Church rejects critics' money: Donations from grassroots group spurned
by Tom Mashberg and Robin Washington
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday it would reject donations from a lay Catholic group seeking to set up an independent fund for disaffected faithful who no longer want to give money to the cardinal's annual appeal.
The decision came even before the burgeoning organization Voice of the Faithful had finalized plans for raising money for 80 or so Bay State charities that benefit from the Cardinal's Appeal drive.
``The archdiocese cannot accept this initiative,'' the chancery said in a statement, ``because it undercuts . . . the Cardinal's Appeal.''
The statement added the VOTF fund, dubbed Voice of Compassion by the group, ``does not recognize the role of (Bernard Cardinal Law) and his responsibility in providing for the various programs and activities of the church.''
But David Castaldi, a former archdiocese chancellor and VOTF financial adviser, urged the archdiocese to reconsider the decision.
``First and foremost, we at VOTF acknowledge the pastoral role of our archbishop,'' said Castaldi.
He added that VOTF - which met last night to discuss its response to the cardinal's unforeseen announcement - has asked to meet Law to discuss the fund.
``We do not know on what basis they have made their statement,'' Castaldi said. ``We hope to have the meeting, and that the archdiocese will reconsider its position.''
VOTF officials recently signed an agreement with the National Catholic Community Foundation, an independent nonprofit that distributes cash and other gifts to grassroots Catholic charities.
But they have yet to solicit money for the fund because of the need to produce formal legal documentation to any potential donors.
The NCCF has a special relationship with dioceses and is allowed to inspect their charitable ledgers to ensure transparency - a reason why VOTF says it was attracted to NCCF.
James E. Post, a Boston University management professor and VOTF president, said his group's contract with NCCF calls for donations to ``Voice of Compassion-Boston,'' as the fund is named, to be distributed in a ``mirror image'' to the way the archdiocese already distributes to favored charities.
``People are facing a dilemma of conscience,'' Post said. ``They are saying they want to give. But they want 100 percent transparency as to where funds go, because they have lost trust in the hierarchy.''
Castaldi said money deposited in the NCCF fund would go to the same charities that are favored by the archdiocese. All parties agree those charities are apt to suffer as a result of what the Boston archdiocese already acknowledges is a major falloff in donations to the Cardinal's Appeal.
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a church spokesman, said the archdiocese has directed its agencies not to accept funds raised by VOTF. Asked why the archdiocese would accept other NCCF funds, but not those coming from VOTF, he said: ``If we have received funding from them in the past, it's never been funding that has been set up in opposition to the Cardinal's Appeal. It's always been something that's been in addition to it.
``We don't want to do anything that's going to undermine, any more, the Cardinal's Appeal,'' he said.
Coyne acknowledged the lay group's effort to bypass the cardinal's control was a direct reflection of VOTF's statement of purpose - ``keep the faith, change the church.''
``Right,'' he said, ``and that's problematic