Nuns to Boston Archbishop: See You in Court on Pensions

Monday, 21 Mar 2011 11:38 AM

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Time was, Catholic nuns were mum when it came to criticizing any cleric, be he Father, Monsignor, Your Excellency, or — perish the thought — a cardinal (and Rome, don’t even go there). In a sign of financially desperate times and, perhaps, changing hierarchical structures, an order of nuns is suing the archbishop of Boston in its yearslong effort to get payouts from a church-run pension fund. The nuns aren’t seeking it for themselves but rather their lay employees, and it’s not just a bit from the poor box: Their lawyer claims the archdiocese owes them $1.37 million, according a report in the Boston Globe.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, suit, Boston, Daughters of St. Paul
Cardinal Sean O'Malley named in nuns' suit headed to mediation. (Getty Images Photo)
The Daughters of St. Paul congregation is suing Cardinal Sean O’Malley in a case pending before the Supreme Judicial Court, after years of failed attempts to get money from a church-run pension fund. The nuns’ lawyers say they’re suing with a heavy heart but doing so to help their lay employees.

“The Daughters of St. Paul are just as unhappy as they can be about having to do this,’’ Michael C. McLaughlin, an attorney for the nuns, told the Globe.

The money at issue is for the retirement of the nuns’ 100 or so lay employees and retirees, about half in Boston and the other half across the nation, the Globe reports.

Archdiocesan spokesman Terrence C. Donilon told the Globe that the sides have agreed to try mediation, and the archdiocese hopes to resolve the pension fund dispute. “We have an incredibly longstanding and good relationship with the Daughters,’’ he said. “This is a disagreement that is going to be resolved, and hopefully within the coming weeks.’’

The dispute could have national implications, as not only Boston but also other dioceses grapple with underfunded pensions that also are troubling other organizations and companies as well.

“The lawsuit is the latest in a series of troubles for the pension funds overseen by the Archdiocese of Boston,” the Globe reports. “The archdiocese’s pension fund for lay workers — the trust the nuns invested in, alongside many other independent Catholic organizations — is significantly underfunded. A pension fund for priests has also been troubled in recent years, although the archdiocese says the condition of that fund has now improved. And the cardinal last year supported the sale of the Caritas Christi Health Care system to Steward Health Care System, a for-profit affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, in part because Cerberus agreed to cover unfunded liability in the hospitals’ employee pension fund.”

The Daughters of St. Paul is a large, international order with about 60 of its 135 U.S. members living in the Boston Archdiocese.

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