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March 5, 2009

Business ethics: German archbishop's timely topic at London School of Economics - The year we didn't choose Lenten sacrifices, they chose us - What clergy personnel boards actually do - If charitable contributions decline, volunteerism must rise - and more



In this edition:
-- Springtime at the clergy personnel board.
-- German archbishop addresses London School of Economics: 1) The education that is needed; 2) Ethics in business: Future economic leaders.
-- Knights' poll: General public and executives rate business ethics.
-- Failure to honor the common good? Vatican official on economic meltdown.
-- Current quotes to ponder: 1) Toll of financial poverty; 2) Becoming a sign of integrity in the world; 3) Lenten fasting and feasting.
-- Neighbors helping neighbors during recession: Accent on volunteerism.
-- The year we didn't choose our Lenten sacrifices, they chose us.
-- Bottled water? What people are giving up this Lent.
-- Preparing for ministry among African-American Catholics.

Springtime at the Clergy Personnel Board

Assigning priests to parishes "is not exactly 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,' because this ship is never going to sink." But the work of a clergy personnel board these days - and some realities it must take into consideration -- are not exactly the same as in the past, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote in his "For His Friends" blog Feb. 17.

"Several new realities are beginning to be felt in the area of priest personnel assignments," Bishop Lynch said. First, "some parishes are beginning to say that they cannot afford more than one priest." Why is that?

Bishop Lynch explained that while "the salary of a priest is not that great (about $2,200 per month for pastors), fringe benefits" can cost a parish "about the same amount as the salary total per month, and then there is room and board to be provided." He said: "Some estimate that it is now costing about $55,000 per year per priest. I don't have the exact amount, but that would be close in many places."

A second new reality for personnel boards to consider "is that there is no longer a bench off which a priest can be called," Bishop Lynch wrote. This, he said, "is something like playing football with only 11 players on the team or baseball with only nine. A surprise retirement, an unexpected death, a serious illness now becomes a great challenge because I can no longer call up someone from the 'minors' or off the bench."

A third new reality touches upon pets and personal habits. "Dogs and smoking are new realities which make life tough for the personnel board and for myself," said Bishop Lynch. The reason may be that "many pastors now have dogs," but "many assistants do not like dogs or are allergic to dogs." And "smoking in the rectory is no longer an option because of the knowledge that society has about smoking and its harmful effects on health," the bishop explained.

So today's clergy personnel board has to try not only "to match a priest with a place," but also to "figure in animals, habits and cost."

Bishop Lynch said that in the St. Petersburg Diocese, "the approximately 120 men in active ministry who receive their assignments from the bishop are the responsibility" of the clergy personnel board. He explained:

"Different bishops approach this challenging task differently. Some let their clergy boards meet without the bishop, receive the recommendations and then make the assignments. Other bishops meet with the board itself and take part in the dialogue, and then call the priests affected and seek their acceptance of their new assignment. If the priest receiving a new assignment is an associate pastor, then the receiving pastor must be called first to ascertain if he is willing to accept Father X."

It is "hard work matching a decreasing supply of priests to an increasing chorus of demand for help and assistance," Bishop Lynch said. But he said that for 13 years he has "enjoyed clergy personnel boards which have always placed the best interest of a successful ministry for a man above all else."

The spring assignment period in a diocese is not an easy time, though, and Bishop Lynch admitted that decisions he and others make "often cause lots of people to become sad, upset and even angry." He wrote:

"Sometimes I laugh when I hear that a priest who has requested a transfer stands up before his people and says, 'The bishop made me do it!' That happens a lot. Every once in a while, however, like last Sunday morning at St. Michael's parish in Hudson, lots of people stop on the way out and thank me for the two new priests they received last summer."

German Archbishop Speaks at London School of Economics

1. Education

Education for every child is essential not just for the child, but for society's well-being, the president of the German bishops' conference said in a speech in Britain Feb. 20 to the London School of Economics and Political Science. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg added, however, that "education is not only about the upward social mobility of the individual and the economic performance of society."

