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.



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    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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