When I worked at the Chancery in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the 'Whom to Call List' was an essential tool for the receptionists (who I supervised) as it helped them determine to whom they should forward the calls that were received via the general Chancery telephone number. From a more theoretical standpoint, the 'list' also outlined the way in which the Archdiocesan administration operated and understood itself. Competencies and areas of responsibility were zealously guarded by some members of staff, and so the accuracy of the list took on an internecine importance far greater than one would otherwise expect. 

For that reason I was intrigued when, earlier this month, a copy of the 2015 'Whom to Call List' (also referred to as the 'Directory') appeared in my inbox. Produced in January of 2015, the document provides some insight into how the Central Corporation is restructuring itself in light of the dismal financial condition of the Archdiocese (these are the employees that would be moving should the Archdiocese succeed in selling the Chancery, Hayden, and Dayton buildings). The effects of the layoffs can be seen in the frequent use of 'refer calls to', the reduced staffing of the Marriage Tribunal (increased, as well, by the addition of Father Joseph Gallatin), and in the larger departmental reorganization (there is no longer a Department of Parish Services, for instance). 

There is a shift in priorities that is evident as well. While the Department of Worship (an important entity in an Archdiocese, no?) has a staff of two, teh much needed Office for Ongoing Clergy Formation only one, and the Catholic Schools department lists just six employees, there are sixteen employees in the Communications Department and eleven combined for Ministerial Standards and Protection of Children and Youth (including two 'assistant investigators' and a two consultants). On a positive note, the Archdiocese finally has an Office of Latino Ministry, and it is headed by someone who is actually a Latina. 

Still, if you consider that this document represents how the Archdiocese actually works and views itself, there are some things that should cause us to pause. For instance, although the fourth page of the document is the list of 'offices that serve the Catholic community but are separate from the Archdiocese' (according to the notes in the document header), the 'independent' Catholic Services Appeal Foundation is listed on page one- as an Archdiocesan office. Also on the first page is the office for Advocacy and Victims Assistance, with a note to refer calls to Deacon Rip Riordan, who apparently has been brought back to work with Ministerial Standards in approximately the same role as he had under Father Kevin McDonough. I don't want to speak for victims, but my general impression is that they would not be happy to have their calls referred to a deacon, especially not when the Archdiocese had publicly announced in December that it was partnering with Canvas Health to improve victims' services, including by establishing a 24 hour hotline (the number for which is not the same as the number given for Rip Riordan).  

I am posting the list below, so you can see for yourself. I would also expect that more changes will be forthcoming as the bankruptcy reorganization continues. 
 
 
If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage everyone to read Professor Jack Ruhl's analysis of diocesan fiscal practices, found in the National Catholic Reporter. Under the title, 'Survey Finds Serious Flaws in Diocesan Financial Management', Ruhl provides a thoughtful and thorough explanation of the pending crisis in funding for the retirement of priests, as well as an explanation of how diocesan pension plans are managed and funded. He also evaluates the types of financial reports provided by Catholic dioceses to their faithful, concluding that many are little more than 'an unsupported assertion by the diocese'. 

The article includes a very useful spreadsheet including information for all dioceses for which detailed financial information was available, and listing those for who it is not. The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis appears as being somewhere between the two categories, despite the recent bankruptcy-driven financial disclosures.

Ruhl's conclusions may strike some as being obvious, unless one considers how infrequently they are done. For instance, he argues that every diocese should post a full set of audited financial statements on its website within 60 days of the close of the fiscal year, and that such disclosures should include the entire diocesan accounting entity (including, for instance, seminaries and pensions). He also suggests that priests and laity should assume the roles of financial watchdogs over diocesan resources, and that all dioceses with projected pension shortfalls should initiate a plan to fully fund the shortfalls within a reasonable period (he suggests three years).

Should these things be done? Yes, obviously. Will they? Not likely. It is simply beyond the capacity of dioceses and diocesan employees to bring such things into being (due, I suspect, to a lack of will as well as a lack of resources), and without the resulting transparency and disclosure, the laity and even the presbyterates will remain without an accurate idea of how diocesan resources are being managed. 
 
 
Apropos of the Commonweal Magazine article on sexual formation at Saint John Vianney College Seminary in Saint Paul, it should be noted that the formation program at the Saint Paul Seminary (also in Saint Paul) has also been called into question at least in part because of the ongoing legal troubles of Reverend Xiu Hui 'Joseph' Jiang.

