BOSTON, MA – The plenary session of the 44th Clergy Laity Congress on July 5 was exhaustive in discussing the budget for 2019 and 2020 and also the Clergy Pension Program.
The priests insisted that $1 million be included in the budget for the Fund, but the Archdiocese insisted on the other hand that there was no money available. The Finance Committee would have the full discretion to make cuts in other line items so that the budget would be in balance. The budget for 2019 and for 2020 is $22. 4 million.
It was stated for the first time that the Fund is $53 million underfunded. The sum of $3.3 million of that amount is owed by the parishes and a small amount by clergy. The balance of almost $50 million is due to the Archdiocese’s failure to pay its share into the Fund for many years.
Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago assumed the responsibility to raise the necessary funds for the Office of Interchristian-Interorthodox Relations.
The deliberations in many instances were intense and uncharacteristic of a Clergy Laity Congress because the anger and the pain were vividly present among the delegates.
Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta was the only hierarch who said that “we are all responsible because we voted for the budgets of the previous years and we should help this new financial group to continue put in order the finances,” but he was booed by some of the delegates, including priests. No other hierarch spoke.
Discussion took place about Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology (HCHC), whose president, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, said that “neither Hellenic College nor the School of Theology is closing.”
Also, a discussion took place about the possible elimination of the Orthodox Observer, but at the end there was confusion because no one seemed to know exactly on what they voted. The time had come for the personnel of the hotel to set the room for the banquet and thus the reports of the Archons, Youth, Leadership 100, and Philoptochos were read on a hurry.
The plenary started with a prayer offered by Archbishop Demetrios, followed by a report by Archdiocesan Council Treasurer Archon Michael Psaros, who interrupted his vacation in Greece to attend.
Psaros stated that “the Archdiocese is now fundamentally transformed as a result of many difficult and decisive actions. While a significant number of the actions were very impactful individually, collectively, they were transformative.
“We are pleased to report that the Archdiocese has satisfied its financial obligations, including all amounts formerly owed to St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine (“St. Nicholas”), Hellenic College Holy Cross, the Pension Plan, and to donor restricted and custodial funds that required replenishment. I would like to repeat, paid in full.
“We are very encouraged by the speed and effectiveness of the changes we implemented. Everyone knows that change is difficult for people and organizations. “Even though the Archdiocese is a canonical, hierarchical, traditional, ecclesiastical institution, it successfully managed through a period of extreme transition that would have challenged any institution.
“The principle of accountability has guided our efforts through every step in the transformation of the Archdiocese. We are committed to creating a culture where every single dollar donated by every single member of the Faithful is treated with respect and humility.
“The principle of transparency has also guided our efforts through every step in the transformation of the Archdiocese. We have provided the Faithful with complete and timely disclosure of all matters during our tenure in office. Starting in October 2017, the Archdiocese has released a constant stream of press releases that have informed the Faithful of key events happening in real time. The Archdiocese has also publicly released the Executive Summary of the 2017 Grant Thornton Operations Review, the 2018 Archdiocesan Budget, the 2016 Grant Thornton Financial Statement Audit, and the Phase I of the St. Nicholas Report to the Special Investigative Committee by PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services LLC (“PwC”). The Officers have given speeches, held talks, spoken to the media, and addressed Metropolis Clergy Laity meetings with the blessing of our beloved Metropolitans. The Orthodox Observer and the Archdiocesan web site have also provided full and timely disclosure of all substantive matters. Consistent with this practice, the Archdiocese will continue to provide full disclosure to the Faithful.”
Psaros emphasized that “the Executive Committee, the Officers and Audit and Finance Committee Chairs of the Archdiocese are now focused on the future and only the future. While it is exceedingly disappointing that the Archdiocese experienced a recent financial crisis, this period is now behind us. It is time to turn the page and embrace the future.”
“As a result of our collective efforts as a team, and by the Grace of God, the Archdiocese has achieved financial stability. The Archdiocese has closed on and funded a bank loan, the proceeds of which refunded all of the amounts owed to St. Nicholas, Hellenic College Holy Cross, the Pension Plan, and to donor restricted and custodial funds that required replenishment. The Archdiocese’s current financial stability is validated by its ability to obtain a loan from an independent and regulated banking institution that put its capital at risk, after a thorough due diligence involving accounting and legal professionals retained by the bank.
“The Archdiocese is now operating on a balanced budget that generates funds to satisfy its financial obligations in 2018 and beyond, including the debt service associated with the new bank loan.
“The Archdiocese established and implemented internal controls, policies and procedures beginning in spring 2017 by management directive, including policies and procedures governing travel and expense accounts, general and administrative expenditures, staff cell phones, and credit card access and terms of usage. Further, new vendor management protocols and controls were implemented.”