Autonomous Catholic charitable organizations are certainly nothing new.
What IS new is the idea of using such an organizational structure to directly administer funds at both the parish and diocesan level.
The idea of doing this was mostly born of the clergy sex abuse scandal which exploded into view in the last decade.
The cost of the scandal has escalated into the billions with lay Catholics footing the bill and making them victims twice over: once for the actual sexual abuse and once again for having to pay for it.
In addition to the billions paid out in law suits, it was learned that incalculable secret sums of hush money had been paid out for decades to victims and their families.
Adding insult to injury, not only did bishops buy the silence of victims, they also bought - again with our money - silence for the abusers: bishops paid to ship the offending clerics off to other dioceses or to treatment or just to some place out of the way where they were paid to stay off the radar for awhile or the rest of their lives. (BTW, where is Wadeson?)
In the wake of this mess, lay Catholics began rallying to save their parishes.
Since the mess had been allowed to occur in the first place because of an above-reproach espiscopacy and better than off-shore financial secrecy about where the collection basket money goes, concerned lay Catholics began calling their religions leaders to financial transparency and in some cases, began taking the financial matters of their dioceses and parishes into their own hands.
One example is the Diocese of Orange, California.
In 2005, the Diocese of Orange paid 100 million dollars to 87 vicitims. And that was in addition to many more millions paid previously to other victims. At the time this was the largest clergy sex abuse settlement to date until two years later when the Archdiocese of Los Angelese settled for 660 million.
The matter had gotten out of hand under Bishop Michael Driscoll, who had been warned since the early 80's of certain priests in his diocese who were sexually abusing minors.
However, Driscoll, like most other bishops at the time, sought to hide the problem by moving these priests around and (though we don't know for sure) probably used church funds to keep priests off the radar and/or their vicitims quiet.
In response to similar situations across the country, the Catholic faithful began responding by forming non-profit tax-exempt organizations. These organizations appear to have two main functions: 1) to prevent the abuse of contributions and provide the financial transparency that bishops and pastors were not willing to give, and 2) to shield at least some assests from future law suits.
The people of the Diocese of Orange created the Orange Catholic Foundation. Here is its stated Vision and Mission:
Through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Orange Catholic Foundation strives to become a premier, nationally-recognized steward of Catholic philanthropy in carrying out Christ’s work to sustain and enhance all aspects of Catholic life for the entire community in Orange County.
We are an autonomous, pious foundation that works in collaboration with members of our diocese to raise, manage, grow and grant entrusted funds supporting all aspects of the Catholic faith following each donor’s intent.
Read more at: http://orangecatholicfoundation.org/
The Orange Catholic Foundation is currently both sanctioned by the Bishop of Orange and administered with his cooperation. But this is a NEW bishop. Not the one who permitted all the abuses. (Maybe someday soon we will be able to work with a bishop like this, but obviously not now.)
Another method of lay stewardship could take the form of a charitable trust. This form could accomplish the same ends: seeing to the needs of a parish/diocese and shielding a percentage of the assets, not just from law suits, but from irresponsible clerics as well.
At this point, we only want to get a count of how many of Guam's Catholics would support the general idea of bypassing the collection basket and finding an alternative and more responsible way of supporting their priests and their parish.
To respond to the survey, please go here. The survey can also be accessed at the top right sidebar.