Melbourne Archdiocese debt and deficits force redundancies

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne will be laying off numerous staff to tackle a budget deficit and rising debt.

Although the current financial situation is not believed to relate directly to the financial compensation payouts as a result of clergy abuse, it feeds into the way the church does its business.

The issue has provoked concerns about the impact on church attendance among the traditional Catholic support base in the country’s largest archdiocese.

While there has been some growth in some parishes due to immigration, there is alarm about a forecast drop-off in support from the offspring of elderly churchgoers horrified by the extent of the abuse problem.

These factors are among those that resulted in Archbishop Peter Comensoli making plans to cut administrative staff across the archdiocese’s cathedral, finance, property, communications and parish development offices.

He has also outlined reform of the church’s mission agencies to “reduce the number of silos” in the organisation, which is the faith’s largest in Australia.

The current restructure is believed to be part of one of the biggest ever embarked upon by an archbishop.

Comensoli, who replaced Cardinal George Pell, has been calling for restraint and a new way forward to deliver services.

“This sad and difficult moment has come at the conclusion of a process of discernment and consultation over the past two months,’’ Comensoli wrote to priests last week.

“The time taken to reach decisions about the reformation of the administrative side of the archdiocese has involved an extensive period of reflection, discernment and consultation with staff members.

“Every person in the administration-support areas has been personally consulted and there have been many meetings in small groups to consider a sustainable structure for the future.

“Most especially, please reach out spiritually and pastorally to any staff member or their family you may know affected by these decisions.’’

Comensoli wants the church to be placed on a “missionary footing’’ as it approaches its new future.

Some priests and senior staff think Comensoli should have found other ways to navigate through the funding crisis.

However, Comensoli says he consulted Rome and other senior priests over the issue.

He hopes to further clarify the extent of the proposed reforms by the end of this week.

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