I am hearing rumors that the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is planning a reorganization that will result in layoffs for 20% of the lay employees serving the Archdiocese in offices and ministries in the Chancery and Hayden Center (Pastoral Center).
Such a move would not be a surprise. You may recall that in 2012 the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has been rocked by similar scandals involving employee embezzlement and mishandling of accusations of sexual abuse, announced a similar shake-up. In Philadelphia, 45 lay employees lost their jobs, several offices and ministries were consolidated, and the Archdiocese eliminated its print newspaper.
In Saint Paul and Minneapolis, an attempt at reorganization has already been undertaken in the last ten years (2006-2008, if I remember correctly), mainly by offering voluntary buyouts. This effort was successful in reducing the number of overall employees, but as a reorganization plan it largely failed, because the Archdiocese was unable to control who accepted the VBO. High performing employees often took the buyout and moved on to other things, meaning the Archdiocese was forced to reorganize with a less skilled and less motivated workforce. And, when particular individuals were targeted, the consequence was the elimination of a critical department. I think most are in agreement that doing away with the Human Resources department was a mistake.
As for the Archdiocesan newspaper, well, that battle has already been fought and lost.
Speaking from experience, and from an organizational perspective, an effective reorganization is necessary and long overdue. The Archdiocese has long been hampered in making effective personnel decisions by its employment policy, Justice in Employment, in which the Archdiocese gives up its status as an at-will employer. The requirement that terminations only occur for cause means that ineffective employees are often retained at the expense of the services Archdiocesan offices provide.
However, the human cost of reducing 20% of lay employees is significant and should give us pause. If those reductions were to occur from amongst the ranks of those who are most responsible for the current crisis, I would celebrate such an announcement (should it occur). It is far more likely though that those individuals will be the architects and implementers of any proposed organization, and that the negative consequences will fall most strongly on the innocent and goodhearted people who have tried to be of service to the people of God.
Yesterday, the Holy See announced that the rescript modifying the rules for the resignations of bishops and other curial officials had taken effect
. Although early news reports seemed to suggest otherwise, in fact little in the rescript
represents a significant change in practice. However, the rescript
contains two clarifications that should be of particular interest to those who have been following the ongoing debacle in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Art. 4: The gesture of a Bishop who, by motives of love or the wish to offer a better service to the community, considers it necessary to resign from the role of Pastor before reaching the age of seventy-five on account of illness or other serious reasons, is to be deemed worthy of ecclesial appreciation. In such cases, the faithful are requested to demonstrate solidarity and understanding for their former Pastor, providing punctual assistance consistent with the principles of charity and justice, in accordance with canon 402 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
Art. 5: In some particular circumstances, the competent Authorities may deem it necessary to request that a Bishop present his resignation from pastoral office, after informing him of the cause for this request, and listening closely to his reasons, in fraternal dialogue.
For those who have been anxious to see Archbishop Nienstedt resign (and I consider myself to be a part of this group), Article 4 can be read as a reminder of both 'the carrot' and 'the stick' found in this approach. The bishop that tenders his resignation prior to age 75 is
offered 'the carrot' of commendation and 'ecclesial appreciation' for his selfless act. The community of faithful that agitated for it, on the other hand, are menaced with 'the stick' of his ongoing support. Canon 402, para 2, states that the primary obligation for providing for the 'suitable and worthy' upkeep of a bishop who resigned falls on the diocese which he served. Note that in this scenario 'served' is an objective, not subjective, determination.
Article 5 does not outline any particular terms for the financial support of a bishop
who is asked to
submit his resignation, therefore one has to assume that the provisions of canon 402, para 2, might still apply.
The obligation of ongoing support for a resigned bishop is not 'much ado about nothing'. In the case of a retired bishop, such support is generally understood to include an appropriate residence, household and administrative staff, a reasonable budget to cover household expenses and the costs of hospitality, medical benefits,
as well as a monthly stipend or pension. It might be argued that a bishop forced to resign due to mismanagement or other 'serious reasons' is due less support than a bishop who retires after years of honorable service, but I doubt such a determination would result in any significantly diminished cost to the faithful in this Archdiocese.
