“People have the right to know how we spend the money that is given to us.”
Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Vatican News, June 25, 2021
Since our founding in 2002, Voice of the Faithful® has worked consistently to support increased transparency and accountability for Church finances at the parish and the diocesan levels. We realized then that the lack of financial transparency, especially at the diocesan level, allowed the crimes of clerical sexual abuse to fester unnoticed for decades.
Lack of open accounting does not necessarily indicate malfeasance, but it certainly makes it easier. Further, it represents an abdication of responsibility on the part of lay people. We should exercise responsible stewardship and ensure that the resources we provide to advance the mission of the Church are applied properly.
VOTF’s Financial Working Group (FWG) provides guidelines, background information, and do-it-yourself tools (see below for VOTF Resources) that help you work towards financial transparency and accountability at both the parish and the diocesan level.
We also provide you with a central repository for all publicly available financial information provided by each diocese and eparchy in the U.S. that reports such data online. Use our web portal to check on your diocese, compare it with others, and open links to the financial data they make available. Just click here. Also use these tools:
Instructions on How to Read a Diocesan Financial Statement
After 2002, many dioceses made significant progress in reporting their finances to the lay faithful who provide that support. For example, it is no longer considered acceptable in many parts of the country for the bishop to take financial gifts from faithful members of the diocese without some level of accountability even though bishops still hold all legislative, executive, and judicial authority within a diocese.
In places where professional diocesan financial reports are provided, it is no longer possible for the leadership of a diocese to pay huge legal settlements or provide large sums of money for legal fees without the faithful of the diocese being alerted to the ways in which their contributions are used.
But progress has varied greatly across the United States. Here are tools that can help you obtain greater transparency and accountability in your diocese.
As at the diocese level, it is more common now at the parish level for pastors to make periodic reports to the faithful on weekly donations, costs, and annual budgets. Unfortunately, also as with diocesan finances, progress is uneven and, as with bishops, the pastor who follows good financial reporting practices can be replaced tomorrow by one who reverts to secrecy and silence. Use these tools to help develop better financial reporting and accountability in your parish.
VOTF Resources Available
Financial Accountability — one-page summary of initiative to foster financial transparency and accountability at diocesan level
ProtectingTheParishPursePowerPointPresentation.ppsx To view this slide show, you will need the Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer, which you can download free of charge by clicking here.)
What’s Your Parish’s F-IQ? — a 10-step yes/no questionnaire to assess your parish’s Financial Integrity Quotient, and how secure your weekly parish collections are
Website: Church Security Info (Michael W. Ryan) has useful articles and information about securing the Sunday parish collection