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Faith & Parish

Experts focus on lay boards' emerging role in Catholic education

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SAN FRANCISCO -- As religious communities in the U.S. and Canada hand over to lay boards the leadership of their Catholic schools, these boards are being called to exercise far more than traditional fiduciary responsibilities. They are now key planners for an educational future that remains faithful to a school's primary mission while adapting to the needs of 21st-century students.

Ex-CFO in Philadelphia archdiocese gets two to seven years for stealing $900,000

PHILADELPHIA -- The former chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will spend the next two to seven years in state prison for embezzling more than $900,000 from the church over seven years.

Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler sentenced Anita Guzzardi, 44, to prison at a hearing Aug. 24 in Philadelphia on her third-degree felony conviction of theft by deception. Guzzardi will also serve seven years' probation on two other convictions, forgery and unlawful use of a computer. She had pleaded guilty to the three charges July 29.

Guzzardi sat downcast in a black business suit as Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield described what she called the "lavish lifestyle" Guzzardi fueled through funds she embezzled in her work as a trusted senior financial officer of the archdiocese.

Beginning in late 2004, Caulfield said, Guzzardi began to write archdiocesan checks to cover her expenses on her American Express credit card. The deception grew to a second Amex card and a Chase card, expenses for which she covered by cutting more than 300 checks over time totaling $906,000.

Philadelphia Archdiocese aims to ease deficit by selling properties

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Monday the planned sale of select real estate holdings, on a case-by-case basis, to address its operating deficit in the current fiscal year.

A deficit of at least $6 million is expected even before any extraordinary costs may be incurred.

Properties included are the previously announced sale of the archbishop's residence in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, and Villa St. Joseph by the Sea in Ventnor, N.J.

Added to the list are Holy Family Center and a large portion of the adjacent Archdiocesan Pastoral Center parking lot in Philadelphia and the Mary Immaculate Retreat Center in Northampton, Pa.

"To address the cash flow challenges caused by the deficits, the church is faced with hard decisions," Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a news release. "It's similar to what families have to do when their expenses are greater than their income. We just can't afford to maintain and hold assets like Villa St. Joseph by the Sea and my residence. Holding on to these properties at this time would be inconsistent with the mission of our church."

Editorial: Is the 'culture-warrior' model for archbishops the right one?

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How should bishops conduct themselves in the public square? The question is especially urgent today when so many divisive issues, including contraception mandates and same-sex marriage, complicate the nation's politics. Economic concerns still dominate the public's interest, but it is these hot-button issues that get people's blood pressure rising.

Catholic Relief Services: Funding for humanitarian aid did not violate church teaching

WASHINGTON -- Catholic Relief Services said that $5.3 million in emergency funding it provided to the humanitarian organization CARE in 2010 under a U.S. government grant did not violate Catholic teaching.

In postings on its website July 20 and July 24, the U.S. bishops' international development and relief agency explained that the money it provided to CARE was specifically used for water and sanitation and food and nutrition programs for poor families in Central America and Africa and could not be transferred to other services which CARE provided.

The postings came in response to an online report that CARE provides contraceptives to women and other family planning services.

CRS said the report, which made its way to several websites, contained "inaccurate and scurrilous accusations."

"CRS is not in agreement with CARE's policy on contraception because we do not support any positions that would be in violation of Catholic teaching on human dignity and the sanctity of human life," the church relief agency said in an updated posting July 24.

Survey finds record 19 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans

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Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19 percent), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.

The rapid rise of Nones -- including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe "nothing in particular" -- defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.

Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."

Kosmin's surveys were the first to brand the Nones in 1990 when they were 6 percent of U.S. adults. By the 2008 survey, Nones were up to 15 percent. By 2010, another survey, the biannual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18 percent.

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August 1-14, 2014

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