Archbishop Zollitsch examined the relationship of church and state in an address titled "The Church and Her Social Engagement, Where We Stand Today."

"A society's sustainability depends to a large extent on how well it succeeds in creating opportunities for lifelong learning," said Archbishop Zollitsch. "Under today's conditions," he said, "individuals with no education or training will have no opportunities." Furthermore, a society's capacity "to compete internationally" will be hampered if its children do not receive the education they need.

But the archbishop cautioned against ignoring education's role in "liberating people from the constraints of ignorance, prejudice and false ties to tradition." For, education "opens up horizons," he said. "It helps enable individuals to form their own responsible judgments and lead lives in keeping with their dignity."

There are risks in "misunderstanding the real end of education as being the marketability and augmentation of so-called human capital" and in "reducing education to training" - risks that should not be underestimated, the archbishop told his audience of future economists and political scientists. He said, "Hiding behind these wrongly understood goals, if we allow them to become absolute, is a programmatic instrumentalization and domestication of the human person."

Archbishop Zollitsch said, "The church - in her own schools, in her religious instruction and in public discourse - sides with those who see education as an end in itself for the free human person endowed with the gift of reason."

2. The Ethics of Business: Leaders in the Economy of the Future

"Barely anyone now disputes the fact that we need a long-term reform and reorientation of economic policy," Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Catholic bishops' conference, said in his Feb. 20 speech at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He said, "For much too long it was claimed that ethics and economics were mutually exclusive."

The archbishop acknowledged that "profit is the key precondition for the continued existence of a bank or an enterprise." That, he said, "is indisputable." But he asked if that is "all that is to be said about the responsibility of the businessman or the executive."

He urged his audience to consider the consequences for the common good of "our individual and corporate action."

Archbishop Zollitsch said it seems to him "that the words of the apostle Paul, 'Test everything; hold fast what is good!' (1 Thes 5:21) have been changed into, 'Test everything; hold fast what is useful!'" The archbishop asked, "Can this be the basis for business activity?"

Given the globalized economy's dynamism and complexity, "not everything that is legally permissible will also be ethically sound," said Archbishop Zollitsch. He added, "If we are to build trust in the global financial and economic system and introduce order into it, we will not be able to avoid raising the issue of the professional ethos, the individual ethical criteria applied by those who bear responsibility."

This does not mean a business leader is merely "a cog in the machinery of an economic system," and those who aim to strengthen the economic order should avoid such a view, the archbishop advised. Still, "we need to strengthen those who demonstrate that the market and morality go together, [and] those who care about and look after the welfare of their staff instead of seeing them only as a source of labor," he said.

The General Public and Executives Rate Business Ethics: Marist Poll for Knights

Three-fourths of Americans and more than nine in 10 executives think that a business can be both successful and ethical. However, "Americans believe personal and corporate gain drives the business decisions of executives, and few think concern for employees or the public good factor into corporate decisions," according to a poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The Knights released the poll results Feb. 26.

Seventy-six percent of Americans believe that corporate America's moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, and 58 percent of corporate executives agree, poll results showed. The poll said a majority of Americans and two-thirds of executives gave a grade of D or F in ethical matters to the financial and investment industry.

Poll results were based on interviews with 2,071 U.S. adults between Jan. 25 and Feb. 3, and interviews with 110 high-level business executives between Jan. 26 and Feb. 5.

Seventy-four percent of Americans and 86 percent of executives believe people should follow the same ethical standards in business that they follow in their personal lives. Yet more than half of executives and nearly three-fourths of Americans think most people miss that mark and that, in fact, a double standard is followed.

The poll indicated that both the general public and executives believe religion provides a good ethical standard for doing business. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think religious beliefs should significantly influence executives' business decisions, the Knights reported. More than two-thirds of executives agreed.

