NEWTON, Mass., Oct. 1, 2012 – Recent exposing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s financial woes (see “Archdiocese of Phila. in serious financial shape – and so are its parishes,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 30, 2012) underscores the Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful’s long-time calls for more transparency and accountability in parish and diocesan finances.
VOTF distributed a paper called Financial Transparency and Accountability during its recently concluded 10th Year Conference in Boston. “Since its founding in 2002,” the paper begins, “Voice of the Faithful® has worked consistently to support increased transparency and accountability with regard to church finances at the parish and the diocesan levels. We (VOTF members) realized then that the scandal of clerical sexual abuse was enabled by lack of diocesan financial transparency. Since 2002, significant progress has been made in many dioceses, although the progress has varied greatly across the United States.”
VOTF is on record as applauding the progress in financial transparency in the Archdiocese of Boston under Cardinal Sean O’Malley; while local financial experts in Philadelphia, according to Philadelphia Inquirer, point to the opposite there. “’It probably seems to them (Philadelphia archdiocese) that they are being more transparent,’ said Nancy Gunza, a partner in the Plymouth Meeting office of the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, who looked at the (archdiocese’s) June financial report. ‘But without a fully consolidated set of financial statements, the picture’s not complete.’”
VOTF’s paper on financial transparency and accountability makes several other points, including:
- Bishops presently may hold all legislative, executive and judicial authority, but where professional diocesan financial reports are provided, they no longer are able to pay out huge legal settlements or provide large sums of money for legal fees without diocesan Catholics being alerted to how their contributions are being used.
- Lay Catholics must read, reflect on, and question diocesan financial reports, especially in those dioceses with access to specialized expertise in finance and accounting, and are encouraged to help bishops find and take advantage of such expertise where lacking.
- Bishops are responsible under Canon Law to institute effective finance councils. Canon 492 states, “In every diocese, a finance council is to be established, over which the diocesan bishop himself or his delegate presides and which consists of at least three members of the Christian faithful truly expert in financial affairs and civil law, outstanding in integrity, and appointed by the bishop.” VOTF suggests preference for lay Catholic council members, as they possess true expertise in financial affairs.
- Bishops are encouraged to move outside their inner circle of advisors to appoint highly qualified lay members to diocesan finance councils as a particularly powerful sign of openness that can lead to true transparency and accountability, which is essential in rebuilding trust between laity and clergy eroded by financial and sexual abuse scandals.
Voice of the Faithful: Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.
Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360 Office, 617-291-3495 Cell, firstname.lastname@example.org