need to be paid off at some point in the future. Thus, the withholding a tithe from your parish has a tremendous impact on your parish financial stability at many levels.
– Fr Chris Walsh

Father Chris Walsh is Pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Northwest Philadelphia. Prior to this assignment, he served as School Minister at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster and Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. Father Chris is originally from West Chester and is a graduate of Temple University.  He firmly believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, even in these difficult days, and that the Catholic Church remains a true instrument of God’s grace in our broken world.

Editor’s note: This assessment is calculated every few years. So the percentage may not reflect current giving but is still enforced at the calculated amount.

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Bishops Offer Nothing More Than Weak Tweak

Bishops barely revise the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People despite clear need demonstrated in Philadelphia and other cities.

Read about it here:

“Bishops squandered opportunity, victims’ group says,” by Dan Morris-Young, The National Catholic Reporter, June 17, 2011

“Bishops Uphold Policy on Sex Abuse,” by Laurie Goodstein, The Boston Globe, June 17, 2001

“US Bishops Revise Guidelines Against Sex Abuse,” by CNN wire staff

“Bishops on abuse policy: Don’t we believe in forgiveness?” by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today, June 17, 2011

Stopping Donations Is Only Part of Solution to Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

The results of this Catholic Standard and Times poll indicate there will always be those who continue to participate and contribute despite Archdiocesan criminal behavior. While 25% say they will donate less, 15% say they will become MORE active in their parish and 38% say the current crisis won’t affect their participation at all. Visit and take this poll online. It’s in the left column on the main page.

Are you still giving? Have you diverted funds to other non-diocesan Catholic charities? If so, which ones? Please include why you chose the charity.

Stopping donations shouldn’t be the only solution. If 50% continue to donate, the Archdiocese will work around it and children will still be at risk.

We’d like to hear from pastors. From what we understand, they have to send a stipulated amount to the Diocese. That amount is reviewed every few years. If the amount was set four years ago and then giving drops significantly this year, the pastor still owes the same amount. They have to make up the difference from within their budget. Parishioners are then shortchanged. The hierarchy doesn’t get hurt at all.

We need to be creative and effective in growing the numbers of “informed” Catholics. With the support of a larger base we can fight for legislative change and put the needed pressure on the archdiocese to change in much the same way the Boston laity and religious did.

Spin Control in Philadelphia

“Crisis Control in Philadelphia,” by Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, May 26, 2011

NCR: “So boundary violations created the discrepancy between the cases in the grand jury report and Cardinal Rigali’s initial insistence that no priests with credible allegations of abuse were still in ministry? That’s why the priests were subsequently suspended?

Mary Achilles: Yes. Gina’s review identified some problems: definitional, evaluative standards, systemic, etc. What she has found to date has been given to the archdiocese’s delegate for investigations, and that is leading us to a new process. The delegate for investigations is attempting to marry the canonical process with what we need to do to comply with local law enforcement.”

Our takeaway question: So if a priest had child porn, was “sexting” or gave kids beer (all boundary issues) it was OK to leave him in ministry?

NCR: The John Jay report last week noted ‘the failure of a significant number of diocesan leaders to comply with their own policies.’ Did that happen in Philadelphia?

Bishop Senior: “We can certainly learn a tremendous amount from that report. I can’t really speak to how it would relate to the archdiocese.”

Our takeaway: Really? Bishop Senior, don’t you mean, “won’t speak to how it would relate to the archdiocese?” “Can’t” implies an impediment.

Kathy Kane made this observation:

They make it  all sound so innocent – just an honest mistake. Below is the brief summary of the case of Father Perzan. Seth Williams identified him as a priest with troubling allegations still in ministry. Cardinal Rigali quickly suspend him a week after the Grand Jury report. Remember that Cardinal Rigali declared that no credibly accused priests remained in ministry at this time. This priest was the pastor of a parish when he was suspended.

“The Archdiocese received two separate complaints from young men who reported that, as boys, they had been fondled on numerous occasions by Father Stephen Perzan when he was assigned as Chaplain at St. Gabriel’s Hall, a residential program for delinquent youth. Despite two similar allegations from two unrelated individuals, despite corroborating evidence from Father Perzan’s superior and from other staff members at St. Gabriel’s, and despite a finding of deception when Father Perzan submitted to a polygraph test, the Archdiocesan Review Board found both allegations “unsubstantiated.”

Archdiocese Contracts Out Morality Lessons

Training priests that sex abuse is wrong seems besides the point. The good priests already know this. The abusive priests don’t care. More importantly, who is going to teach the Bishops that they shouldn’t cover up sex abuse?

This is just another PR move. They are getting out in front of the very real shortcomings of the Safe Environment Program.

“Bucks Non-Profit to Train Clergy,” by James McGinnis, May 24, 2011

Archdiocese Puts Review Board in Context – Their Context

COMMUNICATION FROM THE ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA: THE ARCHDIOCESAN REVIEW BOARD IN CONTEXT May 19, 2011

Documents such as this only serve to infuriate the informed. This offers bits of truth, while omitting important facts. It answers nothing. It certainly puts the Review Board in context, though. Archdiocesan leadership rendered the board completely irrelevant.

Note the Archdiocese doesn’t go point-to-point with the article written by Ana Maria Catanzaro in Commonweal magazine. If it did, they would have to answer serious questions such as “why weren’t ALL cases and case information along to the review board?”

I hope other members of the review board come forward.