Archive for category Catholic Church Finances

An old, sad story on finances

By Margaret Roylance, Voice of the Faithful Finance Working Group Chair

For those of us who have seen the church we love struggle with ongoing scandal over the last decade and a half, the news that emerged from the Diocese of Santa Rosa on July 22 is yet another chapter in a long sad story of trusted clerics—and lay people too—betraying the trust the faithful.

Santa Rosa is not the worst example of alleged financial malfeasance uncovered in the last few weeks. That prize goes to the outrageous robbery of resources from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, by its Bishop Michael Bransfield. Yet the theft of parish collections on the other side of the country, by Pastor Oscar Diaz of Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa, illustrates yet again the need for lay vigilance.

We read these stories of financial wrongdoing regularly now, and this may cause some to think we are losing ground in the battle for accountability within the church. But learning the truth is never the problem. Silence is the enemy of reform, not bad news. Silence perpetuated both the sexual and financial the wrongdoing that has plagued the church and all of human society for millennia. We are learning about these crimes now because the leadership of the church has lost the will and the ability to cover them up. That is good news.

The Santa Rosa theft, while similar to so many we have heard in the past, has one promising constituent that we hope can be repeated when thefts surface elsewhere.

In this case, despite clear specifications from the diocese about the proper way to handle weekly collections, when Fr. Diaz was injured in an accident the police reportedly found in his car six tamper-evident security bags filled with cash donated by the parishioners of Resurrection Parish. Diaz told police the money was his salary. Indications are that it was not.

So often under circumstances like these diocesan leaders close ranks and refuse to acknowledge the wrongdoing. They keep parishioners in the dark as long as possible. They do their best to avoid any press coverage of the incident. Some bishops have even invoked their authority under the so-called Corporation Sole, a common form of diocesan governance in the U.S., to keep law enforcement out of the picture. Because the bishop essentially owns all the resources of the diocese under this form of governance, if he chooses after the fact to allow the pastor to keep bags of parish money in his car or a $10,000 stack of cash in his room at the rectory, no theft has occurred.

But the actions taken by Bishop Robert Vasa when he learned about the accident may be a new twist on the old story. He has dealt with the injured priest and his parishioners in an open and straightforward way. Of course, the story is still unfolding, but it is unfolding in the open. Time will tell if Bishop Vasa has really chosen a different path, but there are some indications that he is open to greater transparency and accountability with regard to diocesan finances.

When Voice of the Faithful carried out its 2018 Diocesan Online Financial Transparency Review, Santa Rosa was the only diocese to publish highlights of the meetings of its Diocesan Finance Council (DFC). The DFC is the only part of diocesan governance where lay members are authorized by Canon Law to exercise authority (Canon 493, Canon 1277). The deliberations of the DFC are treated as secret by most U.S. bishops, but Santa Rosa shares some information about DFC activities on its diocesan website.

Santa Rosa also posts guidelines on its website concerning handling and counting of collections. The collections are to be kept in tamper-evident security bags and the bags are to be in the stewardship of two unrelated persons when not in a locked safe. It is clear that these guidelines were not followed at Resurrection Parish. Were parish staff and members of the count teams not aware of the requirements? Were they reluctant to challenge a popular pastor when he ignored those requirements?

The situation at Resurrection Parish shines a spotlight on the difference between transparency and accountability. The diocese has made the requirements clear, which is the key element of transparency. Accountability is a separate matter and means that those who ignore requirements must be held to account. Fr. Diaz is living proof that a parish priest can ignore diocesan requirements as long as he keeps a low enough profile.

So, how can a pastor like Fr. Diaz be held to account? Lay members of the parish must speak up when they see violations of accepted procedures for safe handling of money. And not just for financial matters but also if they see that criminal record checks on parish volunteers are omitted, that guidelines to ensure children are not put in dangerous situations are ignored, and so on.

Parishioners must speak to the pastor about such lapses, and to the bishop if the pastor does not make necessary changes. The bishop must ensure that posted requirements are followed. Real positive change in the church will require genuine accountability and all the faithful, you and me, have a role to play in making that happen.

Could what happened in Santa Rosa happen in your own parish? Do parishioners know what your diocese requires for safe handling of collections? Do those requirements follow guidelines set for responsible financial collection practices? You may want to take the Parish Financial Integrity Quotient test found on the Voice of the Faithful website at Parish F-IQ to learn more about protecting the financial resources of your parish.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

As anger over Catholic clergy sexual abuse intensifies, U.S. dioceses’ average financial transparency score rises only marginally

BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 1, 2018― Anger over clergy sexual abuse has risen dramatically with new revelations in recent months, and Voice of the Faithful’s second annual study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency, released in October, shows the average score for those dioceses rising only marginally. Voice of the Faithful has long considered secrecy surrounding Catholic Church finances to be linked to secrecy surrounding clerical sexual abuse.

