Bishop Lori's Connecticut Career

[This article appeared in the Norwalk, CT Hour on 3/29/12. It is interesting to compare the settlements in the Springfield Diocese to those in the Bridgeport Diocese.]

Lori's tenure as bishop

By Joseph F. O'Callaghan Sr.

The announcement on March 20, 2012, that William E. Lori has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as archbishop of Baltimore is an opportunity to assess his tenure as bishop of Bridgeport since 2001. From the beginning he has presented himself as a protector of survivors of priestly sexual abuse and as a champion of religious liberty.

As the successor to Edward M. Egan, Bishop Lori had to confront the terrible tragedy of priestly sexual abuse, especially acute in the Diocese of Bridgeport. He announced on February 15 2004 that 107 persons made 109 allegations of sexual abuse against 32 priests in the Diocese from 1953 to 2003. While he served on the American Bishops' committee that drew up the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, he also established a Safe Environment program aimed at preventing similar abuse in the future.

Although those administrative actions were necessary, neither he nor his predecessor displayed any real compassion for the survivors of sexual abuse. For many years the Diocese fought tooth and nail to avoid giving them financial compensation. In legal settlements reached in 2001 just before Bishop Egan was promoted to New York and in 2003 under Bishop Lori the Diocese paid $37,700,000 to the survivors. The faithful were assured that none of that money came from the Annual Bishop's Appeal or parish collections, but rather from insurance, investments, and the sale of unneeded property. Nevertheless, as all diocesan funds come out of the pockets of parishioners that explanation is misleading and disingenuous. During their meeting in Dallas in 2002, the American bishops emphasized the need for greater accountability and transparency. Despite that neither Bishop Egan nor Bishop Lori issued a financial statement detailing the expenditures involved in processing claims by survivors.

Moreover, Bishop Lori labored mightily to keep under seal court documents relating to sexual abuse (the so-called Rosado Files). In the eight years that elapsed since the sexual abuse cases were settled in 2001, a succession of Connecticut courts ruled against him and the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the release of the documents in question. Bishop Lori, however, was adamant in his determination to prevent the public from reading about the cover-up by Bishop Walter W. Curtis and Bishop Egan and their subordinates, as well as the testimony of abusive priests and the survivors of their abuse. Thus, claiming the protection of the First Amendment, he attempted to present the dispute to the United States Supreme Court. The Court, however, refused to hear the case. Consequently, the documents were finally made public in the fall of 2010. Countless sums, perhaps in the millions, that could better have been used to alleviate the suffering of the poor, were expended on this legal battle. The First Amendment guarantees the separation of church and state, but it does not guarantee Bishop Egan or Bishop Lori the right to conceal criminal behavior on the part of the clergy, the bishops, and their subordinates.

While Bishop Lori noted that he had apologized to individual survivors of priestly sexual abuse, he has steadfastly rejected overtures from Catholic organizations concerned about this grave scandal. When Catholics of long-standing service to the Church organized Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport in 2002 and offered their support in restoring the Church's good name, Bishop Lori spurned them and, without a hearing, accused them of not adhering to orthodox teaching and banned them from meeting in their parish churches. In like manner, when the newly formed Connecticut branch of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) asked Bishop Lori's permission to place notices of meetings in the diocesan newspaper and in parish bulletins, his response was a deafening silence.

Financial scandals in at least two parishes prompted Bishop Lori in 2008 to require all parishes to utilize the Parish Administration and Finance Manual. Though intended to protect against similar abuse in the future, it also centralized control of parish finances in the diocesan office. Just as bishops have often been described as branch managers of a corporation centered in Rome, Bishop Lori has transformed pastors into branch managers of the diocesan corporation. At the same time, he has neglected to provide a financial statement for the Diocese since 2008.

That point became very clear in 2009 when the Judiciary Committee of the State Legislature began to consider a bill that would modify the existing structure of parish corporations as established by the State of Connecticut. The parish corporation, according to the current statute, consists of the bishop, the vicar general, the pastor, and two lay members appointed annually by the other three. The proposed modification would provide for greater participation by the laity. Realizing that enactment of that bill into law would undermine his absolute control of each of the 87 parishes, Bishop Lori, wrapping himself in the banner of the First Amendment, led a rally in Hartford to denounce it. Whereas the Second Vatican Council affirmed that the Church was the People of God, Bishop Lori used the First Amendment to oppose this challenge to his authority and to reject the right of the faithful to participate effectively in the governance of their Church.

