Setting record straight on assessments, archdiocesan finances

| Thomas Mertens | July 2, 2013 | 1 Comment

The article in the June 23 StarTribune that ran under the headline “Twin Cities Archdiocese seeks bigger cut of collections,” got it wrong. The article included misinformation and left out important facts. The StarTribune has so far refused to print a correction or the response that I submitted to set the record straight.

The StarTribune article attempted to connect two unrelated financial items. One is a possible capital campaign that is still being evaluated by an exploratory committee consisting of a broad range of Catholic organizations. This committee is still carefully examining the results of a very recent feasibility study. Its decision to move forward or not is totally unrelated to anything else cited in the article.

The other item concerns changes to the parish assessment formula. Directly opposite of the impression left by the headline and the article itself, the truth is that our parishes will see their assessments decrease or remain flat.

The article fails to report that changes to the assessment include the elimination of a 1 percent surcharge that some parishes now pay for distribution of The Catholic Spirit newspaper. The net result is that the archdiocese will actually receive a smaller portion of weekly plate and envelope collections — not a larger one — as the story’s headline states.

To be clear, our newspaper will not be eliminated, just the 1 percent assessment. In fact, the reasons for the changes to the assessment were precisely to simplify the formula, correct potential inequities between parishes and support parishes with Catholic schools. These were material facts covered in our conversations with the StarTribune reporter, but were inexplicably left out.The net effect left the readers with the opposite of the truth.

(For an accurate story about the forthcoming changes in the assessment, see “Parish assessments help to fund ministries in local Church”.)

Increase in giving

The StarTribune article also supposes — incorrectly — that giving to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) would have been higher had we not financially supported the marriage amendment. This is simply untrue. The reporter knows the facts, but they didn’t make their way into the article.

First, giving to the CSA between 2007 and 2011 actually increased. It is well-established that charitable giving decreased substantially during this period, which included the worst economic crisis this country has endured in decades. The archdiocese, however, saw overall giving increase in this same period.

Further, giving to the CSA over the last year increased again, and we surpassed our goals. In fact, we are on track for another strong giving year, for which we are deeply grateful to the tens of thousands of families who provide this important support for the good work of the Church, which includes millions of dollars dedicated to Catholic Charities and Catholic schools.

The reporter made the additional claim that the $650,000 we gave in 2011 in support of the marriage amendment came from “investment income and special donations.” As we stated clearly in a Jan. 31, 2012 news release, the source of these funds was “investment income; it did not come from . . . donations to parishes or to the archdiocese.”

Foundation mischaracterized

Lastly, the article referred to the Aim Higher Foundation (AHF), which is a completely separate entity from the archdiocese. As education is the key to the strength of our economy and the health of our community, the mission of the AHF is to expand access to a life-changing Catholic school education to more families who could not afford it otherwise. It is not to “work to increase enrollment and funds for Catholic schools,” as the story said. There is an important and fundamental difference between AHF’s mission and how it was characterized in the article.

StarTribune readers and Catholics of this archdiocese have a right to know the facts. We strive every day to be faithful stewards of the generous support we are provided so that the Catholic Church may continue to support and serve our communities.

 Mertens is chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Tags: , ,

Category: Commentary