Committee to review financial relationship with parishes

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston has begun a process aimed at revising the financial relationship between its central administration and 292 parishes.

On Oct. 1, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley announced the formation of a committee that will recommend a new model of collaboration. The committee will review the suggestions gathered from consultations with pastors over the past year.

The 12-member committee includes five vicars forane, one from each region of the archdiocese; three lay leaders drawn from archdiocesan advisory boards; and four members of the cardinal’s administrative cabinet.

Currently, parishes contribute to the central administration through a number of archdiocesan taxes and initiatives, including:

--the Annual Catholic Appeal;

--the cathedraticum, a contribution parishes make for the ministry of the bishop;

--a hospital tax that is charged to support the presence of Catholic ministers in secular hospitals;

--a school tax, paid by parishes with no school affiliation to help support Catholic education;

--fees for services related to real estate, audits and construction; and

--annual second collections for seminaries and communications.

Scot Landry, Secretary for Institutional Advancement, who is spearheading the initiative together with Chancellor James McDonough, told The Pilot Sept. 30 that the decision to revise the current model of cooperation was driven by comments from pastors.

Some have criticized the wide number of avenues through which the archdiocese requests funding from the parishes; parishes’ unequal participation of in the Annual Catholic Appeal and the lack of a meaningful incentive to parishes that surpass their appeal goal.

In addition, Landry said, there is displeasure over the increase in the number of fees for services charged by the archdiocese over the years as well as the voluntary nature of the cathedraticum, which has led to sporadic participation by some parishes.

In response to those concerns, the archdiocese conducted a nationwide survey of other dioceses’ financial relationship with their parishes. The majority follow a different, more simplified, model, he said.

Then, Landry said, “We put together a survey to pastors regarding how they would view our current model versus what we called the ‘common practice model’ used by many of the 175 dioceses in the United States.”

The survey received 109 responses. Twenty-four percent expressed satisfaction with the current model. Forty-four percent said they preferred the proposed “common practice model” over the current model. The remainder was either unsure or requested more information, Landry said.

“The system was broken and needed a major overhaul. That’s why we proposed a completely different model to pastors,” he said.

Landry described the proposed model as a draft that will have to be revised by the committee.

“The model we proposed is ‘in pencil,’ it is an alternative to our current model, and it is our hope that through the ongoing consultation, with pastors and parish finance council members and then with the archdiocesan boards, that we can revise it to make it a better model that all can agree on,” he said.

The proposed model would eliminate all fees and taxes -- including the cathedraticum -- as well as the two annual collections currently devoted to the central administration. It would replace them with a new model for the Catholic Appeal and a single parish tithe to the archdiocese.

“There was a commonality that most other dioceses had some sort of broad-based parish tithe or tax and their bishops’ appeal would be set up as an assessment with a 100 percent share over goal. That’s what we put in pencil to our pastors as an alternative to the current way that we ask parishes to fund the central administration.”

Under the proposed model, all extra donations beyond a parish’s annual appeal goal will remain with the parish. At the same time, parishes that do not reach their goal will be required to contribute the difference to the archdiocese.

Currently, a parish’s appeal goal is determined using a number of factors, the most significant of which are the weekly offertory and the parish grand-annual collection. Parishes that surpass their yearly goal keep 25 percent of the extra donations and there is no requirement that parishes reach their goal.

The cardinal has appointed two co-chairs for the committee, Stephen Barrett, who represents the Catholic Foundation Board; and Father Bryan Parrish, a vicar forane and pastor of Holy Family Parish in Duxbury.

Barrett, a management consultant and a retired chief financial officer of Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool corporations, said it is important to emphasize the need for collaboration and transparency between the central administration of the archdiocese and the parishes.

“What is the overarching mission of the Church? It is saving souls,” he said. “There are so many souls to be saved and a limited number of resources -- both human talent and financial resources -- to accomplish that task.”

The parishes are those “doing the work” but they need to be supported by the central administration, he said.

That support of the archdiocese to parishes comes in the form of education, faith formation and evangelization. In addition, the archdiocese provides services in support of the parishes, including information technology, human resources, finance and accounting that enable the work of the parishes and other diocesan-related entities.

“And then, finally, there is just ‘good old’ overhead, what it costs to keeps the lights on here and employ the people that are enabling this organization to do its work,” Barrett said.

“The archdiocese is here to support the saving ministry of the Church, and much of that work is done in the parishes,” he said.

Landry stressed that the purpose of this new model is not to take more resources from the parishes but to create a mechanism to allow for growth, both at the parish and at the central administration levels.

“The new model will provide a reallocation of what is done but there is no expectation, in the first year, that parishes would necessarily contribute more,” he said.

Currently parishes are contributing over $19 million to the central funds.

Landry explained that the proposed financial model calls for a tithe of around 10 or 11 percent of the parish offertory and the grand-annual collections, which in 2007 totaled approximately $105 million.

Between $10 and $11 million of contributions to last year’s Catholic Appeal came from the parishes and the other $4 million came from major gifts.

Landry stressed that it is the role of the committee to work out the details of the plan. One of the issues that will require further consultation is which parish revenue streams should be included in any sort of a broad-based tithe.

“The model itself is not being proposed so that the archdiocese generates more revenue. What we are hoping is that parish budgets and the archdiocese’s budget will both increase in parallel,” he said.

“The archdiocese’s fiscal health would be tied to parishes’ fiscal health,” he said.

According to Landry, the archdiocese will be providing more fundraising assistance to parishes to enable them to increase their offertories and annual collections.

The committee is expected make its recommendation to the cardinal by January or February, but there is no established deadline, Landry said.

Barrett emphasized the need to develop this new model in a “very consultative way” and to devote as much time as necessary to come up with a proper model for the archdiocese.

“More than one pastor noted that -- given the recent history of the Church and the lack of trust on the issues surrounding reconfiguration and so forth -- if something gets done in a manner that is not perceived as being participative, robust, best-thinking and in consultation, it could potentially undo a lot of the progress that people see under Cardinal Seán.”

The members of the committee are:

--Father Richard W. Fitzgerald, VF, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Wellesley;

--Msgr. Paul V. Garrity, VF, Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Lynn;

--Msgr. Francis H. Kelley, VF, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Roslindale;

--Father Bryan Parrish, VF, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Duxbury;

--Father Paul Ritt, VF, pastor of St. John Parish in North Chelmsford;

--Stephen Barrett, of the Catholic Foundation Board of Trustees;

--Herb Lynch, an attorney and a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council;

--Paul Sandman, an attorney and member of the Archdiocesan Finance Council;

--Father Thomas S. Foley, episcopal vicar and secretary for Parish Life and Leadership;

--James P. McDonough, chancellor;

--Scot Landry, secretary for Institutional Advancement; and

--Brother James Peterson, OFM Cap., assistant to the Moderator of the Curia.