The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago plans to lay off multiple workers this week and close five Catholic schools to deal with an ongoing deficit, Cardinal Francis George confirmed in Rome.
Cardinal George said 10 percent of workers will be let go and another dozen or so positions won't be filled.
"Like so many other families and institutions, the Archdiocese of Chicago has suffered during the economic downturn of these past few years," George said in a statement on the Archdiocese website, noting "we cannot continue to work as if the effects of the recession were not being felt."
Administrative operations, he said, have run with $30 million operating deficits for the past four years. "Since this trend is unsustainable, I want to set out the measures we are taking to ensure prudent stewardship of our resources for years to come," he said.
Those measures include consolidating certain agencies and reducing staff by a total of 75 positions, including 55 were full-time jobs. He said the Archdiocese will provide severance compensation and health insurance for those affected and will help them secure new positions via an outsourced service.
Five schools also will be closed or consolidated:
- St. Gregory the Great High School
- St. Helena of the Cross
- St. Paul
- St. Bernadine in Forest Park
- St. Kieran in Chicago Heights
George said scholarships will be offered to affected children to attend nearby Catholic schools.
The news comes a day after George arrived in Rome for Pope Benedict XVI's final days and to participate in the conclave that will pick the pope's successor.
Pope Benedict gave his last public sermon Wednesday to an estimated 150,000 people. "To love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself," he said.
On Monday he issued a rule change that could speed up the timeline for choosing his replacement. The change allows cardinals to move up the start date if they all arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition. Once the cardinals meet in what's called General Congregations, they will set the date for the conclave, which is now scheduled for March 15.
George said the group of cardinals is already talking.