NY archdiocese reports slight offertory downturn as Child Victims Act payments loom

Catholic News Agency - EWTN [Denver CO]

February 25, 2021

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York on Wednesday offered an update on finances in the archdiocese, noting that although offertory was down overall for the fiscal year, the percentage of offertory given online increased.

He also noted that a large number of clerical abuse lawsuits filed under New York’s Child Victims Act present a challenge to the financial stability of the archdiocese.

“Thanks to the generosity of you, our people, the dedication and commitment of our pastors and priests, and the hard work behind-the-scenes of people in the field and in the chancery, we have
managed to hold our own in some ways, but continue to face some uphill battles in others,” Dolan wrote in a Feb. 24 Flocknote.

Dolan pointed to clerical abuse claims brought under the Child Victims Act, which the state enacted in 2019 following the revelations of abuse perpetrated by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The law set up a one-year window for clergy sex abuse lawsuits in cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has since extended the window for filing lawsuits until Aug. 14, due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York archdiocese has since 2016 offered an independent compensation program for victims of clergy sex abuse. Those victims who accepted compensation from the archdiocese in the fund would waive the right to sue for more money later.

CNA reported in December 2017 that nearly 200 clergy sex abuse victims had already received compensation totaling more than $40 million from the New York archdiocese; the figure may now be as high as $200 million.

Dolan said the flood of new lawsuits presents a financial challenge to the archdiocese.

“We are still assessing what the economic impact will be on the archdiocese, although
it is likely to be extremely significant. Cases continue to be filed, and we are anxious to reach just settlements with those who have meritorious claims, just as we already did through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program,” Dolan said.

“We are prayerful and hopeful that our primary insurance carrier recognizes the moral imperative to resolve meritorious suits as soon as possible though unfortunately we have met resistance in our effort. We will continue to press and will report back soon.”

Although offertory collection overall dropped by 10% since the beginning of the pandemic until the end of the fiscal year on Aug. 31, 2020, a greater percentage of the archdiocese’ parishes began using online giving services.

Online giving activity more than doubled, from 10% to 25% of all offertory, Dolan said.

Dolan noted that most of the archdiocese’ parishes had applied for and received Paycheck Protection Program loans, after being encouraged to do so by the archdiocese.

“Fortunately, most of our needy parishes properly made use of the Paycheck Protection Program funds, which went to pay the salaries of parish and school staff, and partially offset this overall decline in offertory throughout the archdiocese,” Dolan said.

“In so many cases, a parish is not just a place of worship but a second home for people. It is important that we continue our effort to support these communities of worship.”

The Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal met its goal of $20 million this year, he said.
Although the New York Catholic Conference initially opposed the Child Victims Act, the conference eventually dropped its opposition, the archdiocesan spokesman told CNA in January. When the bill was amended to allow lawsuits by alleged victims of not only religious clergy, but also alleged victims of public employees such as public school teachers, the conference stopped opposing it.