The Catholic News Service has caught up with the story on the restructuring and job cuts at the USCCBureaucracy. The new story provides a few more details, as you’d expect from an internal news agency. Among other things, it reveals that current staff positions will drop from 260 to 197, a major cut.
The cost savings would allow the bishops to reduce their yearly diocesan assessment for USCCB staff and programs by 16 percent in 2008. In 2007 the assessment will account for $11.9 million, or 9 percent, of the organization’s $139 million budget.
Look at the last figure: $139 million! What in the world do they need to spend $139 million on?
Comparisons to federal v. state governments are not apt. Dioceses are self-ruling. The USCCB does not provide oversight to dioceses and it is extra-hierarchical, that is it is not a layer of bureaucracy or government between dioceses and the Vatican. Instead it is a bloated mess. What exactly are we getting for our $139 million? For one thing, the USCCB is supposed to be the united voices of all US bishops on national matters of concern to Catholics. Based on what I’ve seen of their efforts on Capitol Hill, I have to think that we could make some substantial cuts there. They’re always sending out ill-considered lobbying statements on matters of prudential judgment, rather than non-negotiable Church teaching, and half the time they’re a day late and a dollar short. Do we really need a national lobbying arm lobbying on behalf of the Catholic Church arguing for protecting the Columbia River watershed? There are plenty of environmentalists doing that already.