The following is a statement by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger regarding the St. Clare’s pension crisis:
After accepting the invitation to join the Board of St. Clare’s Corporation in 2015, following the retirement of Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, I became increasingly concerned that pensioners might not be fully aware of a disaster that loomed. Immediately after joining the Board, when I started to see the handwriting on the wall, I urged the Board to notify pensioners about the status of the plan so they would not be blindsided by any potential shortfall, and the Board agreed. Letters were sent out shortly thereafter. I had no infused knowledge of the history of how matters came to this point and, to this day, have seen no evidence of any malfeasance or mismanagement; I just knew that pensioners should be fully aware of where actuarial reports showed the plan was heading.
I will not engage in finger-pointing or speculation on who or what is to blame, as some have done, until a thorough accounting can be made of the history of this failure. As usually happens in our nation when a natural disaster occurs — to which this might well be compared — there are some who immediately seek to assign fault, as we have seen in the recent wildfires in California. But our best instincts call us first to come together to the relief of those most affected. That is why I continue to plan for the opportunity to call together an assembly of all stakeholders, so that pensioners may ask questions and share their stories, and so that I may become better informed about all that has transpired over the years.
I am not offering myself as a historian or apologist or accuser of or for anyone, nor to claim or dispute institutional or personal responsibility. I see people suffering. I have heard from so many through written and spoken communications. I want to hear from others, too, so I am taking steps to provide a forum in which some listening and conversation can take place. Of course, at this busy time of year, bringing the necessary people together is no small task, and so I ask you to bear with me as we continue to hammer out the details of this forum.
I have no special window on the resources that may or may not be available or gleaned from throughout our region that might, in some small measure, address the challenges good people will be facing in the months and years ahead due to this crisis, but I want to accompany them as we search for solutions. I call upon the help of our Lord in seeking to do all that is right and possible and, eventually, come to a better understanding and accountability of how St. Clare’s Corporation came to this complex and heart-wrenching situation and how we can help pensioners move forward.
Please watch our diocesan website — www.rcda.org — as well as The Evangelist for information on this forum as details develop.
I will hold you in prayer throughout this Advent season as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.