Here are three more findings of the poll:

-- "The public and executives alike think salaries for high-level business leaders are excessive."

-- "About one in four of both workers and executives would be worried about retaliation if they reported unethical behavior."

-- "More than half of Americans and two-thirds of executives give failing grades for the honesty and ethics of the financial and investment sector. Other industries are viewed better - especially small business."

According to Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, "America faces a serious problem with a financial crisis caused in no small part by greed -- the public lacks confidence in our financial system and in much of 'corporate America.'" He added:

"This confidence cannot and will not be restored until American executives and companies choose to be guided by a moral compass in their business decisions. Only a strong commitment to ethical business practices on the part of executives and the companies they lead can restore America's confidence in its financial system."

Failure to Honor the Common Good? Economic Meltdown's Impact

Engagement in financial activity "cannot be reduced to making easy profits, but also must include the promotion of the common good among those who lend, those who borrow and those who work," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to U.N. organizations in Geneva, said Feb. 20 in an address to the 10th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the fallout of the economic crisis.

"There are economic, juridical and cultural dimensions of the present crisis," said Archbishop Tomasi. He added, "The lack of an ethical base has brought the crisis to low-, middle- and high-income countries alike." However, he said, the negative consequences of the crisis "exert a more dramatic impact on the developing world and on the most vulnerable groups in all societies."

The economic crisis greatly worsens poverty worldwide and particularly harms the world's children, Archbishop Tomasi told the U.N. rights council. He noted:

"In a recent document the World Bank estimates that in 2009 the current global economic crisis could push an additional 53 million people below the threshold of $2 a day. This figure is in addition to the 130 million people pushed into poverty in 2008 by the increase in food and energy prices. Evidence indicates that children, in particular, will suffer the most from economic hardship, and a strong increase in the infant mortality rate in poor countries is forecast for 2009."

The economic crisis also endangers world peace, Archbishop Tomasi said. The impact of the crisis means "the human rights of countless persons are compromised, including the right to food, water, health and decent work." Moreover, "when large segments of a national population see their social and economic rights frustrated, the loss of hope endangers peace," he said.

It is legitimate for the international community "to ask why such a situation developed, whose responsibility it is, and how a concerted solution can lead us out of the crisis and facilitate the restoration of rights," said Archbishop Tomasi. He said that while the causes of the crisis run deep, it "was caused, in part, by problematic behavior of some actors in the financial and economic system."

Current Quotes to Ponder

The Toll of Financial Poverty: "Poverty generally signifies an economic state of not having what a person needs to live a dignified human life. On this level, it describes economic insufficiency usually as a result of some kind of injustice. Deprivation of a basic human need truly is injustice and an evil, something which we must work to abolish. This kind of poverty, which is really more a situation of destitution, can tempt people to despair of life, strike out in anger at society and turn to destructive ways to fill the want in their lives. Situations in which persons lack basic necessities can hardly be called human or dignified. There is nothing holy about these situations. Paradoxically, many people in such situations truly are holy." (Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, Mt., in a letter to priests for Lent 2009)

Becoming a Sign of Integrity for Others: "You have no idea how many people have spoken to me of the walk from Cobh to Dublin of Father [Michael] Mernagh in atonement for the sexual abuse of children within the church. There was in his gesture an element of integrity which struck a chord in so many people. You have no idea how many people have stopped me on the streets or at public places saying how that event, and the fact that I was at the pro-cathedral here in Dublin when he arrived, struck their children. What is clear to me is that young people in search of faith or in dialogue -- or even in conflict -- with the concept of faith judge individuals and religious institutions in terms of integrity. They may feel little identity or affinity with institutional expressions of religion, but they can respect the personal integrity of those who belong to the institution or even those who have leadership within institutions. If, however, they perceive the church as an institution standing up for its own institutional interests, then they will be unmerciful in their rejection and hostility. For the church to witness in society to the values which underlie the Christian faith, then church communities must be credible witnesses in their own lives and interaction to those values. They must witness to integrity." (Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, speaking Feb. 17 at Trinity College, Dublin)

