The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently announced that it is closing two of its high schools, only months after announcing a five-year, $200 million fundraising campaign. At the time that campaign commenced, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden was quoted as saying, “Right now, we’re making ends meet.” To me, that comment, juxtaposed with the high school closings, sounds inconsistent with a $50,000 contribution by the Archdiocese to the effort sponsored by the Diocese of Portland, Maine to nullify marriage for same-sex couples in that state.
But, Philadelphia was hardly alone. Records required to be filed under the government ethics and election practices laws of the state of Maine reveal that as of October 20th, Catholic archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States had contributed over $200,000 to the Ballot Question Committee (“BQC”) organized by the Diocese of Portland to overturn a statute passed by the Maine legislature and signed by its governor, a Catholic, authorizing same sex partners to marry. On last November 3, the initiative was approved. Those same records indicate that the Diocese reported that more than $250,000 raised by the BQC was categorized as “General Treasury Transfers,” which seems to indicate that those funds came directly from the Diocese of Portland.
Whatever we as Catholics may think of the premise of this legislation, I wonder whether any of us knew that our diocese was sending money to Maine to overturn this law? Did our bishop tell us that he was sending a portion of our contributions out-of-state to lobby on behalf of a political initiative? Does he do this on other matters? If so, what might they be? In the interests of openness, accountability and transparency, we as Catholics have the right, perhaps even the obligation, to ask these questions, and demand an answer.
Another interesting question to ask is whether this is a way to divert dollars from an organization that is qualified to receive tax-exempt contributions, such as the Catholic Church, to an organization that does not itself enjoy that status.
In addition to Philadelphia, the Diocese of Phoenix also contributed $50,000. Other dioceses, among them St. Louis, Newark and Youngstown, each contributed $10,000. Two other entities, the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas, and the Diocesan Assistance Fund, of Providence, RI, each also contributed $10,000. In the case of these last two contributions, it seems pertinent to ask whether or not any disclosure was ever made to those who were solicited to support these organizations that part of their donations would be sent out of state to support political activities, rather than to support the poor, the schools and the other social justice works typically carried out by such organizations.
While these are some of the larger donations, the records through late October indicate that almost fifty dioceses sent funds to Portland to aid in this effort, as well as many clergy and bishops who appear to have contributed out of their own resources. Among these were Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT and Bishop William Lennon of Cleveland, who was formerly assigned to Boston, both of whom sent $1,000. Such a widespread, coordinated effort raises the question of whether this campaign was orchestrated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Additionally, the Knights of Columbus contributed over $50,000 to Stand for Marriage Maine, the principal organization that worked to overturn this law and the sole direct recipient, other than for incidental expenses, of the more than $550,000 raised by the Portland Diocese to promote an agenda that is, at its core, profoundly discriminatory.
For a list of those who contributed to the Portland Diocese’s BQC through 10/20/09, see:
Please check it, to see whether your diocese participated in this effort. And think twice, before you write that next check to your parish church or annual bishop’s appeal.
Daniel B. Sullivan
Co-Chair, Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport