Posts Tagged canon law
Just 10% of U.S. dioceses received scores above 60% in Voice of the Faithful’s recently published 2022 report of lay involvement in Catholic Church governance. This is the first online review of diocesan finance councils’ composition and compliance with Canon Law as represented on diocesan websites.
“With diocesan finance councils that adhere to the letter and spirit of Canon Law, Catholics can be more confident that diocesan finance councils exercise proper stewardship and oversight of the secular goods of the Church,” said Joseph Finn, C.P.A., former VOTF treasurer and trustee and longtime advocate for lay role in Church governance.
However, “In our opinion,” the report’s authors concluded, “evidence of compliance with Canon Law by the diocesan finance councils is disappointingly low. The fact that only 18 dioceses achieved a passing grade obviously means there is room for improvement.” To underscore the hope for improvement, the report notes that, during VOTF’s related five-year history of producing its annual online diocesan financial transparency reviews, most dioceses have increased their scores.
Click here to read “Lay Involvement in Governance of the Church By and Through the Diocesan Finance Council: 2022 Report”
For this governance report, independent reviewers examined all 176 U.S. dioceses’ websites to ascertain DFCs’ level of compliance with Canon Law, regarding the duties, responsibilities, and authority of the DFC. Canon Law stipulates, for example, that DFC membership comprise individuals “competent” in finance, law, and real estate. Considering that clerical formation typically does not focus on these areas, the necessary competencies would be found with professionally educated and experienced lay men and women.
The governance report’s reviewers graded dioceses’ using a 10-question worksheet and seven of the questions referenced Canon Law directly:
- Is current information about DFC members posted on the website? (Canon 492)
- Are the terms of service for DFC members posted on the website? (Canon 492 and USCCB “Diocesan Financial Management: A Guide to Best Practices”)
- What is the nature of DFC membership? (Canon 492 and USCCB DFM)
- Does the posted meeting information indicate that the bishop or his representative attends DFC meetings? (Canon 492)
- Is the DFC responsible for the preparation of the diocesan budget as to income and expenses for the coming year? (Canon 493)
- Does the DFC perform a diocesan financial review at the end of the year? (Canons 493 and 1287)
- Are acts of Extraordinary Administration defined on the diocesan website and does DFC approve their implementation? (Canon 1277)
“Based on our report’s findings, we feel more strongly than ever that Diocesan Finance Councils, with appropriate lay involvement, can promote diocesan financial competence, increase financial transparency, and help prevent clergy abuse, and that a properly staffed and functioning DFC can provide a check on financial malfeasance, like that perpetrated within recent memory by the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia,” Finn said.
Such low scores support VOTF’s contention that, had dioceses followed canon 1277 with regard to obtaining “consent” from their finance councils for “extraordinary” payments to clergy abuse survivors, the “scandal and sin and sickness of abuse of children would most probably not have persisted as long as it has,” according to the report. Lay involvement would have benefited financial transparency, and bishops would have been able to avoid being criticized for covering up the scandal with secret payments to survivors.
The top five highest scoring dioceses in the report were: Memphis, Tennessee, 95%; Kansas City, Kansas, 92%; Scranton, Pennsylvania, 83%; Atlanta, Georgia, 80%; and Cheyenne, Wyoming, 80%. The two lowest scoring dioceses were Crookston, Minnesota, and Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which each scored zero. Thirty dioceses scored 7% and 26% scored 10%.
With this governance report, VOTF now has three comprehensive reviews of all U.S. dioceses’ websites that can give the faithful in each parish enough information to judge diocesan activities within the purview of the reports:
- “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2021 Report” (VOTF’s fifth such annual report)
- “Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices: 2022 Report” (VOTF’s first such report)
- “Measuring Lay Involvement in Governance of the Church by and through the Diocesan Finance Council: 2022 Report” (VOTF’s first such report)
VOTF also maintains a webpage called “Financial Accountability” that contains links to resources to help Catholics understand diocesan and parish finances. Click here to view the page.One of the links on that page goes to “Financial Accountability – U.S. Dioceses,” a website VOTF developed to provide information on demographics, overall finances, the content of financials and diocesan finance council information for all U.S. dioceses. Click here to access the website directly.
Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
‘It’s the first time church law has officially recognized as criminal the method used by sexual predators to build relationships with their victims to then sexually exploit them. The law also removes much of the discretion that had long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse, making clear they can be held responsible for omissions and negligence in failing to properly investigate and sanction errant priests.”National Catholic Reporter
“Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority, and to say that laypeople who hold church office can be sanctioned for similar sex crimes.
“The new provisions, released Tuesday (Jun. 1) after 14 years of study, were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law, the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church.
“The most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398, which aim to address major shortcomings in the church’s handling of sexual abuse. The law recognizes that adults, too, can be victimized by priests who abuse their authority over them, and said that laypeople in church offices, such as school principals or parish economists, can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.
