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HOW ABOUT SOME JUSTICE FOR PRIESTS? (Sun May 15, 2005 12:02 am)

The Archdiocese of Boston seems absolutely determined to prove the truth of George Orwell's famous dictum in Animal Farm: "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others."

At virtually the same time as Catholics are treated to the regal prominence of Bernard Cardinal Law in the funeral of the last pope and the first days of the new one, priests in Boston are being told that their pensions and retirement benefits are to be cut back in various serious ways. Priests who routinely work well past a normal retirement age (unless they incur the wrath of the Archbishop, in which case they can't work at all) will now have smaller pensions, without cost of living increases, and with significant required contributions to housing and medical expenses. Priests will be pressured to retire in their last rectory rather than an assisted-living facility or nursing home. In a version of clerical Medicaid, medical benefits will be reduced for all and even reduced services will depend on financial need. If a priest receives social security or has any family or personal income, he will be required to cover part of the cost of an assisted care facility or nursing home. Given that Boston priests were advised until recently not to contribute to Social Security because they would be cared for by the Archdiocese, Social Security payments for older priests are likely to be slim.

And why are all these cutbacks necessary? Because the federal and state laws that theoretically protect the assets in pension funds do not apply to charitable institutions. Thus, the Archdiocese of Boston could: appropriate monies specifically donated in Christmas and Easter collections in every parish for priests' retirements and neglect to make any contribution to the pension fund for sixteen years; sell church-owned real estate, including a vacation property which had been willed for the use of the retired priests of Boston, to the pension fund to raise cash; borrow money from the pension fund to help settle its $85 million sexual abuse settlement. All of this is done with the oversight of the sole trustee of the Boston priests pension fund, the Archbishop of Boston, a Corporation Sole. The Archdiocese has played fast and loose in its fiduciary responsibilities, and the retired and present priests of the Archdiocese will get to pay the price. The information compiled by Towers Perrin, the financial consultants to the AB, and reviewed by the NewYork Times and Boston Globe, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/12/national/12pension.html , and http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/05/12/retirement_changes_eyed_for\ _priests/ is frankly shocking.

The priests of the Archdiocese of Boston are discovering what the lay People of God have known for years. In the emphatically non-democratic Catholic Church, "some people get the elevator and some get the shaft."

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