Amid hefty legal fees, Buffalo diocese cuts Catholic school spending

By CNA Staff

Classroom in a Catholic school. / Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Mar 30, 2021 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- Following its bankruptcy filing last year, the Diocese of Buffalo, New York has cut spending on some of its Catholic schools.

The cuts are part of broader cost-saving measures, which include nearly $10 million in reductions in operations expenses such as pastoral costs, ministerial support, and religious development.

The Buffalo News reported that the diocese spent $3.8 million on bankruptcy-related expenses in its first year of bankruptcy. This amount nearly rivals its budget for the diocese’s 34 Catholic elementary schools.

The subsidiaries for the diocese’s schools are funded by school assessment fees, which are taken from parishes without education systems and then redistributed to parishes with schools.

The diocese collected $1.9 million in assessment fees taken from March until August last year. It has provided about $460,000 in elementary school funding since the diocese filed for bankruptcy in February 2020.

Charles Mendolera, executive director of financial administration for the diocese, said the impact of the cutbacks has been softened because a majority of the schools and parishes have qualified for emergency government aid, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). More than 100 Catholic schools and parishes in the area have collectively received millions of dollars through PPP, the Buffalo News Reported.

In addition, Catholic school enrollment in the diocese has risen, as Catholic schools have continued full in-person learning while most local public schools are in-person only two days a week.

Mendolera applauded the efforts of local churches and their parishioners who have turned to online giving, especially during the difficulties of the pandemic. He expressed doubt that a second wave of cost-cutting measures would be necessary.

Bishop Malone, who had led the diocese since 2012, resigned in December 2019 following a Vatican-ordered investigation of the diocese.

Malone has apologized for his handling of the case of Fr. Art Smith, a diocesan priest who faced repeated accusations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

Bishop Malone had written to the Vatican in 2015, in a letter later reported in the press, asking that Fr. Smith be kept in active ministry. He admitted in the same letter that Smith had groomed a young boy, had been accused of inappropriate touching, and refused to stay in a treatment center. Smith was eventually suspended in 2018 after the diocese received a new substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

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