Following the Money Trail

Crisis Magazine - e-Letter
April 7, 2003

Dear Friend,

...You might have heard that Bishop Richard Lennon, the interim replacement for Cardinal Law in Boston, has refused to accept money from the fundraising arm of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), as his predecessor did. But Lennon is going a step further and barring Catholic Charities from receiving any of the money, either.

This may seem a bit severe in an archdiocese that is suffering financially as Boston is, but I have to applaud Bishop Lennon's decision. VOTF has always insisted on giving with strings attached, refusing to allow their donations to go to administrative costs of running the archdiocese.

And the archdiocese has suffered as a result. Lennon has been forced to close Catholic schools, end programs, and lay off employees -- all things that fall under "administrative" costs of the diocese that VOTF wants no part of. Both Cardinal Law and Bishop Lennon voiced their concern over VOTF's "Voice of Compassion" fund, saying that it undermined fundraising efforts of the archdiocese. Now it seems they were right.

Jim Post, president of VOTF, reacted quickly: "[These] actions will contribute to the creation of a new wave of victims from the ongoing Church scandal who suffer from the pain of church closings, school closings, layoffs and program cuts." But by refusing to let VOTF funds go to such administrative needs, the organization has only made the situation worse.

But more than just undermining the archdiocese's fundraising is the idea that VOTF is undermining the importance of the Church's structure. The Church is a body, with all parts connected to all others, requiring that these parts work together for the body to function. VOTF is essentially giving to the hand while insisting that their gift doesn't go to help the foot. How is that Catholic charity?

Believe me... as the director of a non-profit organization, I can appreciate the struggle of working on a tight budget largely supplied through fundraising efforts. But if all of the donations we received went strictly to the magazine itself, our organization would fold within a week. The magazine couldn't exist without employees to put it together, others to raise funds, an office for us to work in... Without any of these parts, the whole would collapse.

And that's what VOTF is essentially doing. If Bishop Lennon -- or Catholic Charities -- were to accept VOTF's money, they'd be giving credibility to an organization that's effectively denying the important structure of the Church. This simply cannot happen.

Of course, don't be surprised by VOTF's vocal indignation. Every time their contributions -- whether monetary or advisory -- are overlooked, they rant and rave about how the Church is ignoring the laity. In the April 1st on-line edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, Jim Muller, a co-founder of VOTF, was quoted as saying to Francis Cardinal George, "We represent 99.9 percent of the church, yet we've had little way to represent our voices."

99.9 percent? That's quite a tall order for a group with only 25,000 members, especially since Catholics number more than 65 million in the US and over 1 billion worldwide. And what about other groups, like the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, or Opus Dei? These groups have numbers in the hundreds of thousands -- even millions -- and yet they don't presume to be the sole mouthpiece for their Church.

It seems that VOTF has a bit of a Napoleon complex. They've already gotten far more attention -- from media and clergy alike -- than their numbers warrant, and yet still they aren't content. This doesn't sound like the behavior of a group that claims it wants only to help.

Maybe it's time for VOTF to go back and think about its stated goals of working with the Church. Right now, all I see is a desire to work against it.

However, the real question that remains is this: Will Catholic Charities take VOTF's money in spite of the bishop's warning? The offer must be tempting, but I sincerely hope they'll turn it down. There are some things that are more important than money, and maintaining the integrity of their organization -- and the Church -- is one of them.

Either way, we'll all know soon. Catholic Charities will be announcing its decision tomorrow. I'll let you know what happens.

Talk soon,

Deal Hudson, editor

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