Pastors of parishes in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis this week received the following update on the status of the 2015 Catholic Services Appeal. Frankly, I am surprised that they are only $1,000,000 short, especially given the high legal costs associated with the bankruptcy and fighting the criminal charges leveled against the Archdiocesan corporation.
What I find most interesting, however, is comparing this brief list of 'great things' done with CSA funds to the list provided at the end of last year's appeal. As you will see, the difference in funds allotted for parish rebates alone totals $1,000,000 (the amount the CSA claims to be short), yet the contributions to scholarships for Catholic high school students and for the education of seminarians have also apparently been reduced by half. I suspect that this is because the Archdiocese has continued to shift costs properly belonging to the bankrupt Central Corporation (like the salaries for priests that serve as prison and hospital chaplains) onto the CSA.
Yesterday, priests of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis received the following clarification from Tim O'Malley, Director of Ministerial Standards. As the email explains, while credit checks are required for persons who handle parish money in excess of $250, the definition of 'persons' vis a vis this policy does not include priests. Per O'Malley's email, 'credit checks are not required for priests'.
In case you are wondering why this is a cause for concern, please review my prior post 'The Next Big Scandal in the Church', or the recent article on NJ.com. Obviously, credit checks don't eliminate the potential for theft or exploitation, but they can be a useful tool in identifying problematic behavior and, when properly reviewed and acted upon, may help to prevent exploitation and other harm to vulnerable individuals.
In a previous post, I asked what happens to a student at the University of St Thomas if she becomes pregnant and wishes to finish her degree. Interestingly, the answer appeared a few years back (2011) in an unofficial student newspaper The Pulp. If you choose to read the article (which I will post below) please read all the way to the end, and note that neither the author nor I are advocating for infants living in university dorm rooms. Rather, my suggestion is that on-campus apartments are made available for student parents in a manner consistent with the Catholic moral teaching.
On Monday, the Pioneer Press announced the 2015 winner of the Rowan Award, which is bestowed yearly by the Saint Paul Police Foundation in recognition of exceptional service in policing. The winner, Officer Jon Sherwood, is a twenty-nine year veteran assigned to the city's East Side. What caught my eye, however, was the report of who was also nominated: Sergeant Eric Skog who, as the Pioneer Press notes, 'who was assigned full-time to investigate sex abuse within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis'.
I am sure that those victims who reported their abuse to Sgt. Skog would willingly second his nomination for this award. When a victim contacted me to share his or her experience of abuse I never hesitated to suggest that they contact Sgt. Skog, and I heard time and time again of his patience and kindness once contact was established. More than one person reported that he was willing to listen to them and offer suggestions even if their abuse was outside of the SPPD jurisdiction or couldn't be investigated for other reasons. This was important to many victims/ survivors because that openness was exactly what had been missing when they attempted to report their abuse to the Church.
Well done, Sgt. Skog, and congratulations on the recognition.
This week, it was my privilege to talk to a couple of college students about the benefits of Catholic higher education. The two students are remarkably similar- they are both taking courses at a local community college with the intent of transferring to four year colleges, both have the drive and intellect to become excellent students, and both are single parents. In other words, both could thrive at our local Catholic universities, and having access to a quality education and a supportive environment would benefit not only the students themselves but also their children. Here is the catch: one student is female, and the other is male.
The female student, who wants to pursue a BA/MA degree in social work, has long had her eye on St. Kate's. As such, our conversation primarily consisted of me supporting her intent to apply to Saint Catherine, and encouraging her to consider living (with her child) in the on-campus housing that the university makes available to students with children. Student parents- most often single mothers- have been living in the residences at St. Kate's for at least twenty years, and I know from my own classmates that having this option was important to their academic success and for the health of their families.
The benefits of living on-campus during college are regularly extolled to incoming students, and include higher graduation rates, easier access to faculty and student mentors/tutors, allowing the students to take greater advantage of academic support services, creating a stronger sense of community between the student and the institution, and the ability to create economies of scale for basic services. In addition, studies have shown that students that live on campus have higher grade point averages than those that live off-campus, as well as a lower suicide rate.
