By Michael S. Taheri
When asked by parishioners and the media, Diocese of Buffalo officials have steadfastly refused to fully disclose the costs associated with the decadeslong clergy sex scandal. The recent Buffalo News article succinctly explained the decrease in parishioner donations.
While we know that approximately $17 million has been paid through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, parishioners remain completely in the dark about the total cost to the diocese, and ultimately the loss suffered to various vital ministries in this community.
For example, how much has been paid out in parishioner funds for undisclosed settlements over the past five decades? How much has been paid to the diocese lawyers and investigators? To clinics, hospitals and treatment facilities on behalf of priests for sexual-related issues? This list is not exhaustive.
Is the diocese being a responsible steward of parishioner gifts and donations, spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ such as feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and welcoming the stranger?
Or, is this diocese merely a large institutional organization generating revenue for purposes unrelated to Christ’s teachings?
Parishioners are entitled to information regarding all of the expenses associated with the clergy sex scandal. Unfortunately, reducing donations has been the only method by which parishioners can respond to being ignored, mistreated and misled by the diocese.
All of this information should be released in a clear and concise fashion since it is the parishioners who have provided the revenue to fund the diocese.
Certainly some of the legal expenses may be responsible and necessary to defend the diocese. However, these expenses need to be disclosed and explained to the Catholic faithful. It is a simple issue of transparency.
The institutional leaders, including Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the apostolic administrator, need to open the books and show the flock how diocese assets have been dissipated before the church can ask parishioners to continue to donate their hard-earned dollars.
Church leaders need to demonstrate responsible financial stewardship that is consistent with the teachings of Christ.
The costs of the clergy sex scandal to the diocese need to be shared with the entire Catholic community – dollar for dollar.
Until we see the expenses disclosed, parishioners should consider donations to other Catholic organizations and groups who practice the faith in an open, transparent and visible fashion.
Michael S. Taheri is a Catholic parishioner and lawyer who has given pro bono representation to several priests in the Diocese of Buffalo.