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Church Denies Budget Fallout

Catholic archdiocese says the five top officials who quit didn't do so because of cutbacks. None was available to answer questions.

November 01, 2002|Larry B. Stammer | Times Staff Writer

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles denied Thursday that the resignations of its five highest-ranking executives had been related to cuts in the church budget, but through a spokesman it said none of the five was available to answer questions about their departure.

Through press spokesman Tod Tamberg, two of the five issued written statements. Msgr. Richard Loomis, director of the Secretariat for Administrative Services, said he wanted to return to parish ministry.

Thomas Chabolla, director of the Secretariat for Pastoral and Community Services, said he decided to step down to allow an incoming vicar general -- the second highest executive after Cardinal Roger M. Mahony -- to name his own senior management team. One of the five whose resignations became public Wednesday is the current vicar general, Msgr. Terrance Fleming.

In his statement, Chabolla said, "It is important for me to clarify that my departure from the archdiocese is not in protest of the cuts, as has been reported."

Not Consulted?

On Wednesday, a veteran priest said Chabolla had told the priest that he thought he had not been consulted before the cuts were made.

The priest reiterated that account Thursday. He said Chabolla had offered his resignation as the budget crisis unfolded, but that Mahony had persuaded him to remain through the year. Chabolla's statement did not address that issue.

In his statement, Loomis defended the budget cuts as "necessary, logical and, within the context of the current financial situation, as compassionate as possible."

Tamberg insisted Thursday that, although Mahony ultimately had approved the controversial budget cuts, all five officials had been intimately involved in conceiving and executing them. The cuts included the elimination of seven headquarters ministries, retrenchment in others and the layoffs of at least 60 workers in archdiocese headquarters.

'Behind Closed Doors'

"They met for several weeks behind closed doors -- sometimes a couple of times a day -- making these decisions on what needed to be cut or downsized. It was agonizing for them. They were heavily involved. They weren't out of the loop," Tamberg said of the five members of the archdiocesan secretariat. "They were the loop."

The statements drew skeptical responses from other priests and archdiocesan employees.

Those who resigned "were the ones left with the burden of telling people your department is gone. I was one of them," said Laurie W. Oester, who has resigned as the archdiocese's director of campus ministry. "I know, because I've talked to my own secretariat director. It was devastating to them."

Outreach Programs Cut

Chabolla's office oversaw many of the ministries that were eliminated or cut, including outreach to ethnic groups, people with disabilities and lesbian and gay Catholics. It also governed ecumenical and inter-religious affairs.

Mahony ordered the cuts in the archdiocese budget this fall after the archdiocesan financial council refused to approve the budget until a $4.3-million deficit had been closed. The archdiocese said Thursday that Mahony and the finance council had left it up to the executives to decide how to make the cuts.

The five ranking executives jointly announced their decisions to quit in an e-mail to archdiocesan employees Wednesday.

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