Catholics urged to withhold donations

Helfand is a Times staff writer

A new Roman Catholic reform group on Monday called for Catholic parishioners nationwide to withhold church donations on Sunday to protest what it called the failure of religious leaders to protect children against clergy sexual abuse.

A leader of the organization Send the Bishops a Message said that holding back contributions would allow lay members to vent their frustration over a scandal that has cost the Roman Catholic Church in this country more than $2 billion in legal settlements.

“We’re trying in a very small way to empower the laity to realize that they do have power to change this church,” Frank Douglas, the group’s national director, said at a news conference outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, called the initiative “a very bad idea” that would harm efforts to assist the growing ranks of the needy. Churches, he said, use donations to provide shelter, food and other services.


“It shows a complete lack of understanding of the way the poor are served in the inner city by parishes and other service providers,” Tamberg said.

Douglas, a retired software and marketing consultant from Tucson, Ariz., said he chose the Los Angeles cathedral for the announcement partly because of an ongoing legal dispute between victims and priests and the archdiocese over the release of confidential personnel records of clergy members accused of sexual abuse. A retired federal judge was selected last month to vet the records for release.

Douglas said his group was encouraging parishioners to give their donations to other causes rather than hang onto the money. Parishioners also were being urged to withhold their donations once a month after Sunday’s kickoff.