Have you ever thought about what happens to your donations to the church?

Perhaps you should!

Charitable Contributions and Clergy Abuse

Charities solicit all year round to raise funds for their individual causes such as medical research, animal protection, historical restoration etc. Some have seasonal events you expect each year like the traditional "Archbishop's Winter Appeal" or the Red Shield Appeal. While charities are very important in today’s society I urge you to keep in mind that it is equally important to know how your donation is distributed. Specifically, portions of your dollar usually go toward advertising, printing, postage and other administrative costs to name a few, ultimately leaving only a small percentage of your donation to actually support the cause to which you originally donated. This is also the case regarding the distribution of your contribution to the Bishop's Appeal in your community, and a portion of your weekly offertory.

So where is that money going? While it is true that the church has education, living, and administrative expenses, they also have financial responsibilities you may not be aware of, namely abuse-related expenses. While some abuses are very public, others remain quite private, for instance most of the sexual abuse of adults and children by clergy. While this abuse is often hidden, it nevertheless has a profound impact on the church’s financial obligations. Financial contributions to the church are used to pay legal fees, investigators, compensation to victims (also known as hush money as it is usually in exchange for a signed confidentiality clause to ensure the abuse will not go public), medical as well as culpability insurance policies, and finally for the “treatment” of clergy/priests who are perpetrators, or worse, to send the priest on leave (study, sabbatical or medical leave) while “things cool down”.

All too often priests do not receive sex offender treatment but when they do, it can cost the diocese in excess of $10,000 per month for the 3-6 months (or more) that the program requires ON TOP OF the priest's normal salary. Medical insurance does not always cover these expenses. Ask your Bishop how much money has been spent in the past year, 5 years, and beyond for each of the above mentioned items. I guarantee you will not get an answer, or at least not an accurate one.

Millions of dollars are spent each year in each denomination and sometimes in each diocese - yes diocese; yes millions - related to sex abuse by clergy. This is fact, not an exaggerated statement to try to shock you. Sexual abuse is not about lawsuits and compensation, insurance and treatment. It goes beyond that. Survivors of abuse have been harmed and betrayed by someone in whom they should be able to have absolute trust. They suffer from embarrassment, guilt, post traumatic stress disorder, self inflicted injuries and a variety of mental illnesses. Their personal relationships, work environments, health and life in general are affected in ways that are unimaginable.

Knowledge is power and hopefully this information has helped empower you to make good fiscal decisions when choosing where your hard-earned money will go. This is not a suggestion that you withhold contributions; it is merely information about what happens to your contribution. However, if you are looking for an alternative charity to contribute to, might I suggest contributing to a victims’ advocacy group dedicated to the fight for justice, prevention, and healing of victims of abuse such as:

Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA)
230 Liverpool St
Darlinghurst, Sydney, 2010
Ph: 02-9331 2487

and specify that your donation be used for clergy sexual abuse victims.

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With thanks to the late Tom Economus of Chicago for the original text. Adapted for Australian conditions.