Most recently Bishop Lori has gained national attention as the spokesman for the American bishops on religious liberty. A photograph depicting Bishop Lori and four other male clerics appearing before a congressional committee has become iconic, as evidence of insensitivity to women who queried: what is wrong with this picture? If the hearing was to discuss contraception, why were there no women at the witness table? Bishop Lori's "Parable on the Kosher Deli," delivered on that occasion, would likely make Jesus weep.

Now that Bishop Lori embarks on a new stage in his ecclesiastical career, we wish him well. We pray too that the clergy and laity of Bridgeport will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the needs of the Diocese and the qualities desirable in a new bishop. We also pray that the faithful of the archdiocese of Baltimore will discover in Bishop Lori the type of leader described by Jesus when he said: "You know that among the Gentiles their seeming rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk 10:42-45).

Joseph F. O'Callaghan Sr., is former chairman of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport and Professor Emeritus of History at Fordham University.

Constitutional Lawyer Marci Hamilton reacts to latest developments on the MA Statute of Limitations fight:

An Historic Turning Point for Reforming Statutes of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse:
News From Massachusetts, and More

This commentary originally ran in the "Verdict: Legal Analysis and Commentary" section of

March 23, 2012
Marci A. Hamilton

Legions of victims of child sex abuse will tell you that when they were finally ready to talk to a prosecutor or a lawyer, the criminal and/or civil statutes of limitations (SOLs) had already expired.  Across the United States, one victim after another has been surprised by these cruel and arbitrary legal deadlines.

For decades, states have been adjusting their child sex abuse SOLs in response to fresh stories of horror.  At one time, states measured the SOL from the date of the abuse, giving victims only a few years in which to sue.  Then, they set age 18 as the moment when the clock started ticking.  Now, we have a true 50-state experiment, with a wide variety of approaches among the states.

There is one common theme, however:  States are constantly working to extend their child sex abuse SOLs, because there is always a new victim with a compelling story that shows lawmakers the folly of having any SOL at all for the heinous crime of child sex abuse.

The Situation in Massachusetts Regarding Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations

That was precisely what was happening in Massachusetts when in 1996, the legislature extended the criminal SOL for child sex abuse to the date that marks 15 years after the victim turns 16.  But that SOL still shut down justice for too many victims, and so there was another extension, in 2006.  That year, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to extend the criminal SOL to 27 years after a victim turns 16.

That extension, however, still cut out victims like Rosanne Sliney, whose uncle abused her beginning when she was five, and ending when she was 14.  Another survivor, Kathy Picard, who came forward at age 32, also remains shut out by the SOLs—just missing each SOL extension, by just one year each time.  Like the vast majority of child abuse survivors, Sliney and Picard needed decades before they could come forward to talk about their abuse, and thus, they missed the state’s arbitrary limits.

Picard, along with other child sex abuse victims, is now campaigning hard to persuade Massachusetts legislators to eliminate the SOLs for child sex abuse altogether.  Right now, Massachusetts’s civil statute of limitations is only 3 years from either the victim’s 18th birthday, or the discovery of the abuse.

Massachusetts now has a bill pending that would eliminate the criminal and civil SOLs for child sex abuse, as well as beef up the penalties for the failure to report such abuse, and set new requirements for the training of mandated reporters.  That bill, H 469, also called “The Protection from Sexual Predators Act of 2011,” would, if enacted, help hundreds of victims in Massachusetts and, at the same time, identify for parents the hidden predators in their midst.  It would also make Massachusetts the most recent state, after Delaware to pass groundbreaking legislation that includes elimination of both civil and criminal SOLs for all claims into the future.

In an Increasing Number of States, the Tide Is Turning in Favor of Legislation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations Entirely—but the Catholic Bishops Are Fighting the New Laws

Massachusetts would still have Sliney and Picard on the sidelines unless it adds a window, which would permit, for a limited number of years, those victims whose civil claims have expired a chance go to court.  Similar statute-of-limitations window legislation was passed in Minnesota, California, Delaware, and Guam, and is now pending in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Hawaii.

Finally, the tide is turning in favor of such legislation.  The Catholic Bishops have made the defeat of child sex abuse SOL reform a top priority in every state where it has been introduced, and particularly the window.  While they have occasionally been able to recruit allies—such as, for example, Agudath Israel in New York—the bishops are still the ones who have taken the lead on fighting against child sex abuse victims, including incest survivors (such as Kathy Picard and Rosanne Sliney), who make up the majority of survivors.

