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Archdiocese raised $93.8 million from parish consolidation, report shows

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has raised $93.8 million in a reorganization project started nearly nine years ago that included the closing or merger of 76 parishes, according to a financial report released Friday.

As of June of last year, the sale of parish property had brought in $73.1 million since July 2004, when the church closings began as part of the restructuring effort, the archdiocese’s 2012 Financial Report says. A large part of the proceeds has been used to support existing parishes, according to the report.

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Maureen Donnelly Creedon, the archdiocese’s director of finance, said the organization published financial information about the reorganization this year because the process is largely complete and “there’s been some speculation about how those funds were utilized.”

“Most of the money did go back into parishes,” she said.

Some of the nearly $94 million in funds were dispensed to a variety of projects and branches within the archdiocese, with $16.9 million directed to restore funds that were used to forgive parish debts in 2000, the report shows. About $12.7 million supported past pension payments for parish employees.

Another $11.1 million helped cover expenses from maintaining the property of closed churches and $11 million went to construction aid for parishes and schools, according to the report.

The consolidation was highly controversial, with churchgoers in some towns holding vigils to protest the closing of their churches.

‘Most of the money did go back into parishes.’

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Peter Borré, a leading opponent of the church closings, said the financial report indicates that some of the funds actually went to the archdiocese’s central administration, not directly to parishes. Specifically, he cited $12.3 million in distributions that the archdiocese report said goes “to agencies and departments that provided program assistance and support to parishes.”

Borré said, “They are supporting their central administration . . . by the monies raised from sales of closed parishes.”

At the end of 2004, around the time that the church closings began, the archdiocese wrote in a letter to parishioners that it was operating at a $10 million deficit. The 2012 Financial Report indicates that the organization is now in more stable financial condition, despite a slow national economy.

“The message for this year is one of sort of stability and consistency,” Creedon said.

Total revenue was down slightly from about $343 million in 2011 to approximately $337 million last year, according to the report. The archdiocese’s net assets in 2012 were valued at $561.7 million, down from about $563.4 million in 2011. But Creedon said the overall financial picture is positive.

Parish collections in 2012 totaled just under $115 million, down only slightly from 2011, the report shows. Creedon said there was one fewer Sunday for collections during the 2012 fiscal year.

The 2012 Catholic Appeal — a call for donations from Catholic families — brought in about $13.6 million, about $1 million more than in 2011.

The archdiocese supports about 122 schools with more than 41,000 students, according to the report, and revenue from tuition and fees was up last year. The organization brought in nearly $106 million from tuition and fees in 2012, a slight increase from the $103 million raised the previous year.

“There aren’t really major changes to talk about, which in our view is frankly somewhat good,” Creedon said.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley furthered Creedon’s optimism in a letter attached to the financial report.

“It is clear that the Archdiocese, though facing many of the challenges of the economic shortfalls of recent years, is very much present and active in the 144 cities and towns we serve,” O’Malley wrote.

Around the time it began closing parishes in 2004, the archdiocese faced mounting legal costs related to a clergy sexual abuse scandal that racked the church. In 2012, it continued to incur costs related to sexual abuse, spending about $3.2 million on prevention efforts and support for survivors and approximately $1.9 million to settle claims.

Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@globe.com.
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