It is that wonderful time of the year again when I can find some time to get away, rest and relax. This year, for the first time in my episcopal ministry, I will be taking the whole month of July. There is nothing to be done, places to visit, just pure rest and relaxation. The pastor of the parish where I am visiting is alone so I will be helping in his parish on Sundays starting a week from today and since he takes two weeks himself each year in the middle of July but has had the custom of returning for the three week-end Masses, thereby interrupting his time away, I will cover for him the week-end of July 16/17 giving him for the first time two weeks away. While I like to keep the location in the US where I am vacationing a secret, I can tell you that under cloudless blue skies yesterday the high reached a whopping 77 degrees and the low last night, my first here, was 57, necessitating a blanket (my hosts had to explain to me what a”blanket” is!). The diocese is never out of my thoughts and you are never out of my prayers.
A month ago I wrote a letter which was distributed in the parishes about the diocese’s history since 1991 in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct against minors, our process and its procedures. The letter has been very well received and the feedback overwhelmingly positive. However, two people very respectfully asked for a clarification of the statement that we have not used Annual Pastoral Appeal monies to pay the costs of dealing with these sad issues. I reaffirm that the statement is correct but it does raise the question as to whence do the monies come if not from the people. At no time did I ever mean to imply that monies used for this purpose comes from anywhere other than the parishes and, therefore, the people. Every parish and institution in the diocese is “taxed” or “assessed” for certain things which are not directly related to pastoral programs which the APA funds. For example, parishes and schools pay a significant amount each year for the health and welfare costs of their employees, likewise for unemployment compensation insurance and pension fund contributions. All of that is deducted mainly from offertory contributions. A fourth and final category of parish and parishioner support is for “Property and Liability Insurance.” We maintain a reserve here to cover some deductibles and catastrophic losses due to hurricanes and storm damage, legal claims and settlements for things like “slip and falls”, fires, etc. We have dipped occasionally and as needed into this reserve to pay what we identified as the costs associated with the diocese’s history of settling with victims in the hope of giving them some sense of pastoral care and solicitude for the immense harm done to them. Anticipating the next question which likely is, “well, has the diocese raised its tax against the parishes to build up this reserve” and the answer is in the negative. From time to time our Property and Liability Insurer, Catholic Mutual, has raised premiums against the parishes and institutions because either the property is seen to have increased in value or risk but this has nothing to do with sexual misconduct claims and payments. So, yes, parishes and parishioners as well as high schools and other diocesan institutions have been the ultimate source of these funds but that fact has not impacted the assessment parishes have been paying because we have had the funds in reserve. I hope this is helpful.
So, the fish are calling and I will sign off, not to be heard from again until sometime in early August. May the Lord spare us storms this hurricane season and may each reader also have an opportunity at some rest and relaxation from the normal. God Bless.