Monday, January 02, 2006

Poor--and I do mean poor--Portland

The Portland archdiocese has lost in its attempt to separate parish properties from its $53 settlement with sex-abuse victims. Parish assets can now be used to discharge diocesan debt in its bankruptcy proceedings.

The Catholic people of God in Portland are getting a raw deal, but not from the courts. The decision is quite frankly correct; that's how most diocesan finances are set up, with the bishop as a "corporation sole," owning all the property; the church can't claim otherwise just because the birds have come home to roost. It's a bad set-up for all kinds of reasons, primarily because it basically concentrates all the financial resources of the church--that means the people--in the hands of one person and those closest to him.

The bankruptcy filing itself was a terrible mistake; many saw it as a ploy to avoid paying just damages to victims of clerical sex abuse, and now it has backfired on the diocese. The people will be left with the bill, especially if parishes close.

How long will it take before Catholic lay people stand up and demand some accountability from their bishops--including real, structural change in the way dioceses are run? Until we do, we can't complain while inept bishops run the churches into the ground.


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