A takeover of the charity's development office by the archdiocese leads to resignation of the board chair and at least three other board members.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that acting St. Louis bishop Robert Herman has taken over the fund raising for the local Catholic Charities organization ("Bishop Robert Hermann locks horns with Catholic Charities officials," Tim Townsend, November 4, 2008). As a result, development director Dan Shasserre, board chair Kelley O'Malley and three other board members have resigned.
The paper reported that the memo outlining the change referred to an impasse between the charity board and the two previous bishops, Justin Rigali (now archbishop of Philadelphia) and Raymond Burke (now prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome). The memo suggested that board members who were not comfortable with the reorganization should resign.
James Gunn, one of the former board members was blunt about his reaction to the change, saying that the archdiocese officials "want to be able to solicit people for their own purposes," adding, "The social ministry of the church is not nearly as important to them as their far-right conservative Catholic agenda."
It is not surprising that the article discussing the reorganization in the local Catholic newspaper, the St. Louis Review, didn't mention the board resignations ("Efforts with Catholic Charities aimed at improving stewardship," Joseph Kenny, November 8, 2008.) .
We have previously reported that Archbishop Burke sought to implement a highly centralized accounting system for Catholic parishes ("St. Louis Archdiocese to Centralize Parish Accounting," January 13, 2007). The reorganization of Catholic Charities fund raising appears to be consistent with an overall policy of greater centralization and concern that everyone presenting themselves as Catholics present a single view.
But what puzzles me is whether this is something that is happening only in St. Louis, or whether it is just that the St. Louis Post Dispatch has been more willing to give prominence to stories relating to the local archdiocese.
St. Louis has been a frequent location of Catholic controversy over the past few years:
- The ongoing excommunication of member of the lay board of St. Stanislaus Kostka church who have refused a demand from the archdiocese to turn over control of the church property ("Two more St. Stan's members excommunicated," Tim Townsend, October 11, 2008).
- Criticism by former Archbishop Burke of an appearance by Sheryl Crowe at a 2007 fund raising event for the Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. Ms. Crowe is an outspoken advocate of choice and campaigned for a Missouri constitutional amendment to promote stem-cell research. (YouTube video of Archbishop Burke's statement).
- Criticism by former Archbishop Burke of statements by St. Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus in favor of choice and of stem cell research (Archbishop Burke addresses Catholic identity, St. Louis Review, February 8, 2008).
So much so that Archbishop Burke made a point of countering claims that he was kicked upstairs with his Vatican appointment in an interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire (the same interview in which he described the Democratic party as the "party of death" for its positions on—you guessed it—choice and stem cell research.)