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Catholic Group’s Response: Not a Dime to the Diocese

WHEELING — Following an open letter to Archbishop William Lori and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, a group of Catholics have declared their intent to withhold funds to the diocese after failing to receive a measured response.

The letter can be found here: Catholic-Response

Last month, Lay Catholic Voices for Change, an organization comprised of Catholics from north-central West Virginia, sent an open letter to Lori addressing what they saw as numerous issues with the structure of the church, as well as their proposed solutions and a call for increased parishioner participation in clerical matters. The letter requested a response by June 28, which did not come.

The letter and its demands came following an investigation into former bishop Michael Bransfield that found excessive spending and credible claims of sexual harassment against adults.

“We set forth in our June 12 letter a variety of remedial actions you and the Diocese could take to repair the trust that has been breached. We wrote to you in good faith,” the organization stated in a follow-up letter dated Tuesday.

“You chose to ignore our letter – in much the same way you and other church leaders ignored or discounted the laity, clergy, and religious who, over the years, cried out for help in ridding ourselves of Michael Bransfield and in much the same way you and other church leaders ignored or discounted the repeated press reports of Michael Bransfield’s improper behavior. … You apparently have so little respect for lay people, you chose not to issue even a pro forma response to our letter. You simply ignored us.”

In response to the silence, LCVC has asked parishioners to participate in a campaign to boycott donations to the diocese, by withholding donations to collections at church; instead, the boycott calls for parishioners to place white envelopes, with their names and the statement “Not a Dime to the Diocese” in the collection basket.

“LCVC is not encouraging withholding of donations to local parishes,” a press release states. “However, parishioners who are concerned about the percentage of the general donation that goes to the Diocese may “earmark” donations toward specific uses in their parishes.”

The boycott is to take place during weekends between July 20 and Aug. 4, with the hope that the diocese commissions a complete, independent audit of the diocese’s finances, one of the goals outlined in LCVC’s open letter.

“To restore trust on the part of the lay faithful that their donations and other diocesan funds are being used for their intended purposes, we lay Catholics state that until and unless the Diocese hires a new, independent, and trustworthy auditor to audit the Diocese’s finances and until and unless the Diocese announces a timeline for conducting the audit and for releasing an independently audited financial statement, complete with the auditor’s opinion, we will not donate money that would otherwise go to or through diocesan offices,” the letter states.

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