“The Vatican also criminalized the “grooming” of minors or vulnerable adults by priests to compel them to engage in pornography. It’s the first time church law has officially recognized as criminal the method used by sexual predators to build relationships with their victims to then sexually exploit them.
“The law also removes much of the discretion that had long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse, making clear they can be held responsible for omissions and negligence in failing to properly investigate and sanction errant priests.”
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Francis decentralizes most authority for liturgical translations to local bishops / National Catholic Reporter
“A comparison of the Italian text of the prior and new versions of the canon makes the change clear. Where the Italian says the Vatican was tasked before with ‘authorizing’ all liturgical translations, it is now asked simply to ‘review”‘ translations made by the bishops’ conferences. (National Catholic Reporter)
Pope Francis has decentralized authority over how the texts used in the Catholic Church’s liturgies are translated from Latin into local languages, moving most responsibility for the matter from the Vatican to national bishops’ conferences.
“In a motu proprio issued Sept. 9, the pontiff says he is making a change to the church’s Code of Canon Law so that the Second Vatican Council’s call to make the liturgy more understandable to people is “more clearly reaffirmed and put into practice.”
“The motu proprio, given the title Magnum Principium, modifies two clauses of Canon 838. The rewritten clauses say simply that the Vatican is to ‘recognize’ adaptations of Latin liturgical texts approved by national bishops’ conferences.
“A comparison of the Italian text of the prior and new versions of the canon makes the change clear. Where the Italian says the Vatican was tasked before with ‘authorizing’ all liturgical translations, it is now asked simply to ‘review’ translations made by the bishops’ conferences.”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
The provisions of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
“The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law.”
By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service — Read more …
Catholic Church’s ‘pontifical secret’ stops disclosure of sex abuse allegations, expert says / The Guardian
The Catholic church’s ‘pontifical secret’ rule is still preventing bishops from disclosing child sexual abuse allegations in some states, an expert has said.
“he royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse on Thursday (Feb. 9) began to examine how canon law contributes to the secrecy surrounding child abuse within the Catholic church.”
By Christopher Knaus, The Guardian — Click here to read the rest of this story. Also of interest, “Vatican enforces Church ‘secrecy,’ royal commission hears,” By Rhian Deutrom, The Australian
The fact that guidelines from bishops for the pastoral application of chapter 8 of Pope Francis’s ‘Amoris Laetitia’ present opposite interpretations on the issue of access to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics confirms one truth: the argument is not yet settled.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com
Following up on this theme: ‘Amoris’ a murky document on wonderful and messy experiences, By Fr. Michael J. Rogers, S.J., Cruxnow.com; ‘Amoris Laetitia’: Are we seeing change by stealth, By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Cruxnow.com
Catholic faithful of the dioceses of Rochester, New York, have posted an open letter to Pope Francis on their website, “God’s Word, Many Voices,” urging the pontiff to expand lay preaching. The letter advocates for well informed and inspired lay preaching at Mass, which the authors believe can be encouraged in a manner consistent with canon law. You may click here to read the letter and add your signature, and you may read the letter in full below:
November 28, 2016
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
We, the undersigned, understand and believe that you have the authority to offer your interpretations of the 1983 Code of Canon Law to the universal Church. Specifically, we are requesting that you urge the bishops to take a pastoral and expansive view on lay preaching during the Eucharist.
We make this request for the following reasons.
(1) People come to church hungering for a word of inspiration that will get them through the week.
(2) Lay preaching is rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Jesus, in his encounters with people, often empowered them to proclaim the Good News. Take the Samaritan Woman at the Well and Mary of Magdala, for example. Leaders of house churches in the first century, men and women alike, preached the Good News during their Eucharistic gatherings. Hildegard of Bingen – outstanding twelfth century abbess, poet, prophet, and more – was invited on preaching tours by Rhineland bishops. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy found the presence of Christ in the worshiping community, as well as in Scripture, priest, and Eucharist; indeed, “all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations” to which all the baptized “have a right and obligation” (paragraph 14). Furthermore, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church assures us that “the holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office” (paragraph 12).
(3) Preaching is a sacred responsibility, one to which lay people are called and for which they are gifted. Indeed, lay preaching has mushroomed over the last 40 years, and a number of U.S. dioceses have schools to prepare people for this ministry.
(4) The 1983 Code of Canon Law confirms that “lay people, like all Christ’s faithful, are deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation” so that God’s salvation might be made known (#225.1). “They can also be called upon to cooperate with Bishops and priests in the exercise of the ministry of the word” (#759). Importantly, lay preaching is possible in circumstances of “necessity” or where “advantageous” (#766), as long as the homily – a unique form of preaching – remains with the ordained (#767.1).