Father Jiang attended the Saint Paul Seminary prior to his 2010 ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. During his seminary formation Jiang (a native of Hong Kong) was under the sponsorship of (Arch)bishop Robert Carlson, first as Bishop of Saginaw and then as Archbishop of Saint Louis, an unusual relationship that raised concern at the seminary at the time. While a student Father Jiang completed parish internships in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis including, if I remember correctly, at Saint John the Baptist Church and School in New Brighton.

Father Jiang's legal troubles began very shortly after his ordination. Within three years he was charged with child endangerment and witness tampering in connection with inappropriate contact with a teenage girl. The criminal charges in that matter were dismissed when prosecutors could not establish that Father Jiang had been alone with the girl, but the civil case continues. Then, in May of 2014, Father Jiang was indicted by a Missouri grand jury and charged with sexual contact with a minor male under the age of 14. The sexual contact is alleged to have occurred in 2011-2012 at the parish school where Father Jiang was assigned.

The criminal and civil cases are still pending, so there has been no determination of guilt and it may prove that Father Jiang is not guilty of the charges. Father Jiang has been on leave since the first accusations were made. He has many supporters who avow his innocence, including Archbishop Carlson and a group called 'Friends of Father Joseph Jiang'. However, the circumstances surrounding the accusations raise questions about the formation provided to Father Jiang during his time at SPS, especially regarding establishing and maintaining proper boundaries.



 
 
For those of you who are looking for the registration information for the webinars, the information is as follows.

The Rights of the Faithful in the Catholic Parish 

An interactive seminar for Catholics wanting to understand more about their role in the Catholic parish. Topics will include the rights of parishioners in regard to strategic planning, processes for challenging planning decisions, financial governance of the parish, and other topics as requested.

Wednesday, February 25 at 7pm, or Thursday, March 12 at 7pm. 


Please register for the date and time that works best for you. There is a fee of $27.50 per registrant.

https://attendee.gototraining.com/rt/7638419793056098305 

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The current issue of Commonweal Magazine features a number of articles on the priesthood. Among them is a report by a former seminarian of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis who writes of the inadequate (and frankly bizarre) formation that was provided at the Archdiocese's minor seminary, Saint John Vianney, on the topic of human sexuality.

For instance, the seminarian, Paul Blashcko writes of his experience during the period from 2008-2010:

'I recall the day when the first-year seminarians, or “new men” as we were called, gathered in the seminary’s spacious basement to attend a workshop on sexual ethics titled “Freedom and Victory.” The workshop was run by a psychologist from something called the Theology of the Body Training and Healing Center, together with a blind priest who, we were told during his introduction, had witnessed at least one eucharistic miracle and had had extensive experience with exorcisms. The breakout sessions had titles like “Masturbation: Is it Healthy? Is it Holy?” (you can guess the answer to both questions); and at various points throughout the workshop we were invited to approach the microphone and share stories of sexual pain and healing—“if you feel called by the spirit to do so”—with the sixty or so priests and other seminarians in the room.

The whole thing felt more than a little strange to me, and for the most part I kept my head down, pretending to take notes in the workbook that had been provided. The strangeness culminated with a workshop session devoted to reenacting the “spiritual warfare” that goes on when a young man watches pornography. Each of us was given a nametag with the name of a demon on it. These demons, we were told, were the principalities most closely associated with sexual temptation. We were then gathered around the chosen man and told to hiss and curse at him, trying to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.” Afterwards, the priest came around with a coffee tin, collecting the nametags—he had to burn them, he told us, while reciting prayers of exorcism. Demonic influence wasn’t something to take lightly.
'

For those of you who might be inclined to disregard what the author is reporting, I remember the incident with the seminarian looking for sex online. If I recall correctly, either that incident or another was actually discovered by the University of Saint Thomas, not the seminary, because the seminarian's search items were identified as problematic and reported by the University's IT service, not the seminary's. 

I strongly encourage you to read the full article, as Paul provides an important and thoughtful analysis of his experience of seminary formation during the Nienstedt-era. God help us all. 
 
 
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, a time when Catholics both repent and prepare for renewal. It also marks the return to battle for certain priests and Catholics in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, as the opening volleys are fired in the ongoing skirmishes over the use of Form III of the Sacrament of Penance, also referred to as general absolution.

Most of those who spent the 1980s in this Archdiocese are no doubt familiar with the practice of general absolution, as it was fairly widely practiced here after its introduction in the 1973 Rite of Penance. The third rite permits absolution to be granted to large numbers of penitents without previous individual confession when certain circumstances are present, such as too many penitents in relation to the number of priests available to hear individual confessions. Consequently, the parish I attended as a child, Saint Odilia, regularly offered communal penance services utilizing this third rite, even after its application was greatly curtailed by the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (although this did not draw nearly as much outcry as did the statue of the extremely buff and comely Jesus that adorned the reservation chapel). The new Code required the additional criteria of danger of death or grave necessity, and mandated that the diocesan bishop alone could judge whether such circumstances exist (rather than the leaving the question to the judgment of the individual priest or priests whose sacramental services were being sought).

