- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

The Catholic Church says the pedophilia and sex-abuse scandals that have rocked parishes around the country since January have not hurt fund-raising efforts in Washington and Baltimore, in contrast to Boston, the epicenter of the scandal, where Catholic giving has ebbed.
The Baltimore Archdiocese said it has received $5 million so far in its "Cardinal's Appeal" and is well on its way to achieving its goal of $5.5 million, despite new and old allegations of sexual abuse that have embroiled seven Baltimore priests.
The "Cardinal's Appeal" is the church's main fund-raising effort, slated to begin on Feb. 14 Ash Wednesday and to run through the calendar year.
Additionally, the number of parishioners who have given donations to the Baltimore Archdiocese this year has risen by almost 25 percent from last year, from 22,000 to 28,000, he said.
The Washington, D.C., Archdiocese is less than 1 percent behind last year's fund-raising pace, said Susan Gibbs, communications director for the archdiocese.
Last year's giving goal of $10.5 million was exceeded, and this year's goal is $11 million, she said.
Nationally, "The church is not experiencing a crisis of [religious] faith. It is experiencing a crisis of trust," said Steve Kearney, communications director for the Baltimore Archdiocese.
Both Mr. Kearney and Ms. Gibbs said that their archdioceses have not changed their fund-raising techniques, and that all donations to the Cardinal's Appeal go to ministries one to help the church pay for legal fees.
"It's very clear where the funds are going. They're going to specific Catholic charities and back to the parishes," said Mr. Kearney.
Local parishes also reported increases in local giving.
The Rev. Michael Sullivan of St. Peter's on Capitol Hill in the District, the Rev. Robert Amey of St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, and the Rev. James McMurtrie of St. Agnes in Arlington all said that they had seen giving going up.
Some Catholics may be giving more money to support a church under heavy criticism, said Chuck Zech, an economics professor at Villanova University and an expert on Catholic giving.
Father Amey reported that St. Catherine had received $181,358 from March to May of this year, up from $179,892 over the same period last year at the parish of 3400 families.
Father Sullivan refused to give specific numbers, and Father McMurtrie said that he was new, but that in his first two Sundays the congregation had given generously.
"I think the people still believe in their parishes," said Father McMurtrie. "That's where they find their faith and work it out."
The church's apparent financial success in this region is in stark contrast to how it has fared in Boston, where sex scandals in the church first began to draw national attention in January and then escalated after the public learned of the church's apparent cover-ups.
A spokesperson for the Boston Archdiocese would not confirm that giving has dropped 30 or 40 percent as reported by an organization of volunteer parishioners but there has been a 30 percent cut in the archdiocese's operating costs.
Distrust of the church in Boston has spawned the volunteer laity group called Voice of the Faithful, which was founded in February with a motto of "Keep the Faith, Change the Church."
One of the main VOTF functions is taking funds from laity who want to continue giving to Catholic charities without giving through the church itself.
"We're worried that the money not go to help the archdiocese help pay for legal fees, to protect themselves against problems they have created," said VOTF's volunteer spokesman, Mike Emerton.
VOTF, which has grown to include over 16,000 active voting members in 30 states and 21 countries, is attracting interest in the metropolitan area.
Cathy Corgan of Gaithersburg, chairman of the religion department at Gonzaga College High School and a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the District, will attend VOTF's Summer Meeting on July 20 in Boston.
They are interested in beginning a VOTF chapter in the District.
"My parish is great, and our cardinal is great. I am concerned about the … way the whole church operates at this time," said Mrs. Corgan. She said that Holy Trinity's pastor, the Rev. William Byron, has supported parishioner's efforts to form a VOTF chapter.
Father Byron has also told the congregation that if members do not feel comfortable giving to the Cardinal's Appeal, they should give to specific Catholic Charities.
"If Rome's going to sit up and take notice that they're not getting money, then that's what it takes," Mrs. Corgan said.
Mrs. Corgan said Father Byron's treatment of the church's scandals has given her hope for the church.
While she has been grieved by the undulation of scandal across the country, the degree to which it has blown up has also heightened her optimism that real changes could happen within the church.
"It's the most hopeful for the future that I've felt in a long time," Mrs. Corgan said. "I was resigned for a long time that they were going to be able to conduct business as usual and get away with it. This is not the way that the church should behave."
One change the church must make is to disclose its use of finances, said Mr. Zech, who authored a book called "Why Catholics Don't Give. and What Can Be Done About It."
"There's a real problem with the church being unaccountable," said Mr. Zech, noting that some churches and some archdioceses are open with their books while some are suspiciously not.
"If the church was just transparent with where the money goes, that would be a big step," he said.

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