QUAERITUR: as much money goes to protecting a few wicked priests as goes to vocations

From a reader:

I just found out my home diocese has spent around the same amount annually on sexual abuse fees as it has for vocations. I am so discouraged. How can I continue to see to the material needs of the Church when the money I give is being spent on protecting a few wicked priests?

Yes, it is deeply frustrating that so much money, that could be better applied elsewhere, has to be expended in that way because of the wicked and the sick.

However, I am not going to admit your premise.  I don’t think that anywhere money is being spent to “protect wicked priests”.   There is no line item in the budget that says “for the protection of wicked priests”.

But I think you are talking about expenditures of money to victims of abuse by priests.

Even though mere monetary compensation can’t heal the damage that was done to victims, it is something that is done with a measure of our imperfect human justice.  There is no perfect justice here.  Only in heaven is there perfect justice.  But it is at least something, one of the components along with expressions of regret and concrete steps to make sure that men inclined to do that sort of thing are never ordained, etc.

Also, it could be that, figured into that budget, there is money being spent so that men who are falsely accused are receiving legal defense.

Furthermore, a diocese has also to take prudent steps to protect and be good stewards of the assets of the diocese so that the works of religion can go on in the local Church.  The bishop of the diocese has a spiritual responsibility to keep as many people out of hell as possible and also a fiduciary responsibility in regard to the material wealth of the local Church.  When wolves come, shepherds protect the flock and that “flock” has also to include the terrain, the pasture, that is, the assets of the diocese.  Otherwise, what sort of bishops are they?

There is no lack of wolves, surrounding the Church waiting for a moment of exposure.  There are wolves inside the Church as well.  There always have been.  There always will be.  But, thank God, a certain kind of wolf is now nearing extinction.

Bishops are, therefore, in a very difficult position regarding justice to priests, victims, and all the people of the diocese in regard to their spiritual welfare and the material stewardship of the Church’s goods.  When it comes to a priest or bishop or religious putting the Church at risk because of this damaging behavior… that places the bishop in a very difficult dilemma.

There are many projects, some more appealing and some less, for which diocesan money must be spent.  But we take the bad with the good in this world.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, Clerical Sexual Abuse. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. julie f says:

    And if you wanted to be sure that your money is supporting vocations, you could give an *extra* measure to the seminary (or seminaries, counting perhaps the orders that supply your area) that serves (serve) your diocese.

  2. Re: the bad with the good — St. Beatus of Liebana’s commentary on the Book of Revelation is literally chock full of quotes from the Fathers about the wheat and the tares, the healthy and the sick, and about good and bad priests and religious. He lived up in Asturias with the Muslims ruling Granada not far away, but that was his primary concern. It only goes to show.

    But it could be worse. We could have all bad priests and no vocations. I’d rather see the glass half-empty than completely dry!

  3. Johnny Domer says:

    @ Fr. Z, or any other priest or reader who might be interested in answering: is it strictly necessary, as part of our obligation to give to the support of the Church, to give money to the diocese specifically? If someone wanted instead to give that same amount of money to a really solid religious order or Catholic charitable organization, for example, would that fulfill one’s obligation? Or are we obligated to give at least some minimal amount of money to the diocese? Could we give to a different diocese than the one where we live?

  4. pforrester says:

    “But, thank God, a certain kind of wolf is now nearing extinction.”

    I am guessing that would be on the same lines as “the biological solution”…

  5. Laura R. says:

    @ Johnny Domer: I assume that I am obligated to give to the parish to which I belong, and that some of that money then goes to the archdiocese. I have a set amount I give each month to my parish, and then in addition I give to other Catholic organizations in which I have a particular interest (Benedictines of Mary, for example).

    @ Fr. Z, thank you for your remarks about the money that must be spent as a result of abuse by priests, and the dilemma in which bishops are placed; you’ve provided a very helpful way of thinking about the whole distressing subject.

  6. mrsmontoya says:

    I direct inquiries to these points: how much $ have declared-victims received compared to the amount of $ lawyers have received for representing them?

    I pray for priests whenever I say the rosary. May God bless you and sustain you through this time of trial!

