Diocese falls short of fundraising goal

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(Host) The Roman Catholic of Diocese annual fund drive ends today and church officials say the drive will fall short of its goal. The diocese says it’s clear child sexual abuse allegations against a number of Vermont priests have had an impact on this year’s fundraising effort.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The Bishop’s Fund is the largest single source of income for the Church. It represents about one-third of the diocese’s overall budget. Reverend Wendell Searles is vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Burlington. Searles says in the more than 40 years the fund has been in existence, this is one of the few years it’s fallen short of its goal.

Last April, shortly before the fund drive began, the diocese put six priests on administrative leave while the attorney general reviewed sexual abuse allegations against them. Searles says the parishes of those priests have seen low levels of contributions to the Bishop’s Fund.

(Searles) “That jumps right out at us. This has created, of course, a lot of upset.”

(Zind) Parishes in Randolph, Ludlow and Vergennes, where priests have been under investigation, have raised just over half of the money they had planned to. Searles says the diocese fundraising goal this year is $2.3 million. The fund will fall short by about $100,000.

(Searles) “We haven’t made the overall goal. In spite of that, I think the returns are quite good, given all of the circumstances. And yes, parishes where there have been priests on leave generally have not done well on the Bishop’s Fund.”

(Zind) Searles says the shortfall in the Bishop’s Fund will pinch the diocese financially, but the diocese will not have to make changes in it’s annual budget.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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