Thank you for highlighting the complex subject of church pension plans (“N.J. workers at religious institutions fear change threatens pensions,” January 22). As the former CEO, CFO, and COO at Saint Peter’s University Hospital (SPUH) over a 24-year period, as a member of its Board of Trustees and Retirement Plan Committee during that time, and as a participant in the SPUH pension plan, I would like to make a few points:
- The IRS has not yet recognized SPUH’s pension plan as a church plan, so there is still a chance that the plan will not be granted church plan status.
- The hospital has treated the plan as an ERISA plan for decades, and, in the past, it has told participants that it is an ERISA plan.
- The administration claims that it will provide better insurance coverage for the plan, but it is hard to believe that any commercial insurance company can provide better coverage at a lower price than the PBGC, whose pension insurance is very inexpensive. The plan is only 63% funded.
- I find SPUH’s priorities interesting. While hospital chapels are an important component of a Catholic hospital’s mission, spending $7 million on a new chapel while putting employees’ pensions at risk seems to be inconsistent with SPUH’s core values and the Church’s teachings on social justice and workers’ rights.
Many thanks, John, for your support of this effort!