Archdiocese Opens Books for Public

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
May 31, 2003

Despite the financial setbacks of the past year, the Archdiocese of Boston remains a considerable fiscal force, data made public yesterday reveals.

The diocese's central account, which is independent from parish budgets, closed out 2002 with $11 million in cash.

The archdiocese also held investments worth about $14 million. They generated $800,000 in income.

Collections steered to archdiocesan operations totaled $1.9 million. The Cardinal's Appeal netted $9 million.

Data for the previous year that would have allowed comparisons was not made public, but Chancellor David W. Smith issued a statement indicating that expenses exceded revenue.

"Despite the generosity of many, our support and revenue for the year 2002 was significantly lower than in prior years, resulting in a significant operating shortfall that was funded through a combination of debt and cash reserves," he wrote.

The archdiocese borrowed $9 million in 2002, the report shows.

"We have much more work to do in both restoring confidence and further decreasing our operating expenses to attain the level of fiscal stability necessary to carry out the many programs and ministries detailed in this report," Smith wrote.

The archdiocese plans to release fiscal 2003 numbers in November, he said. That will provide a window into trends affecting the spiritual home for the region's 2.1 million Catholics.

By releasing the information for the first time, the archdiocese became one of the few major dioceses in the country to allow a public glimpse into its financial operation.

Several diocesan financial officials said big East Coast dioceses such as Boston have tended to be secretive, while smaller dioceses are more likely to make the information public.

Robert G. Doerfler Jr., finance chief for the Diocese of Colorado Springs and president of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, said there is no standard that would dictate why one diocese might share information while another does not.

"I think it's more of a hit-and-miss thing around the country," he said.

Yesterday's report showed land and equipment worth $16.3 million but does not include many properties tallied by the Herald last year. That compilation found $1.4 billion in church properties that were not being used as schools or churches.

The financial report followed calls for open books from some Catholics, including members of the lay group Voice of the Faithful.


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