Archive for category financial transparency
“The odd episode — like the widespread sex-abuse scandal that has roiled U.S. dioceses for many years — marked another black eye for the church. But it points to the need for dioceses to pay attention to possible financial scandals as well as sexual abuse ones.” (National Catholic Reporter) — See Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability webpage — http://votf.org/node/1587 — and “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2020 Report” — http://www.votf.org/2020FWGReport.pdfNational Catholic Reporter and Voice of the Faithful
“Fr. Lenin Vargas’ request for money seemed more fitting for a spam email than from a Catholic priest.
“From 2014 until 2018, Vargas allegedly solicited funds from parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, Mississippi, where he was the pastor, for what he claimed were expenses for his cancer treatment and for charities in his native country of Mexico. But according to a federal indictment, there was no cancer treatment. Vargas had HIV and his medical expenses were covered by his employer, the Diocese of Jackson. Still, Vargas was able to raise over $33,000.
“Furthermore, the Diocese of Jackson failed to divulge the fraud, allowing Vargas to pilfer money for years, according to a report from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, which cites an affidavit filed in federal court by Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.
“Last February, Vargas was indicted on 10 counts of wire fraud in the Northern District of Mississippi, according to court documents that were made available in July, the newspaper reported. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
“In July, the Diocese of Jackson, which was also being investigated for its alleged inaction, agreed to tighten its financial controls under a deal it reached with the feds, according to the Mississippi Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.
“As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, the diocese agreed to return the money to Vargas’ alleged victims, form a review board to focus on ethical conduct, establish a hotline for callers to anonymously report any concerns to the diocese, revise collection processes and start a penal process against Vargas.”
By Mark Nacinovich, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Annual Report: Some U.S. dioceses improve financial transparency, others remain secretive / National Catholic Reporter
“(Margaret) Roylance (VOTF Finance Working Group chair) recommended that laypeople look up their dioceses’ financial transparency scores in the table at the end of the report. If a diocese has a low score or has recently lost a significant number of points, this can be a sign of trouble, she said.” (National Catholic Reporter)
“More U.S. dioceses published audited financial documents in 2020 than before, but more than a quarter still did not publish any audited financial reports, according to an annual financial transparency report by the lay organization Voice of the Faithful.
“About 70% of dioceses posted audited financial reports on their websites in 2020, up from 65% in 2019 and from 56% in 2017, according to the review.
“Margaret Roylance, chair of the organization’s finance working group, said she was heartened to see that many dioceses published these reports on time despite delays due to COVID-19.
“‘We felt that financial transparency was beating COVID and that made us feel good,’ she said.
“On the other hand, 6% of dioceses posted only unaudited reports, and 24% posted no reports at all.
“The report, released in November, surveys the financial practices of all 177 dioceses that belong to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It scores dioceses’ financial transparency practices on a scale from 0 to 100.”
By Madeleine Davison, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Despite financial stress, many, but not all, U.S. dioceses post audited financial reports
Despite financial stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and clergy sexual abuse settlements, the number of dioceses posting audited financial reports to their websites rose 5% in the past year, according to Voice of the Faithful’s 2020 study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency.
However, 43 dioceses posted no financial information at all, and overall, diocesan transparency dropped slightly from 65.11% in 2019 to 64.76% in 2020. Relatively stagnant overall scores resulted, at least in part, from the change of one word in Question #8. The reviewers added the word “current” to Question #8, which refers to lists of Diocesan Finance Council members. Dioceses scoring zero on Question #8 almost doubled from 2019 to 2020, going from 68 to 113 out of 177 dioceses and offsetting major gains in scores overall. According to the study’s authors the importance of the DFC and lay membership cannot be overstated. Lay members “represent the laity of the diocese in ensuring that their donations advance the mission of the Church,” VOTF’s study says.
VOTF’s fourth annual review of all dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was conducted between June 1 and Aug. 31 by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2020 Report,” found that:
- 70% of U.S. dioceses posted audited financial reports on their websites;
- U.S. dioceses posting audited financial reports increased from 65% in 2019 to 70% in 2020;
- 6% of the dioceses provided only unaudited reports, and 24% posted no reports at all;
- 93% of dioceses now post a central finance page on their websites, making it easier for members of the faithful to find available financial information.
The top five dioceses, each of which received a perfect score of 100%, were the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, and, for the second consecutive year, the Archdioceses of Anchorage, Alaska, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Dioceses of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, New York. The five lowest scoring dioceses were Camden, New Jersey; Crookston, Minnesota; Lubbock, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
VOTF’s annual review continues to emphasize the importance of financial transparency, especially in an era of continually tightening finances and dioceses’ attempts to minimize the effects of clergy abuse settlements.
VOTF’s 2020 report points out:
“Every Catholic shares in the responsibility to ensure that funds donated for Church work actually go toward those purposes. Without access to financial reports and information on diocesan finance councils, budgets, and the overall financial health of a diocese, ordinary Catholics cannot exercise their full responsibility of stewardship or verify where their donations go … This 2020 report and the three that preceded it provide tools that faithful Catholics can use to understand how their diocese uses their donations and to help them exercise good stewardship of the gifts God has given them.”
You can read VOTF’s previous annual reports on diocesan online financial transparency by clicking here.