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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two archbishops are temporarily laying off employees in the wake of the pandemic, leading some Catholics to wonder if the effort is coordinated and what the Church in the United States will look like once the crisis has passed.
Delivering the message impersonally through his vicar general and moderator of the curia, Abp. Allen Vigneron of Detroit decided the "need to be good stewards means we have made the difficult decision to temporarily lay off or reduce hours or salaries for some of our curia coworkers."
Delivering a similar message impersonally through his chief operating officer, Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago decided to furlough archdiocesan workers "whose positions are temporarily not required" or "who cannot perform their work remotely."
The precise timing of the furloughs in Chicago and Detroit — the announcements came within days of each other — has led some Catholics to suspect a coordinated effort and/or a precedent for other dioceses to follow, much like how every diocese nationwide decided to cancel public Masses within a week.
Since many prelates focus heavily on social justice issues like poverty, immigration and gun control, the decision to temporarily lay off workers as one of the bishops' first moves to conserve funds has likewise raised some eyebrows.
The suspicion is exacerbated when considering how bishops have often sold off real estate to raise significant funds for clergy sex abuse payouts rather than temporarily laying off employees.
Cupich himself sold off a Holy Name Cathedral parking lot for $110 million that he used to pay clergy sex abuse victims in February 2019.
Some are suggesting the reason for temporary layoffs — instead of selling off real estate or other assets — is purely a business move to keep balance sheets healthy to maintain good credit with lenders. Others say this indicates the archbishops' bottom line is money, not the people they serve.
Cupich's temporary layoffs come as part of a five-component plan.
The plan includes "working together to stabilize offertory collections" and requiring parishes to pay all archdiocesan assessments and bills.
The layoffs are part of three "personnel actions," namely, a suspension of archdiocesan contributions to retirement plans, a reduction of next year's salary increases and the temporary layoffs.
"You continue to work and pray each day that the mission of Jesus continues, and I am personally heartened by your dedication," said Cupich at the beginning of the video before the chief operating officer delivered the bad news.
"I know that one of your concerns during these days is your own and your family's financial securities; I share that concern," he added.
Vigneron's vicar general began his letter with similar sentiments.
"Each one of you in the curia plays a valuable role in our mission to provide strategic and structural support to the parishes, schools and other Catholic entities in the archdiocese, helping all of us to unleash the gospel in our communities," he said.
"We make these changes in solidarity with our parishes, which are also feeling the impact of this pandemic and are struggling with the same decisions we face today," he added.