KC diocese moves forward with annual money appeal

by Joshua J. McElwee

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which has been in controversy over its response to several allegations of sexual misconduct by priests, announced Friday that it would move forward with an annual fundraising campaign, after a “regroup...on the timing and marketing for this year’s appeal.”

News that the diocese would move forward with the campaign comes a month and half after it announced it would indefinitely delay a separate capital campaign, saying in a letter to parish administrators that it had made the move “in light of the current challenge.”

Announcement of the annual fundraising drive, called the “Bishop’s annual appeal,” came in a letter from the diocesan vice-chancellor, which was obtained by NCR.

According to the letter, written by vice-chancellor Paula Moss to local pastors, the diocese decided it “must move forward” with the annual campaign in order to fund diocesan schools, seminarians, and charities.

“I acknowledge we will face some challenges, but we must move forward,” writes Moss.

“We must move forward because children in our elementary schools and high schools are depending on us, seminarians are depending on us, children, families and the elderly served through Catholic Charities are depending on us, young adults attending our local universities are depending on us and the list goes on.”

In an e-mail this afternoon, Moss said the annual campaign would begin in October, “as it does every year.”

Announcement of the fundraising drive comes as the diocese continues to deal with the fallout of the arrest of diocesan priest Shawn Ratigan in May, and other cases of sexual misconduct by clergy.

The Kansas City Star reported last week that Bishop Robert Finn of the diocese testified before a grand jury in Jackson County, Mo., Friday. Although the grand jury meetings are secret, the Star wrote that the “lineup of grand jury witnesses suggests that the inquiry is focused more on the conduct of diocesan officials than that of Ratigan.”

A report commissioned by the diocese to study its handling of the Ratigan case, released Sept. 1, found that actions by those “individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families.”

In her letter to the pastors, Moss writes that priests who hear questions from parishioners about whether they should contribute to the campaign should “remind them that 100 percent goes directly to ministries that serve your parish and community.”

The kick-off date for the campaign is the weekend of Oct. 29-30. In previous years, a source familiar with the annual appeal told NCR, the campaign had started at the beginning of that month.

“Hopefully this [date] allows many parishes to launch and or finish their increased offertory campaigns as well as give us more time for healing,” writes Moss.

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