Despite these canonical clarifications, as well as attempts by at least two Archbishops to eliminate the practice, Form III continues to be offered at certain parishes in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis during both Advent and Lent. In some cases, the knowledge that such services are offered is so wide-spread that thousands of people will attend, many from outside of the parish. In others, the practice continues in a smaller, quieter way. 

The skirmishes, however, are growing louder. While one might expect that the bankruptcy filing, the criminal investigation into the practices of the Archdiocese, and the ongoing investigation into his personal conduct might have Archbishop Nienstedt sufficiently occupied, I am hearing that he has still found time to send warning letters to certain priests, threatening a variety of penalties and consequences (some of questionable applicability and canonical legitimacy)  should another mass-shriving occur.
 
No doubt many priests and even lay Catholics will be delighted by this news. For, there are those who believe strongly that individual and integral confession is the only acceptable means for receiving the grace of the sacrament, and they worry (perhaps correctly) that their parishioners and friends are being led astray by these dubious practices. I always felt a certain amount of sympathy for those priests who would regularly report on the illicit Form III services, as I appreciated their desire to faithfully guide those under their care. At the same time, I also felt a need to defend those who both sought and administered general absolution. I have to admit that my own desire to receive the sacrament in this way expanded exponentially during my years of Chancery work, as I was repeatedly confronted with egregious examples of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse resulting from the celebration of what was intended to be a sacrament. 

Lets face it, the confessional can be a dangerous and uncomfortable place for many of us. It is a little known fact that at least one priest in this Archdiocese was even killed while hearing confessions. Rev. Henry Jazdzewski was shot five times (including a fatal shot above his left eye) by a woman who alleged that he was the father of one of her children. It was her third attempt at murdering the priest, although she would never stand trial because she was found to be mentally and emotionally unstable (her claim that the priest had fathered her child was not questioned).

Unfortunately, my work in diocesan Chanceries has also taught me that other violations of the sacrament are not unheard of. The crimes of solicitation (seeking sexual activity under the pretext of sacramental confession) and absolution (absolving an accomplice of a sin against the sixth commandment in which the confessor participated) are not as rare as one would hope, nor is the disclosure of information imparted during the confessional or the misuse of such information. Clerical imprudence, too, has played a role in creating skepticism about the practice of individual confession, whether it be priests who insist on hearing the confessions of minors in dimly lit offices without windows or those who find it necessary to question penitents in great detail about certain venial sins. 

There are many wonderful confessors in this Archdiocese (we even have the benefit of having a Marist parish, who priests follow the charism of being merciful confessors as taught by the founder of their Society), and I have been very grateful for the grace I have received through their hands. But, many of those who seek general absolution do so to avoid a repetition of hurtful or abusive encounters with priests whose own sins and weaknesses became more a part of the sacrament than their penitent's. Consequently, among the thousands who will attend services at which general absolution will be offered there will be a large number of individuals who are not deliberately shunning the teachings of the Church or illegitimately seeking the 'easier' Form III absolution, but who instead can be properly identified as having been excused from the requirement of individual confession according to the second clause of canon 960

After all, the physical and moral impossibility that excuses one from the requirement of individual confession can have its root in a variety of infirmities of body or mind, or even circumstantial causes (e.g. relationship to the minister of the sacrament or language difficulties). And, psychological issues or even traumatic experiences might create a situation of relative incapacity. One would think that this Archdiocese, embroiled in a horrific scandal as a result of sexual abuse by clergy, would be particularly sensitive to this reality, and at pains to welcome those whose access to the normal reception of the sacrament has been impeded. Given the revelations of the past few years, and the resulting skepticism that many feel towards Archdiocesan leadership, such an individual's continued desire to receive the grace of the sacrament should be supported and encouraged, and those priests able to maintain their trust commended.  
  