Not surprisingly, after listening to my glowing praise of on-campus housing, my male student was also interested in exploring this option and taking advantage of these same benefits for himself and for his eighteen-month-old son, who lives with him four days a week. His first choice among private colleges is Hamline, but Hamline no longer accommodates student parents. So, I told him not to worry- if St. Kate's provides housing for student parents her brother school, the University of St Thomas, surely must as well.
Wrong. According to the UST website, 'there are no on-campus housing options for students who have dependent children living with them'. How, in 2015, is this even possible? Ask anyone that lives in the vicinity of the university and they will complain to you about the prodigious amount of building that has taken place on the campus(es) in recent years, including a student center and an athletic and recreation center. Many of these projects were part of the $500+ million Opening Doors campaign, which took as its stated goal to make monumental enhancements to 'financial aid, campus facilities, academic programs and teaching resources'.
Certainly student parents wishing to live on campus should have been on the receiving end of some of this bounty, especially since we are talking about a Catholic university that proclaims the Catholic value of respecting life and supports the USCCB's Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, including its public policy platform of providing morally acceptable alternatives to abortion by supporting those who would be otherwise vulnerable to pressure to end a life. What happens to those students who become pregnant or become fathers while attending UST?
Even beyond the moral issues, providing on-campus housing for student parents should be an ethical obligation for universities. It speaks to questions of education equality and campus diversity. Thankfully, my student won't be ready to transfer to a four-year college until next fall at the earliest, so UST has some time to rectify this problem. Those of you who read this blog and talk with Larry Snyder can tell him that I am looking to him to fix this. If they can house families of migrants in Vatican City, St Thomas should be able to find a way to house students with children on its campus.
Luckily, there is an easy solution at hand: UST can redirect a very small fraction of the $500 million towards the purchase of the Byrne Residence from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which as we know is in no position to refuse any reasonable offer. The Byrne Residence-located adjacent to the seminary and across a parking lot from one of the UST residence halls- was envisioned as a retirement home for priests but, when large numbers of priests indicated they were disinclined to live there, devolved into apartment-style housing for priests guilty of sexual misconduct. It seems fitting that the building should be repurposed in such a way that the proceeds would benefit victims and the building would serve to promote the welfare of children and families. Let ie
Clergy of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis today received this belated notice of staffing changes at the Chancery. As you can see, the announcement was sent to Archdiocesan employees last week.
Interestingly, in appointing Rip Riordan the legally troubled and criminally charged Archdiocese is both returning to an earlier era and apparently attempting to maintain its connection with the Saint Paul Police Department. Riordan served as the Director of Clergy Services during the McDonough-era (2004 to 2007), when Father Curtis Wehmeyer was running amok at the Church of Saint Joseph. And, while John Vomastek was a former SPPD commander, according to LinkedIn Rip Riordan has been appointed a 'chaplain' to the Saint Paul Police.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In 2013 or 2014, the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis instituted the practice of sending clergy and other 'stakeholders' weekly emails listing media coverage about the Archdiocese and specifically about the local abuse crisis. The intent was to keep clergy informed of the coverage so that they were not blindsided by parishioners or members of the media. Now, it would appear that the weekly emails have become more self-serving, as the example below indicates.
In the interests of 'transparency', let me mention three things that ought to have appeared in this week's mentions, but did not.
1). The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis appeared in bankruptcy court again this past week, and requested, but did not receive, permission for additional expenditures. The story was covered by MPR, which reported that bankruptcy costs have now exceeded $3.6 million.
2). The week prior, the Archdiocese, represented by Joe Dixon, appeared in Ramsey County Court in response to the criminal charges and civil petition filed by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office. This was not covered by the media, in part because it was widely believed that the next court date was scheduled for the end of October.
3). With the announcement by Saint Catherine University that Sr. Andrea Lee would be stepping down as president we learned of one of the most significant legacies of the John Nienstedt-era in the Twin Cities: the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis no longer has an ex officio seat on the Board of Trustees of either Catholic university in this Archdiocese (St. Kate's or the University of Saint Thomas).
Read below for the news the Archdiocese finds significant.
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.