The Catholic Bishops have trotted out the same bag of arguments in each state.  First, they say it isn’t “fair” to let them be sued when “memories fade and witnesses die.”  Their narcissistic insistence that state legislators must put “fairness” to them ahead of justice for the victims speaks for itself.

Moreover, that position is primarily intended to deflect legislators from focusing on two key facts: (1) eliminating the SOL does not change the burdens of proof, which rest first on the victim; if the victim doesn’t have enough evidence to support the claim, no defense need be raised; and (2) the primary source of information on the abuse of children in organizations is typically material that is in the organization’s own files, and this is particularly true for dioceses.  Thus, the Bishops’ objection, despite its undoubted surface appeal, has no actual content.

The Bishops’ Claim That Churches Will Face “Bankruptcy” Is Spurious

Second, the Bishops always say that they will be “bankrupted” by such cases.  If they mean that they will file voluntary bankruptcy in order to reduce the payouts to victims and to flush out all victims so that they can avoid further claims in the future, then they are right.  But that would be their own choice, not a result of indigency.

If the Bishops mean that they will not have enough resources to pay the claims, they are misleading the public and their own believers.  The damages payments by the dioceses to victims so far have been paid by insurance (yes, they have insurance coverage for cases in which they have negligently supervised their employees who abuse children), and by the sale of property that is not devoted to religious use, such as office or apartment buildings, hotels, or empty lots.  The largest payout in American history came from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which had built an extravagant cathedral at a cost of over $189 million just five years before. Thus, this argument, too, is a big fat red herring.

It is a simple fact that the Bishops, regardless of what they say in public about “fairness” and money, just don’t want the full truth to emerge into the sunshine.  There are likely hundreds of unnamed priests who abused children in the New York Archdiocese alone.  The hundreds of thousands—indeed, likely millions—of parishioners’ donation dollars that have been spent on lobbying against the New York SOL window and modest extensions is, in all likelihood, motivated most by the Bishops’ consuming and poisonous fear of the truth.

The Bishops have not turned the corner on the sexual abuse by their clergy—far from it—and they never will do so, unless they release the full truth of these matters, which is currently buried in their files.  In fact, they cannot avoid the inevitable release of the information at issue, because the truth is also carved into the hearts, souls, and memories of their victims, whose voices are rising.

Massachusetts May Be the Setting for a Key Child Sex Abuse SOL Turning Point

The turning point appears to have come in Massachusetts, where Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty did all he could to keep the SOL reform bill from making it out of his House Judiciary Committee.  Yet, after he was attacked for choosing the pedophile’s side against the safety of children, he not only backed off his original position, but resigned as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.  The bill is actually going to the House floor.  At last, a legislator so felt the heat of the victims’ pent-up agony that he chose to cut and run.

There are other legislators just like O’Flaherty, in New York and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, who are still carrying the standard for the bishops against the victims.  But they too will have to move aside—or else embrace their role as protectors of the pedophiles.  The incest victims, our most silent of survivors till now, are joining their voices to those of the organizational victims.  They all deserve their day in court.

Marci Hamilton, a Justia columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her latest book is Fundamentalism, Politics, and the Law (Palgrave Macmillan 2011) (co-edited with Mark J. Rozell). Her email is

3 articles on Corporation Sole (Boston Globe)

Three 19th century newspaper articles about corporation sole in Massachusetts:

The Boston Daily Globe, Wednesday, May 19, 1897: “To Protect Church Property Held by Archbishop — Corporation Sole Bill Passes the House, Ordered to a Third Reading Today — Vote Stood 100 to 47 in Favor of It — Present Law Declared to be Utterly Inadequate — Over 150 Churches are Interested — At Present Such an Official Accounts to No One.”
When the lower branch of the state legislature opened its session today Mr Pierce of Milton continued his argument against the passage of the bill to incorporate the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and his successors a corporation sole to hold and manage certain property for  religious and charitable purposes.
He said the bill proposed the creation of a gigantic trust. He would give to the Catholic church just as much as he would give to any other sect, but not one iota more.
The law enacted in 1878, on motion of the late Judge M. J. McCafferty of Worcester, covered the case, said Mr Pierce. The law of New York is precisely the same as ours.
Mr Washburn of Worcester, chairman of the committee on mercantile affairs, which reported the bill, made an able presentation of the reasons which actuated the committee in reporting as it did.
He thought the bill was just and proper, and there had been no remonstrance to which the committee could give any great weight from the Catholic people of the diocese. They were all in favor of it.
“There is now in the archdiocese of Boston church property held by the Catholic archbishop to the amount of about $5,000,000, covering 150 churches, more or less,” said Mr Washburn. “Under the present law, upon the death of the archbishop his heirs will be able to assert title to it. It has been found in other localities, that the property has sometimes been diverted to the heirs and not to the succeeding archbishop, as the donors intended.
“This bill seeks, by incorporating the archbishop, to protect the property held by him for religious purposes. It does not increase his power by one jot or by one tittle. When he dies the property will go to his successor. That is all the bill means; that is all there is to it. There is absolutely nothing in it that should arouse opposition.”
Mr Washburn said that there was a law now on the statute books of Maine very similar to the one proposed here.
Mr Lowell of Boston also favored the bill.
“If this bill passes,” said he, “it will not increase the holdings of the archbishop of Boston by one foot of land or by one dollar in money. What the Catholic church is now it will be after the bill has passed. The ecclesiastical property is all now vested in the archbishop. The bill will compel him to carry out in law what he is bound now to do morally. A corporation sole is a method perfectly well known to the English law.”
He hoped the bill would pass because it would put under state control an institution that was likely to become, if such already was not the case, the largest religious and charitable trust in the state.
Mr Manchester of Winchester, for the bill, said there was one reason at least why the state should establish the precedent of a corporation sole.
At present the archbishop of Boston holds $5,000,000 of property and is accountable to no one but himself for the administration of the affairs of the property.
“Is there any earthly reason why this archbishop should be obliged to open his books once a year and show the commissioner of corporations of this state how he has administered the property intrusted to his care? Said Mr Manchester. “This is an innovation, but it is an innovation I welcome.”
Mr. Moriarity of Worcester said the bill was in the interest of 600,000 Catholic citizens. There was absolutely no reason why the bill should not pass.
Mr Myers of Cambridge and Mr Dubuque of Fall River both favored the bill and discussed it from a legal point of view. The latter said that it gave to the laity of the Catholic church more power than they ever had before.
Mr Stone of Springfield of the judiciary committee and Mr Odlin of Andover also spoke for the bill.
Debate was closed by Mr Post of Lenox having charge of the bill.
By a vote of 100 to 47 the house ordered the bill to a third reading.
--the end--

The Boston Daily Globe, Tuesday June 15, 1897: “In A Corporation Sole: Catholic Church Property is to be Thus Held — Archbishop is Required by New Act to Conform to Its Provisions — Object Thus Attained is the Avoiding of Any Legal Complications.”

One of the most important acts passed by the late legislature is house bill 1298 for the incorporation of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and his successors as a corporation sole, to hold and manage certain property for religious and charitable purposes.
The importance of the bill is seen in the fact that in Massachusetts today there are more than 1,000,000 Catholics, of whom 600,000 are in the archdiocese of Boston, and the other fact that property to the amount of $6,000,000 is involved. The history and purposes of the bill are therefore subjects of deep interest to the public.
It was introduced by Representative Jeremiah J. McCarthy from Charlestown at the request of Archbishop Williams and Charles F. Donnelly, the agent of the archbishop.
About the middle of February Representative McCarthy appeared before the committee on rules, the time having expired for the introduction of new business. The committee voted unanimously to suspend the rules and admit the bill. It was referred to the committee on mercantile affairs, and there was a hearing, at which Representative McCarthy, Charles F. Donnelly and Representative E. J. Moriarty of Worcester appeared in its favor. Mr. Crowley of Danvers appeared in remonstrance, the only other remonstrant being Mrs Nichols of Cambridge. There was but a slight opposition to the bill, the ground taken by the remonstrants being that it would place too much power in the hands of one man.
The committee reported adversely with leave to withdraw. And when the report came into the house a conference was held with Mr Maxwell, chairman of the committee, at the request of Representative Washburn, who moved to recommit the report back to the committee. After another hearing, with but one or two dissentients, it was reported that the bill ought to pass.
The report to accept the bill was favored by Representative Post of Lenox, a member of the committee, and there was no opposition. Representative Washburn made an eloquent speech in its favor, and Representatives Myers of Cambridge, chairman of the committee on judiciary, Manchester of Winchester, Lowell of Boston and Stone of Springfield favored it. Hon Edward L. Pierce of Milton opposed it vigorously, but it was ordered to a third reading by a vote of 100 to 47.
It was finally ordered to be engrossed, and on a majority vote of 40 it was sent to the senate, where it passed the various readings without a word of opposition. The bill was signed by Gov Wolcott on the Thursday before the prorogation, and the pen used in signing the bill was presented to Representative McCarthy.
The following circular issued by Representative McCarthy gives in clear terms the reasons for the bill, and the importance of it:
“A corporation sole is a corporation consisting of but one person; it is known to the civil law of the continent of Europe and to the Roman law before the Christian era, and also to the law of England. Such corporations have been established for more conveniently holding and handling property for the Catholic body, in the province of New Brunswick since 1846, in Illinois since 1861 and in Maine since 1887, in Maryland since about 1790, and in Massachusetts so far as the holding of ministers’ houses from 1745, and here the statute has simply fallen into disuse of recent years. See chapter 31, general statutes.
“All property for Catholic churches and pastors’ residences in Massachusetts has been and is held by the archbishop in his individual name, and should he fail to make a will, or deed it, the legal title would vest in his heirs. To avert the possibility of the church property so held going into the hands of heirs of a bishop or archbishop, the archbishop desires to have it vested in a corporation sole, as in the province of New Brunswick and the states of Illinois, Maine, and Maryland.
“By the present tenure of such property in the hands of bishops and archbishops, should any one of them become mentally infirm, or should he fail to make a will, or should there be any contention about his will, the title would be in peril, and the Catholic body might suffer. On the contrary, should the property be vested in a corporation sole as proposed, then the archbishop and his successors would hold it in succession for the use of the Catholic body.
“The archbishop proposes to convey all the property he holds to the proposed corporation as soon as the act shall have been passed. No will, deed or other instrument of conveyance would then be required for the passing of the title from person to person in the office of archbishop, and there would be no danger of the misapplication of the property, as the state has the control, regulation, supervision and direction of every corporation it creates, and may alter and amend the act at any time, if found necessary.
“The laws, customs, rules and usages of each religious denomination in this country, whether Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic, are respected so far as they violate no principle of the constitution and are just and reasonable in character. Now the Catholics throughout the United States have chosen as a whole hitherto to have the church property they have accumulated in the different Catholic dioceses held in the hands of their several bishops as the owners thereof in fee simple absolute. No citizen or no state has heretofore questioned the right of Catholics to so have their church property held if they choose. In Massachusetts today there are over 1,000,000 Catholics, and 600,000 are in the archdiocese of Boston. If they now choose to have their church property held by a corporation sole there is no reasonable or just ground of objection under the spirit of our constitution.”
The act makes the present Roman Catholic archbishop and his successors a body politic and corporation sole, provides for any vacancy in the office of archbishop and empowers the corporation sole to receive, take and hold, by sale, gift, lease, devise or otherwise real and personal estate of every description, for religious, charitable and burial purposes, and to manage and dispose of the same for the religious and charitable purposes of the Roman Catholic church, subject to the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 3 of the act is mandatory and says: “The present Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston shall, within six months after the passage of this act, make, sign and swear to a statement which he shall submit to the commissioner of corporations, setting forth that he lawfully and regularly holds the office of Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and that he accepts the provisions of this act and will duly conform to them.”
Section 4 provides for the swearing in of the archbishop’s successor, as a corporation sole, and section 5 provides that all instruments now held by the present Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston shall be vested in the corporation established by this act, subject to any trust expressed in any instrument and to any limitations governing the trust.
The act further provides that the corporation shall be subject to all laws of the commonwealth regulating corporations established for religious and charitable purposes, in requiring them to make annual and other returns to the commissioner of corporations concerning their condition and affairs, and that the act shall take effect on its passage.
--the end—

The Boston Globe, Friday, Feb. 11, 1898: “Bishop Beaven’s Petition: Wishes to be Incorporated as Corporation Sole of the Springfield Diocese—Hearing Given Today.”

