Thursday, December 2, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt: Changes in lay pension plan were necessary

Last Thursday, as you know well, our nation celebrated its annual feast of giving thanks for all the blessings we have received. It is the closest we come to a secular holy day — that is, a holiday not associated with a religious feast.

While I reviewed with gratitude the countless blessings I have received in my life, I was, at the same time, conscious of the challenges I have been given as well.

Earlier this week, I announced a decision to freeze our defined benefit pension plan for our archdiocesan employees on Jan. 31, 2011, and, at that time, to enhance their defined contribution plan (called a 403(b) plan), which is funded by their employer.

This decision was based on a recommendation of the Lay Pension Task Force as well as the Archdiocesan Finance Committee. The reason behind it was to protect the accrued benefits in the defined benefit plan that had been, among other things, severely affected by the downturn in the stock market these past years.

Surely this is a challenge as it involves a change in overseeing the investing of the 403(b) plan. At the same time, I believe the bottom line will prove to be a blessing. I say this because:

1. We have preserved all the retirement benefits our employees have earned to date;

2. We have put into place an enhanced 403(b) pension plan that is employer sponsored;

3. And, in going forward, present salaries are maintained and benefits are provided.

In talking with other bishops and reading reports about other non-profits dealing with this same problem, I wasn’t completely surprised that our pension program would be affected.

But still and all, it is a different situation when the news is announced.

But, again, the good news for our employees is that:

1. They will receive all the retirement benefits that they have earned to date;

2. They will be enrolled in an enhanced 403(b) pension plan that is sponsored by their employer;

3. That going forward, their salaries are maintained and their benefits are provided.

More information is available on our archdiocesan website or at our Archdiocesan Pension Hotline (651) 291-4503.

As a church, we are committed to justice. At the same time, we have to make decisions that will assist us in meeting present responsibilities without compromising future economic security.

I see the present decision as a way of affirming our responsibility to provide for competitive salaries and benefits in a sustainable way over the long term.

Working for the church should not be like working for a non-profit business organization.

Working for the church should be like working with family; we all pitch in to do what needs to be done.

This present change gives me the opportunity to express my deep gratitude to our employees for their dedication and their personal commitment to the work they do.

The mission of the church, which is the mission of Christ, is greatly enhanced by what they do day in and day out.

I applaud their service and assure them of the support of our Catholic faithful. Catholic Spirit


Anonymous said...

Apparently, Snidely W. Nienstedt is going to help fund the new pension plan with the proceeds from his lawsuits against priest sex abuse victims. And the moral authority of the Catholic Church will continue its headlong slide into the dumper.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that the Church is responsible for the greed of the bankers and politicians that caused the crash of the Stock Market?

Are you saying that the Church is responsible for the greedy lawyer who ignored the statute of limitations laws to sue the Church for more money?

Brother Ass said...

“If the priesthood studied distributism as a long-term movement and did not play two ends against the middle by endorsing the present capitalistic system, we would be ready for what the future would bring.”

Oh well.

And they have the gall to say a 40% loss in the pension fund in one year was not the result of poor investment choices.

Anonymous said...

The only responsibility of the Church is to act responsibly when presented with difficult situations and issues. Hiding behing the statue of limitations to avoid doing right by Catholic priest sex abuse victims is highly irresponsible and downright corrupt. Just thinking about it makes me want to vomit.

I have no doubt in my mind that God agrees with me. Many centuries worth of popes, bishops, and priests will be in for a rude awakening when they pass on to their just reward.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I like that - "I have no doubt in my mind God agrees with me."

Are you able to know the mind of God in other matters? Like the lottery? Maybe bingo numbers? What about when California will fall into the ocean?

Cathy_of_Alex said...

There is not an investment fund anywhere that has not lost money in the last several years due to the economic slide in the U.S. and global economies. Furthermore, many large employers have abolished traditional pension plans in the last decade-they've had to, they are often dangerously underfunded and so is the PBGC (the government fund to keep those solvent).

The Archdiocese held onto their longer than I expected as they've been talking about getting rid of it for years.

The days of being able to count on someone else funding your retirement ended at least 10 years ago.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Cath.

I'm not familiar with pension plans these days. But I knew you were right about losses.

I checked the Dow Jones and discovered that it went from a high of 14,164 down to 6,547, a drop of 55% before it started to climb back again in 2009. It's now about 11,000, still a drop of 23%.