Diocese Reply Leaves Church Reform Group Cold

By Rita Ciolli
January 17, 2003

In a letter received yesterday by the Voice of the Faithful, the Diocese of Rockville Centre asks members of the grassroots reform group "to do everything in your power" to work with local pastors to make this year's Bishop's Appeal fund-raiser a success, but didn't address the group's request for complete financial openness.

The annual appeal, the diocese's biggest fund-raiser, has a 2003 goal of $15 million. Over the past two weeks, pledge forms were sent to Long Island Catholics registered in local parishes.

The group, predicting a dismal response to this year's appeal, wrote to Bishop William Murphy in late December asking for a role in developing procedures that would make church finances more understandable and reviewable to its members.

In yesterday's reply, Msgr. Robert Brennan, vicar general of the diocese, says diocesean financial reports and audits will be available at some future date.

Dan Bartley, co-director of Long Island's Voice Of The Faithful, said that while the diocese "may be taking its first step" toward more disclosure, it isn't enough to satisfy concerned Catholics who are keeping their checkbooks closed. At a meeting last week, VOTF members reported that the appeal was struggling in their parishes.

"Until more concrete steps are taken towards achieving the goal of full financial openness, we will reserve our endorsement of this year's appeal," Bartley said.

The group has launched an alternative fund called Voice of Compassion, and plans to distribute the money to charities supported by the church.

Brennan's letter was received yesterday by Kevin Connors, a member of the VOTF finance committee who wrote the initial letter to the bishop. The group provided it to Newsday late yesterday afternoon. In his letter, Connors predicted that the appeal would have a difficult time this year because of the clerical sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the church.


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