It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Joe Finn’s passing from this life on Friday, September 15, 2023. He and his wife Lynn were among the founding members of VOTF responding to the horrific news of abuse and coverup in our Church revealed on January 6, 2002.
In 2012, Joe helped establish the Voice of the Faithful Finance Working Group. The group was created at the request of then-President Mark Mullaney to address the pervasive culture of financial secrecy within the Catholic Church that made the clerical sexual abuse of children possible. This culture of secrecy allowed Catholic bishops to cover up the abuse by secret payments to families victimized by sexual predators within the clergy.
Joe’s focus on Church governance, especially by and through Diocesan Finance Councils, helped shine a light on common practices within DFCs that were contrary to Canon Law and contributed to the abuse crisis. In the first VOTF Governance Report, he wrote:
If the dioceses had followed Canon Law with regard to full disclosure of financial information and included the settlement payments to the survivors of clerical sexual abuse and had followed canon law with regard to obtaining consent from their finance councils for such “extraordinary” payments under Canon 1277, the scandal, sin, and sickness of child sex abuse would probably not have persisted as long as it did.
The only place in Canon Law where the laity have a substantive role in Church governance is on the Diocesan Finance Council. Joe viewed the DFC as the lay “camel’s nose in the tent” – the first place where lay voices could be heard, recognized and acted upon.
Along with his colleagues on the FWG, we will all miss his wisdom, his knowledge of how power is exercised in the Church and his incredible sense of humor. The FWG members are working now on the second VOTF Governance Report. It will stand as a tribute to Joe’s lasting commitment to transparency and accountability within the Church that he loved so deeply.