Task Force Formed to Solve Financial Woes

Associated Press, carried in Portsmouth Herald [Manchester NH]
Downloaded June 20, 2003

MANCHESTER - Faced with falling income and settlements in priest sexual abuse cases, the Diocese of Manchester has formed a task force to find more ways to cut expenses.

The panel will look for new, less expensive ways to provide religious education and youth ministry and train laity.

The diocese already has decided to sell the bishop's residence and laid off some employees to cut costs.

In announcing the formation of the task force Wednesday, Manchester Bishop John McCormack said the 16-member panel will seek comments from pastors, parish leaders and staff, and Catholic school administrators and staff.

It will address parish youth programs, adult spiritual development, religious education, campus ministry and lay ministry formation, and leadership training.

The panel is part of the reconfiguration of the diocesan administration announced in March that included trimming the diocese's annual $2.5 million operating budget by at least $500,000 and eliminating 20 full- and part-time positions.

The Rev. John R. Fortin, a Benedictine monk and associate professor of philosophy at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, will chair the panel.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, has said the church wiped out its savings of roughly $2.2 million in payments to victims of priest abuse. Church investments also have been hurt by the faltering economy, and the church faces a drop in donations by parishioners, in part because of reaction to the sexual abuse scandal.

The church plans to make public its financial audits for this year and last, and will reflect the impact of this year's $15 million in payments to settle sexual abuse claims.

McGee said the church's finances have not been disclosed before, but McCormack wants to provide the clearest picture of its financial condition.

He said the fiscal year closes June 30 and the report may be available by September.


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