By Voice of the Faithful
Discloses Majority of U.S. Catholic Bishops Fail to Properly Protect the Church’s Primary Source of Income
A 2017 study of the websites of all 32 U.S. archdioceses and 145 dioceses disclosed wide disparity in online financial transparency and accountability. The study was conducted by the Finance Working Group of Voice of the Faithful®, a movement of lay Catholics concerned, among other things, with helping to ensure that the bishops administer the Church’s financial resources accountably and transparently.
The review of all 177 U.S. arch/diocesan websites disclosed a level of openness well below what is reasonably expected of an organization anywhere near the size of the U.S. Catholic Church. Overall scores ranged from a high of 59 to a low of 10 out of a maximum possible 60 points for the ten questions addressed by the review. The average overall score achieved by the 145 dioceses was 36 out of a possible 60; that computes to 60% if scoring on a percentage basis. The 32 archdioceses performed somewhat better, achieving an average overall score of 39 or 65%.
Of the ten questions, two were weighted more heavily than the others; one concerns whether or not the arch/diocese posted its most recent audited financial statement. The second weighted question—good for 10 points—concerns whether or not the arch/diocese requires its parishes to employ the two most important elements needed to maintain a genuinely secure Sunday collection system: serially numbered bags and counting teams composed of three or more individuals.
Of all the questions in the study, both the archdioceses and dioceses scored most poorly on the Sunday collection security question. The 32 archdioceses’ average score was 2.9 or less than 30%, and the 145 dioceses’ average score was even worse at 1.9 or less than 20%. And the really sad part of that dismal performance is the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could have ended the Sunday collection’s extreme vulnerability decades ago with little more than the stroke of a pen.
Canon Law—specifically Canon 455—gives conferences such as the USCCB the authority to issue “general decrees” that, once passed, apply to all the arch/dioceses within the affected conference. The USCCB has issued many such general decrees over the years, including those put in place for the protection of children. Although the Vatican must endorse them, the greatest hurdle to their passage is the requirement that at least two-thirds of the prelates who belong to the conference must vote to approve them.
CLICK HERE to read VOTF’s entire report which includes exhibits detailing each of the 177 arch/dioceses’ scores for each of the 10 questions researchers used to assess and rank their online transparency and accountability.