Sunday, May 15, 2011

Archbishop rent his garments?

Turns out our Archbankrupt Archdiocese of Milwaukee never actually owned its headquarters facility, the Cousins Center, today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. "Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and his predecessor Archbishop Timothy Dolan ... concedes there may have been 'imprecise communications' about the Cousins Center." As I recall, he used to be our Archdiocese's Director of (Imprecise?) Communications.

He goes on, "'But that doesn't change the facts as they are ... that De Sales Preparatory Seminary Inc. owns the Cousins Center, that the archdiocese rents it from the seminary and that they're two separate entities,' he said." The point, though, isn't the facts as they are, but whether Archdiocesan creditors, or potential donors for that matter, can rely on its representations of the facts.

In this April 13, 2011 Thought for the Week Archbishop Listecki discussed our Archdiocese's opposition to the abuse creditors' motion in Bankruptcy Court for an order that forensic accountants examine its books.
"It is important for you to know that clear, factual financial information is now (and has been) readily available in financial reports on the archdiocesan website. I also want to assure you that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been forthright in sharing complete financial information with the attorneys for victims/survivors – prior to the Chapter 11 proceeding (in the mediation process) and currently in the Chapter 11 proceeding through the required court reporting."
So does "(and has been)" imprecisely communicate "(and has been since 2004)", when the financial statements began showing the Minor Seminary corporation as owner of the Cousins Center?

He later says, "In the meantime, I want to assist you and your parishioners in understanding the facts and details involved beyond the headlines and sound bites you may hear or read in the media." What's his gripe about headlines and soundbites? Surely it can't be that they are imprecise communications. "Complete financial information is available on the homepage of the archdiocese’s website... ." Wasn't it always impliedly represented as complete? Now we find it out wasn't. If it wasn't, why shouldn't we wonder whether or not it is complete now?

Calls to my mind the November 2002 USCCB meeting, after which The New York Times reported Bishops Fail to Heed Calls for an Audit. There was a local angle.
"The lack of a hearing on a proposed audit at the bishops' semiannual meeting angered lay leaders who have called for increased financial accountability, and it especially stung Erica John, an heiress to the Miller brewing fortune, whose donations were used secretly to pay $450,000 to a man who accused the Milwaukee archbishop of sexual assault."

"'We are the church, and the leaders to whom we entrust our religious patrimony are failing us,' Ms. John said today in an interview. 'We as funders think it's important that the bishops open their books and come clean, because some of us are beginning to feel disappointed and even alienated from the church.'"
If that matters.

1 comment:

  1. ... It is inexplicable how it could be overlooked until now.