Church Finances Sound
But Costly Sex-Abuse Lawsuits Remain a Threat to the Denver Archdiocese

By Eric Gorski
Denver Post
January 25, 2006

The Denver Roman Catholic Archdiocese appears to be on sound financial footing at a time when its assets are threatened by clergy sexual-abuse litigation.

The archdiocese operated in the black, enjoyed a successful grassroots fundraising campaign and resembles the picture of stability, according a report issued Tuesday that covers the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005.

But Archbishop Charles Chaput also pointed out several challenges to the bottom line, including the rising costs of insurance premiums, caring for priests reaching retirement and tending to high schools suffering enrollment declines and cost hikes.

Those are problems that a few U.S. dioceses would envy. Two dioceses - in Portland and Tucson - have filed for bankruptcy as a result of clergy sexual-abuse litigation, and others have been forced to shutter churches.

Among the report's details:

The Archbishop's Catholic Appeal, an annual drive for an array of programs, raised more than $7 million, a slight increase over last year.

Individual parishes' contributions to the archdiocese increased from $4.7 million to $4.9 million, indicating a healthy collection plate.

Total net assets were $129.7 million, holding steady from the previous year.

The archdiocese ran $2.5 million in the black for the fiscal year while its private foundation posted a $1.8 million deficit.

Jim Dolan, executive director of the Catholic Foundation of Denver, cited a large debt-reduction grant to Bishop Machebeuf High School, disappointing returns on an investment portfolio and just $2 million in new gifts, or half the fundraising goal.

"Financially, this looks like it's a very stable archdiocese and one that would probably be in the upper half of financial stability in the U.S. now," said Charles Zech, a Villanova University economics professor who studies Catholic Church finances.


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