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Posted in Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Chaput's column, Weekly column from Archbishop Chaput, on March 21st, 2012

The nature of the Church and the importance of lay action

Archbishop Charles Chaput

In the next few months, at my request, The Catholic Standard and Times will publish a report on the financial condition of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including its offices, ministry programs and many of its related agencies and non-profit corporations.

Too often we think of the Church as an institution, and institutions are hard to love. The structures of Catholic life are required by canon and civil law, and they’re important. But they’re also secondary. At her heart, the Church is a family, a community of believers.

Like any family, her members have mutual obligations of respect and accountability. This has practical consequences. We ask our people to be generous. As a result, they have a right to know that their resources, which the Church holds in trust for them, are used properly.

To put it another way: We can’t be confident about the future, we can’t even begin to solve our problems, unless we’re well informed. Much of this year’s financial information will be new. Some of it will be quite sobering. Nonetheless, beginning this year and every year in the future, we will provide to our people as full a picture of our financial life as a Church as we reasonably can.

Part of my accountability as a bishop involves seeking the advice of skilled, prudent people. In the life of the Church, advisory bodies exist for a purpose. They have a duty to be faithful to the Church and her teachings, but if they simply say what they think the pastor or bishop wants to hear, they fail in their mission. They have a responsibility to offer honest counsel based on their experience and on proper access to good information.

The Archdiocesan Priests’ Council (along with the College of Consultors) brings together experienced priests from around our local Church to share in the bishop’s decision-making. These men share in the priesthood with their bishop, they lead our local parishes and they have uniquely important experience of the problems and opportunities in Catholic life at the grassroots level.

Likewise the Archdiocesan Finance Council should gather together the best Catholic professionals in business and finance from the Philadelphia region to help the Church steward her people’s resources. Again, the resources of the Church belong to her people, not to the clergy and not to some impersonal monolith. They come from the sweat and sacrifices of generations of Catholics who came before us. The Church holds these resources in trust for the whole Catholic community to carry out the ministries and apostolic works that the Gospel calls all of us to pursue.

The Church requires that every diocese must have a council of priests, a College of Consultors and a finance council. But she also recommends another key advisory body: a diocese-wide pastoral council composed mainly of laypeople and focused on the pastoral issues facing the Catholic community.

Philadelphia’s Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) has been planned for some years, with important groundwork done by Dr. Robert Miller of our archdiocesan research staff and Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre. Last month, on February 25, their work bore fruit in the first ever meeting of the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The meeting began with Mass, and work continued throughout the day. Council sessions included briefings on the legal and financial issues facing the archdiocese; the future of Catholic education in the Philadelphia region; and an overview of our efforts to deal with issues of sexual abuse and to preclude such incidents in the future.

Going forward, APC meetings will occur quarterly. Remaining 2012 dates include May 5, September 8 and December 15. In practice, the council should be a local snapshot of the whole People of God. In Philadelphia, that means it will always include at least one priest, one permanent deacon and one religious. But the rest of the roughly 30 members are laypeople from every walk of life and region in the archdiocese.

This makes sense, since the Church is overwhelmingly lay in her membership, and – especially today — laypeople must play a vital role in advancing the work of the Gospel. I select APC members from candidates nominated by their pastors through the local deaneries. I also reserve a number of at-large appointments to myself to ensure a balance in gender, age, ethnicity and experience.

Service on the council follows four simple rules: fidelity to Catholic teaching; charity; mutual respect; and candor. Members do not “represent” any constituency but themselves. Their great value to the bishop lies in bringing their personal life experience to the honest discussion of pastoral issues facing our Church.

Over the past six months, I’ve written several times about the hard challenges that lie ahead for our Church. But it won’t always be so. To borrow a thought from Francis of Assisi, God has given us too many good people in our archdiocese — clergy, laypersons and religious — to fail if we work together to “repair [God’s] house.”

Things like a financial report and an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council are a beginning. More will come.

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18 Responses

  1. Could you link this article to a list of APC members, along with their affiliations?

    By: Irene on March 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

    • We will be posting an article with a list of APC members and their affiliations today.

      By: eperri on March 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

  2. Transparency is excellent.

    By: Robert on March 21, 2012 at 10:33 am

  3. How were they selected? There are many dedicated laypeople who would like to serve, but didn’t know a council was being formed.

    By: Henrietta on March 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    • I think the archbishop answers that question here:

      “I select APC members from candidates nominated by their pastors through the local deaneries. I also reserve a number of at-large appointments to myself to ensure a balance in gender, age, ethnicity and experience.”

