Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ecclesiastical Security

Every year, the annual Collection for Retired Religious conducted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops yields the largest response of any of the national appeals conducted by the hierarchy. Since its inception in 1988, it's brought in just under half a billion dollars.

Riffing on a new book, an AP piece indicates that even more is needed:

Though billions of dollars have been salted away, there still remains an unfunded future liability of $8.7 billion for current nuns, priests and brothers in religious orders. The financial hole is projected by a consulting firm to exceed $20 billion by 2023.

A June survey by the church's National Religious Retirement Office, not yet released to the public, puts spending for retiree care at $926 million last year alone. That compares with a total of $499 million received over the last 18 years from annual special parish collections to aid retirees.

The retirement realities far overshadow the burden from well-publicized sexual abuse cases, which have cost the American church more than $1 billion since 1950, with tens of millions of dollars in pending claims....

The problem is discussed in the new book "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns" (Doubleday) by former New York Times religion editor Kenneth Briggs. The book's main theme is that church authorities vetoed sisters' hopes for dramatic changes that would provide more freedom and effective ministries in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.

When Briggs completed his research, the annual care cost was running at $800 million and aid collections then totaled $480 million. He reports that the annual collections generate more than twice the receipts from the next largest special appeal, showing the regard parishioners have for the sisters and other retirees.

Time to get the money-minded together.... For everything our retired religious have done and given to the church in this country, the least it can give in return is a secure future.