Last month I wrote a post on the sex abuse settlement with the Catholic Diocese of San Diego. In the negotiations with the victims Bishop Brom stated that the diocese could only afford to pay out $95 million without hurting the mission of the church. The final settlement was for $198 million and the share of the diocese will be about $107 million (the rest will come from insurance) which means that the diocese needs to close a gap of $12 million.
Most other dioceses have closed this gap by selling property or other assets; some have closed parishes. Bishop Brom doesn’t want to do this and appears to have come up with another solution: shake down your people. Last week he sent a memo to all the priests in the diocese; there is a link in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune. He asks all the priests of the diocese to donate a month’s salary to a campaign called “Embracing Our Mission” (though “Saving Our Mission” would probably be more accurate). This is the excerpt from the memo:
Since we cannot ask of others what we are unwilling to do ourselves, the deans [priests who represent a given geographic grouping of priests in the diocese] accepted the recommendation of the Presbyteral Council [a council of priests who advise the bishop] to invite every priest to contribute one month’s salary toward Embracing Our Mission. Retired priests will be asked to contribute according to their means. In this regard, you will soon hear from your dean.
The memo goes on to say that each pastor will receive a packet that they will mail to their parishioners “inviting them to make a generous contribution.”
The astounding part of this isn’t the fact that Bishop Brom is asking for money. Since we, the faithful, are essentially the only source of income for the church he really has nowhere else to go. The idea that the bishop can strongarm his priests in this manner is what astounds me. I, as a layperson, am asked to make a “generous contribution” but am left to myself to decide what it is. I certainly have no intention of donating a month’s salary because, simply put, I have bills to pay. But so do they. The mood of this letter to priests makes it sound like it’s far from a suggestion.
As for me, I doubt we’ll give the “generous contribution” but not for the reason you may think. It’s not a matter of “I didn’t cause the problem and shouldn’t have to pay for it.” I find that excuse a little thin. My primary concern is that the victims be compensated and that’s already taken care of. This “generous contribution” is to reimburse the diocese and I’m not sure that should happen. Bishop Brom (to my mind) doesn’t seem to “get it” in the sense of understanding why we are so upset with him. Perhaps the diocese should go through some penance and this may entail some selling of property. While I certainly want the mission of the church to go on, it should not necessarily be easy for Bishop Brom.
And by the way, Bishop Brom never states he will donate a month of his salary.