Lenten Fasting and Feasting: "Lent is a time to fast from certain things, but also a time to feast on others. Fast from discontent, anger, bitterness, self-concern, discouragement, laziness, suspicion, guilt. Feast on gratitude, patience, forgiveness, compassion for others, hope, commitment, truth and the mercy of God. Lent is just such a time of fasting and feasting!" (Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, executive director of the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network based in Toronto, Ontario, writing on the network's Web site)

Neighbors Helping Neighbors During Recession: Accent on Volunteerism

The fact that charitable giving currently is sharply down in the U.S. due to the economic recession indicates it is time for an increase of volunteerism, according to Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus. In a speech Jan. 23 at the Jesuit-run University of Fairfield, he said:

"With less money coming in, charitable organizations must find new ways to contribute to their community. And we must help Americans find new ways to express the generosity we are famous for. As America's charitable organizations face a serious new challenge to fundraising, volunteerism will be especially important."

Anderson said, "If generosity is one of the deepest human values, then volunteerism can build the deepest human ties, making neighbors out of strangers and unshakeable communities out of shaken individuals."

The speaker said he doubted there could be anyone in his audience who did not "know at least one victim of the current financial meltdown." Many Americans who just a year ago were doing fairly well suddenly find themselves "forced to choose between food and rent payments, between warm clothing and car payments," he noted, adding, "This isn't the America anyone dreams of."

The Knights of Columbus reports "two important statistics each year," Anderson said. One statistic reports the money donated to charitable causes. The other statistic reports "the number of hours volunteered by our members working on charitable causes." The Knights "take justifiable pride in both numbers -- in our latest year there were $145 million in contributions and 68 million hours of volunteer service." Anderson commented that "if calculated on a financial basis, the second number is greater than the first." He explained:

"If we assign the dollar value of $19.51, set by the group Independent Sector, to each hour of volunteer service, the value of 68 million hours is approximately $1.33 billion."

Anderson pointed out that "during the Great Depression, people would often hear a passerby ask, 'Buddy, can you spare a dime?'" But the Knights official said that today his question for "the millions of Americans who want to help, but may feel financially unable to do is, 'Can you spare 10 minutes?'"

The present moment may not be a time when "many of us can make dramatic increases in financial contributions to charity," but we can "afford to give something extra of our time -- which is to say, we can all give something more of ourselves," Anderson said.

There is an important role for government in "encouraging Americans to volunteer," Anderson commented. However, he said, "broad-based and effective volunteering will require new cooperation between government organizations and charities." The nation "works best when these sectors work together," he said - a form of cooperation often witnessed in the wake of a natural disaster.

What will be remembered years from now about the present financial crisis? Anderson said personal decisions were made on Wall Street that were "motivated by greed and the desire for unfettered individual advantage." This "will long be remembered as a hallmark of this economic crisis," he said. But he added:

"It is now up to us on Main Street to make personal decisions motivated by our concern for our neighbor. Let us work to make that spirit of volunteerism the hallmark of our nation's recovery. Let us truly become a nation of neighbors helping neighbors."

The Year We Didn't Choose Our Lenten Sacrifices, They Chose Us

"In prior years when life and our financial security were far more predictable, Lent meant that we could choose which special sacrifices we wanted to undertake." What's more, these special sacrifices were undertaken just for the six weeks before Easter. However, "now we have a new reality: We aren't choosing our sacrifices this year, they have chosen us," Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said in a 2009 Lenten message.

The cardinal said this year's Lent actually began in 2007 for many people. Since then, "we have been in a long and protracted season of Lent" as the realities of the economic crisis made themselves known in people's lives.

As a result, "most Catholics in our archdiocese do not need to select a special form of sacrifice this Lent; they already have more than their share." How, then, do they choose to "act differently this year" during Lent?