  7. James Joseph says:

    The priests of our archdiocese received ZERO legal defence. Just a phone call and away you go.

  8. frjosh says:

    The way our diocese works: if you have an accusation against you, and you are exonerated in court, then the diocese refunds your legal expenses. Otherwise, you’re on your own. So — at least here, and I’m suspecting most everywhere else — there’s no money spent to protect abusive priests.

    Where the Church loses money is in liability suits against the diocese.

  9. Laura says:

    Father Z,

    Thank you for your distinctions and clarity in presenting something that is very difficult for most people. I have to admit that the abuse scandal did for a time make it difficult for me to attend Mass. I would go but the constant reports from the news of the abuse, especially in Europe, really shook me up.
    You do a very good job of removing the emotion from the situation, while still being concerned for the victims and justice. Good work!

  10. MikeM says:

    I’m not going to lie… this topic leaves me really irritated with our bishops. Countless people contribute to the Church trying to look out for Her ministries, and then our bishops allow support for our sacramental ministries and our services to poor children to be curtailed in order to pay large sums of money to people who suddenly appear (with or without evidence) claiming that they were abused by a priest who’s long dead.

    I know that it’s supposedly showing care to victims, but is it really? Is there some dollar figure that would heal the wounds of sexual abuse? Does it still do so when you consider that the abuser isn’t even the one being punished, but that instead the ones who will be going without as a result are children living in poverty and elderly Catholics trying to maintain their relationship with God?

    Nothing about any of it is just. Especially in the many dioceses where the bishops don’t bother to stand up for the people reliant on their financial stewardship and simply pay out money to every clown who comes out of the woodwork claiming abuse (when there’s reason to believe that in some areas there are as many fakers as real victims).

    The only way to have real justice is to make people present a case against specific wrongdoers. And if one of those is the Bishop, and he’s found to be guilty of harming others in some sort of cover-up, he can pay for it.

    This whole system of paying everyone in order to appear nice robs those who support the Church, deprives those who need Her services, and leaves innocent priests under a cloud of apparent guilt.

    I can see paying for counseling for those who say they were abused or something like that… but giving out large checks with no proof is a grave injustice, and it disturbs me greatly.

  11. MikeM says:

    I did not, btw, mean to say that we should pull our financial support for the Church as a result. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to suffer through this… It’s only such a painful thing to see BECAUSE the work of the Church is so important and so desperately in need of support. While I’m horrified by some of the payouts that have been made, that doesn’t cloud my recognition of all that the Church does to benefit those in need, nor does it leave me ungrateful for all of the support (including financial) that the Church has provided to ministries that have made me who I am, have brought me closer to Christ, and have, in some sense, made life worth living. Despite my frustration, I owe the Church my unending gratitude… in fact, that’s why I’m so frustrated.

    Also, as much as I feel totally correct in my complaints about certain of our Bishops, they’re the Bishops and I am not one… I was not entrusted to make those decisions, so I can complain, and I can urge the decision-makers to change course, but I still have to accept their authority and obey the precepts of the Church, which include providing (to what little extent I can) for Her material needs.

  12. PostCatholic says:

    Criminals need to restore their victims to as close to wholeness as is possible for justice to be done. I’m sure if one looks up “expiation” in any Catholic catechism or resource that touches on the subject, one finds words to this effect.

    Some priests are criminals and are personally culpable for their acts and need personally to do expiation for that from their personal resources. Some bishops are, too, by their personal actions and likewise need to pay up from their personal resources. And some bishops and dioceses are criminals by their official, corporate actions, and that’s where diocesan resources come into the mix.

    Lest anyone forget: the trauma of sexual abuse on a child is life-altering, dramatic, and profound. Addictions, destructive psychosis, suicides, depression, anxiety, broken family relations, PTSD–all of these and more are outcomes of criminal clerics doing terrible things and criminal institutions letting them get away with it. Perhaps some prefer “sinful” to “criminal” but the requirements of justice do not change.

    I’m sorry if a member of the clergy disappointed you and his conduct left him destitute personally. And I’m sorry if your institution disappointed you and its conduct required your donations to go in an ugly direction. But surely you agree justice must be done, and crimes have a terrible price on victim and aggressor.

Comments are closed.