The unpleasant reality of sin being manifest even in our most sacred moments is acknowledged in the Roman Ritual when it introduces the Rite of Penance. The Ritual reminds us that the Church is both holy and always in need of purification, and hence the deep need for penance and expiation in the life of the Church and its liturgy. Similarly, canon law both imposes the obligation to confess and seeks to protect penitents from harmful confessors by identifying and punishing certain crimes against the sacrament and by insisting that the faculty to hear confessions be restricted to only those who 'are found to be suitable' (canon 970). This provision has largely been ignored by bishops in the United States, where priests are usually granted the faculty to hear confessions upon their ordination. Likewise, reports of inappropriate behavior in the confessional are often disregarded as hypersensitivity or are penalized with far milder sanctions than those that Archbishop Nienstedt has threatened to impose on priests who continue to use Form III. (Thankfully, a priest is not obliged to have recourse to his bishop prior to making the determination that an impossibility exists for a penitent, as he would if he were to offer a truly 'general' absolution.)  It is perhaps predictable that the much-decried lack of appreciation for individual confession on the part of the faithful has been matched by an equal lack of appreciation for the wisdom of these canonical provisions by their leaders.

If Archbishop Nienstedt truly wants to eliminate the use of Form III in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I would suggest that he began with these simple steps. Commend those who recognize the need for and benefit of sacramental absolution, in whatever form they seek it. Make the Church a safe and comfortable place for penitents of all walks of life. See that priests are properly trained and have sufficient pastoral experience before conferring upon them such a weighty responsibility. And, finally, reflect on how your own harsh judgments of the conduct and motives of priests and laity alike may have contributed to a distrust in the mercy that the Church offers. Only then could the Archbishop legitimately impose the multitudinous penalties that he has threatened, although one would doubt he that would still have the hubris to do so. 

 
 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is very possible that the path out of bankruptcy for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will include parishes and other institutions contributing to the financial compensation offered to victims of clergy sexual abuse. This could happen in several ways, including by parish insurance policies providing settlement money, parishes voluntarily agreeing to contribute to the final settlement, or with a judgment in support of an alter ego claim. The latter, as I have already mentioned, enables a court to treat separate corporations (such as the parish corporations or other related non-profits) as one legal entity with the Archdiocese, and to hold each liable for the debts of the other and to consolidate the assets of both.

Since that last posting, I have received many emails and comments regarding the alter ego argument. Most, frankly, take the position that the alter ego status is already established by the level of control exercised by the Archbishop over parishes and institutions. However, it is not that easy.

A lot of the control exercised by the Archbishop occurs in the areas of religious practice, such as the appointing of pastors, establishing regulations for the administration of the sacraments, and even dictating prayers and special collections for charitable purposes. A court is unlikely to consider these aspects of Archdiocesan control when determining whether the parish is an alter ego because of constitutional issues arising from the First Amendment. What will be of interest to the court is the extent to which the Archbishop's authority over the temporal operations of the parishes and institutions exceeds that which is permitted by those corporations' governing documents.

As I have already mentioned, the alter ego claim was posited by the Creditors Committee in the bankruptcy proceedings of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but the Committee's motion for an alter ego judgment and substantive consolidation failed.  The Committee's argument for the determination was 'that the Parishes and the Debtor are part of a single enterprise, both financially and operationally, and that the Parishes are incapable of surviving as independent entities without the Debtor's financial and operational support.' The Committee also noted the overlap between the leadership of the Archdiocese and each Parish. Furthermore, while the Committee conceded that each of the Parishes was separately incorporated, it alleged that the Debtor and the Parishes do not adhere to typical corporate formalities and separateness.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded by indicating that the parishes were incorporated under Wisconsin law, and that many of the questionable governance issues arose from the statute rather than intention. 

'The Parish Corporations located within the [Debtor] are separate civil corporations. Other than a few Parish Corporations which are wholly-owned by religious orders, the Parish Corporations are all organized and operate pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 187.19. In Wisconsin, parish corporations have been separately incorporated since 1883 (Wis. Stat. § 187.19 is based on Chapter '37 of the Laws of Wisconsin (1883), and many of the Parish Corporations came into existence in 1883, with the majority incorporated prior to 1930). In accordance with the Wisconsin Statutes, each Parish Corporation has a designated Board of Trustees as prescribed by statute. Parish corporations own their own property, finance their own activities, manage their own assets and are responsible for their own corporate activities.'

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee also successfully argued that its parishes have no money- they 'live on the margins' and any attempt to consolidate assets would result in the parishes no longer being able to continue with their essential services, including by providing the opportunity to 'worship, to provide religious outreach and to continue operations'. 

So, if the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was successful in refuting the alter ego argument in its bankruptcy, should we have anything to fear? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is 'yes' and for all the same reasons that have brought us to where we are today. We are not Milwaukee. We did not play by the rules, either canonically or civilly. And, perhaps most importantly, when it appeared everything would be on the line, our leadership was not able to cajole or compel those within into towing the company line. 'Mental reservation' is only useful when everyone is willing to tell the same lie. 