The average overall score achieved by all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Voice of the Faithful’s “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2018” was 39.7 out of 60, or 66 percent, which represents a 5 percent increase over the 2017 average score. Thirty-nine percent of dioceses still have not posted audited financial statements on their websites, and 25 percent do not post a financial report of any kind.

Much of the recent anger over clergy abuse is invested in the secrecy surrounding the abuse. “Carrying out a widespread coverup of criminal acts without access to large amounts of untraceable money is impossible,” said Margaret Roylance, Ph.D., a VOTF trustee and Finance Working Group chair.

“In the wake of ongoing revelations about clerical sexual abuse,” she continued, “every Catholic who loves the Church is justly angry and asking serious questions about our Church leadership. This report is one tool in the hands of faithful Catholics who want to know what each of us can do. Genuine financial transparency will be essential in rebuilding U.S. Catholics’ trust in their bishops.”

Roylance continued to point out that:

  • If your diocese does not post its audited financial statement or, worse, not even an unaudited financial report, your diocesan leadership is being less than forthright about its finances.
  • If your diocese does not mandate safe collection procedures, it is failing in its duty to protect the resources you have provided to them.
  • If the names and backgrounds of your Diocesan Finance Council members cannot be found on your diocesan website, you have no way of knowing if they are “truly expert in financial affairs and civil law, outstanding in integrity,” as Canon Law requires.

“We must let our bishops know if their failures of financial transparency prevent us from fulfilling our obligations as good stewards of the gifts God has given us,” she said.

Although the transparency scores of 21 dioceses in the 2018 study dropped from 2017, more than 70 had higher scores and some achieved very significant increases. The Archdiocese of Omaha went from a dismal 26 to 56, and the Diocese of Orlando from 26 to a perfect score of 60, which tied with the Diocese of Burlington. However, Burlington received a qualified opinion from outside auditors, whereas Orlando received an unqualified (good) opinion on its audit. The Diocese of Santa Rosa was the only one of the 177 to post highlights of their Finance Council meetings—another significant factor in diocesan financial transparency.

The highest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Burlington, Vermont, and Orlando, Florida, tied at 60
  • Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland, and Sacramento, California, tied at 59
  • Bismarck, North Dakota, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Buffalo, New York, Des Moines, Iowa, Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Omaha, Nebraska, and San Diego, California, tied at 56

The lowest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Orange, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, tied at 19
  • Salina, Kansas, 18
  • Brownsville, Texas, Knoxville, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Portland, Oregon, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, 15
  • Grand Isle, Nebraska, 13
  • Thomas, Virgin Islands, 12

Voice of the Faithful News Release, Nov. 1, 2018
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

A Step Toward Accountability / Voice of Faithful diocesan financial transparency study on Commonweal.org

Transparent financial reporting would have revealed the extent of the settlements bishops made, and lay Catholics would have been aware that abuse was not rare but widespread. (Voice of Faithful diocesan financial transparency study on Commonweal.org)

Reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the church hierarchy have led to increased attention to the church’s secrecy around its finances. Until only recent decades, U.S. diocesan financial affairs were kept confidential and knowledge was compartmentalized; even some very highly placed diocesan officials were unaware of the settlements used to keep clerical sexual abuse under wraps. It was generally assumed that once contributions hit the collection basket, parishioners had no business knowing how the bishops used that money. What they would have learned is that the U.S. Catholic Church has spent $3.99 billion related to clerical-abuse settlements.

“Before the Boston Globe’s 2002 “Spotlight” report, most Catholics in the pews thought that clerical abuse was rare. But presiding bishops knew differently: both from their personal experiences, and from the work of Fr. Thomas Doyle and others, who reported in the 1980s on the prevalence of abuse in the church. When Rev. Gilbert Gauthe admitted to abusing more than three hundred children in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1986, or in 1993 when Rev. James Porter was sentenced to between eighteen and twenty years in prison for sexual abuse of children in Fall River, Massachusetts, there was minimal discussion of the role that church funds might have played in keeping those stories quiet.

