NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Archdiocese says its annual fund drive is closing in on a record this year despite the sex scandal that has rocked the church.
The cardinal's appeal campaign, which runs through June, had raised $13.44 million as of midweek, said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling. Its goal of $15 million would be a record amount for the nation's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, with 2.4 million members.
``I think it will be the most successful cardinal's campaign that the archdiocese has ever had,'' Zwilling said.
Last year's appeal raised roughly $13.5 million.
The scandal erupted in the Boston Archdiocese earlier this year when it was learned that priests accused of molesting children were simply moved from parish to parish. Nationally, at least 225 priests have resigned or been dismissed since the scandal broke.
Several dioceses, including the three in and around New York City, have changed their policies on reporting sex allegations. New York Cardinal Edward Egan has agreed to notify prosecutors first.
The archdiocese has also given prosecutors information on 35 years' worth of sexual abuse cases and suspended several priests - among them, Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, the archdiocese's chief fund-raiser for eight years.
The effect of the scandal on fund-raising is difficult to gauge. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that parishioners and some big donors in areas hard-hit by the crisis may be holding back donations, or thinking about shifting them to Catholic causes that could not be tapped for lawsuit settlements.
Deacon Ronald Henderson, president of the Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference, said many dioceses around the country have not been hurt financially, ``but you do see an occasion where there is a negative impact.''
Unlike in other years, Egan brought in a consulting firm to handle the fund drive. The campaign also is running through the end of June, a month longer than in previous years. The cardinal's involvement was also given greater emphasis.
This year's campaign also included a statement outlining how the money would be used - for schools, parish assistance, charities, attracting new priests to the seminaries and caring for retired priests.