Sunday, November 17

The financial crisis of the Santa Rosa diocese

Church officials are searching for ways to protect Sunday collection plate cash and an ongoing $20 million fund-raising campaign from the reach of plaintiffs' attorneys.

But with a new law exposing all California dioceses to greater legal liability and with wary local parishioners already curbing their contributions, officials admit the diocese is in a precarious position.

Bishop Daniel Walsh said Friday in a written statement that he is attempting "to balance the just needs of victims with a respect for the resources entrusted to us" to carry out the church's mission.

The bishop acknowledged concerns about the potential cost of the new civil litigation in a letter earlier this month to priests and deacons."It's a very serious threat," said Dan Galvin, the diocese's attorney.Galvin declined to say how much insurance the church carries, or what other funds could be applied to any large judgment.

...Jim Dillon, a retired banker and diocesan finance council member, said bankruptcy was considered in 1999 in Santa Rosa, when the 140,000-member North Coast diocese confronted the $16 million debt attributed to former Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann's mismanagement.

The diocese has paid $7.4 million to about 40 victims of former priests whose crimes or misconduct date back to the 1970s.The Santa Rosa Diocese has a pending $5.1 million property sale, received a bank loan for an additional $5 million (since repaid) and gained financial help from other dioceses and from parishioners to cope with its debt.

The filing of two lawsuits in the past month and renewed appeals by attorneys and victims' advocates urging sex abuse victims to come forward have deepened the struggle to rebuild faith, reputation and financial stability.

The Adrian Dominican sisters run a center for feminine spirituality in Georgia.

Here's an article about it.

Some of their programs:

Winter Solstice Candlelight Labyrinth Walk.

Longing for the Light: An Advent Retreat. Women of faith call forth the Christ light.

Kripalu Yoga. Includes stretching, yoga breathing and postures and guided imagery.

Dreams, The Forgotten Language. Focuses on the language of dream imagery and symbolism.

Letting Go of Weight. Four-session self-hypnosis program addresses eating habits and exercise.

Get Rid of Smoking Forever. Three-session self-hypnosis program designed to help people quit smoking.

Well-Springs Experience. Features music, movement, art, writing, meditating and massage.

Sacred Circles of Women. Women gather for prayer, conversation and ritual.

Spa For The Spirit. A time to read, write and walk the grounds. Includes a massage and vegetarian lunch.

Reiki Clinic. Alternative healing to reduce stress, relieve physical pain and calm the mind. 7 to 9 p.m., third Monday each month. No fee.

With apologies to Thomas a Becket and Gregory VII

But you know...times change.

I really wish the Church would, aside from all of its processes to determine what to do with an accused priest in terms of his priesthood, just go ahead and send out a letter to every Catholic saying, "If you have been a victim of abuse by a priest or other church employee, please go to the civil authorities. We will cooperate with them. But please go to the police or district attorneys or child and family services first and let them take the lead in determining the nature of the case. We just can't do it."

Here's why.

From the Boston Herald: Fr. Thomas Doyle looks at the case of the Diocese of Springfield and its support of convicted child molestor Richard Lavigne, financially supported, that is, by the diocese, but not one of its priests:

Notable among them is a parish priest from East Longmeadow, the Rev. James Scahill, whose parish is withholding the 6 percent diocesan tax that goes to the bishop's office and is used at his discretion. Scahill and his parishioners have made it clear that they will continue to withhold this tax until the Rev. Richard Lavigne is laicized and no longer receives any compensation from the Diocese of Springfield.

Lavigne pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1992. Later in 1992, the diocese settled a suit brought by 17 additional victims for $1.3 million. More than 10 years after his conviction and in the face of additional lawsuits, Lavigne is still a priest, gets paid a salary by the diocese and has fully paid medical insurance.

As a canon lawyer, I can state that Bishop Thomas Dupre could have and most importantly should have sought the forced laicization of Lavigne during the last 10 years. Yet he has chosen to do nothing!

Bishop Dupre has been quoted as saying the process is too ``cumbersome'' and that even if he chooses to seek Lavigne's laicization, he will continue to pay him because canon law would force him to do so, that it is the ``charitable'' thing to do.

There is nothing in canon law that forces him to do any such thing. The reality is that almost without exception, laicized former priests, including John Geoghan, receive nothing from their dioceses, precisely because of canon law.

As Scahill states, ``Charity is reaching into your own pocket to help someone and not reaching into someone else's!'' By using money that has come either directly or indirectly from members of the Springfield Diocese, this bishop is not practicing charity; rather, he's reaching into the pockets of parishioners to support a notorious pedophile.

When are my fellow priests going to realize there is something seriously wrong with this picture? When are they going to get out from behind the pulpit and let their communities know these actions and inactions are unconscionable?

Amtai Etizioni writes about the underreported amount of violence by Muslims against Christians.
The Manchester Union Leader has several articles related to priests and sexual abuse today. Go to the front page, on the left, to find them.

In Miami, squabbles over the statute of limitations

Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Miami and a handful of priests accused of sexually molesting boys are trying to have their lawsuits dismissed, claiming the statute of limitations bars possible victims from pursuing decades-old allegations.

Under Florida law, the time frame for filing civil cases claiming negligence and sexual battery ranges from four to seven years, depending on the age of the alleged victims.

The defense teams' strategy, legal experts say, is clear-cut: Get the suits dismissed to prevent jurors from ever hearing allegations of priests preying on children -- including potentially damning claims of official coverups that could lead to multimillion dollar judgments.

As part of that strategy, archdiocese attorneys are seeking financial sanctions against plaintiffs' lawyers, saying their clients' claims are so baseless that they never should have filed them.

That kind of tactic normally comes later in the court dispute. Then the defense attorneys demand the losers pay their legal fees and costs.

''It's hardball, as usual; they haven't changed a bit,'' said attorney Ronald Weil, who has fought the Miami archdiocese in numerous molestation cases.

Weil and other plaintiffs' attorneys counter that there are laws protecting child-abuse victims against the statute of limitations defense, especially if the archdiocese committed fraud by keeping certain priests' abusive history a secret.

Rescued Colombian bishop describes ordeal

Blind man to be ordained priest in Canada.

Rev. Devine has memorized the words of the Mass, preaches mostly from memory, and can print out braille versions of the prayers and Scripture readings. But when parishioners come forward to receive communion, he cannot see them or what he is offering them.His solution is to recruit a helper who can squeeze his wrist to alert him when a communicant has arrived in front of the altar, and to invite parishioners to guide his hand as they drink from the chalice and receive the host.One of the reasons given in the pre-1983 version of canon law for prohibiting blind men from celebrating Mass was the danger they would not be able to do so safely or with dignity. And Rev. Devine is concerned about the possibility of spilling the consecrated hosts and wine, which Catholics believe are the actual body and blood of Christ. "I don't want to be fumbling. It would be scandalous or sacrilegious to spill it." But he is confident it won't be a problem. "I have the ability, and I have practised enough to be confident," he said.


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