If Bankruptcy is So Bad Then Why Do Churches Keep Filing Bankruptcy?

I don’t know whether Rhett Butler was a Catholic, but Catholics should adopt Rhett’s attitude about the rising tide of bankruptcies among America’s Catholic dioceses. Frankly, my dears, we should not give a damn.

Nineteen Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, due to payouts forced on the Church by child-abuse victims, almost all of whom were raped or sexually abused by Catholic priests. The National Catholic Reporter compiled a list of 131 financial settlements between the Catholic Church and child abuse victims–most of them for a million dollars or more.

According to the Buffalo News, the Diocese of Buffalo, New York may be the twentieth American diocese to file for bankruptcy. NCR’s Carolyn Thompson reported a few days ago that the Buffalo Diocese has already paid out about $18 million to 100 child abuse victims and has 220 lawsuits pending against it.

Not surprisingly, the sexual abuse scandal has demoralized Catholic laypeople all over the United States. No one knows how many Catholics have left the Church due to this moral catastrophe, but it is clear that Catholic laypeople have drastically cut back on their financial contributions to the Church.

The Buffalo Diocese provides an example. Jay Tokasz, writing for the Buffalo News, reported that the diocese suffered a $5 million budget deficit last year even though it cut its budget by $1.9 million.

Donations to the diocese had dropped by a whopping one third in just one year. In 2018, the Buffalo Diocese received approximately $18 million in donations. In 2019, donations fell to about $13 million. That’s a huge vote of no confidence in the Buffalo hierarchy’s leadership.

Catholics are frustrated and enraged by the Church’s sexual abuse scandal. How, we ask ourselves, can a church that calls itself the Bride of Christ allow men to rape and sodomize children—both boys and girls? How could the Church allow rapists to continue in their ministry and how could it have resorted to sleazy legal maneuvers to hide the scandal?

The arrogance and indifference of the American Catholic bishops are destroying the Church’s financial viability—which is a good thing. Lay Catholics have simply stopped giving money to the son-of –a-bitches who have countenanced human trafficking in parish rectories for more than half a century. In fact, it is not too much to say that many Catholic bishops are themselves human traffickers who moved pedophiles around from parish to parish.

I stopped giving money to the Catholic Church about three years ago. My wife and I now make regular monthly contributions to Casa Juan Diego, the Catholic Worker hospitality house in Houston, Texas. We know that every dollar we send to Casa Juan Diego will go to help the poor.

I urge other disappointed Catholics to join me. Stop funding the creeps who run the Catholic Church and give it to people who are doing Christ’s work—whether or not they are Catholics.

Richard Fossey is a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and his doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is editor of Catholic Southwest, A Journal of History and Culture.

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