At the state house this morning, the committee on mercantile affairs gave a hearing on the petition for the incorporation of the Roman Catholic Bishop Beaven of the Springfield diocese as a corporation sole to hold and manage church property. Hon James B. Carroll of Springfield appeared for the petition. Daniel M. Crowley of Danvers, who appeared last year in opposition to the bill incorporating Archbishop Williams as corporation sole for the same purpose, was the only remonstrant today.
This bill follows exactly the language, as far as terms and restrictions are concerned, of the act passed last year. No new questions were, therefore, raised. What the archdiocese of Boston had the diocese of Springfield sought.
Mr. Carroll, however, went into the merits of the legislation asked for, as did Mr Crowley in opposition. Chairman Senator Williams interrogated the speakers at length. Mr Crowley was closely questioned in his opposition by Representative Connolly of Fall River and Representative Kelly of Boston.
Mr Crowley disclaimed any animus in the matter, but opposed the matter on the ground that Catholics should manage their own property by themselves. He referred to the failure of Bishop Purcell in St. Louis. Mr Carroll suggested that the violation of trust in that instance was entirely possible with the bishop’s present tenure. Both gentlemen agreed, however, that some change was desirable.
In opening the hearing Mr. Carroll said that the bill followed exactly the language of the act passed last year incorporating the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston. Questions of the bishop’s tenure of church property have arisen—whether he holds it absolutely for himself or in trust—and such questions have never been settled. “I do not believe,” he said, “it has ever been settled that the term ‘bishop’ created a trust.”
The speaker suggested that the law was desired merely for security and to hold to the people who build Catholic churches their property. With such legislation as proposed no complications would arise should the bishop die without making a will.
Mr. Carroll urged further that uniformity was also desired. The arch diocese of Boston has the desired legislation, and the Springfield diocese now asks for it.
The speaker also told the committee that under the proposed act the Catholics of Springfield diocese could secure a much lower rate on loans if incorporated. Today they are paying 5 percent on loans, principally to savings banks.
Daniel M. Crowley of Danvers appeared in opposition to the petition before the committee, as he had last year, when the archbishop of Boston sought incorporation. He would incorporate the local churches. If they did not desire incorporation he would leave them the rights to control and manage their own property.
Mr. Crowley urged that the Catholics of the state are as intelligent as any other body of citizens, and they are able to manage their property. He suggested that they make good citizens, and run cities well. Boston, though much criticized, he said, has been controlled and managed very well since it became democratic.
The speaker believed there was something more than merely convenience behind the petition. He did not understand why ex State Treas Phillips, ex Lieut Gov Halle and other prominent citizens had signed the petition of Bishop Beavens. He would prefer to see Catholic signers. 
Representative Belcher asked Mr Crowley if there were many Catholics opposed to the incorporation of the bishop as a corporation sole. Mr Crowley thought there were a great many. Representative Belcher suggested that the witness was the only one who appeared last year and this year in remonstrance, although the hearings on the subject were extensively advertised.
Mr Crowley, in reply to questions, suggested that under the law incorporating the archbishop of Boston, no annual returns were called for. This was promptly denied by counsel Carroll and members of the committee. Mr. Crowley then said the returns demanded amounted to nothing. He wanted returns that would show the income from this corporation sole, and how it was applied.
After further discussion the committee closed the hearing.

-- the end --

What Abraham Gave

The gospel message for today, March 4th, is about God's conversation with Abraham, and God's insistence (later reversed) that Abraham sacrifice the thing most precious to him. Abraham's willingness to do this, his leap of faith, is impressive, even if the story has some regrettable overtones. Human sacrifice?  

Still, his acceptance of vulnerability in the face of great cosmic forces strikes a chord. Are not we, too, asked to sacrifice for a higher good? Isn't it true that duty to our friends and family, our need to do right by them, often demands a willingness to sacrifice?

When we look closer at the Abraham story, the escape clause is a little anticlimactic. What stands out are two things: 1. Abraham opened himself up, and 2. he was rewarded for doing so. Yet, when he made his leap, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

We look around in this world, in this church which we belong to, in western Massachusetts, and it's natural to ask: if God asks for vulnerability, and faith, how do we respond? Have we been doing what we should, in organized religion, to further these worthy attitudes?

The need for transparency in Diocesan organization, it seems to me, has never been greater. Here are only a few examples that come to mind.

1. St. Stan's.  This is a success story, because it shows how transparency could and should work. In fact, the decision to close St. Stan's was never right. The so-called Pastoral Planning was neither pastoral nor well-planned. The deck was stacked. 
It took determination, organization, and the occupation of the building (which itself was a leap of faith) to make a difference. Over three years, the Diocese simply could not prove that the closing was justified. A solid win for transparency, and a lesson, for those who are open to learning.

