The official explanation for Bishop George V. Murry’s decision to revisit his June 4 edict to keep Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown is that it may be cost prohibitive to remediate asbestos in the Erie Street building.
However, the timing of Murry’s reconsideration does give pause.
As most Catholics in the region know, the diocese is in the midst of one of its most important money-raising events, the Bishop’s Appeal.
Churchgoers are no doubt familiar with this message from Murry:
“Last year Catholic Charities served over 45,000 needy individuals and families in our diocese. Your support of the Bishop’s Appeal makes the work of Catholic Charities possible. Your support of the Appeal also helps fund diocesan ministries that promotes family life, the formation of youth and young adults, the sanctity of human life, religious education and others. For this reason, I ask in Jesus’ Name that you please respond generously to the 2013 Bishop’s Appeal.”
The goal for this year: $3,800,000.
NO TIME FOR CONTROVERSY
A website that offers details about the drive provides insight into why Bishop Murry and the hierarchy of the diocese would want to avoid any controversy now. And make no mistake about it, the proposed relocation of Cardinal Mooney High School from Youngstown to Boardman is seeped in controversy.
The “Bishop’s Circle of Hope” is designed to persuade Catholics to dig deep when they are pledging their monetary support.
“As a member (of the Circle), you pledge to become partners in a shared vision for the future of the Diocese of Youngstown as you set an example of good stewardship and reach out with love to people and ministries in need of your assistance.”
There are six circles, and membership depends on how much is pledged.
Circle of Faith: $10,000 or more.
Circle of Mercy: $5,000 to $9,999.
Circle of Charity: $3,500 to $4,999.
Circle of Generosity: $2,000 to $3,499.
Circle of Compassion: $1,000 to $1,999.
Circle of Gratitude — $500 to $999.
With that in mind, consider some of the individuals who reportedly are leading the charge to build a new Mooney in Boardman. They are prominent alumni, parents of current students or former students, and their names have been mentioned for months: Bruno; Muransky; Reese. Then there’s the opinion of one of the most prominent Mooney alumnae, Denise DeBartolo York, that will carry a great deal of weight with the church. The proponents of relocation not only are committed to the school, but many are also major supporters of the Youngstown diocese.
Indeed, some of the movers and shakers at Mooney could well be “Circle of Faith” members.
The new school carries a price tag of $25 million, and there are reports that Bishop Murry has made it clear there must be a major commitment of private dollars before he would consider the proposal to move the school to the suburbs.
On the other hand, the asbestos remediation at the current school could cost $18 million.
All things considered — many parents of Mooney students have voiced concern about safety, given the school’s South Side location — it would be easier to raise money for the move than for dealing with the asbestos.
The school has been on Erie Street since 1956, but the then-vibrant city has undergone a major transformation since.
Today, the population is declining, neighborhoods are deteriorating and violent crimes continue to make headlines.
Parents who pay a lot of money to send their children to Mooney want a safe environment for them. But as Bishop Murry noted in June when he announced that the school would stay put, the diocese has an obligation to the city and its young people.
But all the bishop’s good intentions may have to give way to the financial realities surrounding Mooney’s future — and that of the Diocese of Youngstown.
The $3.8 million goal for the Bishop’s Appeal would be a challenge at any time, but in the midst of a slow national economic recovery, it looms large.
If Bishop Murry changes his mind and gives the green light to Mooney’s move, he will be able to persuasively argue that the asbestos remediation was too expensive an undertaking.
Catholics who are unwilling to assign ulterior motives to the head of the church in the area will be swayed. Others will contend that alienating well-heeled Catholics isn’t good for business.