Boston Archdiocese Lowers Goal for Fund-Raising Campaign

The New York Times
April 26, 2003

BOSTON, April 25 - The Archdiocese of Boston today announced its first fund-raising campaign under Bishop Richard G. Lennon, seeking to raise $9 million in a diocese where donations have plummeted and budgets have been slashed since the sexual abuse scandal exploded here 15 months ago.

This year's target is well below last year's projected goal of $17.4 million. The diocese collected $8.6 million through the campaign last year and $16.2 million in 2001. The appeal provides operating money for programs including schools, inner-city parishes and spiritual formation classes.

Damien J. DeVasto, director of the appeal, said the sexual abuse scandal and the sluggish economy were the main reasons for lowering the goal. The archdiocese also did not want to detract donors from its capital campaign, a two-year, $300 million fund-raising drive begun in 2001 that is projected to fall nearly $100 million short.

"It's been a painful year, a challenging year," Mr. DeVasto said.

The fund-raising drive announced today comes with a new name: the Annual Catholic Appeal. Formerly called the Cardinal's Appeal, the name was changed in response to anger with the way Cardinal Bernard F. Law handled the sexual abuse scandal. Cardinal Law resigned in December and Bishop Lennon assumed the post in an interim role.

The diocese is in a difficult financial position. As a result of its decrease in donations, its budget for the next fiscal year must be trimmed by $4 million. The archdiocese plans to close a number of schools, to leave some administrative positions vacant and to pare down programs.

Bishop Lennon said today that none of the money collected through the annual appeal, the capital campaign or church offerings would be used to settle continuing litigation in the sexual abuse cases. Officials assured church members of this in a pamphlet describing details about the campaign. It says the archdiocese will use a combination of insurance money and the liquidation of assets to settle the suits. It has already begun to look into the possible sale of property.

Bishop Lennon said today that the archdiocese wanted to settle all lawsuits.

"There are active conversations going on at this time regarding coverage by insurance companies," he said.

But Jeffrey Newman, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the abuse suits, said he was surprised by Bishop Lennon's comments. Settlement talks have not been productive, Mr. Newman said, and he has advised his clients to prepare for litigation.

The two sides are in a 90-day litigation moratorium, during which they are to focus on settlement. The period ends on May 20. The archdiocese has not placed any settlement proposals on the table, Mr. Newman said, and there has been little communication between the sides.


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