“Transparent financial reporting would have revealed the extent of the settlements bishops made, and lay Catholics would have been aware that abuse was not rare but widespread. With this information made public, many children could have been spared the devastating effects of child abuse. Even were abuse to occur, church officials would not have been able to cover it up with secret settlements. Serial abuse would have been far less likely …”

By David Castaldi, Joseph Finn and Margaret Roylance on Commonweal.org — Read more …

David Castaldi was a biotechnology entrepreneur and CEO who also served as Chancellor and CFO of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston (RCAB). Joseph Finn was a member of the RCAB’s Diocesan Finance Council and authored its initial charter. Margaret Roylance is a research materials engineer, Vice President of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), and Chair of its Finance Working Group. All three were among the founding members of VOTF.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

As diocese prepares to pay victims, its primary source of money: parishioners / The Buffalo News

To compensate sex abuse victims, (Bishop Richard) Malone said the diocese will rely on insurance coverage, investment reserves and the possible sale of property, all of which trace back to the wallets and pocketbooks of people in the pews. (The Buffalo News)

Bishop Richard J. Malone assures donors that no gifts to Catholic Charities will be used to settle clergy sexual abuse claims.

But area Catholics – one way or another – are paying.

To compensate sex abuse victims, Malone said the diocese will rely on insurance coverage, investment reserves and the possible sale of property, all of which trace back to the wallets and pocketbooks of people in the pews.

The diocese’s self-insurance plan and its premiums for excess liability coverage are funded primarily by contributions from parishioners. Its investments grew out of parishioner gifts. And its buildings were constructed, purchased or donated thanks to the generosity of Catholic donors.

At most churches in the Buffalo Diocese, at least $20 of every $100 donated to an offertory collection goes directly to the diocese, according to a Buffalo News analysis of diocesan and parish annual financial statements. And for every $100 gift to the Catholic Charities appeal, about $35 goes into a fund controlled by the bishop.

By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News — Read more …

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Study ranks dioceses’ online financial transparency; Sacramento on top / National Catholic Reporter

Transparency in diocesan financial statements is a means to keep dioceses accountable while also encouraging donations, Margaret Roylance, a member of the Voice of the Faithful committee that put together the study, told NCR. (National Catholic Reporter)

Separated by a continent, the dioceses of Sacramento, California, and Camden, New Jersey, are also divided by degrees of financial transparency.

“Parishioners in Sacramento can find out where their donations go with the click of a button on the diocesan website. Those in the Diocese of Camden, which covers southern New Jersey, will have a more difficult time.

“That is a takeaway from a study on financial transparency undertaken recently by Voice of the Faithful, a church watchdog group. The study surveyed dioceses and archdioceses across the country, rating them from most transparent to most opaque. The study was based on how much financial information is accessible on diocesan websites.”

Peter Feuerherd, Naitonal Catholic Reporter — Read more …

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Archdiocese of New York priests receive biting letter on finances from Cardinal Dolan, while Hoboken parish kicks through veil of financial secrecy

Cardinal Dolan contemplates selling NY chancery in biting letter to priests
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has informed his clergy he is considering moving his archdiocese’s headquarters out of the building it now occupies in midtown Manhattan in a bid to save money and to correct what he says is an ‘unfair and inaccurate perception of the archdiocese as some bloated, money-grabbing corporation.’ The cardinal revealed the possible move in a highly charged letter to his priests and deacons in late November in which he also takes the clergy to task for complaining about how the archdiocese collects money from its parishes and exhorts them to challenge parishioners to donate more frequently and abundantly.”

Hoboken parish kicks through veil of financial secrecy
By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Every year, the people of Ss. Peter and Paul parish here are presented with an annual report that spells out, in clear language and inviting format, an inventory of how their church is doing. The graphics are sparkling, but there are few pious sentiments. Lots of facts and figures. It’s more like a report to corporate shareholders than to a typical Catholic parish congregation. That is deliberate, says Msgr. Robert S. Meyer, pastor of the Catholic Community of Ss. Peter and Paul, located in the middle of a square-mile urban enclave on the Hudson River, just minutes from lower Manhattan via train. The city of 50,000 has boomed over the past few decades, in the process emerging as the dictionary definition of gentrification.”

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Twin Cities archdiocese puts forth amended bankruptcy plan / National Catholic Reporter

An amended bankruptcy plan for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese would potentially double the funds set aside for its creditors to the tune of as much as $133 million. Despite that increase, attorneys representing the 440 claimants say that the archdiocese’s contribution to the trust falls well short of its total assets, what they estimate above $1 billion, as does the per-person payout when compared to past similar settlements …

“While ‘at first blush’ the new proposal seems like a lot of money, it ‘falls so far short’ when compared to settlements in other dioceses, Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the creditors, said at a press conference Tuesday (Nov. 15) afternoon outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.

“‘This is a sham. It is deficient, and it’s misleading, and so we really have to call it out for what it is,’ he said.”

By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment