Roman Catholic bishops yesterday adopted tough guidelines on church fund-raising designed to prevent such fiscal embarrassments of recent years as the troubles of the Pallottine Fathers in Maryland and the amassing of great wealth by Boys Town Nebraska.
The new guidelines call for regular audits of fund-raisers' books, disclosure of the amount collected as well as the cost of the fund-raising effort, and the amount and use of the funds disbursed.
The guidelines also said that "no organization should ask the faithful to fund its total and absolute security" nor raise funds "for undefined future needs."
A 1972 investigation of the world-famous Boys Town revealed it was increasing its net worth by more than $16 million annually, an amount three to four times what it spent on child care.
The Baltimore Province of the Pallottine Fathers became the subject of a grand jury investigation after disclosures that millions collected by massive mail-order fund appeals were being used for real-estate speculation insteas of mission work. The order also lent former Gov. Marvin Mandel $54,000 for his divorce payments. At one point, only 2.5 cents of every dollar collected by the order went into the church work for which it was given.
Shortly after the disclosures, Baltimor Archbishop William D. Borders took steps to force the order to correct abuses.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting here yesterday, also dealt with another hot-potato - a controversial book on sexual morality - in low-key style. The book, "Human Sexuality," commissioned and published by the widely respected Catholic Theological Society of America, contradicts much of traditional church teaching on sexual morality.
Despite demands from conservative Catholics for the hierarchy to take stern measures against the publication and its authors, the bishops responded with only a wrist-rapping statement from their committee on doctrine.
The committee statement, which was not considered important enough to come before the full body of bishops for consideration, acknowledged "the importance and value of theological discussion and research," but disagreed with the theologians' conclusions.
In their book, the theologians had discarded the thou-shalt-nots of traditional Catholic teachings on sex. They would instead encourage Catholics to make their own moral judgements, based on "whether specific sexual behavior realizes certain values that are conducive to creative growth and integration of the human person."
Using this criterion, the theologians suggested that, under certain circumstances, even homosexuality and adultery, both firmly forbidden in traditional Catholic morality, may be justifiable.
The committee statement faults the theologians because "they remove the essential connection between sexual activity and procreation."
But while critizing "Human Sexuality," which has become a bestseller among religious books, the bishops left the door open for further work in the field. "We welcome the continued discussion and professional research of theologians in developing a comprehensive morality that is sensitive to the Word of God" and to the church, they said.
The fund-raising guidelines asopted by the bishops yesterday have also been discussed and approved by the heads of religious orders.
"We are particularly conscious of the sacred relationship of trust that is established when we, in God's name and for his work, ask others for financial support," the guidelines said.
A section on techniques rules out the sending out of "material objects which are inconsistent with the apostolic purposes of the appeal" as a fund-raising gimmick. Also forbidden is the employment of a commercial fund-raiser on a percentage basis.
The guidelines hold individual bishops who are heads of dioceses and heads of religious orders responsible for seeing that the guidelines are carried out within their jurisdiction, "even to the point, when necessary, of terminating a fund-raising program."