The senior active cardinal of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church said yesterday that the Vatican soon will disclose for the first time an independent audit of its finances, in preparation for stepped-up fund-raising efforts to cover mounting deficits.
Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, one of 15 members of a worldwide cardinals' council on the Vatican's financial crisis, told the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington that the Vatican Curia's deficit rose from $3.8 million in 1971 to $25.6 million in 1981, and continues to rise.
The current issue of the weekly National Catholic Reporter, which is not an official church paper, says the current deficit is about $59.3 million.
Krol blamed the Curia's deficit on inflation and efforts to expand the international church bureaucracy since the mid-1960s. The Curia is separate from the Vatican city-state and administers the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.
In business sessions yesterday, the bishops adopted a detailed policy statement strongly condemning on "moral and practical grounds" school-based health clinics that provide contraceptive services. The 5,500-word statement argues that such facilities not only violate moral principles but tend to encourage premarital sex, thus fail to reduce teen-age pregnancies.
The statement, adopted overwhelmingly after little substantive debate, charged that such clinics violate parents' rights to guide their children, "since one reason for locating these clinics in schools is to gain access to teen-agers without their parents' involvement."
More than 100 such clinics have been established nationwide, mostly in metropolitan areas. The bishops said the clinics "render schools more controversial, divert them from their traditional role of imparting knowledge and building character and raise new problems of legal liability."
A school-based contraceptive program "takes a promiscuous lifestyle for granted and resorts to the deception that premarital sexual activity is without adverse consequences so long as pregnancy is avoided," the statement said, adding that they "do even greater harm by facilitating abortion in cases when a teen-age girl becomes pregnant."
The bishops urged emphasis on sexual abstinence. "Teaching self-control and moral responsibility, and creating an environment in which this teaching can become meaningful and be acted upon, have not been attempted on an adequate scale," the statement said.
James P. Moran, mayor of Alexandria and proponent of a proposed clinic near T.C. Williams High School, disagreed sharply with the bishops. "We've been relying on that approach since teen-age pregnancies became a problem," he said. "We know exactly what the results will be."
Moran, an active Roman Catholic who said he "came within a hair of the priesthood," said, "It seems to me inconceivable to implement policies of the minority which will have such disastrous consequences for the majority."
In discussing Vatican finances, Krol said that until the early '60s, income from the worldwide collection called Peter's Pence, plus "modest taxes for certain . . . privileges and so on" kept the Curia afloat financially.
But massive costs of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-'60s, in which the Vatican paid the travel and housing of many Third World bishops, plus "a certain reasonable multiplication of offices and departments" called for by Vatican II, created a deficit.
U.S. donations to Peter's Pence nearly doubled, from $6 or $7 million "two or three years ago," to "$12 to $13 million," he said.
A group of wealthy American Catholics met here Sunday night with the Vatican's representative in the United States, Archbishop Pio Laghi, to explore the establishment of an endowment fund. The fund would be held and controlled in the United States to benefit the Curia.
Krol emphasized the dissociation of curial finances from the Vatican bank, which has been involved in a multimillion-dollar investment scandal.