Boston archdiocese, sisters dispute pensions

BOSTON -- The Boston Archdiocese and members of the Daughters of St. Paul were scheduled to go before a mediator March 29 in an attempt to resolve a dispute over pension funds.

The religious community said that for five years, it has tried to withdraw from the archdiocesan pension fund for lay employees so that it can establish its own pension plan for its lay employees.

According to The Associated Press, the sisters filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the pension fund's trustees, including Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, did not give them a full accounting of what their portion of the fund is.

The sisters have asked the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to order the fund's trustees to provide a full accounting or rule that the sisters were never part of the plan and must be reimbursed for their contributions. The sisters also requested the archdiocese pay their legal fees.

The sisters believe they are owed $1.37 million based on the value of the assets four years ago. A Boston Globe report said the archdiocese has declined to say what the value is, leaving that topic for mediation.

Terrence Donilon, archdiocesan secretary for communications and public affairs, told local news media that he was confident the lawsuit will be resolved through mediation. The AP story quoted him as saying the archdiocese wants to make sure "that when they withdraw, that there's a plan" and that the sisters will continue to provide for the beneficiaries of the fund.

The Daughters of St. Paul is an international community with about 60 sisters in Boston and 50 lay employees. The sisters have a special commitment to spreading the Gospel message through publishing, book and media centers, websites, apps, music, media literacy presentations, radio programs, workshops and media retreats.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Boston announced plans to freeze its pension plan for about 10,000 lay employees, saying it hoped to stabilize the pension fund and make sure employees kept their benefits.

Although the pension fund was fully funded in 2007, it suffered during the economic downturn in 2008. Beginning next year, the archdiocese will offer retirees an alternative, a 401(k)-style plan, similar to what some other dioceses and corporations are providing.

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