Boston archdiocese wants to distribute restricted funds

Boston archdiocese wants to distribute restricted funds

“Archdiocese wants to redistribute $3 million from closed parishes”

The Roman Catholic Boston Archdiocese wants to resolve the dispute over about $3 million held by closed parishes by distributing the money to 58 churches that took in parishioners displaced by closings.

The money could be used by financially struggling parishes to pay for scholarships, building repairs and other needs, church officials said.

The amount given to each parish could range from several hundred dollars to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how much the closed parish held in unspent restricted donations.

The plan requires approval of the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The money involved here s from “restricted funds,” that is money given for a specific purpose. The law says that when a donor specifies a purpose for his donation—e.g. a new organ for his parish—that intent must be respected in perpetuity. However, if the parish closes and the money is still being held—e.g. they hadn’t bought the organ yet because they hadn’t raised the full amount of money—that donation could go into limbo. The parish for which the organ was intended no longer exists so it can’t be spent.

So what the archdiocese is planning is to ask the state Supreme Judicial Court to allow those funds to be made unrestricted because of the special circumstances, at which point it will follow parishioners of closed parishes to their designated “welcoming” parishes. (The money is not going into the archdiocese’s general fund.) Admirably, the archdiocese is seeking the opinion of the laity on this plan.

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  • And if a substantial chunk of money goes to one of those receiving parishes, who’s to say that the archdiocese won’t lean on the pastors to give it to the archdiocese, just as it has been doing so far?

  • The funds don’t actually become “unrestricted.”  Parishes receiving restricted funds will be encouraged to make every effort possible to follow through on the intentions of the original donors.

    These restricted funds are different than the general funds RC may be referring to.  Some parishes which had appealed to Rome were “leaned on” to voluntarily relinquish general funds to RCAB but most parishes did not appeal to Rome.  For most reconfigured parishes, RCAB absorbed their general funds at the time of suppression.

  • (Fr.) aplman mentions—and by the way, it’s been helpful of him to share his comments here—

    Parishes receiving restricted funds will be encouraged to make every effort possible to follow through on the intentions of the original donors.

    For the sake of accountability, I hope that the courts will not let those legal restrictions become mere exhortations by the Archdiocese, but modify them to reference the respective “welcoming parishes”.  Perhaps that’s what the Archdiocese is planning to ask the court to do.  It’s hard to tell from the newspaper story.

    If the funds were to become unrestricted, compliance with donor wishes would depend totally on the responsible pastors to exercise good will, common sense, discretion, and competence.  (Can’t count on all of those all the time.)

    As for the unrestricted funds which the Archdiocese collected from parishes that didn’t appeal their suppressions: those cases still don’t look quite honest. 

    As far as I can tell, archdiocesan officials misrepresented church law for some time in their public statements.  (Whether innocently or not, I don’t know.)  If the affected parishes failed to appeal in a timely manner because of the misrepresentation, then the Archdiocese collected their assets and benefited from the misrepresentation. 

    Even after Rome instructed the Archdiocese on proper procedure, the appeal clock was not reset: those parishes’ right to appeal and right to dispose of the assets were not restored (please correct me if this is not so).  That creates the appearance of an objective injustice.

  • I’m not in a position to judge whether or not the archdiocese acted in good faith regards the canons about the dispersement of unrestricted funds from suppressed parishes.  If by “Rome insructed the Archdiocese on proper procedure” you are referring to the letter from Cardinal Hoyos addressed to Bishop Skylstad as president of the USCCB, that letter was at least in part intended as a help to Skylstad and his pressing problems in his home diocese of Spokane and bankruptcy. While I suspect that future parish closings will be handled differently in light of that letter, its effects have not been retroactive. “Resetting the appeal clock” would have applied to parish suppressions going back some 30 years in the US and Rome was not intending to undo all of that.  Those parishes which HAD appealed ended up voluntarily turning over their funds to the archdiocese.