Posts Tagged diocesan online financial transparency

At five-year mark, financial transparency report shows some progress made, but much improvement needed

Voice of the Faithful’s fifth annual review of all dioceses comprising the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was conducted between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2021, by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2021 Report,” and all previous VOTF reports on diocesan online financial transparency can be read by clicking here.

This year marks five years that Voice of the Faithful has reviewed annually all U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency. Over the past five years, according to VOTF reviewers, overall diocesan transparency scores have increased, and some dioceses have achieved considerable success, but much work remains to be done.

The 2021 report shows that overall diocesan online financial transparency scores increased from 65% in 2020 to 69% in 2021, but that only 64% of all dioceses posted current audited financial reports, even though those dioceses posting such reports increased from 104 in 2020 to 113 in 2021. Looking back five years, VOTF reported in 2017 that only 65 of the 177 U.S. dioceses posted current audited financial statements. Additionally, the 2017 report showed that 15 dioceses scored 90% or higher, while, in 2021, 38 dioceses achieved scores above 90%.

The 2021 report shows that several dioceses achieved considerable success over the past year. Among those most improved from 2020 are the Diocese of Camden, which scored 20% in 2020 and 82% in 2021. Similarly, Cheyenne scored 25% in 2020 and 70% in 2021; Rapid City 30% and 72%; and Biloxi 57% and 96%.

This year’s top-scoring dioceses all scored 100%: Bridgeport, Charleston, Orlando, and Scranton. The Diocese of Bellville scored next highest, maintaining its 2020 score of 98%. The poorest performing dioceses were: El Paso, 22%; Allentown, 20%; Nashville, 20%; Tulsa, 20%, and St. Thomas, 17%.

In addition, VOTF’s 2021 reviewers concluded:

  • Transparency concerning the membership and activities of Diocesan Finance Councils is limited, with an average score of 4.1 out of 10 on this question. Further, 62 out of 177 dioceses posted no information on their DFC this year. This will figure strongly in VOTF’s current review of lay involvement in Church governance through DFCs.
  • The only area where scores dropped this year is on the parish collection security question. The decrease was only 3.1 to 2.9 out of 10 points, but reflected primarily the conflicting guidance and contradictory policies found within posted financial policies in dioceses. Consistency between posted policies on a diocese’s web pages could easily raise the diocese’s score on this section.

VOTF’s fifth 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: 2021 Report,” and all previous VOTF reports on diocesan online financial transparency can be read by clicking here.

VOTF 2021 reviewers concluded that, “Although significant progress has been achieved in the last decade, and in particular during the last three years, members of the church in the U.S. must be vigilant if they wish to prevent financial mismanagement and abuse.” They recommend the following for dioceses committed to increasing their financial transparency:

  • If your diocese does not post audited financial reports, communicate your concerns
    to your parish and diocesan leadership. If they say they will provide it upon request, request it!
  • If you cannot find any useful information on your diocesan website concerning the Diocesan Finance Council, communicate your concerns.
  • If your diocese does post audited reports, use the guide What to Look for When Reviewing Diocesan Financial Statements (http://www.votf.org/Financial_Acct-Trans/ReadingFS-VOTF-FWG.pdf) to assess the report. If dioceses post reports that no one reads, who is holding them accountable?
  • If your diocese’s financial transparency score has dropped dramatically since the last review it may be an indication of serious financial problems. Look into possible causes and work to demand transparency and accountability.

Voice of the Faithful News Release, Nov. 12, 2021, Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360

Voice of the Faithful®: 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.

, , , , , , , ,

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