With the current clergy sex-abuse scandal likely to cost more than $11 million, and because years of deficit spending have depleted its financial reserves, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will seek donations to help pay for the World Day of Families event here in 2015, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Tuesday.
Speaking at a Center City news conference a few blocks from where a jury is deliberating child-endangerment charges against former diocesan official Msgr. William J. Lynn, Chaput said he did not know what the international, Vatican-sponsored event might cost, but said "God is giving us an opportunity to have some good news in a difficult time."
He said he hoped the five-day gathering in Philadelphia, which Pope Benedict XVI announced Sunday, would attract between 60,000 and 80,000 families. That would be far smaller than the World Day of Families that ended Sunday in Milan, Italy, which drew about 300,000 people on each of its first four days. It ended with an estimated 850,000 people attending an open-air Mass celebrated by the pope. The World Day of Families is held every three years.
On Sunday, parishes received copies of the archdiocese's fiscal report. In an accompanying letter, Chaput noted the "extraordinary events of the past 15 months," and paid particular attention to the devastating Philadelphia grand jury report of February 2011, which asserted that the archdiocese had three dozen priests in active ministry who had been accused of inappropriate behavior with children.
The archdiocese's investigation of those allegations and other abuse-related expenses cost $1.6 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, Chaput reported in his letter, and he estimated that the costs for the fiscal year ending this month would exceed $10 million. Chaput was installed as head of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese in September.
"It's a great sadness that people were hurt and that the costs would be so great," he said Tuesday.
He also reported in his pastoral letter that nine individuals who say they were sexually abused as minors by archdiocesan priests have filed lawsuits against the church, and noted that the archdiocese's former chief financial officer was recently discovered to have "embezzled nearly $1 million over a period of years." The lawsuits have not gone to trial pending a decision in the landmark criminal trial against Lynn, who is charged with having helped to assign abusive priests and conceal their crimes while he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.
Although Lynn's defense and the archdiocese's internal investigation of the accused priests are being paid for out of reserve funds and the sale of archdiocesan property, "the gap between our apostolic [ministry] needs and our available resources is sobering," Chaput said in his letter.
The archdiocese reported an operating loss of $12.36 million for fiscal year 2011, nearly $10 million more than the loss for 2010. In an accompanying statement it reported that the 2011 loss is "primarily attributable to an increase in legal and professional fees of $2.4 million, and increase in ad debt expense of $3.4 million, an increase in self-insured loss reserves of $2 million, and other cost increases."
At Tuesday's news conference in the rectory of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Chaput said the Vatican had told him in March that it wished to hold the 2015 World Day of Families in North America, and that Philadelphia was one of three host dioceses under consideration. He said discussed it with other archdiocesan leaders and that despite "concerns about our finances, we said we'd be very, very happy to welcome the pope."
"I think it's a really great thing ... great for us, great for the country," said Chaput, adding that Benedict told him that he hoped he would able to attend but reminded him he would be 88 in 2015, and that health considerations might bar him from attending.