Bishop Finn Answers Questions on Recent Abuse Settlement

The Catholic Key

August 28, 2008

The Catholic Key interviewed Bishop Robert Finn concerning the recent settlement. The following Question and Answer session poses and addresses some of the questions that have most frequently been asked.

Q (Catholic Key): On what authority did you decide to reach this settlement?

A: (Bishop Finn): In accord with Canon law, I am required to work closely with the Board of Consultors and the Diocesan Finance Council to plan for the diocese, particularly in financial matters. Among other responsibilities, these boards assist me in developing and adopting our annual budget. The decision to reach a settlement with these individuals was made in close consultation with both boards. I also sought their counsel on how to meet the obligations of the settlement.

Q: Will parishioners be asked to make special contributions to fund the settlement?

A: Owing to prudent stewardship of resources, it will not be necessary for us to make special requests to fund this settlement.

Q: Where will the money come from?

Because the insurance companies who were providing liability coverage at the time of these incidents participated in the diocese's thorough investigation of these claims, those companies are more responsive to our request for funding. As a consequence, they will fund a significant portion of the settlement.

Another significant part of the settlement will be taken from insurance reserves which we have been built up carefully in recent years.

In addition, we have exercised good stewardship in our Central Financing Operations, and have accrued some Unrestricted Net Assets for necessities and emergencies. The remaining portion will be paid from these assets, which could include the sale of undeveloped property. These properties were acquired with an eye toward establishing parishes. At this time, we do not believe that these properties are likely to be suitable for this purpose.

I will continue to consult with the Finance Council about the most prudent plan for completing our responsibility.

Q: Will the diocese have to lay off any employees or discontinue any ministries?

A: Unless other unforeseen financial circumstances befall the diocese, we see no reason for this settlement to affect the ongoing ministerial programs or the number of people the diocese employs. Moving forward, it will be necessary for us to be vigilant in developing budgets. Until we are able to redevelop reserves, we face a reduction in investment income. This can have an effect on our ongoing operating budget.

Q: With less insurance reserves, will we be in danger?

A: We will strive to replenish our reserves over time. In the meantime, we have coverage for issues that could develop in the here and now.

Q: Will the money detract from any pension plans or restricted endowment funds?

A: No.

Q: Will any money be taken from the Bishop's Annual Appeal or other such collections?

A: No. The BAA is designated for schools, vocations, ministry to youth, Catholic Charities, etc.

Q: In your statement to the press, you indicate you will recommend to the Vatican the removal of holy orders and that you will request laicization for these priests. Does laicization take place on your authority alone?

A: No. Laicization is one of the most serious matters governed by canon law. As bishop, I have authority to recommend laicization for priests that are in my jurisdiction. The recommendation goes to a tribunal, which will consider the circumstances and will collaborate on whether or not laicization recommendations should be forwarded to the Vatican on a case by case basis.

I will propose to the tribunal that in those instances where priests have resigned from the priesthood laicization will and should bring a formal conclusion to their priestly status in the Church. I do not intend to pursue laicization in those instances where priests are deceased. For those priests, the matter is in God's hands. We pray for those priests.

Q: Are we going to get through this as a diocese?

A: There is no doubt that paying this bill - in justice to those who were hurt - will take its toll. Things take time to heal, and there are scars for those who are hurt, including the Church at large. If we keep praying, and keep talking; if we remain vigilant and ready to take action, we will be alright.

The work of the Church will continue, because Christ requires it and, by His grace, He sustains it.

I have peace that we have tried to care for this need among God's people, and a sense of "newness" that we have brought some bit of closure to every case from the last 50 years.

In celebrating Holy Mass in recent weeks, my heart has been drawn to one of the introductory comments we make before we recite the Our Father. It is the one that says, "Let us ask our Father to forgive our sins and to bring us to forgive those who sin against us."

I continue to beg God and those we have hurt for forgiveness - and I pray also for the reconciliation and peace we need to move forward.


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