      By: S.T. Malone. on March 22, 2012 at 6:54 am

  4. Praise the Lord!! I have been writing and requesting a full picture of our archdiocese’s finances since Cardinal Bevilacqua first came to Phila. I’m looking forward to this new transparency and I thank you, Archbishop Chaput. I hope it includes all our expenditures.
    May God bless you as you minister to His people.
    Linda Ireland

    By: linda ireland on March 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

  5. Linda Ireland:

    Expenditures are important. But what many of the archdiocesan faithful are interested in are archdiocesan assets, real estate holdings, trusts, investments, etc.

    Only with such detail will we have a complete and yes, transparent, financial report and accountability.

    By: Michael Skiendzielewski on March 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

  6. “…..we will provide to our people as full a picture of our financial life as a Church as we reasonably can….”

    Does this mean that there are levels or degrees of “transparency”? Isn’t transparency an “all or nothing” concept? If the financial report is not 100% transparent, then how would we describe it?

    By: Michael Skiendzielewski on March 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    • I don’t know any family or any organization that takes an “all or nothing” approach to disclosure, especially in an aggressively negative environment. As a layperson, contributor and member of the faithful, I want to know what I have a right to know, and need to know, about the financial operations of my Church. Right now, we’ve been told very little. But I also understand that “transparency” needs to be governed by honesty, common sense and prudence.

      By: S.T. Malone. on March 22, 2012 at 7:03 am

  7. Do the members on the APC Committee represent both territorial and personal parishes? I too was not aware of the formation of the Archdiocesan wide APC. I have been a member of various Committees within my parish for over 25 years and would have welcomed the opportunity to be part of this Committee Sometimes, the parishes in the far suburbs feel forgotten. Are there representatives on the APC which are from the Coatesville / Downingtown area?


    By: Andrea Levenite on March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

    • Lou Baldwin’s article states there are 26 voting members including one member chosen from each of the 12 deaneries of the Archdiocese, so there are APC members from deaneries in Chester County. Lou’s article is posted below Archbishop Chaput’s column on our web site, and it includes the names of every council member.

      By: eperri on March 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

  8. Greatly applaud the ideal of transparency within the diocese. I would like to see even more transparency when it comes to how we are dealing with (or have dealt with) alleged abuse of children. We can no longer hide our sins, we must come clean and accept our punishment. It is only through an open confession of sin, along with proper atonement, that the Church can be healed.

    By: bob salmon on March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

  9. Michael: Of course there are “levels or degrees of transparency!” I, too, noticed this almost parenthetical phrase when I read the above pastoral letter. That is Archbishop Chaput’s “Way Out” of being completely transparent. Like another reader, I bet that all of the assets of the Church, including properties will to them, will not be disclosed. If the archdiocese is totally transparent in her finances, then the courts would know what assets would be available in bankruptcy proceedings. Chaput is wise enough NOT to let that happen!

    By: Jeannie on March 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  10. I was shocked – there were only 600 people at the rally on Friday.

    By: Robert on March 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

  11. I’m very skeptical of this report. why not have an independent accounting firm do this report? Will we have a full disclosure of the payouts (pastoral abuse) and legal fees involved? If not then this will be the same old same old. I’m hoping to finally get the truth out of 222!!

    By: mike on March 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

  12. Amen to a transparent report of our finances. Will that also include details of closed and merged schools finances along with the exact reasons why appealing schools were denied, and also the reasons for the city-wide increase of tuitions..especially in merged schools? We, as faithful followers of Christ and also faithful Catholic school families are invested in our schools and parishes, but still have had our doors closed on us only to be shuffled to another school and be given much higher tuition rates than expected. We are all educated adults and would like to be part of our closing school’s solutions to staying open and thriving instead of watching them die and close. I very much applaud the new council and hope it’s an honest mix of people who are committed to growing our beloved churches and school here in Philadelphia..I’ve been praying on it as long as I can remember.

    By: Karen on March 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm

  13. Your Excellency:

    My heart breaks for the Archdiocese and you! Hindsight is never foresight.
    Our human sight is very limited. However, the Lord’s eternal sight is what matters here! We have many praying for you, the victims, the accused and the Archdiocese. We are placing all involved before our Lord and Our Queen of Heaven. May His love prevail amidst the loud cries for justice. May forgiveness enter our hearts. May true healing begin.

    By: Patricia on March 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm

  14. Congratulations to Archbishop Chaput! I used to live in Chicago and we had an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council at least starting in the 1990’s. It can be an amazing and strong voice of the laity to its bishop. Sounds like this APC in Philly should have happened years ago!

    By: Margaret T. on May 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm

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