Members of the Diocese Question Donating to Bishop Finn’s Annual Appeal

By Cara McClain
May 2, 2012

Bishop Robert Finn reached out to the members of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph as part of his annual request for charitable donations in November, one month after a Jackson County grand jury indicted him for failing to report a priest for child sexual abuse. In light of this, Finn’s staff has acknowledged that the scandal complicated the task of raising funds.

The request for donations is also known as the bishop’s annual appeal. Members of the diocese donated money with a goal of raising $2,150,000 to support various ministries within the diocese. While the appeal formally ended Dec. 11, parishes are still accepting donations.

Finn will dedicate the Chapel of St. Joseph on STA’s campus Feb. 2.

In the light of Finn’s indictment, many members were deliberating whether or not to donate to his appeal this year.

Child Pornography Scandal

The Jackson County grand jury indicted Finn Oct. 14 for not informing officials that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan of St. Patrick’s School possessed and produced child pornography. One month later, Finn avoided prosecution in Clay County, where he was also under indictment.

As part of a diversion program, for the next five years, Finn will meet monthly with a Clay County prosecutor to discuss any possible cases of sexual abuse involving priests or administrators within the diocese.

Finn as well as the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph remain under indictment in Jackson County for failing to inform officials of the abuse.

Vice chancellor of the appeal Paula Moss wondered how the scandal would affect the appeal.

“It’s probably the big question on everyone’s mind,” Moss said. “People asked me from the get go, ‘Are you going to not do it?’ I would never not do [the appeal]. It’s so important to the ongoing services of our diocese.”

By the numbers:

27 counties within the Kansas City – St. Joseph diocese

133,305 Catholics in the diocese

98 diocesan priests

87 parishes

8 Catholic high schools

Who benefits?

According to Moss, who has worked for the Kansas City – St. Joseph diocese for seven years, the appeal’s purpose is confusing to some.

This year, she focused on educating people about the benefits of the appeal. She and her team produced more pieces of marketing for the appeal in the Catholic Key and sent letters to members of the diocese.

“It’s really interesting because most people would say [the appeal is] for [the staff] at the diocese,” Moss said. “Most of the money, all the money, goes back into serving our parishes and serving our communities.”

The money collected from the appeal is dispersed across 30 different ministries in the diocese. Among those includes Catholic Charities, which receives 5 percent of its funds from the appeal. This 5 percent amounts to $500,000, which goes to serving over 200,000 people each year, according to Catholic Charities’ manager of communications and marketing Kathie Conwell. Her daughters Erin and Elizabeth graduated from STA in 1999 and 2007, respectively.

“Every dime that we receive goes to support the services [Catholic Charities provides],” Conwell said.

Deciding whether to donate

Senior Kate Needham, a member of and occasional cantor at St. Peter’s Parish, said members of her family have conflicting ideas about whether they should donate to the appeal.

Needham said people should take into account the ministries the diocese serves.

“The ministries that the church puts on are very effective and very important,” Needham said. “There’s a lot of people right now who are weighing whether it’s worth impacting those ministries in order to really take a stance on how the church hierarchy has behaved.”

Needham wishes she could “earmark” her donation to only go toward assisting the ministries. However, according to Moss, earmarking would not be necessary since all of the appeal money assists the diocese.

“The Church is still larger than one man and one scandal,” Needham said. “The people on the ground doing the work and helping people, the people who need this money so they can make an impact on the community, they are important and are not the people I wish to condemn.”

In regards to the appeal, Moss said people have a right to know how their donation will be used. She wants to make clear that all of the money serves the parishes and community, and none of it pays for legal or administrative expenses at the diocese. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions on the website for the diocese was “Will any of my donation go to attorney fees or settlement costs?”

“What we’ve really tried to remind people is that the annual appeal is not about any of that,” Moss said. “It’s about ministries and service. No matter what happens with the legal issues and things like that, the ministries will continue on. The church will continue on. I hope that people will continue to support it.”








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