Giving by Catholics Suffering from Abuse Scandal

By Ruth Mccambridge
Non-Profit Quarterly
July 29, 2019

An article in USA Today says that the unwillingness of the Roman Catholic Church to address its sex abuse scandals head-on has led those charitable nonprofits affiliated with them to struggle with impatient, even disgusted donors.

For instance, Catholic Charities of Buffalo only made 85 percent of its $11 million goal. Parishioners withheld donations after Bishop Richard J. Malone let priests accused of inappropriate conduct remain active in the church. Even though donors had the option of directing the whole of their donations to the charity, instead of the usual 50/50 split with the parish, there was a shortfall. (More than half the donors chose this option.)

“People are confused,” says Dennis Walczyk, the president of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “They’re upset with the Catholic church.” Walczyk says Catholic Charities will take any shortfalls as hits on its own budget, not reducing what it gives.

The national Catholic Charities has not provided any public update on recent overall donor support, although last year, its CEO, Donna Markham, did say to Catholic News Service, “Anybody who is working in Catholic organizations right now is being hit by the fallout from the abuse crisis.  We have been faced with some of our significant donors saying, ‘No more money to Catholic Charities until the bishops straighten out this mess.’”

In June, Pew Research Center reported that as a result of the abuse crisis, a quarter of Catholics said they had both reduced donations and scaled back mass attendance. Similarly, a reader survey in Jesuit-run American Magazine in November said, “Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they had lowered the amount they gave to their bishop’s appeal, while 47 percent said they had reduced donations to their parishes.”

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen has been one of a number of influential Catholics to call upon fellow Catholics to skip using the Catholic Church as an intermediary, giving instead directly to charities.—Ruth McCambridge


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