A Letter from Bob Betterton – Saving the Catholic Church

Bob Betterton has been actively engaged in the new reform movement “Catholic Church Reform” that recently initiated the letter to Francis and the G8 endorsed by over 4 million participating members including CCMT.  He is asking all of us to engage in the movement so that we can bring about the change we want to see. 

| by Bob Betterton | November 1, 2013 | Accel Reform |

Forethoughts

If you have been reading this Newsletter since April, you know that we have been supportive of the actions taken by Pope Francis and cautiously optimistic about the future. We still are, but we think everyone should remain aware that this situation is far different than a new CEO taking over a corporation. In the end, the Catholic Church is an absolute monarchy and it operates at the pleasure of the current monarch, an apparent exemption from the doctrine of Tradition.

The Church may be willing to change, but the process is too slow to discern with the naked eye.

This month we will first talk about the changes promised, like “Did he really say a real Catholic Church Constitution would replace Pastor Bonus?” That will be followed by what the next step must be if reform is possible. It is called responsibility and justice, words foreign in Rome.

After that we will examine why transparency is so desperately needed at every level including the parishes. Next we will consider some realities about Pope Francis’s age and the likelihood of a Francis II in the context of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. We will end with some words about the controversial new Archbishop of Hartford and a couple of afterthoughts.

Catholic Church Constitution…Well, Don’t Hold Your Breath!!

While speaking about the need to reform the Roman Curia to meet the needs of the Church he envisions, Pope was quoted as saying something like “we need to tear up the Constitution and start over”.

In the Vatican, the word Constitution is used to describe any important document and the current guidelines for operating the Curia are published in an Apostolic Constitution called Pastor Bonus, through which I have struggled. It is not a literary masterpiece. You can see that for yourself at this link. . Pastor Bonus was authored by then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in 1988 in order to set the stage for the Restoration movement.

In the United States and I would venture to guess in most democracies, the word Constitution is used in a very narrow sense to describe the way an entire organization governs itself. Other organizations within the country also adopt such documents, tailored to their needs.

The Vatican has produced many “Constitutions”. In fact, the important decisions if Vatican II were promulgated as Constitutions, even though none had even a vague resemblance to the US Constitution.

This is not to say that Pastor Bonus should not be torn up and done over. If nothing more, it demonstrates that there is a new sheriff in town. However, the Church is still a total monarchy and its members can only pray that this monarch and his successors will be beneficent. So far, pretty good.

“Trickle Down Reform” Will Not Work

Writing a new constitution and straightening out the responsibilities of the Curia will not do much, if anything at the diocesan level. Unless the nearly 7,500 bishops in the world are formally required by Pope Francis to operate with compassion and unless their actions are monitored, the bishops and archbishops will not change because it is counter to their self-interest to do so.

The only remedy for this mess is to hold the bishops responsible for the operation of their domains and the easiest way to do that is to force them all to run for re-election by the clergy and laity of their archdioceses and dioceses against candidates chosen by those same clergy and laity.

This should have been the sole message of the well-intentioned message sent recently to the Pope and the eight cardinals advising him. They might even have read it. Keep it simple.

Opaque Stewardship

As is often the case these days, recently a friend gave me a copy of something and asked what I thought about it. In this case it was her parish’s annual financial report. Now I hasten to say that although I have an MBA and have looked with interest at well over hundreds of financial reports over the past seventy years or so, I am not a CPA or really even a competent bookkeeper. However, I agreed to take a look at it.

The first thing I noticed was that it was not on the stationery of an accounting firm, nor was it signed. In other words, it was some unknown person’s idea of an accurate financial statement.

The next thing I picked up was that if the actual revenues in FY2012 had been forecasted for 2013, the shortfall on income would have been a reasonable three-tenths of one percent. In other words, the items about which they had the best information were knowingly overstated by 10%.

Then another item caught my eye. The document is called “Consolidated Financial Statements.” I know that organizations like churches separate the operations of the parish as a parish, from activities that are funded by specific collections or designated funds on their Profit & Loss statement. However, two items in that second category didn’t belong there, in my estimation.

The first was a penalty imposed by the Diocese for failure to meet the Diocesan-imposed quota for the annual Diocesan fundraising appeal. In other words it is a Diocesan Tax. (In this parish report, it was called an “Underage Payment.” My sadly conditioned mind processed that as a payoff to an abuse victim, when it really was a payment to a somewhat different kind of abuser.) In any case, it was a parish operating expense and should have been reported that way.

