Catholic Charities May Defiantly Take VOTF Cash

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald
April 2, 2003

Setting the stage for a potential showdown with the bishop running the Archdiocese of Boston, Catholic Charities board members are poised to defy his orders by accepting a $35,000 contribution from the lay group Voice of the Faithful.

"I would be inclined to take it," said one of several board members who spoke on condition they not be identified. No members interviewed by the Herald indicated they would vote to reject the money at a meeting scheduled for next week.

Catholic Charities took a larger gift from Voice of the Faithful in December, defying at least the intent if not an order from then-archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law, who had suggested that to accept the money would be inappropriate. The matter was overshadowed two days later when Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation.

But this time around, the issue is starker.

Unlike Law, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who is running the archdiocese, is not embroiled in controversy.

Moreover, Lennon has definitively ordered Catholic Charities to turn the money down, a spokesman said.

The reason for the order is that Voice of the Faithful, by raising money for charitable work independent of the archdiocese, is driving a wedge between the bishop and the faithful, said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for Lennon.

Even if donors were uncomfortable giving money in the past because of the controversy surrounding Law, that concern is no longer valid, Coyne added. "You don't need a middle man any more."

Voice of the Faithful leaders argue the fund is necessary so potential donors upset with church leaders can still support programs helped by the church through Catholic Charities.

While avoiding the political questions, Catholic Charities officials maintain that to turn down the donation would be to punish the people who depend on the organization for help.

Coyne, asked what Lennon would do if Catholic Charities voted to take the money, said, "He does not see that happening."

Lennon cannot override board decisions, but he can fire board members.

Upon installation, board members promise to respect the teaching authority of the bishop. Catholic Charities President Joseph Doolin issued a statement saying the board would do so while also recognizing that the organization is a distinct corporation.

Board members are not spoiling for a fight, said Peter Meade, one of the group's leaders. "No one joined the board to be in disagreement with the bishop of Boston."

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