2. Mater Dolorosa. The outcome here is far more clouded, and the dark cloud of threats, lies, wheelings and dealings, all whipped up by church officials to hide the truth, presents a small catalog of what's wrong with Diocesan operations. The list of offenses is long, but suffice it to say that nothing verified and factual about the situation has been provided willingly by the Diocese. Everything that we know for sure (including that Canon 1214 is a valid Canon of the Roman Catholic Church) is known because of one reason, and one reason only: that it was required in a court of law. This speaks volumes about the difference between the gospel message of Jesus Christ and the way that the Corporation Sole of the Diocese is run.

3. My Parish. Here at St. Mary's in Lee, we follow the rule of the Diocese, which seems to be: say one thing, do another. Bishop McDonnell mandates open meetings of all parish councils, the posting  of meeting times in the bulletins, and hopes for active participation of all in parish decision-making. Do we do these things? Nope. Are we encouraged in our weekly bulletin to do these things? Nope. Then why does the window-dressing continue? My guess is that it has something to do with vulnerability — or lack thereof. Perhaps some day there will be a leap of faith in my parish toward open participation. Secret meetings, on which the parish and diocese continue to depend, should have no place in parish governance.

4. Contraception. Here, too, is a contest between vulnerability and non-vulnerability, even though the issue was decided long ago in favor of the availability (which is not the same as an endorsement) of contraception. Vulnerability and openness means that one is willing to discuss and debate in hopes of finding a solution. But when discussing and debating are treated as anathema by church officials, including Bishop McDonnell, is it any wonder that there is no solution in sight?

5. Gays. Say what you will about homosexuality, it is a fact that many of our fellow citizens are gay, and that they want the state to recognize their marriage. In view of this, it is just plain wrong to send money to an anti-gay out-of-state political action group, as Bishop McDonnell did a few years ago. It is also wrong that he wrote the thousand-dollar check out to that group in Maine in the name of the "Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield." But the worst thing is that the donation was hidden. Trust me, you will not find this transaction anywhere in publicly disclosed records of the Diocese.

6. Bishop's Appeal/Catholic Charities. Certainly many of the groups that are funded by the Bishop's Appeal are worthwhile. Certainly Catholic Charities, in general, is worthwhile. The problem is that we cannot be sure how the money is spent. Again, transparency, or lack of same, is an issue, where it should not be. 
The last time I checked (which was several years ago, and only from the scant information provided by Diocesan accountants) the percentage of the money from the Bishop's Appeal that went to central operations was disturbingly large. The lion's share went not to the soup kitchens and services for the homeless, as you might infer from the brochure, but to the schools and other core diocesan services. Schools and core services are worthy, too, but the point is, the money should be accounted for, dollar for dollar, and this accounting should have no spin attached.
Similarly, the accounting for Catholic Charities is obscure, and when information appears, it is not always comforting. Although the USCCB likes to give the impression that each diocese runs the show for each local agency, the percentage of funding for Catholic Charities, overall, is 62% from government, and only 3% from diocesan support. 
This disparity was one cause of the controversy in Illinois, when the church there decided to back out of the adoption business rather than place kids with gay couples. In Illinois, the percentage of the adoption programs that were funded by the government for five dioceses ranged from 60 to 92%, depending on diocese. 

It will be seen from this brief list that some operations of the Corporation of the Springfield Diocese are certainly questionable, if not worse. Why is this, and how can they change to support our higher goals?

In the coming months I will be posting a historical look at the problem, starting with transcription of several articles in the Boston Globe around 1897 or so. I will argue that Corporation Sole, as it is implemented today, was never intended by the original legislation. To cite just one example, the original legislation stipulated annual "returns" in order to keep tabs on the financial state of the corporation — a common sense procedure that all corporations in the commonwealth are expected to comply with. Has anyone  heard of the existence of a single report by the Diocese to the State? Me, either.

This rather dusty history will be relieved by a modern finding by the intrepid attorney Victor Anop. He recently uncovered the astonishing fact that Corporation Sole has been operating illegally in the Commonwealth for the last 15 years or so. The last bishop to certify his authority as required by law was Marshall.

Although this legality may seem just that, a mere formality, it does at the very least raise the issues of competent management and proper bookkeeping, which we know, through other documentation, are sometimes lacking in the day-to-day operations of the diocese. 

These are the questions to which we will return.