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Archdiocese to Cut Programs, Jobs to Close Budget Gap

Spending: At least 60 workers will be laid off and eight programs slashed. The new cathedral is not to blame, cardinal says.

September 19, 2002|LARRY B. STAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, trying to close a $4.3-million deficit, is laying off scores of workers and closing headquarters operations that handle antiabortion activities and outreach ministries to college students, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians, officials confirmed Wednesday.

As recently as a month ago, church officials said they could close the deficit without layoffs.

The cuts come two weeks after the opening of the $189-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Critics of the cathedral have said for years that the cost of the building would harm other programs in the archdiocese.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, however, said Wednesday that the cathedral and the layoffs are not related. The archdiocese is subsidizing operational costs at the cathedral and may continue to do so until June, he said. The deficit, however, results from losses in the stock market, Mahony said. Other officials of the archdiocese have said in the past that the church also needs to set aside money to prepare for the potential costs of sexual abuse cases.

Mahony also said he expects many of the jobs done by the ministries that are closing to be picked up, either by local congregations or by regional groupings of parishes, known as deaneries.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 21, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 9 inches; 338 words Type of Material: Correction
Archdiocese cutbacks--A story in Section A on Thursday about budget cutbacks by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles incorrectly reported that its Detention Ministry office, which serves inmates in jails, prisons and juvenile halls, was one of several offices being eliminated entirely. The Detention Ministry staff is being cut in half. The story also incorrectly reported the date on which employees were told of the cutbacks. It was Sept. 10, not Sept. 12.

Others were less optimistic, saying that church programs as varied as visits to prison inmates and ecumenical conferences could be reduced or eliminated.

On many college campuses in the region, the Catholic presence will all but disappear, said Laurie W. Oester, the director of Campus Ministry.

The cuts will eliminate at least 60 jobs in the archdiocese's headquarters in the Mid-Wilshire district. The archdiocese, the nation's largest, serves 5 million Catholics in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Its overall budget is $600 million.

The cuts were precipitated earlier this month, when the finance council of the archdiocese refused to approve the proposed 2003 budget, which included the $4.3-million deficit. Under canon law, the finance council's decision cannot be overridden by Mahony, said Tod Tamberg, the spokesman for the archdiocese. A new budget, balanced by the staff cuts, is to be presented to the council, Tamberg said.

The austerity measures come at a time when the cost of sexual abuse cases--and declining contributions in some parts of the country--has caused other major archdioceses to cut back. Last year, the New York Archdiocese cut 23 jobs and closed 11 ministry offices. Earlier this year, the Boston Archdiocese cut 15 jobs and reduced its $24-million central operating budget by about $8 million.

The cuts will cause some programs to be eliminated while others--including such popular outreach programs as marriage encounter retreats--have been ordered to heavily cut the number of workers. In some cases the cuts will be as much as 50%.

The Department of Religious Education has also been told to cut back.

The archdiocese confirmed that eight headquarters programs are being shut down: the Office of Ministry With Persons With Disabilities; the Detention Ministry, which works with those in jail; Campus Ministry; Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs; Ethnic Groups Ministry; Ministry With Lesbian and Gay Catholics; the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women; and the Office of Respect Life, which runs counseling services for women who have had abortions and advocacy programs that oppose abortion and euthanasia.

There is no plan to restore the cuts, even when the economy recovers, Mahony said. "I feel very, very saddened for people who are not going to be on the payroll," Mahony said after a noon Mass at the cathedral. "We're trying to handle it as gently as we can." But Mahony said the archdiocese had no choice. "I cannot go into huge debt," he said.At the campus ministry, the program at UCLA has been spared, Oester said. But ministries at Cal State campuses in Long Beach, Northridge and Los Angeles, as well as programs at Cal Poly Pomona; Caltech; and the University of La Verne will be closed in mid-October.

"It's very sad, from a campus ministry point of view, that the students on our campuses, especially our large state campuses, will no longer have a Catholic presence," Oester said.Those who minister to gay and lesbian Catholics said Wednesday that they were afraid the closing of the Ministry With Lesbian and Gay Catholics would send a disturbing signal to disaffected Catholic gay men and lesbians.

A dozen people who visit those in jail, including women and juveniles, have lost their jobs, one source said.

Known as the Detention Ministry, the program has also provided pastoral care to families of those in jail and lobbied for changes in sentencing laws. In some cases, local parishes have already been involved in visiting prisoners and families.

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