Many Minds: A Better Church

In recent years concerns have been expressed in various parts of the United States on the need for more collaboration in the policy making processes and administration of dioceses and religious institutions. As we begin the New Year, I think it may be helpful to highlight some of the many structures we have in place in our Diocese which enable collaboration and promote accountability in our policies and administration.

You have heard of our most recently established board: the Diocesan Review Board. Composed of ten people of distinguished professional background and extensive experience, it is assisting us in further developing and implementing our policies on sexual and physical abuse. We have already begun to meet and to work.

At the same time I am profoundly grateful to the many people who have been providing excellent work for some time on a number of excellent boards: the Catholic Health System Board of Directors, the Diocesan Board of Catholic Education, the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees, the Baker Victory Services Board of Directors, the Diocese of Buffalo Foundation Board.

Just recently the Christ the King Seminary Board of Trustees, composed mostly of lay people, was applauded for its excellent work by both the Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Association.

The Diocese of Buffalo manages its financial resources carefully with the assistance of a number of important committees and consultants. The independent firm of Deloitte and Touche audits the financial statements of the Central Administrative Offices. This work is reviewed in its entirety by the Diocesan Finance Council and the Diocesan Audit Committee, consisting of professional lay persons whose experience is from the business community in finance and administration. The complete results are published in the Western New York Catholic for the information of all in Western New York.

Nine professional money management firms manage our diocesan investments. The firms are selected based on the recommendations of an independent Investment Committee of competent lay people. The Diocese also retains New England Pension Consultants to assist the Diocese and the Committee with our supervision of the investment process and the performance of its managers. Managers who do not perform up to their benchmarks are regularly replaced.

The Diocese also has two separate Boards of Trustees who review the Lay and Priests' Pension Plans, respectively.

We also have a special diocesan committee of lay people who convene on matters related to real estate.

The list goes on. We have the Priests' Council, the College of Consultors, the Board of Episcopal Vicars, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Bishop's Council of the Laity, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Vicariate Councils, Parish Councils, Parish Finance Committees, School Boards for Catholic High Schools, Parish Education Committees for Elementary Schools and Religious Education Programs, the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, the Diocesan Musicians Guild.

Then we have the Diocesan Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Youth, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Men.

I should mention also that there are clergy, religious, and lay people working together on ad hoc committees and planning groups in Vicariates and clusters of parishes addressing challenges for the future.

I take all of our consultative groups, councils, boards, committees, etc., very seriously. I have no interest in wasting people's time. There is strong theological support for these developments: we all have a responsibility for service and mission from Baptism. There is also sound practical wisdom here: we have superbly educated people with extremely valuable life experience and inspiring commitment to the Church interested in offering their service and leadership to the Diocese.

All of this facilitates accountability and transparency in the Church. With deep appreciation I pray for God's blessings on all of us in 2003. Many minds, and hearts, and God's grace make for a better Church.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansel
Bishop of Buffalo
January 1, 2003