Modest estimates put losses from financial theft in U.S. Catholic parishes and dioceses at more than $80 million per year. Despite Canon Law mandates for Finance Councils to ensure proper handling and procedures, the opportunities for theft by everyone from janitor to choir leader to secretary to priest abound in many if not most of the 17,000+ parishes and 195 dioceses.
A study by Villanova University in 2007 found that 85% of the dioceses responding to their survey had discovered losses and thefts within the previous five years, with 11% of them putting their losses at $500,000 or more. Often those losses were not reported to authorities or to parishioners.
VOTF’s Parish Financial Accountability project seeks to address that trend and help parishioners tighten security against theft. The Sunday collections provide the bulk of a parish’s revenue. Losses there significantly reduce opportunities to support charities, maintain facilities, administer pastoral programs, and carry out our Church’s mission. If you can ensure that the entire collection gets from the basket into the parish bank account, you have taken a significant step towards financial security.
Start by taking the Financial IQ Test: a simple yes/no assessment to see how secure your own parish’s collections are.
Continue by checking the guidelines available for improving security, talking to the finance council about better methods, becoming an advocate for securing parish collections.
Background & Resources
What’s YOUR Parish’s F-IQ? Download PDF (10 yes/no questions) and print the quiz for distribution
Parish financial security brochure Download PDF for trifold brochure; or email VOTF to request preprinted copies for distribution
Currency counting template Download PDF for simple template you can copy
Guidelines for financial security Read the “best practice” guidelines established in Chicago Archdiocese
Canon Laws on Church Finances Review relevant canons from the Code of Canon Law
For more information, visit the Church Security web site maintained by Mike Ryan, a specialist in parish collections security.