So where, legally speaking, are the differences? In the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, generally speaking, parish corporations are established under Minnesota Statute 315.15, which requires the Archbishop, the Vicar General, and the pastor of the parish to govern the corporation with the assistance of two lay trustees (Board of Directors). The purpose in establishing the parish corporations, as the standard Articles of Incorporation state (see below), is for the corporation to 'take charge of and manage all the temporal affairs of the Roman Catholic Church in the said Parish to promote the spiritual, educational, and other interests of the said Roman Catholic Church in said Parish including all the charitable, benevolent, and eleemosynary work of said Church in said parish...'

You and I know what this means, as it is how most of us experience parish life. We contribute to our parish, and it uses those funds to maintain its property, pay its staff, and to serve the sacramental, educational, and charitable needs of the parishioners. Most of us experience parish life this way, but not all. While the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was able to argue that its parish corporations own their own property, we know from financial information released as part of the Saint Paul and Minneapolis bankruptcy that some of our parishes do not own their own property, such as the Cathedral parish. In those cases, the property used and maintained by the parish is actually owned by the Archdiocese. 

Moreover, while Milwaukee was able to state that all parish corporations (except those owned entirely by religious orders) are organized and operated as prescribed by the statute on parish corporations and have largely functioned as such since 1930, that is not the case in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Many of our parish corporations were formed after 1930, and, in fact, several churches that are considered 'parishes' are not organized nor operated as parish corporations at all. This would include Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in Minneapolis, Gichitwaa Kateri, and the Newman Center of the University of Minnesota. All of these were established as Minnesota non-profit corporations according to MN Statute 317A, which permits establishment of such corporations 'for any lawful purpose' (no religious purpose is required) and allows the corporation to be established by 'one or more adult natural persons' rather than requiring the participation of the bishop, Vicar General, and pastor. In these cases the law also does not require those individuals (Archbishop, Vicar General, and 'pastor') to serve as directors of the corporation. It was this statute, and not the statute governing parish corporations, that was used to establish a significant number of 'new' churches in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, including those for particular ethnic communities. Most of these were established after 1990, with more than one established in 2011. 

It is very difficult to argue, as Milwaukee did, that the overlap in leadership between the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and its parishes is a statutory requirement of Minnesota law when there is an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that the Archdiocese frequently chose to incorporate its churches under a different, less restrictive statute when it suited it to do so. There is even one institution in the Archdiocese that was established and remains organized as a congregational corporation pursuant to MN Statute 315.01, although it has long ceased to operate according to that particular governance model.

But all is not as it should be even with the corporations established properly as 'parish corporations'. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was able to demonstrate that its parishes managed their own financial activities and were self-supporting. As many pastors and business administrators in this Archdiocese can attest, that is not true in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. In 2007, the Archdiocese was guaranteeing nearly $100 million in debt owed by parishes or other Catholic institutions (down from $140 million thanks to the Growing in Faith campaign).  And, rather than being self-supporting in terms of day-to-day operations, the salaries of many parish employees are subsidized or completely funded by the Archdiocese (hence the payments of $9,900 and multiples of that number which appear in the schedule of payments to creditors filed on January 30). It is also a common occurrence for parishes to be sufficiently underfunded that they either underpay or avoid paying altogether their contributions to the Archdiocesan common platform medical, insurance, or pension funds, sometimes going hundreds of thousands of dollars into arrears with these payments. In fact, this situation had become so critical by 2013 that the new CFO, Tom Mertens, sent letters to nearly fifty parishes that were delinquent in these payments, despite the fact that some of the debts were well beyond the seven year period during which they could be legally collected.

Yet, during the Milwaukee proceedings the court considered whether the Archdiocese exercised dominion over its parishes not only in terms of finances but also in terms of policy and business practices. And, here again, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis might find itself in trouble. It was generally acknowledged by my co-workers and I that policies promulgated by the Archbishop concerning matters outside his spiritual authority needed to be adopted by the parish corporations through a formal resolution, but this was not deemed expedient. Therefore, you have sweeping policies on parish administration (that exceed the canonical requirements) and employment practices (mandatory arbitration is not a magisterial teaching) that have been imposed upon the parish corporations, and at one point in the late 1980s or early 1990s the Archdiocese even mandated that the parish corporations adopt uniform Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws (distributed through the old Clergy Bulletin binders). Even the independence of the lay trustees can be called into question in light of the yearly 'instruction' provided by the Archdiocese regarding their roles and obligations, at which time the trustees are also informed of Archdiocesan initiatives and programs for their parishes (see the Parish Trustee materials below). The Archdiocese has also compelled a variety of actions and initiatives related to parish finances, from mandating certain forms of financial reporting to dictating accounting practices and the software to be used, and some parishes and institutions have been forced to purchase business services through the Archdiocesan 'Parish Accounting Services Center', primarily in cases where the Archdiocese wanted to exercise complete control over the parish or institution's fiscal operations.

