A constant refrain, from good Catholic folks, is that the Church, especially in America, at least the institution (which is only one part of The Church), is “a mess.”
And so it is: The abuse crisis has been devastating for thousands of our young — our youth! — and their families. A true horror story. On a moral-emotional level, apocalyptic.
But a tragic consequence few tally has to do with the abuse crisis’s financial aspect: Can you imagine how many retired nuns and priests could have been helped with the money — $3 billion — doled out thus far in abuse settlements?
That’s 3,000 million. That’s ten times the Vatican’s annual operating budget. The churches that could be built! (The renovation of that crystal cathedral in California, which some have said was excessive, was one-tenth the abuse settlements.)
And one weeps when one considers how many of our faithful elderly religious languish in substandard conditions, entering retirement without adequate funds. The National Religious Retirement Office estimates that women’s and men’s communities in America are spending more than $1 billion every year to care for members over seventy, so the abuse money could have defrayed three years of that.
Every year, when there is a collection for retired nuns and priests in the U.S., about $30 million is raised — one percent of the three-billion figure.
In some cases, the shortage of homes for priests and nuns has caused them to be shunted into secular nursing homes or even slapdash home care.
Reports a secular newspaper (apparently more concerned than most religious media): “The Catholic women who spend their lives in religious service ministering to others are increasingly at risk of spending their final days in a grim retirement, cared for by strangers in a public nursing home away from their fellow sisters. ‘The religious women have for a long time been sorely neglected in our church,’ said Fr. Brian Jordan, from St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street [in New York City]. ‘All those who were served by these sisters should reach into their pocket and help them out as soon as possible.'”
The article notes that the Archdiocese of New York gives $1 million a year to a national retirement fund.
That averages out to $500 to $700 per person over 70 years old, when it costs about $25,000 or more a year for a typical nursing home.
In New York, the cardinal’s residence is valued at $30 million (Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares it with three other priests). No one would want to see that august structure fall into secular hands. But isn’t there something else that could be done with it, perhaps a museum that would generate funds that could be used for the elderly?
The Vatican fired one prelate, German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad. (Bronze window frames? $2.4 million.)
How much more distant from Christ can we get?
If you put $20,000 into $3 billion spent in the U.S. (thus far) on abuse, you come up with 15,000 collective years of nursing assistance. Said another way, more than two thousand nuns and priests could have been financed for at least seven years.
Instead, the money has gone toward abuse damage (and a third of it into the pockets of often avaricious attorneys).
Our sad time. Our dark ones.
Let’s give Pope Francis some credit. This is his living quarters:
Our Church is due a purification (and like the rest of society, like other institutions, will get it; God chastises first those He loves the most.) Praise God for it: and for the simplicity so desperately needed.