ARLENE VIOLET - Church continues its mis-steps

ARLENE VIOLET - Church continues its mis-steps

The Catholic Church needs a campaign fast and it’s not the $50 million drive it is undertaking at this moment to raise funds, inter alia, for repairs to the Cathedral and to burnish the pensions of its priests. It needs to show the Catholic community and the Church employees that they have a recognition of its responsibility for justice and mercy. Certainly, the hierarchical cover-ups of priests’ activities in the abuse of children which pockmarked the reputation of the Church was a near fatal blow to its credibility. Yet, here are some other activities which add to the perception that the humans administering the church policies are not only out of touch but also causing a scandal and nurturing distrust.

• The St. Joseph Pension – Some 2,700+ pensioners are threatened with at least a 40 percent reduction of their paltry pensions (the average is $750 with no cost-of-living-adjustment) because for the last decade the Church ignored the actuaries who were telling Bishop Thomas Tobin what he needed to put into the coffers to maintain it. I should disclose that I and my colleague, Robert Senville, Esq. are free volunteer lawyers representing over 250 elderly nurses, orderlies, bakers, lab techs etc. Nary a day goes by that I do not have an elderly retiree speaking with me about her (it’s usually women who worked these jobs for lower pay that their colleagues in the private sector) anxiety and stress as to her future. Their Social Security checks are smaller since their salary was lowballed.

• Pensions for Catholic school teachers and lay workers – After being “outed” by a memo sent to members of the Diocesan Lay Employees Retirement Fund, the diocese acknowledged those vested employees stand to lose a chunk of their pensions. Other lay folk, all of whom work at reduced rates as professionals, who are not vested will lose 100 percent of their promised retirement benefit, according to that memo. The bishop’s response wasn’t to apologize profusely after telling the lay employees months ago that everything was copacetic, but rather chastised whomever leaked the memo.

• Funeral Masses – A client contacted me in extreme distress following the funeral of her beloved mother. She spoke with the new pastor of the church where her father had been a low-paid sexton for 60 years, and her mother a volunteer who ironed the altar linens and arranged the flowers for the church Holy Days. She asked if a family member could do the eulogy at the end of the Mass, handing the priest the actual speech. He responded, ”I don’t allow that.” She then asked him if he would offer the remarks and he declined. The funeral Mass was devoid of any personal commentary and barely audible in the cavernous church. She asked Bishop Tobin about the policy and he defended the priest. She paid $450 for the service.

• Memorial Garden – On a good note, a pastor in Pawtucket did the right thing by an 81-year-old widow whose husband’s memorial was being altered. While the parish did have a legal right to modify it since the husband’s memorial was on church property as agreed to by a prior pastor, the new pastor, nonetheless, decided to honor the original intention. Now, that’s the kind of mercy that needs to pervade the diocese.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.


Ms. Violet--As lay Catholics whose children were educated and mentored by these dedicated educators, specifically what do you suggest we do to support them directly?