Every year, without fail, Joe Ferri writes a $100 check to the Archdiocese of Newark for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a fundraising drive that benefits a variety of religious causes.
This year, Ferri left the empty envelope on his pew at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield. He’s done writing checks.
“If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it,” said Ferri, 70. “I’m disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me.”
Two weeks after The Star-Ledger disclosed that Archbishop John J. Myers is building a 3,000-square-foot addition on the expansive home where he will spend his retirement, it appears the work will cost the archdiocese far more than the $500,000 allotted for construction.
Parishioners, infuriated by what they call a tone-deaf show of excess at a time when Catholic schools are closing and when the pope has called on bishops to shed the trappings of luxury, say they’re cutting off contributions entirely or sharply curtailing them.
Others said they will continue supporting their local parishes but will ignore the annual appeal, which has been heavily promoted in churches over the past month across the archdiocese, home to 1.3 million Catholics in the New Jersey counties of Essex, Hudson, Union and Bergen.
At stake are millions of dollars that support schools, youth ministries, retired priests and Catholic Charities, the nonprofit agency that runs homeless shelters and provides a wide array of services for the poorest residents. In recent years, the appeal has brought in between $10 million and $11 million annually, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Myers.
While acknowledging the good work the church does, the parishioners said they believe their complaints will be ignored if they don’t make the point more indelibly with their pocketbooks.
“The only language the church understands is money,” said Maria Bozza, 69, who has urged fellow parishioners at Holy Family Church in Nutley to withhold contributions to the archdiocese. “We need to start an ‘empty envelope month’ to replace the archbishop’s annual appeal. If parishioners in every church in the Newark Archdiocese sent in an empty envelope, then they will get the message.”
The Rev. John Bambrick, pastor of a parish in the Diocese of Trenton, and an occasional critic of Myers’ leadership, said he understands parishioners’ frustration. Many priests share it, he said, but are unwilling to speak out publicly.
“The average priest lives in two rooms with a bathroom, and the pope lives in a hotel room,” Bambrick said, a reference Pope Francis’ decision to live in a guest house instead of the papal palace. “I don’t understand why a 75-year-old man needs a 7,500-square-foot mansion with two swimming pools.”
Source: Religion News Service