Archdiocese attributes financial struggles to building operations, pensions

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Barb Sweet
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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s has appealed to its parishioners because of the state of its finances and to help keep up with operational costs for its structures, including the Basilica.

The Archdiocese of St. John’s is struggling financially to maintain its buildings, such as the historic Basilica.

The archdiocese said in its financial statement the deficit for 2013 was $1.1 million, a sharp drop from its overall $1.6-million surplus in 2012. Income dropped by roughly $1 million between the two years.

“This is a situation that cannot continue for much longer,” Archbishop Martin Currie said in the financial report.

“Unfortunately we are an old archdiocese with many buildings built for another era and it has become costly to maintain our infrastructure.”

Currie also noted maintaining pensions and benefits for priests “who have given their lives to serving others is very costly.”

Heat and lights for 2013 on church buildings cost nearly $90,000, one expense in a total exceeding $500,000 to keep up buildings and property owned by the archdiocese.

It was noted there were significant bequests in 2012 that helped the archdiocese that year.

But there was no reprieve the following year.

“In 2013, the corporation subsidized the insurance costs for the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist,” the report said.

“The costs of maintaining this building alone cannot be borne by the Basilica parishioners. This building is a heritage structure that requires significant capital to maintain.”

The archdiocese said it’s trying to keep costs down and will have to find money elsewhere.

 “As a result we must search for ways and means to fund this and other buildings like (the Basilica), through either financial grants from private organizations or government bodies,” the financial statement said.

Most years, there has been a deficit, Currie told The Telegram Tuesday.

But in 2008 — when the global recession hit — the financial situation became critical and the archdiocese has been trying to recover on its investments since then.

The year 2012 was an anomaly of recent times, as it brought a major donation, he said.

“Most years there has been a considerable deficit,” Currie said.

“Sure there is a concern with rising costs, fuel and maintenance.”

The archdiocese is looking into different pension options than defined benefit plans for priests.

And as part of long-range planning, it will also examine its holdings to see which churches can be closed and buildings sold. For example, St. Paul’s and Mary Queen of Peace are close to one another, he said.

Among the 38 parishes, there are also a number of rural churches that no longer have large enough congregations to sustain the ex­pense.

“Sometime we have to ask some tough questions,” Currie said of the future.

One property the archdiocese won’t part with is the Basilica.

Currie said the archdiocese is in the process of a $1.7-million retrofit of the Basilica, and part of it is a new green heat system that will help over the long run, to reduce heating costs by about 30 per cent as it replaces the old oil-fired system.

There are also electrical upgrades being done on a gradual basis, and stained-glass windows to be releaded, Currie said.

The Basilica Foundation is raising funds for the ongoing work.

Currie acknowledged the younger generation is not as active in church matters, including donations.

“Hopefully, we can have a new uprising of faith,” he said.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Basilica Cathedral, Currie said.The Basilica Foundation

Geographic location: St. Paul

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Recent comments

  • Samantha
    May 21, 2014 - 10:54

    Dear Archbishop Currie: Can you guess which religion is eating your lunch while your religion is growing more and more fragmented and divided on inconsequential issues? There are an estimated 34,000 Christian denominations in the world - all competing with one another for the same parishioner and the same dollar donation to keep to pay your salaries and - as you say - keep the lights on. They could get together, share a common brand and drastically lower their costs - as John XXIII once tried to do - but there are far too many empires to be protected. That and, as others have pointed out, your church's tendency to shield its most evil characters, is what has brought you to the the edge of bankruptcy. My guess is that by the time your guys are ready to make the move, it will be far too late.

  • @marion
    May 21, 2014 - 10:49

    I am in my mid 30's and i go church on a weekly basis as well as many of my friends who range from mid 20's to mid 40's. So I don't think because you don't know many people of faith does not mean they don't exist. And my Catholic church has a wide variety of age groups. So I guess my church is one of the few you forgot to check when you made your comment based on facts

  • JOAN NOONAN
    May 21, 2014 - 09:51

    maybe if the church did something to attract a younger following would be a help.for god sake you cannot even have the songs you want at a wedding or funeral.the church needs to get with the programthey are about 200 years behind.

  • OneOpinion
    May 21, 2014 - 09:37

    The Roman Catholic Church is one of the richest organizations in the world and has been for many centuries. There is more than enough wealth in one tiny corner of a Vatican storeroom to support the Bascilica for hundreds of years to come. But the church would rather fleece the flock yet again than sell one painting. Would you give money to a neighbour with a hugh mansion full of wealth who complains about not being able to afford his electric bill but still wants to keep his lavish life style? Not likely.

    • RObb
      May 21, 2014 - 12:23

      Hey "OnrOpinion", you could not be more correct. The church has taken from the people for centuries. One story that always gets my goat is my wife's grandparents. Lived in downtown area of St. John's, and had little money to put anything on the table...but the priest was sure to show up every now and then to get money, and of course you know the old timers would give and go hungry....while these "poor" priests lived high on the hog. I can still see the priests in the residence up by Pius X....when we were teens, I could still remember a few of my friends (always young girls) would be receptionists at the residence. We also had a tour of the place one time, and every priest had their own room, maid service, cooks in the kitchen, and a brand new shiny car outside when they wanted to go anywhere. I mean, what a life, and they only have to say a few prayers every day. Now I am not trying to sound jealous of this, but what I do hate is these priests taking the bite out of poor people's mouths. And don't even get me started on how the church protected the abusers.

    • John Archibald
      May 21, 2014 - 14:10

      ...but the Vatican needs that money for the billions of dollars spent on abuse settlements and legal fees..

  • Sheila
    May 21, 2014 - 08:11

    Perhaps the time has come for church leaders to acknowledge that with all the fairly recent and current events that are shall I say very unchristian that logical thinking people have withdrawn support. Between the economy, high prices people bare and church scandals it is time for downsizing. Also, I wonder if priests that were proved criminals who abused their priestly powers still are supported by the church members with tidy pensions, etc.. Perhaps it is time for congregations to merge and as congregations dwindle to consider storefront churches.

  • Me
    May 21, 2014 - 07:51

    A new uprising of faith??? I doubt it. Years ago we went to church because our parents said so. Too many kids today are involved in drugs and computer games. Parents got slack and now not enough go to fill a collection plate. Sell the buildings that are not used.

  • Steve
    May 21, 2014 - 07:23

    If they buy some lottery tickets, couldn't God help them win the needed money?

  • Thomas
    May 21, 2014 - 06:58

    With all due respect nowhere in this article does it mention the muli-millions of dollars spent on lawyers trying to avoid ownership of the horrendous abuse inflicted on the youth of our province. Followed by the millions of dollars in settlements. That's the root of the problem. Liquidate it for all I care - including the Basillica.

  • Marion
    May 21, 2014 - 06:55

    Know anybody in their twenties, thirties - even forties - who goes to church? There's your real problem Mr. Currie. When the present older generation of Newfoundlanders dies off, your churches will be empty. For decades this and other churches hid, defended, even enabled the physical and sexual abuse of children. The once staunch church faithful have lost all faith in people in robes who preach one thing and do another. As the bible says, you reap what you sow.