It is also hard to argue that parish corporations in the Archdiocese are permitted to manage their own assets and financial affairs, or that they are governed according to their own Articles and bylaws, when corporate formalities are so frequently disregarded. The bylaws for every parish corporation in this Archdiocese require the Board to meet at least once annually, but ask any lay trustee if they can ever remember the Archbishop and Vicar General appearing for such a meeting- no matter what the circumstances (e.g. parish mergers). Furthermore, in some circumstances, 'separate' parish corporations have been permitted to utilize a single parish register and have intermingled finances so that the separate identities of the parishes is a mere legal fiction. The parishes of St Mary's and St Michael's in Stillwater are a perfect example of this. The two parishes, along with the separately incorporated school and religious formation program, have been permitted to operate as the Stillwater Catholic Community for years- even posting a joint fundraising policy- despite the Archbishop, Vicar General, Pastor, and parish staff being frequently reminded of the need to respect the separate incorporation of each entity. The Delano parishes were also operated this way until recently, when the confusion was rectified by the merger of the corporations. 

At other times the assets of one church have been used for the benefit of another, separate, church, (or even the Archdiocese) to the detriment of one or both. Many of you reading this will remember the old Newman Center located at 1701 University Avenue on the campus of the U of M. That property, owned by a non-profit corporation (not a parish corporation) named 'Newman Center and Chapel', was sold in 2009-2010 (if I remember correctly) following multiple bids in the range of $2-$3 million. After mortgage repayment, the estimated proceeds of the sale were thought to be in the range of $1.5 million. So, what happened to that money? It should remain in the bank accounts of the corporation of the 'Newman Center and Chapel', but did such things exist and if they did, is the money there? If not, why not, and where was the money held after the sale of the property?

Or, consider what took place in 2012, when Father Kevin McDonough, chaplain of Sagrado Corazon, wanted to generate income for Sagrado by leasing the church's property to, I believe, a Charter school. In order to complete the lease, the Sagrado property required significant improvements, which the church was unable to afford. So, a loan was taken out by the Church of the Incarnation (a separate parish corporation of which Father McDonough also happened to be pastor), to cover the costs of the renovation of the Sagrado building. The transaction required the consent of the Archbishop, College of Consultors and Archdiocesan Finance Council, along with the intervention of the Catholic Finance Corporation, all of whom were suspicious of the transaction. However, I was told that Father McDonough was able to 'charm' Archbishop Nienstedt into agreeing to his proposal (over the opposition of his councils). Additional difficulties emerged when it was suddenly recognized that the Articles/Bylaws of Sagrado Corazon were so out of date that the positions of the ex officio members of the Board of Directors had largely been eliminated more than a decade before (in other words, the directors had not been able to convene since 2000, when Archbishop Flynn suppressed the old vicariate system). Since those positions no longer existed, Father McDonough had to convince other people to sign the corporate documents, based on the logic that their Archdiocesan positions made them 'close enough' to the ex officio members listed in the Articles/Bylaws. 

In this case, Father McDonough occupied only one position on the Board of Directors for each of the corporations. However, that was not always the case. At the time that he was appointed Vicar General, Father McDonough was also appointed as pastor of the parish corporation of Saint Peter Claver, meaning that he held two director positions on that parish's five  person board simultaneously (along with the Archbishop and two lay trustees). The statute doesn't explicitly forbid this, although it is far from ideal, and Father McDonough was certainly engaged in the operations of the parish corporation both on behalf of the Archdiocese and the parish. Therefore, this was less of a sham than it might at first appear.

The same cannot be said, however, for the more than seventy-five other parishes to which Father McDonough was also assigned as 'pastor' for purposes of corporate governance during the seventeen years (1991-2008) that he was simultaneously a director of those corporations by virtue of his appointment as Vicar General. For these 75+ parishes, Father McDonough rarely, if ever, celebrated Mass or conferred a sacrament or even did so much as offer a prayer on their behalf, and in many cases the parishioners were unaware of his governance responsibilities although they were effectively under the complete dominion of the Chancery (the Board of Directors being composed of the Archbishop, his appointee Father McDonough, his other appointee Father McDonough, and two lay trustees nominated by Father McDonough and appointed by his two votes and that of the Archbishop). 

