*Chreasters are Catholics who attend Mass twice a year on Christmas and Easter.
By Kristine Christlieb Canavan
In a city with a Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests-compiled Predator Priest Tour of parishes, the archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri under Abp. Robert Carlson has decided to greet the twice-a-year "faithful" on Easter Sunday with a second collection for retired priests, some of whom may well be on the Predator Priest Tour.
Under the best of circumstances, the decision to take up a second collection on Easter Sunday would be questionable. But a second collection for retired priests? What were they thinking?
Remember the scene from The Exorcist where Father Karras encounters an elderly, skid-row beggar: "Father, can you help an old altar boy? I'm a Catholic." It was a chilling scene in 1973 when the movie was released. Forty-six years later, it is even more chilling.
If there is to be a second collection on Easter Sunday, should it not be for all the abused altar boys who are battling depression, substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, homelessness and unemployment?
Without question, there are many, many wonderful priests who have given their lives in service to the Church, and Catholic hearts are full of gratitude to them. One might cynically point out that's precisely why they were chosen to be the "poster boys" for this second collection. But for knowledgeable Catholics, there is a dark side to the retired priests.
These are the guys who were ordained back in the bad old days. This is the generation of men, some of whom were not only sexually predatory but who also jumped off the theological cliff, clinging to liberation theology and other heterodox beliefs and pulling their parishioners along behind them to destruction.
The 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal in St. Louis has a $14.2 million goal. After elementary and high school education, the area targeted for the greatest support is retired clergy. There are two funds dedicated to retired clergy — Regina Cleri Priests Retirement Home ($315,000) and Care for Active and Retired Priests ($750,000).
According to the archdiocese, $1,065,000 is not enough to support retired clergy:
Retirement planning for our priests is a process that undergoes continuous change due to high-cost elements like health care and housing, and the growing number of priests from the baby-boom generation who are now retiring. The Archbishop's Collection for Retired Priests supplements the generation [sic] donations given to the ACA for this worthy cause. This collection serves to provide support and care for the priests who have sacrificed so much for our parishes and communities, and continue to serve in the name of God. None of the money raised is used to defend or settle criminal or civil lawsuits related to the clergy abuse scandal.
While it is reassuring to know that none of the Easter Sunday second collection funds for retired clergy will be used to defend or settle criminal or civil lawsuits, that doesn't mean that these funds do not support sexual predators in their retirement.
But note: We don't know how many priests are being supported. We do know that the archdiocese's fundraising goal of $1,065,000 is insufficient to handle the needs. Who was in charge of handling the budget projections? The archdiocese is now in the embarrassing position of having to do a second collection because they didn't budget properly. That's a troubling and very public administrative admission.
When an organization sets a fundraising goal, it should err on the side of caution so there's not a need to go back to the well and ask for more money. People begin asking questions under those circumstances — pointed questions.
Finally, Catholics in St. Louis need to know and understand the Church's obligation to retired, predator priests who have been convicted or credibly accused of criminal behavior but who have not been defrocked. Is the Church obligated to support these individuals?
Some have suggested that under canon law, the Church is responsible for the support of these men. Are dollars given to this second collection used to support priests who have been convicted of criminal, sexual behavior? That question is crucial.
It seems that the archdiocese of St. Louis is putting forward this fundraising effort hoping that no one will ask any hard questions. That strategy is probably not going to work anymore. If, under canon law, the archdiocese is stuck supporting these buggers until their death, just tell us. We'll still try to help. But also expect greater pressure to defrock these men and get them off the Church's dole.