Thursday, February 26, 2004

Archdiocese lays off 20 to balance budget

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will lay off 20 employees this month because of a drop in donations that church officials blame on a bad economy and anger over the clergy abuse scandal.

The layoffs are the first for the archdiocese in 15 years and will reduce the total number of full-time employees from 167 to 147. That total does not include the archdiocese's 207 priests.

Church officials said the cuts are necessary because donations have dipped over the past two years, leading to a budget shortfall of about $1 million.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk's annual fund-raising drive, which usually meets its goal, has raised about 92 percent of the $4.84 million target set last year.

Although they say they cannot know for certain, church officials suspect tougher economic times and dissatisfaction with the archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse cases are to blame.

"Clearly, some have chosen not to contribute because they are angry about the clergy abuse," said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco. "That's a factor. We don't know how big a factor, but we have had people write to us to tell us that."

For two years, the archdiocese has been embroiled in several legal battles over abuse allegations involving priests. The church was convicted in November of failing to report child abuse to authorities.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, church officials also have agreed to set up a $3 million fund to compensate victims of abuse. Andriacco said the budget crunch will not affect the fund because the $3 million will be raised through the sale of property.

He said the layoffs will affect employees in archdiocese offices in Cincinnati, Dayton and Sidney.

Officials will eliminate 12 full-time jobs and will turn eight others into part-time positions. The jobs are in religious education and some managerial positions.

Remaining employees will get a cost-of-living increase this year, but no other raises.

In addition to the abuse scandal and the economy, Andriacco said investment income also is down. He said recent improvements in the stock market and the overall economy have not been enough to make up the budget shortfall from last year.

"Nobody likes to do this," he said of the layoffs. "But a nonprofit organization has to live within its means."


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