The second item was that a sizable increase in the value of investments was treated as Non-Operating Income. That should be a Balance Sheet entry, not part of a Profit & Loss statement.

The only mention at all of a Balance Sheet was one sentence at the bottom of the page about the value of the combined Cash and Investment Elements as of June 30, 2013. This is certainly not very transparent. The point of all of this is that the only source of income for a parish is the cash or the efforts of its current parishioners. The only increase in the net worth of the parish is due to the contributions of those same people, their predecessors and the appreciation of those assets.

Parishioners have a right to a clear and accurate report of how their funds are being used and when they just screw it up. Few such things get much reporting. This must change.

In his cover letter, the Pastor said, “We’ve had a great year”. That must be “Church-speak” for “even though we lost over $350 thousand, the Bishop got every nickel he asked for”.

Francis and the USCCB                          

Have you noticed that the USCCB and Bill Donohue keep trying to interpret whatever the Pope says or does as not really being changes? It is strange that all this rewritten news sounds much more like Benedict XVI than Francis. It is impossible for Francis to monitor the “I wish he had said” revisions by 7,500 scared-to-death bishops.

We must try very hard to ignore the Dolanites until they accept the reality that “times they are a-changin’.” We must believe that Myers, Finn, Nienstedt and the rest no longer speak for the Pope and that they will eventually receive that which in a just world should come their way.

Francis II

Of course we must always be aware that a generous life expectancy for this papacy would be fourteen years. Few popes have lived to be ninety. What then is the likelihood of a Francis II?

Strangely, Francis can have a strong hand in that result if he is politically astute in his selection and management of the cardinals. Ironically, any cardinal who is the same age as Francis or older will not be eligible to vote for his successor according to the current rules.

To protect his legacy he should appoint as cardinals only those who wholeheartedly support his reforms and are ready to defend them. This is entirely different from Benedict’s requirement of loyalty for anything he might do in the future, rather than what had been done so far.

What Did the Baptized of Hartford Do to Deserve This?

In an uncharacteristic move, Pope Francis has appointed an oppressor of women religious as Archbishop of Hartford. Writing in NCR, which is enclosed, Michael Sean Winters said:

Archbishop-designate Blair is most well-known on the national stage for conducting the doctrinal investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)… Blair specifically criticized NETWORK, the lobbying organization run by religious women on behalf of the poor…he was at the forefront of the effort to convince Catholics not to donate funds to the Komen Foundation for cancer research and prevention because they funded mammograms at a variety of health clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood.

Is there a stronger argument for the popular election of bishops from among the pastors of the diocese involved by the people of that diocese? I think not.

Afterthoughts

There remains much to be done and to not pursue that reality aggressively is to fall further behind, in the way Vatican II was damaged and nearly destroyed by Benedict and his supporters. The vast majority of the necessary reforms have not even been mentioned yet. A new Roman Curia Constitution will help if it is written correctly. A mandatory review of Canon Law to assure it reflects the sense and spirit of that Constitution should be in order.

Wake Up the Faithful!

Bob Betterton

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2 Responses to A Letter from Bob Betterton – Saving the Catholic Church

  1. Bill Keane says:

    Overall a balanced and moderate comment on the Pope’s request for input suggesting reforms in the Church. However I still feel that all Christians, not just Roman Catholics but all those recognized by Vatican II as brothers in Christ, should be invited to respond. I further feel that we should offer specific suggestions for dealing with some of the major issues: divorce and remarriage and access to the Eucharist, celibacy and decline in vocations to the priesthood, clericalism, scandals related to clerical pedophilia and the lack of both moral and financial accountability by bishops.
    Of course there is no hope that our bishops will have the courage to hold listening sessions in every parish between now and Christmas to get genuine feedback from the faithful. If any do, let us know. We may get an opportunity in the future to vote or at least pray for them as our future bishop.

  2. Magy Stelling says:

    Great Post Bob!!! As soon as I saw the Survey from England/Wales I asked all my FB friends to use it if our bishops did not ask for our input. Within 24 hours the site was closed down. However I have learned “Questions from a Ewe” blog had written the questions down and translated them in to “plain English”. So anyone can go to that site and read both forms, Church English and plan English, copy and paste fill it out , print and send it to the Papal Nunico in Washington DC and one to the Holy Father. I hope all Catholics, practicing or lasped will look it over , fill it out and let your voices be heard.

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