Posts Tagged financial accountability

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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From the collection basket to the bank: Lax practices mean lost money / National Catholic Reporter

Sin and the Trinity.

“These are two elementary points of Catholic theology in the work of Michael W. Ryan, a retired U.S. Postal security specialist, who has spent more than two decades alerting church authorities to fixing accounting lapses in parish collections.

“First, sin.

“Ryan has focused since 1988 on what he calls the point ‘between the collection basket and the bank deposit.’ The resident of Milton, Mass., worked for the postal service in security, and knew from first-hand experience that, even with top-of-the-line procedures in place, there will be at least some postal employees tempted to embezzle.

“‘It only takes a second to scoop up a bunch of twenties,’ warns Ryan.

“There are parallels between the neighborhood post office and the local Catholic church. Both deal in cash payments. Both involve people with access to cash. But, says Ryan, ‘there is much more control over a postal clerk.’

“Ryan notes that there are people who will steal from the collection basket.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story. Michael Ryan is a Voice of the Faithful® trustee. Click here to read about VOTF’s extensive work on financial accountability and transparency in Catholic parishes and dioceses.

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Financial misconduct in parishes is all too common / Cruxnow.com

Behind the sensational headlines about a New York priest (Rev. Peter Miqueli) accused of pilfering church coffers to pay for an extravagant lifestyle – “Priest paid his male ‘sex master’ from collection plate: lawsuit,” as the New York Post put it — is the surprisingly common accusation of a trusted employee or volunteer stealing cash from a parish …

“Miqueli’s case is tailor made for tabloid coverage, but it’s hardly unique. This year alone, a number of high-profile embezzlement cases involving Catholic institutions have been made public. While the reporting to civil authorities has increased, resulting in more publicity about such cases, one thing hasn’t changed: Pastors are too trusting and unwilling to implement strict financial controls.”

By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.

Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group’s long-time efforts in this area at the diocese and parish levels can be reviewed at votf.org under Programs/Financial Accountability.

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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.

VOTF’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group’s efforts can be reviewed at votf.org under Programs/Financial Accountability.

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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Re-Jesusing the Catholic Church / Garry Wills in The Boston Globe

Voice of the Faithful has long championed financial transparency and accountability in the Catholic Church, a never-ending, always necessary task. Take the commentary below. Garry Wills wonders once again, like many others before him and in light of Pope Francis’ agenda, how the Church can claim God and mammon. And how can it justify keeping its questionable financial dealings secret. For example, “In what is called Peter’s Pence, Catholics from around the world send money to be spent on the poor,” he says, “But four-fifths of that money is spent on maintenance of the bloated Vatican itself.”

Re-Jesusing the Catholic Church
by Garry Wills in The Boston Globe

How can a church whose officialdom is worldly and corrupt present Jesus to the world? Pope Francis thinks it cannot. He once told people at the morning mass in his small chapel, ‘To be believable, the Church has to be poor.’ He has spoken of personal revulsion at seeing a priest drive an expensive car. When he spoke of money as ‘the devil’s dung’ (he was quoting a church father, Saint Basil), some took this as an attack on Western capitalism. But it was a more general message, part of his apology in Bolivia for the church’s role in colonialism. And when Francis looks around the Vatican, he finds the same devil-stench. In one of his earlier interviews as pope, he said, ‘The Curia is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests.’ He said to assembled Cardinals that some approach the Vatican as if it were a royal court, with all the marks of such courts — ‘intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism, and partiality.’”

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As Pope visits U.S., Voice of the Faithful hopes he hears lay voices

When Pope Francis visits the United States next month, U.S.-based Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful hopes this reform-minded pontiff will hear a wide spectrum of lay voices, particularly about healing wounds from clergy sexual abuse and holding dioceses financially accountable.

We applaud the steps Pope Francis has taken towards needed structural reform: addressing Vatican bank problems, overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy and appointing a council of cardinals outside the Curia as advisors. More importantly, we take hope in steps aimed at bringing justice to survivors and holding bishops accountable: approving a child abuse trial against an archbishop, accepting resignations from four bishops involved in the clergy sexual abuse scandal, accepting two more bishops’ resignations for financial malfeasance, establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and setting up a tribunal to judge bishops involved in the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

But VOTF sees discontinuities within this reform environment, principally two areas where lay voices can focus needed attention: healing wounds from clergy sexual abuse and shedding light on diocesan finances.

Despite decades of sex-abuse revelations, the Church’s response thus far has conspicuously lacked meaningful healing. So, VOTF is using the Healing Circle model of Restorative Justice to help all those harmed by clergy sexual abuse: the victims/survivors, their family members, faith communities, clergy and the Church itself. We are inviting Pope Francis to participate in a Healing Circle to experience its potential directly.

We also call on Pope Francis and all the faithful to see how the harms from clergy sex abuse will continue until past harm is addressed, all current abuses are exposed and future child protection is ensured. It’s not “over” until all three are accomplished. Directing bishops to take a pastoral approach to the settlement of abuse cases, rather than using legal weapons, would be one significant advance, as would the release of all relevant documents previously shielded and the immediate funding of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Regarding diocesan finances, we note that Pope Francis has preached loud and long on the injustice of economic inequality, for example, in his climate encyclical and during his trip to Argentina. With that attitude, perhaps the Pope could endorse a system providing Catholics with a clear idea of where their donations go. As a step in this direction, VOTF has developed a public Internet database to help Catholics do just that, so they can help thwart malfeasance like theft, fraud, donations being spent for purposes other than intended by contributors and paying for sex abuse victims’ silence.

Pope Francis will be welcomed by millions during his U.S. visit, and VOTF would be pleased to see a papal nod toward these issues.

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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