In many cases this direct, majority governance by the Chancery was benign, a simple expedient rather than an intent to interfere. But, in a number of situations McDonough's dual appointment was made at a time when the Archdiocese was dictating a change in the parish that negatively impacted parish assets and often went contrary to the wishes of the parishioners. In such cases his appointment as 'pastor' meant that the parish corporation was given no opportunity to exercise a mind, will, or existence apart from that which was determined for it by the Archdiocese. Significantly, Father McDonough was appointed to a second, simultaneous ex officio position on the corporate boards of St. Martin and St Walburga when those parishes were transitioning into Mary, Queen of Peace, of Holy Redeemer and St Peter when those parishes were preparing to merge, of St Anne of Minneapolis when it was made the parish of the Vietnamese Community, now known as St. Anne-St Joseph Hien, and during different stages of transition for the Highland parishes now known as Lumen Christi. The Archdiocese was far less subtle in its strategic planning under Archbishop Nienstedt, although I can remember being appointed as a lay trustee (in name alone) during this process and removed just as quickly when I refused to sign certain corporate documents. Still, rather than appointing the Vicar General as 'pastor', Archbishop Nienstedt was able to impose his strategic plan by merely threatening the removal of pastors and forcing the resignations of any lay trustees who were unwilling to sign the corporate merger documents. Neither approach gives the appearance of arm's length transactions, and both raise serious questions about the degree of discretion a parish corporation has regarding its operations and assets.  

For these reasons, among others, I don't think it would be difficult for the creditors in this bankruptcy to demonstrate that the parish corporations and related institutions and the Archdiocese have a unity of interest and ownership to the extent that the separate legal personalities of the parishes and other corporations do not effectively exist. But what about the second aspect of the alter ego test? Is this fraud? Has or will an injustice be committed?

To answer that question, it is probably best to go back to 1991, which was seminal time in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis both in terms of parish corporation reorganization and litigation resulting from sexual abuse by clergy. At that time the new Vicar General, Father McDonough, was made pastor of two parishes for which he would never exercise any type of spiritual leadership or ministry- Saint Elizabeth of Minneapolis and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Both parishes had suffered a loss of territory and population as a result of the construction of I-35W, so the decision to reorganize the parishes was legitimate. As per canon law, the remaining parishioners of those parishes were accommodated into the neighboring parish of Saint Albert the Great, which also received the remaining territory that had been assigned to the two churches, the responsibility for the care of the faithful in the combined area, and the church ledgers, sacramental registers, etc. 

Canonically, such a merger is effected through the issuing of a decree, and the civil law governing parish corporations provides a similar statute (315.365). However, although in every case the outwards signs of a merger of the two parishes were present, the parish corporation of Saint Elizabeth was never merged into the parish corporation of Saint Albert the Great, nor did the assets of the merged parish follow the parishioners, as is required by canon law. Instead, the Archdiocese 'suppressed' Saint Elizabeth (a rare canonical declaration meant to be used when more than a hundred years have passed with no pastoral activity in the territory, and which the Congregation for Clergy has declared must almost never happen in the United States. Prot. No. 20060481). By suppressing rather than merging the parish the Archdiocese was able to seize the assets of the parish corporation of St Elizabeth. And this parish had a lot of assets, in part because its land and buildings (rectory, school, church, etc) had been reclaimed to enable the construction of the interstate. As for the civil corporation, 'suppression' should have resulted in it, and its assets, being subsumed into the Archdiocesan corporation. But this never happened. Instead, the parish corporation continued to exist until at least 2013, with Father McDonough remaining pastor throughout two changes in Archbishops and at least four changes in Vicar Generals, although the 'parish' had operationally, canonically, and physically ceased to exist more than two decades before. As for the money, what amounted to millions of dollars ($8 million is what sticks in my mind, but I could be wrong about that) remained in the parish bank accounts, legally but illegitimately protected as the assets of a 'separate corporation' until a 'convenient' time (i.e. non-litigious) presented and the the Archdiocese was able to transfer the money into its own coffers without the risk of it being subsumed in litigation, settlement, or punitive damage costs.

Second criteria, check.  

Now, I know that many of the pastors who are reading this are saying, 'yeah, fine, come after our assets. We ain't got nothing but debt', and they would be right (practically if not grammatically). However, while many of our parishes are deeply in debt and/or 'living on the margins', a fair number of  them are also holding onto property- a significant amount of property- the loss of which would not arguably impact the parish corporations' ability to continue its operations or services. Saint Katherine Drexel, for instance, has more than thirty undeveloped acres in Ramsey, and St Joachim and Anne about ten acres in Shakopee. Other parish corporations hold undeveloped land, commercial real estate, rental housing, etc. This property is significant given that the Tucson bankruptcy agreement was reached in part through the sale of 83 unused church properties for more than $5 million, the proceeds of which went directly into the settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse. 

