CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archdiocese of Chicago's financial situation is being described as "unstable" amid sharp declines in parish and school attendance and a growing number of clerical sex abuse settlements.
In a financial statement released Tuesday the finance team for Chicago Abp. Blase Cupich admitted the archdiocese faces "continued financial pressure" and despite "recent progress, some of [their] parishes and schools have low parishioner and/or student counts, unstable operating results and unsustainable capital repair needs." The 2015 report reveals a decrease of $1 million in parish collections compared to the prior year and a near $5 million loss at the diocesan parish center. Expenses at diocesan schools alone exceeded the tuition and fee intake by $40.2 million last year; the archdiocese of Chicago has nearly 250 elementary schools, seminaries and universities.
A further burden on the archdiocese's wallet are the continually multiplying allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of diocesan clergy. Over the past 30 years the church in Chicago has shelled out over $140 million in abuse-related court settlements, with auditors reporting $10.8 million of that sum having been paid since June 2015. The number could also increase drastically in the near future, as a Cook County judge ruled in February an abuse victim will be allowed to petition for punitive damages on top of compensatory damages, paving the way for other victims who had previously settled to demand further recompense.
"The financial cost of misconduct has had a significant impact on our ability to support the mission of our church and is one of the drivers of our negative net worth," admitted Abp. Cupich.
The statement also disclosed the archdiocese holds an estimated $3.5 billion in assets, the majority of which is in buildings, land and equipment. However, that number could change drastically following reports in February the Chicago church is on the brink of losing more than a quarter of its parishes.
In a series of meetings held for a few weeks earlier this year, Abp. Blase Cupich met with hundreds of diocesan pastors to discuss plans to address the dwindling number of Chicago priests, which sources indicate is expected to drop by 69 percent in less than 15 years. With an approximate 10 ordinations per year, estimations conclude that by 2030 there will only be about 240 priests to serve the current 351 parishes and more than 2.2 million Catholics in the archdiocese.
As reported by multiple priests who attended the meetings, many of whom wish to remain anonymous, 17 parishes will shut down within the next two years as the first phase of restructuring begins. This indicates that multiple priests will be working at least two parishes for an extended period of time, say the pastors, but "we can't sustain it the way it is."