Michael Moore Farewell
Cathedral House, 13 June 2023
My Lords Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green, Richard Umbers and Danny Meagher, Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Friends all: Welcome to my place. It’s a delight to have you all here this evening, as we bid farewell to Michael Moore as Director of Finance of the Archdiocese of Sydney. I welcome him and Elizabeth (his long-suffering better half), their daughters Jacinta and Adriana with Thomas, and Michael’s sister Maria. I was overseas for Michael’s send-off from the Polding Centre, so I’m pleased to have this opportunity to offer some words of appreciation.
Whilst such events honour a person’s service and celebrate their many achievements, they are naturally also tinged with sadness. Michael’s tenure with the Archdiocese spanned a quarter century. He was “part of the furniture” as they say, and his departure has left a real hole which many have noticed, not least Mr Digges but also the Archbishop. We miss him already. But I’ll do my best to maintain a positive tone in my remarks today…
Jesus was no accountant! In fact, He was every auditor’s nightmare. St Matthew the taxman recorded many of Jesus’ commercially unrealistic sayings. He told the Board of His D.D.F. that the poor are blessed and the wealthy cursed (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20,24), that they should lend or give to anyone who asks (Mt 5:42) and keep it all secret (Mt 6:2-4). To His Audit and Risk Committee He said not to worry about tomorrow or about how to feed or clothe yourselves (Mt 6:25); if you are distracted by such things, it’s best to sell up and give it all away (Mt 19:21). When out on mission “take no gold or silver credit cards, no Gucci luggage or extra clothes” (Mt 10:9). And He gave lots of imprudent advice about throwing your seed everywhere, even where it won’t grow (Mt 13), abandoning your business in search of a lost sheep (Mt 18:10-14) or to follow an itinerant rabbi (Mt 4:18-22; 9:9; Lk 14:15-23), throwing parties for street people (Mt 22:1-10 etc.) while remaining homeless yourself (Mt 8:20), over-paying employees who’d just started working for you (Mt 20:1-16), feeding crowds of thousands at no notice (Mt 14:16-17; 15:32-33), and not looking over your shoulder at the consequences of all this (Lk 9:57-62). In summary, He said to behave like innocent children or doves (Mt 10:16; 19:13-14; 21:15-16). APRA would not approve!
Then there were His words to His Archdiocesan Finance Council: easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, than for a wealthy diocese to enter heaven (Mt 19:23-26). Choose God or Mammon, you can’t serve both (Mt 6:24). Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth (Mt 6:19-21; 10:40-42): a rich young man preferred his wealth to Jesus (Mt 19:16-22), but as Dives discovered, being comfortable in this life is no guarantee for the next (Lk 16:19-31). All in all you might say the Gospel reads like an anti-AICD course!
Famously, the only time Jesus was indignant to the point of causing a physical commotion was when He took on the Temple bankers: their racket was taking a premium on currency conversion for people’s religious obligations. In comparison to this lot, modern day PwC partners look like altar boys! This so got up Jesus’ goat that He overturned the teller machines and took a whip to the bank managers (Mt 21:12-13).
But hold on: as the Archdiocesan Investments Committee would be quick to point out, the same Jesus also told a story about people being given various talents by God and praised those who made the most of their opportunities. He was far from complimentary about the guy who just buried his talent: at the very least He should have deposited the money with the CDF and received interest on it (Mt 25:14-30). Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a hidden treasure, a pearl of great price, treasures old and new, so He wasn’t completely down on wealth (Mt 13:44-46,52).
Indeed, He clearly wanted active, practical disciples, which required a certain worldly-wisdom. The Magi could not have showered gold upon the newborn messiah (Mt 2:11), if they’d left their treasures behind; no doubt Joseph found the gold very handy when he had to take the Holy Family into exile in Egypt. Before building a new Polding Tower, Jesus said, you must work out if you can pay for it (Lk 14:28-30); before joining the bridesmaids at a late-night wedding reception, you should make sure you’ve got enough lamp oil (Mt 25:1-13). He praised the woman who obtained and used expensive ointment to anoint Him (Mt 26:6-13), the Good Samaritan who’d accumulated enough to fund the care of a victim (Lk 10:30-37), even a canny finance manager who wrote down the debts of those he hoped to cultivate as allies when he faced financial ruin (Lk 16:1-13; cf. Mt 24:45-47). He dined with wealthy taxmen (Mt 9:10; Lk 19:8-9 etc.) or comfortably-off friends like Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42), and ensured there was a common fund to feed His team (Jn 12:6).