The parishes are also the moral if not legal owners of the excess funding in the General Insurance fund (reputably overfunded by about $3.5 million), and the Employee Medical Plan (rumored to have an extra $14 million), money that is currently being floated as a possible source of the parishes' 'contribution' to the settlement fund. Like the unused parish properties, the use of this money for bankruptcy purposes would likely not significantly impact the day-to-day operations of most of the parishes in the Archdiocese. However, like the possible sale of unused parish property, it does raise issues about donor intent, especially given the number of donors in recent years who contributed money to their parishes for operational purposes based on guarantees that such money would not be used to pay the costs of clergy sexual abuse. And, to the extent that the disbursement of that money to parish-creditors would alter the financial situations of parishes who are being forced into mergers or into closing worship spaces, its use in bankruptcy would have a negative impact on those parishes' ability to continue their present operations. 

The point? Despite Archdiocesan statements to the contrary, we have moved beyond the point of stating that parish assets are not at risk in the bankruptcy process. 'It is important to know that parishes and Catholic schools are separately incorporated and are not filing for Reorganization' misses the point. Parishes and schools did not file for bankruptcy any more than (in most cases) they chose to expose their members to sexual abuse by clergy, but they are being drawn into the process nonetheless. All that remains to be determined is the extent to which the faithful in the parishes will have to suffer financially as well as spiritually and emotionally for the sins of their leaders.
 
 
Earlier today, in the same 'Archdiocesan Update' that contains a reminder that the Congregation for Clergy insists on the 'importance of ensuring the proprietorship of personal data contained in parish archives remain exclusively with the Catholic Church' (ahem, too late for us), there is a link to FAQs by the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, John Nienstedt, who suggests that his residence may soon be up for sale. 

Q. Is the archdiocese considering selling some property?

A. That is a possibility. Property that could potentially be sold is the Chancery building, the Hayden building [the old Cathedral School building] and the archbishop’s residence in an effort to decrease operating costs and use all available resources to help those affected by clergy sexual abuse while continuing the mission of the Church.



Of course, the same article also contains this:

Q. Did the archdiocese create organizations like the CSAF to protect its assets from creditors during the Reorganization process?

A. No.

So, I would take it with a grain of salt. Still, the need to relocate Archdiocesan offices from the cramped, non-handicapped accessible, and outdated buildings across from the Cathedral should be apparent to everyone who has been inside them. As for where the Archbishop might reside, well, unassigned clergy are generally housed either in the Cathedral rectory or the Byrne Residence. 
 
 
 
 
But I don't think they meant to...

Earlier today, the Communications department of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis issued a statement regarding the disclosure of 4 additional names and histories of men 'who have substantiated claims against them of sexually abusing a minor while they were assigned as priests, or, in the case of one, before he was a priest'. (the law firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates released 17 names today).

I would assume that most of us are rather tired by now of these oh-look-what-we-just-discovered disclosures, but today's is particularly noteworthy because of who is included: Raimond Rose, FSC. 

The news that Brother Rose has been credibly accused is not new. In 2010 a lawsuit was filed alleging that he had abused twenty-one minor victims at seven different schools, including De La Salle in Minneapolis. What is new is that the Archdiocese has mistakenly identified him as a member of the clergy, subject to the restrictions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People/Essential Norms, and capable of being 'removed from ministry'.

Brother Raimond Rose is a member of the Brothers of Christian Schools- an institute of lay men dedicated exclusively to the mission of education. They are not priests (and probably would be offended to be mistook for one)! Brother Rose did not abuse while a priest, nor did he abuse 'before he was a priest'. He was never in formation to become a priest. That is simply not what Christian Brothers do.
 
So, is this just another 'oops', or can we expect to see the disclosures regarding clergy sexual abuse expanded to include more credibly accused members of the laity? I guess we will have to wait and see.

[Let's go with 'oops', and this isn't the only one. The Archdiocesan website 'Safe Catholic' also states, in regard to Msgr. James Namie, 'Removed from active ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1970; permanently removed from ministry in 1995'. See below for a picture of Msgr Namie in public ministry (in the presence of three bishops) in 2005. It is likely that additional pictures exist of him celebrating Mass at Catholic Eldercare in Minneapolis in the years prior to his death.  I am looking forward to his file being released, as there was a bit of a dust up when he died (in 2010). The Archdiocese was aware of the sexual abuse at that time, and there was a heated discussion about the funeral notice and ceremonies in light of the Archdiocesan policy on funerals for Charter priests. The Charter policy was not applied.] 
 

    Author

    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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