[Hpn] The politics of giving

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Wed, 24 Jul 2002 17:21:28 -0400

Boston Globe Online / Metro | Region / The politics of giving
By Eileen McNamara,
Globe Columnist, 7/24/2002
Skip the middle men, all of them.

Sister Margaret Leonard will take your money. She is not in the habit of
turning down donations to Project Hope, the
food-shelter/education-and-training program she runs for homeless families
in Dorchester.
Bridget Shaheen won't send your money back, either. She needs it to operate
Lazarus House, the emergency shelter/food pantry/soup kitchen/job training
program she directs in Lawrence.
And, count on my cousin Debbie Chausee to cash any check made payable to the
House of Hope, the family shelter and substance abuse program she operates
in Lowell. The former Sister of Notre Dame could use the help for the 18
families her program houses and feeds.
Your donations need not go begging if the clergy sex abuse scandal has
undermined your confidence in the integrity of the hierarchy of the Catholic
Church. There is no shortage of programs, with Catholic roots and ecumenical
hearts, that would be happy to take your money if you are more interested in
helping the poor than in making a political statement about power and its
sundry abuses by the man on Lake Street.

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Cardinal Bernard F. Law this week is giving Voice of the Faithful an object
lesson in the limits of conciliation. You can't negotiate with a man who
won't come to the table. The archbishop of Boston says he does not want the
$10,000 raised for the poor by the polite folks in the grass-roots reform
movement who gathered almost 5,000 strong at the Hynes Convention Center
last Saturday. The price, having to answer to the laity for the use of that
money, is just too high for a man hanging onto power by a fingernail.
It's hard to say who is more naive: the discredited cardinal clinging to
moral authority he has already squandered or the earnest reformers
emphasizing their process at the expense of their results.
''Any setup that separates the role of the bishop from pastoral works is
something the church can't accept,'' said the cardinal's spokesman, the Rev.
Christopher J. Coyne, seemingly oblivious to the reality that Law himself
created the ''setup'' that separated him from pastoral work when he
knowingly assigned predatory child molesters as parish priests.
Delusional as such statements from the chancery are, the well-intentioned
laity could use a primer on the equally hard realities of running a
bare-bones antipoverty program. The Wellesley-based group has spent weeks
setting up an alternative funding mechanism for disenchanted Catholics who
did not want to contribute to the Cardinal's Appeal but did want to support
the mission of the church to assist the poor. Convoluted does not begin to
describe the process.
Donations to Voice of the Faithful's Voice of Compassion Fund would be
channeled to Boston charities through the nonprofit National Catholic
Community Foundation, which would send a quarterly check to the Boston
Archdiocese, specifying which charities should benefit and stipulating that
none of the money could be used for administrative or legal expenses.
Can you tell that the newly elected president of Voice of the Faithful is a
management professor at Boston University? The circuitous funding plan was a
nonconfrontational attempt to wrest some small amount of power from the
cardinal without causing offense. But, as the man said: If you're going to
make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
There aren't a lot of management types working at Project Hope in
Dorchester, at Lazarus House in Lawrence, or at the House of Hope in Lowell.
Those on the front lines in the war against privation find that direct
action, in the form of negotiable currency, eases hunger and homelessness a
lot faster than even the most well-meaning deliberative process.
Checks can be made payable to: Project Hope, 45 Magnolia St., Dorchester MA
02125; Lazarus House, PO Box 408, Lawrence MA 01842; House of Hope, 812
Merrimack St., Lowell MA 01854.
Eileen McNamara is a Globe columnist.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 7/24/2002.
 Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
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