Jesus clearly thought there were some good uses for money. Amongst the uses he identified were: providing for your family (Mt 7:7-12; Mk 7:9-13), making friends (Lk 16:9), paying your taxes (Mt 17:24-27; 22:17-22), helping the needy (Mt 25:31-46; Lk 10:29-37; 18:18-25) and supporting the works of religious institutions (Mt 23:23; Mk 12:41-44; Lk 8:1-3). So, as Mr Moore might remind us, while it is true that Jesus said His disciples should be innocent as doves, in the same breath He also said they should be wily as serpents (Mt 10:16)!
All of which might suggest that that overseeing Church finances is a delicate, even precarious business. If you thought secular auditors could be scary, think of the angel balancing the books at the last judgment! Or, even worse, a cantankerous archbishop! Under such conditions, one year as a faithful steward would be a great achievement, let alone 23!
That Michael Moore was able to handle this responsibility with such integrity and competence is a testament not only to his expertise and work-ethic but to something deeper in him. They say that if you love sausages you should never visit a sausage factory. But Michael’s faith was sufficient to endure the mess that the Catholic show sometimes is! He invested his ten God-given talents, not for worldly adulation or corporate ladder climbing, but in building up the kingdom of God in Sydney.
His directorship was not always easy. He served under three archbishops, with three very different temperaments and policies, but alike in their ability to spend a lot of money! He oversaw many large-scale developments. He was instrumental in the implement-ation of the GST (1999-2000); the acquisition and outfitting of the Polding Centre (2002-3); and the securing of numerous grants, including most recently JobKeeper. He had to address the ever-evolving tax and regulatory environment; to ensure that the pastoral wonder of WYD2008 did not leave us with a financial wound; to negotiate the purchase or sale of various archdiocesan properties and assets; to make sure we balanced our books; and to help the Archbishop and Consultors understand it all! And if Sydney weren’t enough of a challenge, you joined Michael Digges in managing the finances of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes as well.
I couldn’t name all the Boards and Committees that Michael has been part of, but here are just a few: the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the Trustees for Catholic Aged Care Sydney, the Archdiocesan Investment Committee, the Catholic Institute of Sydney Senate, and the Sydney Catholic Schools Finance Council.
Michael was determined not to leave us high and dry when he retired. He worked hard to make sure systems were in place to safeguard Archdiocesan finances into the future, and built up a highly competent and experienced finance team to continue his great work. To this end I want to acknowledge Michael Digges, our Executive Director, Administration & Finance, and Michelle He and Lee Chandler, our Deputy Directors of Finance, who’ve been admirably holding down the fort while we cast the net far and wide for a Michael Moore 2.0.
I also thank Elizabeth Moore and the entire family for graciously sharing Michael with us. Directing the finances of an institution with as many moving parts as the Archdiocese of Sydney can be a 24/7 job, so I sincerely thank you for all of your sacrifices too.
To finish, dear Michael, your legacy as Director of Finance will no doubt be long lasting. The health of the Archdiocese’s finances, especially during challenging economic times and challenging times for the Church, is in large part due to your many years of responsible stewardship. With my predecessors Cardinal Clancy and Cardinal Pell, the auxiliary bishops, clergy and laity of Sydney, the Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes and his flock, I thank you most heartily. Although not fully retired just yet—we’ve managed to keep you part-time—I pray that the next chapter of your life-story is full of God’s graces and more time with those you love. Come the day when you must give the great accounting of your life—many years from now—you will have much to show for it. And I hope and pray that you will then hear the great Auditor you’ve served so well declare: “Come, beloved of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Mt 25) Thank you and God bless!