Arch­dio­cese drive gets new name

Fundraiser’s ti­tle re­flects that it is to ben­e­fit min­istry, not pay for scan­dal costs

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Jonathan M. Pitts

As part of an ef­fort to re­as­sure Catholics con­cerned about the im­pli­ca­tions of the sex-abuse scan­dal that has roiled the church, the Arch­dio­cese of Bal­ti­more has changed the name of its an­nual fundrais­ing drive.

Long ti­tled the Arch­bishop’s An­nual Ap­peal, the drive will be re­named the An­nual Ap­peal for Catholic Min­istries start­ing in Jan­uary. The change is meant to re­as­sure donors that the cam­paign pays for min­istry ef­forts of the arch­dio­cese, not to de­fray costs associated with the scan­dal.

“Some of you have rightly ex­pressed con­cern … that your ap­peal gifts are be­ing used to meet costs in­curred due to cler­i­cal mis­con­duct,” Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori said in a let­ter to the re­gion’s half-mil­lion Catholics. “I want to be very clear in as­sur­ing you that this has never been the case.”

Rather, he said, the do­na­tions “sup­port the core mis­sion of our Church: pas­toral min­istry, Catholic ed­u­ca­tion, pro­grams of ser­vice of­fered by our out­reach part­ners, and priestly vo­ca­tions.”

Costs associated with cler­i­cal abuse are al­ways paid out of an in­surance trust the arch­dio­cese set up “many, many years ago,” said Sean Caine, an arch­dio­cese spokesman.

Church lead­ers de­cided re-nam­ing the fund to bet­ter re­flect its purpose would “as­sure peo­ple that their gifts have al­ways been about the min­istries,” in­clud­ing Catholic schools, parishes and char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions such as Catholic Char­i­ties, Caine said.

It’s not un­usual for the an­nual drive to raise $10 mil­lion. Caine said it’s too early to tell how the church sex abuse scan­dals that erupted into pub­lic view last sum­mer — in­clud­ing the bomb­shell Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port that found more than 300 priests had mo­lested more than 1,000 chil­dren over seven decades in the state — have af­fected do­na­tions this year.

The cri­sis reached the high­est lev­els of the Amer­i­can Catholic Church, in­clud­ing the un­prece­dented res­ig­na­tion of a U.S. car­di­nal over sex abuse al­le­ga­tions and the re­moval of the arch­bishop of Washington, D.C., over charges he had mis­han­dled sex abuse cases ear­lier in his ca­reer. At­tor­neys gen­eral in at least 13 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have opened in­ves­ti­ga­tions into dio­ce­ses’ han­dling of sex abuse cases.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Je­suit pri­est and reli­gion writer who has long cov­ered the church, said Catholics across the coun­try are voic­ing sim­i­lar con­cerns, and the Bal­ti­more Arch­dio­cese is not the only one to have re­moved ref­er­ences to a lo­cal bishop from the name of its ap­peal.

Now that sev­eral bish­ops have been im­pli­cated in the sex abuse cri­sis, it’s no longer seen as au­to­mat­i­cally help­ful to in­clude their names or ti­tles.

“Fundrais­ing pro­fes­sion­als say that ‘peo­ple give to peo­ple,’ ” Reese said. “They give when they like and have con­fi­dence in the per­son ask­ing for the dona­tion, which is why ‘The Arch­bishop’s Ap­peal’ made sense when peo­ple liked and re­spected the bishop. To­day that is more prob­lem­atic. These ap­peals [now] tend to stress how the money is used to help the poor and pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion to stu­dents.”

The name change is one of sev­eral steps the Bal­ti­more Arch­dio­cese has taken this year in re­ac­tion to the long-stand­ing cri­sis.

Lori an­nounced cre­ation of an Arch­dioce­san Pas­toral Coun­cil to foster greater lay in­volve­ment, held lis­ten­ing ses­sions at parishes around the dio­cese and set up vir­tual town halls in which parish­ioners have shared ques­tions and con­cerns.

One of the most fre­quently cited was a fear that do­na­tions would be used to pay le­gal ex­penses or set­tle­ments associated with the scan­dal.

Brice Sokolowski, founder of a web­site that fo­cuses on the “ins and outs” of fundrais­ing for the church, said donors’ con­cerns over how their gifts will be used is noth­ing new.

Con­cerns about the sex abuse cri­sis may well be ex­ac­er­bat­ing those wor­ries, he said. But a more im­por­tant fac­tor might be that lay apos­to­lates and in­de­pen­dent Catholic schools are pro­lif­er­at­ing, and Catholics have be­come like­lier to do­nate to these smaller op­er­a­tions with their more eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able min­istries.

Against that back­drop, he said, it might be more im­por­tant than ever that dio­ce­ses like Bal­ti­more’s are clear about what purpose do­na­tions will serve.

“The good news is that there are al­ways Catholics will­ing to do­nate, and they’ll con­tinue to do­nate to their lo­cal dio­cese, but they have many more op­tions to­day, and they’re get­ting savvier with their giv­ing,” Sokolowski said.

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