Orange Diocese Faces Cutbacks
Layoffs, Program Reductions Necessary in Plan to Slash $2 Million in Expenses

By Jenifer B. McKim
The Orange County Register [Orange County CA]
Downloaded April 12, 2003

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange announced this week that it must cut expenses by $2 million next fiscal year, prompting staff layoffs and a drop in funding to local religious programs

Monsignor Lawrence Baird said the funding shortfall is largely due to a reduction in investment revenue caused by the faltering stock market. This is the third year the diocese has reported losses. It has imposed two 5 percent cuts since July 1.

The diocese hopes to minimize layoffs by offering early retirement and hour reductions to 130 employees working in the Orange-based pastoral center. The workers provide services to more than 1 million members, 56 parishes, 41 schools and four Catholic centers, Baird said.

Baird declined to detail job or program cuts. Layoff notices will go out by May 15. Programs offered include the Hispanic Ministry and marriage and religious counseling.

"(Bishop Tod Brown) wants to have as few involuntary reductions as possible and as few program cuts as possible," Baird said.

The diocese, funded by donations, reported $28 million in losses the past two years. Its investment portfolio - about $121.6 million at the end of 2002 - continues to shrivel.

Catholic dioceses around the country have been affected by tough times.

"I think any reasonable person is making cuts right now, and that includes dioceses," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The legal costs related to the ongoing priest-abuse scandals - the Orange diocese has paid out $7 million over the last two years - also have taken a toll, as has a drop in donations, the diocese said. Meanwhile, expenses have increased, the diocese said.


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