March 14, 2005

Catholic group to promote church overhaul

Bradenton Herald

Associated Press

Roman Catholic lay leaders announced the formation of an organization Monday that would offer professional guidance to America's bishops on how to run the church.

As its first act, the nonprofitAbuse Tracker Leadership Roundtable on Church Management issued an 80-page "Report on the Church in America" in Washington, with 48 recommendations to overhaul administration, personnel policies, finances and governance. Perhaps the most controversial item seeks changes in the way bishops are chosen.

The report was mailed to all U.S. bishops last week. Roundtable leaders will meet on Tuesday at U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops headquarters in Washington with three bishops who will be the hierarchy's liaison with the new organization.

The report said the church suffers from "deep-seated ideological divisions" among members, "a pervasive culture of secrecy," clergy-dominated operations, "weakening influence" for its doctrinal and moral message and a decline in religious vocations.

One participant, Francis Butler, president of an alliance of Catholic donors, said, "The church is financially on the edge today."

Though dioceses are autonomous, the report noted, taken as a whole they hire more than a million employees and have operating budgets of nearly $100 billion, making the U.S. church the equivalent of a major business corporation.

Geoffrey Boisi, vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase and a prime organizer of the roundtable, said the scandal of clergy sexual abuse "was an impetus for action" and "a wake-up call to lay leaders and church leaders to start working together," but an increase in such lay involvement was inevitable anyway given the church's problems.

Posted by kshaw at March 14, 2005 05:55 PM