Archive for category Catholic Church Finances

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.

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A Step Toward Accountability / Voice of Faithful diocesan financial transparency study on Commonweal.org

Transparent financial reporting would have revealed the extent of the settlements bishops made, and lay Catholics would have been aware that abuse was not rare but widespread. (Voice of Faithful diocesan financial transparency study on Commonweal.org)

Reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the church hierarchy have led to increased attention to the church’s secrecy around its finances. Until only recent decades, U.S. diocesan financial affairs were kept confidential and knowledge was compartmentalized; even some very highly placed diocesan officials were unaware of the settlements used to keep clerical sexual abuse under wraps. It was generally assumed that once contributions hit the collection basket, parishioners had no business knowing how the bishops used that money. What they would have learned is that the U.S. Catholic Church has spent $3.99 billion related to clerical-abuse settlements.

“Before the Boston Globe’s 2002 “Spotlight” report, most Catholics in the pews thought that clerical abuse was rare. But presiding bishops knew differently: both from their personal experiences, and from the work of Fr. Thomas Doyle and others, who reported in the 1980s on the prevalence of abuse in the church. When Rev. Gilbert Gauthe admitted to abusing more than three hundred children in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1986, or in 1993 when Rev. James Porter was sentenced to between eighteen and twenty years in prison for sexual abuse of children in Fall River, Massachusetts, there was minimal discussion of the role that church funds might have played in keeping those stories quiet.

“Transparent financial reporting would have revealed the extent of the settlements bishops made, and lay Catholics would have been aware that abuse was not rare but widespread. With this information made public, many children could have been spared the devastating effects of child abuse. Even were abuse to occur, church officials would not have been able to cover it up with secret settlements. Serial abuse would have been far less likely …”

By David Castaldi, Joseph Finn and Margaret Roylance on Commonweal.org — Read more …

David Castaldi was a biotechnology entrepreneur and CEO who also served as Chancellor and CFO of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston (RCAB). Joseph Finn was a member of the RCAB’s Diocesan Finance Council and authored its initial charter. Margaret Roylance is a research materials engineer, Vice President of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), and Chair of its Finance Working Group. All three were among the founding members of VOTF.

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As diocese prepares to pay victims, its primary source of money: parishioners / The Buffalo News

To compensate sex abuse victims, (Bishop Richard) Malone said the diocese will rely on insurance coverage, investment reserves and the possible sale of property, all of which trace back to the wallets and pocketbooks of people in the pews. (The Buffalo News)

Bishop Richard J. Malone assures donors that no gifts to Catholic Charities will be used to settle clergy sexual abuse claims.

But area Catholics – one way or another – are paying.

To compensate sex abuse victims, Malone said the diocese will rely on insurance coverage, investment reserves and the possible sale of property, all of which trace back to the wallets and pocketbooks of people in the pews.

The diocese’s self-insurance plan and its premiums for excess liability coverage are funded primarily by contributions from parishioners. Its investments grew out of parishioner gifts. And its buildings were constructed, purchased or donated thanks to the generosity of Catholic donors.

At most churches in the Buffalo Diocese, at least $20 of every $100 donated to an offertory collection goes directly to the diocese, according to a Buffalo News analysis of diocesan and parish annual financial statements. And for every $100 gift to the Catholic Charities appeal, about $35 goes into a fund controlled by the bishop.

By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News — Read more …

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Study ranks dioceses’ online financial transparency; Sacramento on top / National Catholic Reporter

Transparency in diocesan financial statements is a means to keep dioceses accountable while also encouraging donations, Margaret Roylance, a member of the Voice of the Faithful committee that put together the study, told NCR. (National Catholic Reporter)

Separated by a continent, the dioceses of Sacramento, California, and Camden, New Jersey, are also divided by degrees of financial transparency.

“Parishioners in Sacramento can find out where their donations go with the click of a button on the diocesan website. Those in the Diocese of Camden, which covers southern New Jersey, will have a more difficult time.

“That is a takeaway from a study on financial transparency undertaken recently by Voice of the Faithful, a church watchdog group. The study surveyed dioceses and archdioceses across the country, rating them from most transparent to most opaque. The study was based on how much financial information is accessible on diocesan websites.”

Peter Feuerherd, Naitonal Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Archdiocese of New York priests receive biting letter on finances from Cardinal Dolan, while Hoboken parish kicks through veil of financial secrecy

Cardinal Dolan contemplates selling NY chancery in biting letter to priests
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has informed his clergy he is considering moving his archdiocese’s headquarters out of the building it now occupies in midtown Manhattan in a bid to save money and to correct what he says is an ‘unfair and inaccurate perception of the archdiocese as some bloated, money-grabbing corporation.’ The cardinal revealed the possible move in a highly charged letter to his priests and deacons in late November in which he also takes the clergy to task for complaining about how the archdiocese collects money from its parishes and exhorts them to challenge parishioners to donate more frequently and abundantly.”

Hoboken parish kicks through veil of financial secrecy
By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Every year, the people of Ss. Peter and Paul parish here are presented with an annual report that spells out, in clear language and inviting format, an inventory of how their church is doing. The graphics are sparkling, but there are few pious sentiments. Lots of facts and figures. It’s more like a report to corporate shareholders than to a typical Catholic parish congregation. That is deliberate, says Msgr. Robert S. Meyer, pastor of the Catholic Community of Ss. Peter and Paul, located in the middle of a square-mile urban enclave on the Hudson River, just minutes from lower Manhattan via train. The city of 50,000 has boomed over the past few decades, in the process emerging as the dictionary definition of gentrification.”

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Twin Cities archdiocese puts forth amended bankruptcy plan / National Catholic Reporter

An amended bankruptcy plan for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese would potentially double the funds set aside for its creditors to the tune of as much as $133 million. Despite that increase, attorneys representing the 440 claimants say that the archdiocese’s contribution to the trust falls well short of its total assets, what they estimate above $1 billion, as does the per-person payout when compared to past similar settlements …

“While ‘at first blush’ the new proposal seems like a lot of money, it ‘falls so far short’ when compared to settlements in other dioceses, Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the creditors, said at a press conference Tuesday (Nov. 15) afternoon outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.

“‘This is a sham. It is deficient, and it’s misleading, and so we really have to call it out for what it is,’ he said.”

By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Judge rejects bid to tap parishes, schools in archdiocese bankruptcy / Star Tribune

Catholic parishes, schools and other church properties cannot be included among the assets in the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a federal judge ruled Thursday (Jul. 28).

“U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel denied the request by a committee representing clergy abuse victims to consolidate the assets of various entities linked to the archdiocese, which would have increased funds available to settle victims’ claims.

“The decision was met with relief by Catholic parishes and a pledge to appeal the ruling by the victims’ committee.

“Archbishop Bernard Hebda said he was pleased with the decision.”

By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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