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The following report was released Nov. 28, 2005 by the Parish Reconfiguration Fund Oversight Committee of the Archdiocese of Boston. The Statement of Activities of the Parish Reconfiguration Fund prepared by the chancellor’s office is scheduled to appear in next week’s issue of The Pilot.
The Parish Reconfiguration Fund Oversight Committee (PRFOC) has met monthly since September, 2004 with officers and staff of the Archdiocese including Bishop Richard Lennon, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, and Mr. David Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese. The committee devoted considerable time becoming familiar with the many business practices and related policies of the Archdiocese that affect the Reconfiguration Fund. The committee’s work included reading, probing and reviewing the following:
Statement of Activities of the Fund, an archdiocesan monthly financial report that was reviewed line by line. Committee members asked questions and received answers pertinent and consistent with prior answers and with the committee’s general knowledge of Parish Reconfiguration. The audited financial statements of the Central Fund of the Archdiocese. Selected detailed records of the expenses incurred by the Archdiocese that benefit parishes that were not charged to the Fund. Selected detailed records of the deferred building maintenance estimates for all Boston parishes. The detailed records of the handling of restricted (i.e., designated use) donations for all closed parishes. The detailed records of the handling of donations to Promise for Tomorrow capital campaign for all closed parishes. The detailed records of the cash accounts for all closed parishes. The records of the debts of closed parishes to the Revolving Loan Fund (the archdiocesan “bank”). The records of the debts of closed parishes to the Archdiocese for services provided. The detailed records of the procedures for handling assets of closed parishes. The detailed records of the procedures used to audit the finances of closed parishes. The committee selected one parish audit for review and the archdiocesan procedures for addressing problems identified in the audit process. The review of the selection process, fees and procedures for property management firms. The review of the selection process, fees and procedures for firms handling the sale of property. The review of each property sold, including appraised prices, bidding process and selection of the winning bid. The records of the loans to the Parish Reconfiguration Fund by the Revolving Loan Fund. The committee met and reviewed with an archdiocesan canon lawyer, Rome’s “decision”communication on appeals made by closed parishes. The committee met with numerous archdiocesan employees and volunteers to inquire into various subjects, some of which are listed above. The committee is given access to all information that is requested to the extent that such information is directly related to financial aspects of the reconfiguration process. Requests for information that is indirectly related to reconfiguration or other related aspects of archdiocesan finances are not always satisfied.
Since cash is fungible and the committee is reviewing only parish reconfiguration transactions, committee members are unable to make any declaratory statement at this time as to the use of such funds when Reconfiguration Fund cash is co-mingled with archdiocesan Central Fund cash. This is disconcerting to our committee and we have requested a meeting with Archbishop O’Malley in accordance with the committee’s published “Charter.”
Based partially on the Archdiocese’s acceptance of committee recommendations, members believe financial reporting concerning the Parish Reconfiguration Fund, is becoming more transparent. In general, the committee finds that its recommendations are more readily received when pertaining to the reporting of financial aspects of reconfiguration and control over receipt of assets into the Fund. The PRFOC is informed that the more substantive issues, such as how money should be spent, are not within its purview. The principal source of “consultation”and “consent”on issues of how the money should be spent is the responsibility of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, a group with many lay members.
There is a direct correlation between the financial condition of the Archdiocese and the spending decisions concerning money in the Parish Reconfiguration Fund. The committee has and will continue to make recommendations to Archbishop O’Malley, Bishop Lennon and Chancellor Smith regarding the Parish Reconfiguration Fund and its interaction with the diocesan financial condition.
One issue of concern to PRFOC members, is that for the second year in a row, the Archdiocese is using money from the Reconfiguration Fund to balance the budget of the archdiocesan Central Fund. As earlier recommended to Bishop Lennon and Archbishop O’Malley and reported in The Pilot, April, 2005, the committee considers it bad practice and inappropriate to use Parish Reconfiguration money to pay for expenses in the archdiocesan annual operating budget. Members of the Boston Archdiocese should be able to expect that the assets of suppressed parishes will produce a benefit of more enduring value.
The PFROC will continue to work constructively with Archbishop O’Malley, Bishop Lennon and Chancellor Smith while representing members of the entire Boston Archdiocese. As the committee begins its second year, the focus will remain on completing entrusted tasks and issuing periodic reports of ongoing activities and findings.
The Parish Reconfiguration Fund Oversight Committee:
David Castaldi, Chair, Central Region
Maureen Corcoran, Central Region
Joseph F. Finn, Jr., Finance Council representative, West Region
Nan-Marie Jaeger,South Region
Norman Sabbey,West Region
Kathleen Rabe,North Region
Timothy Schiavoni,Merrimack Valley Region