Posts Tagged financial malfeasance
BOSTON, Mass., Aug. 24, 2020 – Disgraced former bishop Rev. Michael Bransfield will pay only half the restitution his successor Bishop Mark Brennan approved last November, according to Brennan’s Aug. 20 letter, issued just days after Bransfield’s apology to Catholics of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, which sounded more like a confession that sins had been committed, just not by him.
“We cannot adequately describe the anguish we feel at the lack of accountability reflected in the Vatican’s recent order for restitution from Bransfield or the lack of remorse from the former bishop,” said Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president. “Once more, the Church has failed to hold a bishop adequately accountable for his actions. Complete restitution, removal from the clerical state, and a life of prayer and penance should be the punishment for all bishops who have so grossly abused their authority.”
Restitution paid by Bransfield is to be used to support clergy abuse survivors, which makes the fact that the Vatican decreased the amount even more reprehensible.
Pope Francis accepted Bransfield’s resignation as bishop in September 2018. He had been accused of misusing millions of dollars of church money and of sexually abusing teenagers and covering up abuse by other priests dating back to when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and of sexually harassing seminarians as bishop.
His successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, had worked out a plan for Bransfield to pay about $800,000 in restitution to the diocese and for Bransfield’s stipend in retirement to be $736, but the Vatican Congregation of Bishops ordered him to pay only $441,000 in restitution and set his stipend at $2,250.
Forgiveness may be at the heart of faith, Fox said, but so is justice. “These offending bishops should assume a vow of poverty and be sent to a monastery to pray.”
Voice of the Faithful Statement, Aug. 24, 2020
Contact: Nick Ingala, firstname.lastname@example.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.
“The people of this diocese would be very upset and angry to think he (Bishop Bransfield) would be participating in decisions that might well affect them,” Bishop Brennan explained. (Catholic News Service)
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in consultation with the members of the USCCB Administrative Committee, has taken the highly unusual step of disinviting a fellow bishop from the conference’s fall general assembly.
“The decision affects Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, retired bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who left his position in September 2018 under a cloud of allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Pope Francis accepted Bishop Bransfield’s resignation Sept. 13, 2018.
“The USCCB meets Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.
“The action comes under one section of the recently adopted “Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops.”
“Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who succeeded Bishop Bransfield, said he initiated the process under the protocol soon after he was installed Aug. 22 to head the West Virginia diocese.”
By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service — Read more …
The Vatican recently reported finding hundreds of millions of dollars “tucked away” off the official balance sheet. This is only one dimension of the Roman Catholic Church’s need for financial accountability. In the United States, theft, fraud and embezzlement occur at every level, with parishes alone losing millions of dollars each year from Sunday collections.
Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® is urging parishes and dioceses to adopt simple security procedures that can protect weekly collections, which are the primary source of income for most parishes, and has developed a simple test to assess the effectiveness of current security procedures.
A 2007 Villanova University survey found that 85 percent of the responding Roman Catholic dioceses had discovered losses and theft of church money in the previous five years, with 11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen. A 2014 study of small businesses by the University of Cincinnati found that 64 percent of small businesses say they experience employee theft; although only 16 percent report them. Parishes closely resemble small businesses in size and number of employees.
A few headlines from the past seven years continue on that theme: “Priest indicted for nearly $700,000 church theft,” “Deacon sentenced to jail for stealing $120,000,” “Pastor gets five years in prison for stealing $200,000 from parish,” “Catholic priest pleads guilty to at least $100K collection plate theft,” “Ex-pastor accused of taking $83,000 from parish,” “Religious education director and maintenance worker charged with stealing collection cash,” “Former priest avoids prison and repays stolen parish funds,” “Cops charge usher with swiping cash”—the list goes on.
Additionally, National Catholic Reporter reported in 2012 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.”
But those losses can be cut. Parish and diocesan finance councils, which Church Canon Law requires, “would do well to assess the adequacy of their Sunday collection procedures and make necessary changes to secure the collections,” says Michael W. Ryan, the author of Nonfeasance: The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income, who has conducted a 25-year crusade to convince the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to adopt simple security procedures that protect cash collections.
“The level of this protection varies widely from parish to parish and diocese to diocese, and the quality of that protection ranges from good, to marginal or poor, with the latter being highly susceptible to weekly losses due to theft,” Ryan says. “This is why it is absolutely critical to positively secure the collections at the first opportunity—when the ushers meet to consolidate their baskets—and to maintain that level of security throughout the process, up to and including the deposit of all monies into the parish account.”
But “Ryan’s attempt to help the church clean up the loose security policies that drain funds has met with such deep-seated disinterest that he has virtually despaired of getting anywhere,” the NCR article cited above said.
As a first step toward better security, VOTF has developed a simple self-test, with Ryan’s help. He is a retired federal law enforcement official experienced in the conduct of financial audits and security investigations and serves on VOTF’s board of trustees. The test may be downloaded from VOTF’s website by clicking here. Consisting of 10 true-false questions, this test quickly and easily provides any finance council or interested Catholic a general sense of how well or how poorly their parish or diocese’s collections are protected.
As a second step, those who take this self-test and find that their collections are not as secure as expected may download appropriate guidelines from VOTF’s Parish Financial Accountability web page by clicking here. According to Ryan, these guidelines will help ensure that every dollar placed into the collection baskets each weekend is, in fact, properly deposited into the parish account.
As evidence of their efficacy, Ryan says, the guidelines were codified and implemented by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2005. Subsequently, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management adopted them as the best practice for handling collections. NLRCM is a respected organization of laity, religious and clergy working together to promote excellence and best practices in management, finances and human resources within the Catholic Church in America.
Also of interest: Calls grow for reform in Catholic Church financial affairs
This issue brings together two strains of church life that NCR has been tracking for some 30 years: the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and the finances of dioceses. It is in these two areas that church leaders are at their most vulnerable.
“The sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the subsequent cover-up by those in the church leadership structure have sapped the hierarchy of much of its moral authority. Many times, the church has seemed to be moving on from the immediacy of that crisis, and then something happens — a priest in Newark, N.J., who is supposed to be on restricted ministry is found on youth retreats, or leaders in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese ignore their own guidelines and the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People — and we are plunged headlong back into that morass.”
Click here to read the rest of this editorial by National Catholic Reporter.
Pope Francis’ Lay Finance Expert Vows ‘No More Scandals’ (Study says 85% of American dioceses discovered embezzlement) / The Boston Globe
A Maltese economist tapped by Pope Francis to help lead a new finance council says the pope’s reforms will ensure that the sort of scandal which erupted last summer, involving a Vatican accountant allegedly enmeshed in a John le Carré-esque plot to smuggle millions in cash, becomes a thing of the past …
“Observers believe Francis’ efforts to promote financial glasnost are important not merely for the Vatican but to set a tone for the wider Catholic church, where accounting practices often remain informal and subject to abuse. A 2007 study by Villanova University, for instance, found that 85 percent of American dioceses had discovered instances of embezzlement within the previous five years.”
By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this story.