So it is that we advocate for informed lay preaching in today’s Church. We believe
(1) that the experience of a gifted and well prepared lay person can often more readily connect with the folks sitting in the pews,
(2) that many of our priests are stretched because of fewer numbers, and they no longer have adequate time to prepare a thoughtful homily,
(3) and that a priest from another country can be difficult to understand.
But this remains: everyone needs to hear a word of inspiration.
So, then, how might we envision a pastoral and expansive approach to canon law? The local bishop could commission a gifted and well prepared lay person to preach. In such a case, the ordained person could deliver a brief homily before calling upon the lay person to thoughtfully fill out the thrust of the homily. Thus, there would be a continued reflection, but not at exactly the same time as the homily. The ultimate purpose of the homily would be respected and enhanced, all the while calling upon the Spirit-filled gifts of the lay person.
With prayers for your continued good health and courageous leadership,
What we need in today’s Roman Catholic church is a redistribution of power and authority. Pope Francis’ openness to the possibility of having women deacons is not nearly enough to achieve this essential organizational revolution …
“Francis should change canon law so one does not have to be a priest to be the ‘pastor’ of a parish. Give qualified lay men and women and male and female deacons real power and authority to lead some of our faith communities. This change would have two important consequences. It would disconnect the roles of priest and pastor and significantly change the culture of clericalism that Francis rightly deplores …
“Francis is to be applauded for his critique of clericalism and careerism and his emphasis on the Gospel call to bring peace and justice into everyone’s life, especially that of the poor. But if he and others do not make significant changes in the Catholic church’s current power structure and help us return to an emphasis on its mission to call people to discipleship by preaching peace and justice, I believe his efforts will fall far short of what we and the world need from us and our church today.
“We need some big changes in our church and the time is now.”
By Jim Purcell, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this column.
Voice of the Faithful confident Pope Francis’ new rules will increase chances for bishop accountability
Pope Francis has issued new rules for bishop accountability that give the Voice of the Faithful Church reform movement hope that accountability for cover-ups may at last be applied.
With his motu proprio (apostolic letter) “Like a Loving Mother,” issued June 4, Pope Francis has refined the definition of harm that could be the basis for removing a bishop. In the letter’s preamble, he writes: “The Canon law already provides for the possibility of removal from office ecclesiastical ‘for serious reasons’ … In this letter I intend to point out that among those “grave reasons” includes the negligence of the bishops in the exercise of their office, in particular in relation to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults …”
Voice of the Faithful applauds Boston Archdiocese’s program for helping secure parish donations against theft
Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful applauds the Archdiocese of Boston’s parish “Offertory Collection Controls Initiative,” which helps make sure Sunday donations make it to the bank. The pilot project was initiated in Brockton, Mass., in July. “It’s been a long time coming – more than 25 years by my counting,” said VOTF member Michael Ryan.
Ryan has been advocating at least that long for more secure practices for parish collections. He is a retired federal law enforcement official with experience in conducting financial audits and security. He also wrote Nonfeasance: the Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income, which was published in 2011.
The Church’s Canon Law requires that administrators ‘exercise vigilance so that the goods entrusted to their care are in no way lost or damaged.’ (Canon 1284 §2)
“Despite Canon Law, easy opportunities for theft exist throughout the Church’s parishes and dioceses,” Ryan says. “Considering there are more than 17,000 parishes and nearly 200 dioceses in the U.S., you can see the potential enormity of the problem. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could end that nearly Conference-wide vulnerability by simple decree (under provisions of Canon 455), but for reasons best known only to them, they have steadfastly refused to do so.”
Statistics back up Ryan’s concern. A 2007 Villanova University study estimated that 85% of responding dioceses discovered losses and thefts within the previous five years. Eleven percent of these reported losses of more than $500,000. A 2014 University of Cincinnati study found that 64 percent of small businesses, which parishes resemble in size and number of employees, say they experience employee theft, but only 16 percent of them report it. And National Catholic Reporter said in a 2012 story that, “according to the most modest estimates, at least $89 million donated each year by the people never gets to the intended Catholic cause or recipient due to theft.”
Ryan has long contended that parish practices as simple and low-cost as using tally sheets, multiple counters and secure collection bags could significantly cut down on the possibility of theft from parish collections. These are exactly the practices the Archdiocese of Boston is now promulgating with its “Offertory Collection Controls Initiative.”
The initiative is explained in its “Offertory Collection Controls: Responsible Stewardship” video (https://player.vimeo.com/video/133384564?badge=0), in which Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, said, “We want to make sure that the whole process is safe and transparent so that all the people’s donations will be properly cared for and banked.” The archdiocese plans to implement its initiative at all parishes during the 2016 fiscal year.
VOTF already counts the Boston archdiocese as among the most financially transparent dioceses in the country. Ryan, an active member of VOTF’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group, said he is hopeful Pope Francis’ renewed emphasis on financial accountability and transparency will be fully accepted and embraced by the USCCB and its members.
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.