Economy May Clip Catholic Giving

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [Springfield MA]
April 30, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - The Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, announced yesterday the goal of this year's annual Catholic Appeal as $2.9 million and said the economy is likely to be more of an obstacle than the clergy sex abuse crisis.

The goal is the same as last year's when $2.6 million, $300,000 short, was raised. The three-week campaign begins Sunday.

"I recognize that these are very tough economic times, not only for Western Massachusetts but for the entire state and the entire country," Dupre said.

"Of all the calls we receive regarding our Future of Hope (capital) campaign and annual appeal, the economy is cited most often as the reason for concern among parishioners," he said.

Dupre said the diocesan finance department has assessed the impact of the clergy sex abuse crisis on giving.

"They assure me that it has had very little impact on Western Massachusetts. I hope it stays that way. I think we have acted responsibly the past 10 years," said Dupre.

Although the Springfield diocese is facing more than 20 suits in connection with sexual abuse of minors by clergy, the alleged incidents occurred more than 10 years ago, before formation of an all-lay misconduct commission to investigate charges of abuse.

All money donated to the appeal is distributed to the 34 agencies that receive support from it.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, lay organization Voice of the Faithful has offered an alternative fund to its campaign. The group has offered money to the church, but archdiocesan leaders have rejected it.

St. Michael's Church of East Longmeadow supports the annual appeal, although it continues to withhold from the bishop money from its weekly collections to protest the diocese's financial support of a convicted sexually abusive priest, the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne.

Although the campaign's goal was staying the same, Dupre was urging parishioners to increase gifts because the number of the needy has increased during the period of economic sluggishness and because of state funding cuts to agencies that serve the needy.

"It is imperative that we meet their needs and bring God's love into their lives," Dupre said.

Dupre cited a recent statement issued by top church leaders in the state that urged the state Legislature to assure the well-being of all members of society, "even the least, the last and the lost."

Dupre announced the campaign goal in press conferences in Pittsfield and Springfield. Basil A. Petricca, owner of Petricca Construction Co. of Pittsfield, and his wife Rosaland S. Petricca are the campaign's honorary chair couple. Bill Zajac can be reached at


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