Posts Tagged diocesan 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 …
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.
Study shows 65% of U.S. Dioceses post audited financial reports online, but 27% post no financial information
Voice of the Faithful has completed its third annual study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency. Among the study’s findings are that:
- 65% of U.S. dioceses have exhibited a commitment to financial transparency by sharing audited financial reports on their websites;
- The percentage of U.S. dioceses posting audited financial reports has increased from 56% in 2017 to 61% in 2018 to 65% in 2019;
- 8% of the dioceses provided only unaudited reports in 2019, and the remaining 27% posted no financial information at all;
- The average diocesan transparency score dropped slightly in 2019 due to tighter scoring criteria, but some dioceses achieved dramatic improvement; and
- Other dioceses have stopped posting audited reports, causing their scores to drop sharply.
The study concluded that, although a majority of dioceses have made a commitment to financial transparency, a sizable minority share little or no verifiable financial information with their members. The average overall score achieved by all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Voice of the Faithful’s 2019 report was 65.25%.
Five dioceses received perfect scores of 100%:
- Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska;
- Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina;
- Diocese of Erie. Pennsylvania;
- Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and
- Diocese of Rochester, New York.
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, firstname.lastname@example.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.