The cardinal urged people to reflect on the origin of the word "sacrifice." He said: "It comes from two Latin words, 'sacrum' and 'facere' -- meaning 'to make sacred.' A sacrifice, then, is accepting an ongoing or new reality -- usually burdensome -- and turning that into something sacred, a source of God's love and grace."

For him personally, Cardinal Mahony said, "this Lent means embracing the new wearisome burdens, difficulties, and unexpected hardships that have confronted me on my journey of life and faith. I can't pretend that these difficult burdens aren't there, nor can I try to somehow sneak around them and move on -- neither approach works."

He said, "What I must do is recognize them, embrace them, realize I can't carry them alone and 'make sacred' all that surrounds me."

The minister who on Ash Wednesday places ashes on a person's forehead says, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel," Cardinal Mahony pointed out. He said that in 2009 "those words have a far more profound meaning" for him. For example, the word "repent," he explained, "means putting aside my pride and my spirit of self-sufficiency, and realizing that the only life-giving path forward is to embrace humbly what surrounds me -- knowing ever more deeply that God is far more present to me in the midst of helplessness and weakness than when there are fewer challenges."

Cardinal Mahony intends each day this Lent to offer his "prayers and sacrifices of that day for a special group of co-disciples with Jesus: those out of work, families who have lost homes, parents who fear that they won't have the money needed for their children, the many who have lost health insurance, the retired people whose retirement funds have been severely diminished and all who fear each tomorrow."

What Are People Giving Up This Lent? Bottled Water

The Archdiocese of Venice, Italy, urged Catholics this year to give up bottled water for Lent. Bottled water?

Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service Rome bureau reported March 4 that "Italians lead the world in the consumption of bottled water, even though their tap water is clean and pure; a 2008 study said that each Italian drinks 190 liters - more than 50 gallons - of bottled water each year." So the Venice archdiocesan office for Christian lifestyles suggested that Catholics "turn on the faucet" and give up bottled water for Lent.

In Italy, discussions of bottled water tend to stress that it is unnecessary, expensive and that it creates garbage, with water bottles frequently seen on beaches and in waterways, including the historic Venice canals, according to Wooden.

Father Gianni Fazzini, director of the Venice lifestyles office, said Lent offers an opportunity to "review our consumption and choose products that respect creation and the workers who make those products." He says Lenten conversion calls for this.

Another Italian archbishop urged Catholics to give up text-messaging via the cell phone, at least on the Fridays of Lent. Wooden reported that Archbishop Benito Cocchi of Modena-Nonantola thinks text-messaging is harmful to some of the world's people.

The archbishop said the mineral ore columbite-tantalite is used in the manufacture of cell phones, that some 80 percent of the world's supply of this ore comes from Congo and that many human rights organizations believe the sale of this mineral has helped finance civil violence in that country.

Preparing for Ministry Among African-American Catholics

An undergraduate certificate program in pastoral ministry to African-American Catholics will be offered by the Diocese of Camden, N.J., starting next fall, the diocese announced Feb. 24. The program will be offered through St. Charles Seminary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Carmina Magnusen Chapp, the seminary's academic dean, said this certificate program is the only one of its kind in the U.S. She said, "No one else does this, no one else has developed something to empower the African-American Catholic community the way this program has." The program is offered not only to African-American Catholics, Chapp said. It is "for anyone who does ministry in the African-American community and who wants to be better prepared to do so."

Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden said it saddens him "that our diocese is based in a city that has a sizeable African-American population, and yet there are so few African-American Catholics." He said, "It is important to have participation in this program to come to an understanding and an experience of the rich, profound, deep faith life of the African-American Catholic community."

The initiative is part of the diocese's Lay Ministry Formation Program, announced last fall. The diocese said the broader program offers college and university degree and certificate courses for parish leaders and staff who serve in a variety of pastoral ministries. Programs also are offered for laypersons in pastoral administration, Catholic schools and parish business management.