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A diocese sues a Catholic high school

Here's a curious situation: The Diocese of Brooklyn is suing a Catholic high school because it won't hand over a chunk of the proceeds collected from renting a portion of its building to a charter school.

The Brooklyn diocese has been requiring that parishes and schools renting space to charter schools give up 40 percent of the income to help nearby Catholic schools that may suffer financially from the added competition.

Acting on a request from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio agreed in 2009 to help city officials find space for charter schools in Catholic facilities. It seemed questionable to me at the time. Charter schools, with their uniforms and emphasis on discipline, were in some ways emulating Catholic schools -- and they were tuition-free. Installing a charter school inside a Catholic school building would seem to be a sure way to hasten the demise of nearby Catholic schools.

In response to complaints from Catholic educators, the bishop came up with his revenue-sharing plan.

Christ the King H.S. was not willing to go along with this. The diocese had built the school but pulled support for it and most other diocesan high schools in the 1970s. A number of these schools have managed to make it on their own without a diocesan subsidy -- and Christ the King H.S. was not about to be forced to subsidize the diocese.

Christ the King, with its board under the control of conservative politicians in Queens, has engaged in some questionable activities in the past -- especially union-busting in the early 1980s. Some diocesan oversight might have been called for regarding Catholic social teaching. Now, the diocese is suddenly paying very close attention to  business dealings at the school, trying to crack down on lease arrangements it had long encouraged schools to make so they could stay in business.

One wonders what the cost of this dispute will be in terms of legal bills and public relations retainers. It's a mess. Both sides should be embarrassed.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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If it's about money, Catholics don't  embarrass.. Francis has a lot of cleanup on his plate. .

Lately, I've been wondering how easy it would be for parishioners to set up independent charities to manage their donations in a way that would allow them to have more control of their parish's finances.



Of course it is about money but it also about other important issues too.  As someone who has sat on the board of a Catholic school in an area where charter schools were proliferating, I realize the enormous complexity of the question.  On one hand you have a Catholic high school trying to stay alive and on the other hand you have a diocese trying to save Catholic elementary schools.  But on the whole, I lean toward Paul's assessment of this.  This is a complete embarrassment and while of course not knowing all the private discussions that went on before this, it is so incredibly sad that the two sides could not have come to some sort of compromise.  Something clearly broke down here and one wonders how much egos (episcopal and political to name just a few) had to play in this.





In Philly, an independent lay-run foundation was recently set up to replace a lot of  the Archdiocesan fundraising. The new Catholic Foundation of Greater Phiadelphia will be a vehicle for donor-directed giving.  I hope somehing like this gets created here in NY; the more we can move the fundraising out of diocesan control, the better.

Luke 12:58-59.

Ryan:  designated contributions to your parish must be spent only for the designated purpose:  maintenance and repair; music programs, adult ed, children's ed, RCIA, etc.

I predict that the diocese will characterize Christ the King High School as an enemy of religious freedom, perhaps with the help of Fox (and friends!)   The school will be presented as asking a civil agency to interfere with the sacrosanct internal workings of the Church.  Best wishes to them upon challenging the omnipotence of the hierarchical church in the legal system, which has upheld the rights of hierarchical churches to fleece their flocks.

I have to say, I'm a bit confused.  If Christ the King High School is independent of the diocese - then does the diocese have any standing to determine what Christ the King does with its income?  Does the diocese still own the land?  

It's great to have local boosterism of a Catholic High School, but when CK almost closed, the willing locals were politicians who may have intended to boost their own names in the bargain.  One incident in 1988 appears several paragraphs down in this NY Times article.

For years, the names of these politicians on the board of trustees were on banners at the school's gateway on Metropolitian Avenue.

Also confused.  Why should both sides be embarrassed?  Hope the bishop loses the lawsuit and has to pay the school's court costs, lawyers' fees, etc., etc.  (More money wasted that was contributed by hardworking people.)

Just rebrand CTK as "in the Catholic tradition," formally unlink from the Archdiocese and move on with providing education.

Responding to Jim Pauwels ... Christ the King H.S. is independent of the diocese, run by its own board. But it leases the property from the diocese, which asserts that the terms of the lease are being violated.

Paul, thanks - makes sense now.

I have to say, I don't think the original arrangement was unfair: that a chunk of the profits from the charter school lease goes to support Catholic elementary schools.  i think the HS does have a moral obligation to ensure its business initiatvies aren't undermining other Catholic schools. 


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