For, should such be the case for Archbishop Nienstedt, one might assume that his monthly stipend would be covered by his benefit from Detroit and that from the Archdiocesan Pension Plan for Priests which, if I remember correctly, was modified shortly after his appointment, at his direction, to provide a benefit more favorable to him upon his retirement. But, it is useful to remember that the Archdiocese also has a long history of supplementing the income of those clergy removed from active ministry for disciplinary reasons so that they do not suffer financially from their acts of misconduct. During his tenure as Archbishop, Nienstedt approved additional monthly payments of more than $950 to the independently wealthy Robert Kapoun,
while a priest who fathered a child with a parishioner (another priest, whose name has not yet been made public) is guaranteed a stipend of nearly $2000 a month plus another $1000 for room and board for life.
This is according to the terms of the settlement he agreed to in 2003 in exchange for resigning his pastorate, a settlement that was written so favorably towards the priest in question that it does not prevent him from continuing to provide ministry to parishes or from being compensated accordingly (his daughter is provided for through a separate trust).
In this context, commentators on Church issues might want to rethink at least one aspect of their criticism of the 2004 appointment of Cardinal Bernard Law
as Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Leaving aside the canonical requirements regarding the residences of Cardinals who are not diocesan bishops, the appointment, which included accommodations in the Basilica rectory, relieved the cash-strapped Archdiocese of Boston not only of Law's presence but also of at least a portion of the cost of its former bishop's upkeep. I am not suggesting that we should advocate for a red hat for Archbishop Nienstedt, but merely suggesting that the movement towards removing diocesan bishops is fraught with more complexities than might first appear. One can imagine that Pope Francis's map for reform in this area, if illustrated on parchment, would be littered with images warning hic sunt dracones
Yesterday, America Magazine published an interview of Kathleen McChesney by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh
. The interview notes that McChesney, a former executive of the FBI, served as the director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People. The interview does not directly mention Kinsale Management Consulting, the company currently led by McChesney, which was hired by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to conduct its clergy file review late last year
Most of the interview appears to me to be unremarkable, comprised more or less of the same platitudes that are generally used to respond to questions regarding the Catholic Church's commitment to addressing the problem of sexual abuse of minors. McChesney is supportive of the efforts of Pope Francis and his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, praises the 'dedicated collaboration of the laity', and notes '
the vast majority of the bishops and other religious leaders followed the mandates of the Charter'.
Where the interview becomes interesting, in my opinion, is when McChesney is asked to reflect on what she has learned during the fourteen years she has been engaged in this work on behalf of the Catholic Church. As former director of the Secretariat, one might expect McChesney to reiterate the 'company line' that sexual abuse is tragic but occurs in all elements of society, not just the Church, or that no organization has done as much as the Catholic Church to address this issue. But she doesn't. Instead, she provides what I would consider to be the most accurate critique to date of what continues to be wrong with the Church's handling of misconduct by clergy. Here is her response, as published online at americamagazine.org:
'I have learned several things. Among them are the fact that the
universal church does not yet fully understand the magnitude and
types of abuse that occurs within its ministries; that the church is
addressing symptoms of the problem of sexual abuse rather than
recognizing and dealing with its root causes; that additional training
and procedures are required in dealing with boundary violations and
“red-flag” behaviors; and that reconciliation and the restoration of
trust will not occur where there is no public accountability.'
I was never contacted by Kinsale Management regarding its file review in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, so my only information as to its determinations have come from what appeared in news reports. With that caveat, I must admit that the decisions that so far have been made public have been, in my opinion, disappointing. These comments by McChesney, on the other hand, suggest to me that her work led her to reach many of the same conclusions that I did, especially regarding the lack of understanding of
'the magnitude and types of abuse' that is taking place, the root causes, and the need to deal more effectively with boundary violations and troubling behavior before such conduct escalates to the crime of sexual abuse.
I am also intrigued that someone who so recently was engaged with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was willing to state on the record that there is a need for public accountability. Perhaps one way that the Archdiocese could demonstrate such accountability and promote reconciliation and the restoration of trust is by allowing McChesney to speak freely about her work in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.