Monday, October 6, 2003

Catholics try new approach to get cash

Abuse settlement cuts deep

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville is giving parishioners options in a fund-raising effort outside of paying off its $25.7 million settlement from 240 sex-abuse lawsuits.

Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly and other church leaders say they recognize that some Catholics are angry about the church's handling of the abuse crisis. In response, and for the first time, donors can target specific charities or ministries for their contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal.

"We own up to the fact that we have just come through a terrible period where the church has had to face up to its weakness and failings with regard to the sexual abuse crisis," Kelly told about 200 Catholics in a Mass at St. Helen's Church in Shively last week.

"I am not here to ask you to replace the money in the settlement that we paid out."

The archdiocese has set a $3 million goal for this year's appeal. The church fell 5 percent short of the same goal last year, when the abuse crisis was at its peak, raising $2.85 million.

The year before, the campaign raised $3.2 million.

The fund drive is especially crucial this year because the archdiocese used almost all of its unrestricted investments for the abuse settlement. That eliminated most of its investment income.

Earlier this year, it cut 48 jobs, canceled grants and announced plans to raise assessments on parishes and sell three properties.

People attending the archbishop's Mass at St. Helen's said they would support the fund drive despite the abuse crisis.

"Being a Christian, it's the thing you do, and you don't let anything that happens change things," said Virgil Dorsey, a member of St. Augustine Church.

"As Christians, we forgive and we move on."

Kelly told The Courier-Journal that he hopes Catholics would look past his controversial handling of the crisis and see that the fund raising benefits charities, education, youth services and other missions of the church.

He said the state of the economy adds to the challenge.

"The fact of the economy and the abuse problems, those are two very negative factors, but I've been here before when the economy was down and people were mad about something," Kelly said.

"Catholic Services Appeal always seems to run on a different track. People see it as a form of giving to the support of the gospel."

Pledge cards distributed to the 200,000 Catholics in the archdiocese allow them to designate gifts to one of four categories:

• As needed by the archdiocese (but not to legal fees or settlements).

• Education and formation (ministry training).

• Social Services and Outreach.

• Youth and Family Ministries.

Kelly has already spoken at four Masses throughout the archdiocese.

He plans to speak at a fifth Mass on Thursday at Louisville's St. Raphael Church.

Other lay leaders have spoken at the Masses, urging people to contribute as they have in the past.

The Rev. Thomas Gentile, pastor of St. Helen's, said he was optimistic about the response in spite of the recent abuse crisis.

But Shannon Whelan, an organizer of the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a national lay reform group created in the wake of the nationwide abuse scandal, said she has spoken to people who are unlikely to give to the campaign.

And those who will plan to designate it to church charities.

She said the church should have more discussions and listening sessions with Catholics angry about the crisis.

The Catholic Services Appeal has traditionally been one of three main sources of revenue for the archdiocese, which was cut this year by $2.4 million, or 26 percent, from last year.

The second source of revenue is the annual assessments on parishes, now set at 5 percent, which the archdiocese will raise to 7 percent in January and to 8 percent in July 2005.

The third source - investment income - has been drastically reduced as the archdiocese paid out virtually all its unrestricted assets in the legal settlement.

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