Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Bishop Skylstad encourages participation in fundraising efforts for Chapter 11 Settlement Campaign

the Inland Register

(From the May 24, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

In a May 15 letter mailed to all Catholic households in the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop William Skylstad has expressed his support of a Chapter 11 Settlement Campaign presently underway in all the parishes.

The diocese-wide but parish-centered Campaign solicits $10 million to help satisfy a $48 million settlement approved April 24 in United States Bankruptcy court.

“We must work together as a family of faith,” the bishop wrote. “I am deeply grateful – personally, but also grateful as chief shepherd of the diocese – as we engage in this effort.”

The success of the campaign is critical. “We cannot afford to fall short of this $10 million commitment,” he said.

Using the 2006 Annual Catholic Appeal goal percentages, each parish is responsible for its pro-rata share of the $10 million sum (“Pro-rated parish contribution plan,” “From Justice to Healing and Renewal: The Chapter 11 Settlement Campaign,” IR 5/3/07). Those contributions are due for deposit in the bankruptcy’s Plan Trust ultimately by Dec. 31, 2007. However, because interest will be charged on whatever portion of the $10 million is not on deposit on Oct. 1, the latter date has become the unofficial, but real, target date of the individual parish campaigns.

“The bishop’s endorsement of this Settlement Campaign is an essential element of our effort as a Catholic family,” said Father Michael Savelesky, priest co-chair of the Association of Parishes (AOP), which was formed October 2004 to defend the temporal goods of parishes in the diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings. “Members of our faith community have caused harm and an important part of our ministry is to reach out to those in need.”

The Campaign has a practical motivation as well. Financial contributions by parishes and other Catholic entities to the settlement package gains them specific benefits provided by the bankruptcy settlement: release from litigation related to abuse claims for events which occurred before Dec. 6, 2004 (the date the Diocese’s bankruptcy was filed); clarification of the civil status of parishes as independent nonprofit civil corporations; and the rewriting of parish deeds to reflect parish (corporation) ownership.

“These are enormously important steps forward as we move ‘from justice to healing and renewal,’” Father Savelesky said. “The parishes now have been incorporated under Washington state law and just recently they received clear title to their property. None of these developments changes the fundamental manner in which we Catholics in the diocese will conduct our business or our ministries.”

The question of property ownership was front and center in the lengthy litigation of the diocese’s bankruptcy. Subsequently, the steps do minimize – if not eliminate all together – the threat of parishes being included in litigation in similar fashion over property rights and personal parish property in any lawsuits brought against the diocese as a corporation sole. Now that the parishes have the civil status of being independent nonprofit corporations, the same threat is minimized in relationship to lawsuits against another parish.

Making obvious reference to the settlement campaign’s slogan, the bishop wrote in his letter, “Truly, it is time to move from justice, to healing and renewal.”

Echoing remarks he has made in several forums over the past three years, Bishop Skylstad concluded his letter: “During these past two years we all have learned much about personal integrity and commitment to lived faith. We also have learned about our mistakes and insensitivity. As I have done on several occasions in the past, I sincerely apologize once again to any and all victims of sexual abuse by priests or ministers associated with our Church. And I apologize with equal sincerity for any mistake or insensitivity exercised in their regard by myself or any of my predecessors.”

Although a few parishes are edging close to the satisfaction of their pro-rata goals, most parishes have just initiated the Settlement Campaign. Official contribution figures are not yet available from the parishes. In fact, since the parishes are free to hold their fund until mid-September, a total figure may not be known until then.

A special Steering Committee has been created to oversee the Campaign. Members include Father Steven Dublinski (Vicar General), Deacon Michael Miller (the Bishop’s Secretary for Diocesan Business Affairs), Chris Smith (Diocesan Development Director) and the co-chairs of the Association of Parishes, Bob Hailey and Father Savelesky.

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