Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

At the five-year mark, financial transparency report shows some progress made, but much improvement needed

This year marks five years that Voice of the Faithful has reviewed annually all U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency. Over the past five years, according to VOTF reviewers, overall diocesan transparency scores have increased, and some dioceses have achieved considerable success, but much work remains to be done.

The 2021 report shows that overall diocesan online financial transparency scores increased from 65% in 2020 to 69% in 2021, but that only 64% of all dioceses posted current audited financial reports, even though those dioceses posting such reports increased from 104 in 2020 to 113 in 2021. Looking back five years, VOTF reported in 2017 that only 65 of the 177 U.S. dioceses posted current audited financial statements. Additionally, the 2017 report showed that 15 dioceses scored 90% or higher, while, in 2021, 38 dioceses achieved scores above 90%.

The 2021 report shows that several dioceses achieved considerable success over the past year. Among those most improved from 2020 are the Diocese of Camden, which scored 20% in 2020 and 82% in 2021. Similarly, Cheyenne scored 25% in 2020 and 70% in 2021; Rapid City 30% and 72%; and Biloxi 57% and 96%.

This year’s top-scoring dioceses all scored 100%: Bridgeport, Charleston, Orlando, and Scranton. The Diocese of Bellville scored next highest, maintaining its 2020 score of 98%. The poorest performing dioceses were: El Paso, 22%; Allentown, 20%; Nashville, 20%; Tulsa, 20%, and St. Thomas, 17%.

In addition, VOTF’s 2021 reviewers concluded:

  • Transparency concerning the membership and activities of Diocesan Finance Councils is limited, with an average score of 4.1 out of 10 on this question. Further, 62 out of 177 dioceses posted no information on their DFC this year. This will figure strongly in VOTF’s current review of lay involvement in Church governance through DFCs.
  • The only area where scores dropped this year is on the parish collection security question. The decrease was only 3.1 to 2.9 out of 10 points, but reflected primarily the conflicting guidance and contradictory policies found within posted financial policies in dioceses. Consistency between posted policies on a diocese’s web pages could easily raise the diocese’s score on this section.

VOTF’s fifth annual review of all dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was conducted between June 1 and Aug. 31 by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2021 Report,” and all previous VOTF reports on diocesan online financial transparency can be read by clicking here.

VOTF 2021 reviewers concluded that, “Although significant progress has been achieved in the last decade, and in particular during the last three years, members of the church in the U.S. must be vigilant if they wish to prevent financial mismanagement and abuse.” They recommend the following for dioceses committed to increasing their financial transparency:

  • If your diocese does not post audited financial reports, communicate your concerns
    to your parish and diocesan leadership. If they say they will provide it upon request, request it!
  • If you cannot find any useful information on your diocesan website concerning the Diocesan Finance Council, communicate your concerns.
  • If your diocese does post audited reports, use the guide What to Look for When Reviewing Diocesan Financial Statements (http://www.votf.org/Financial_Acct-Trans/ReadingFS-VOTF-FWG.pdf) to assess the report. If dioceses post reports that no one reads, who is holding them accountable?
  • If your diocese’s financial transparency score has dropped dramatically since the last review it may be an indication of serious financial problems. Look into possible causes and work to demand transparency and accountability.

Voice of the Faithful News Release, Nov. 12, 2021, Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.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.