Posts Tagged financial transparency

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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In troubled Newark archdiocese, hoping its new leader is a pastor, not a prince / The New York Times

… But Archbishop (Joseph) Tobin will face other challenges in Newark, where he will succeed Archbishop John J. Myers, the leader of the archdiocese’s 1.5 million Catholics for the past 15 years.

“Archbishop Myers — who in July turned 75, the age at which bishops routinely submit their resignations to the Vatican — has been faulted for the archdiocese’s handling of a case involving a priest convicted of sexual abuse. He has also come under fire for using more than $500,000 of church money to build an addition to his weekend home in Hunterdon County, N.J. — a three-story wing with an exercise pool and an elevator.

“‘It seems to me it is a place that needs some serious healing,’ Christopher M. Bellitto, a professor of history at Kean University in Union, N.J., said of the archdiocese.”

By James Barron, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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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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Survey finds serious flaws in diocesan financial management / National Catholic Reporter

The Catholic priesthood is aging at an alarming rate, and thousands of U.S. diocesan priests are expected to retire within the next few years. With most diocesan priest pension plans significantly underfunded, questions over where the money comes from to support them may point to a major crisis in the making …

“Half of all priests currently in active ministry also expect to retire by 2019, and most of them expect to receive the pension payments they’ve been promised. Church leaders have known for decades about the looming priest shortage and its implications for sustaining Catholic parishes as Eucharistic communities. Another, more hidden crisis lurks in diocesan pension reserves that are underfunded, many of them seriously …

“The hierarchy must admit that changes are needed in financial management. At the same time, priests and laity must demand more financial transparency and accountability. Pell (Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy), referring to anticipated changes in the Vatican bank said, ‘There need to be changes in the economic area — not just with the so-called Vatican bank — but more generally there is work there to be done [and] a need to ensure that things are being properly done.’

“Let’s hope the American hierarchy gets the message.”

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

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Dana Point parishioner’s lawsuit claims diocese mismanaged funds

“It was one thing when the faithful at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church raised $8 million to build a new parish center, then heard little more about the project.

“But when they learned that the Diocese of Orange planned a $3 million renovation of their beloved church sanctuary – perched on a Dana Point precipice and designed to showcase spectacular ocean views – dozens balked, saying it seemed like a colossal waste of money. They sent a letter to church leadership, trying to stop the renovations and demanded a detailed accounting of money raised and spent.

“They didn’t get far. And so last week, with a heavy heart, one longtime parishioner filed a lawsuit against the church and its administator, the Rev. Brandon Manson, along with Bishop Kevin Vann and the Diocese of Orange, claiming breach of trust.

“‘I have struggled greatly over filing this action,’ said Bill Robinson, a parishioner for 39 years, who works in the legal field. ‘In the end, I have to follow my conscience. We saw what happened in the child abuse scandal in the early 2000s. The shame brought upon the Church was not because of a handful of bad priests, but because of the arrogance of the bishops who considered themselves above the law and not accountable to their congregants.’”

By Teri Sforza Orange County Register — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Millions of dollars each year slip through Roman Catholic collection baskets

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.

More information is available at www.churchsecurity.info and www.votf.org.

Also of interest: Calls grow for reform in Catholic Church financial affairs

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Finance Scandal Spurs German Bishops to Reveal Secret Funds / Reuters via Orlando Sentinel

German Catholic bishops are scrapping centuries of secrecy and reporting the value of their private endowments as a scandal caused by a free-spending prelate puts pressure on them for more financial transparency.

“Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – dubbed “the luxury bishop” – has shocked the Church by admitting six-fold cost overruns on construction of his luxurious new residence, which is now priced at 31 million euros, most of which will be paid from his ample reserves.” By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters, in Orlando Sentinel

Read the rest of Heneghan’s story by clicking here.

Additional stories about Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst:

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