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Spotlight Report

Bishop faults accepting money

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 12/18/2002

 In-depth
A small gathering of Boston-area Catholics grew into Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay reform group.  
Coverage of Voice of the Faithful
Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston, yesterday chastised Catholic Charities for accepting $56,035 from the lay group Voice of the Faithful without getting archdiocesan approval.

It was unclear from a statement issued by Edyvean whether the archdiocese will seek to have Catholic Charities, an agency of the archdiocese, return the money.

The 52-member board of the charity, which overwhelmingly supported last week's decision to accept the funds to help pay for food, clothing, and Christmas toys for needy families, has a meeting scheduled for today.

''The acceptance on the part of Catholic Charities of a sum of money raised by Voice of the Faithful was done without the agreement of the Archdiocese of Boston,'' Edyvean said. ''The earlier restriction which Cardinal Law had placed on receiving these monies had not been rescinded at the time of this action, nor has it been at this time.''

Edyvean said the archdiocese ''acknowledges the good faith'' of the individual donors, and ''very much wishes to continue the conversations it has been having with Voice of the Faithful concerning certain aspects of its stated purpose.'' The lay group, which was formed after the clergy sex abuse scandal began, is seeking a greater role for the laity in the church.

The friction between the church's social services arm and its archdiocesan superiors comes as the charity's board is seeking more independence to oversee Catholic Charities, which is one of the state's largest providers of social services.

The Globe reported yesterday that Catholic Charities Chairman Neal F. Finnegan and Vice Chairman Peter G. Meade decided last week to accept the money. The donation, raised from individual contributions, was offered to Catholic Charities, the church's social services agency, after Cardinal Bernard F. Law did not accept the funds by a deadline.

Neither Finnegan nor Meade could be reached for comment last night.

Edyvean's statement left some church officials wondering last night whether the archdiocese is on a collision course with a charity board whose members were appointed by the cardinal. The board members have expressed their determination to accept donations from Voice of the Faithful members, even if the archdiocese decides otherwise.

Regardless of whether Edyvean's statement is only an expression of displeasure, the issue will soon recur. Next month, Voice of the Faithful President James E. Post said, the organization is scheduled to offer another large donation to the archdiocese. If it is refused, it will be offered to Catholic Charities, he said.

Walter Robinson can be reached at wrobinson@globe.com

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 12/18/2002.
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