In the Vineyard :: December 19, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 23
Diocesan Financial Transparency Report
VOTF recently released our 6th annual diocesan financial transparency report, and the report shows some bishops are clearly committed to financial transparency. Others, not so much.
This year, the overall average U.S. diocesan transparency score increased from 69% in 2021 to 70% in 2022. The number of dioceses posting current audited financial reports increased from 113 last year to 115 this year. The number posting a current list of Diocesan Finance Council members increased significantly from 84 to 95. All five top-scoring dioceses this year received a score of 100%.
Those dioceses are Charleston, South Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; Orlando, Florida; Rochester, New York; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. All of them are small to mid-sized dioceses, demonstrating that size and financial resources are not key to achieving financial transparency.
The next three highest scoring dioceses are Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 99%; Belleville, Illinois, 98%; and Stockton, California, 97%.
The dioceses with the most improved scores from 2021 to 2022 are Allentown, Pennsylvania, 20% to 79%; Nashville, Tennessee, 20% to 77%; Covington, Kentucky, 50% to 96%; and Denver, Colorado, 51% to 68%.
The lowest scoring diocese are Springfield, Massachusetts, 25%; Colorado Springs, Colorado, 22%; El Paso, Texas, 22%; Tulsa, Oklahoma, 20%; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, 7%.
VOTF’s sixth annual review of all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was conducted during the summer of 2022 by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2022 Report,” and all previous VOTF reports on diocesan online financial transparency can be read by clicking here. Links to VOTF’s previous five diocesan online transparency reports can be read by clicking here.
VOTF 2022 reviewers again emphasized that, “Every Catholic shares in the responsibility to ensure that funds donated for Church work actually go toward those purposes. Without access to financial reports and information on Diocesan Finance Councils, budgets, and the overall financial health of a diocese, ordinary Catholics cannot exercise their full responsibility of stewardship or verify where their donations to the diocese go.”
And again, most emphatically, if the Church had been transparent about payments made to silence victims of clergy sexual abuse, the “horror of clergy sexual abuse,” although not prevented, “would have been reported, not covered up, and abusers would have been called to account for their crimes. Victims of serial abusers would have been protected.”
Interview with Pope Francis Covers Women’s Ordination
In an exclusive interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis spoke at length on the value of women’s work in and for the Church, although he maintained that women may not be ordained as priests. When responding to a question that inquired what he would say to a woman who is serving in the life of the church but felt called to be a priest, he described the problem as a theological one. He said that the church is often only thought of in the ministerial dimension, but it is made up of multiple principles.
Francis then presented a view from some theologians that there are separate, gendered “principles” in the Church along with an administrative one. The “Petrine principle is that of ministry,” he said, in contrast to “the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity in the church, of the woman in the church, where the church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse.” He described the Marian principle as reflecting the dignity of women in the Church in an ecclesial way.
The pope then said there is also a non-theological third dimension of the church: administration. While this was not a theological principle or dimension in which women are involved, he said, it adds great value to the function of the church. He believes “we have to give more space to women.”
He touted the gains made in this administrative dimension for women. In the Vatican, he continued, the “places where we have put women are functioning better. For example, in the Council for the Economy, where there are six cardinals and six laypersons. Two years ago, I appointed five women among the six laypersons, and that was a revolution. The deputy governor of the Vatican is a woman. When a woman enters politics or manages things, generally she does better. Many economists are women, and they are renewing the economy in a constructive way.”
Although the appointment of women to administrative positions may be seen as a progressive view, many Catholics feel it is not progressive enough. In Germany, in particular, participants in the German Synod on Synodality have approved a document entitled “Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church” through a vote, saying “It is not the participation of women in all Church ministries and offices that requires justification, but the exclusion of women from sacramental office.”
Pope Francis has made his position clear: while he continues to support women’s increased participation in the administration of Catholic life and duties, going so far as to say that “the advice of a woman is very important, and the decision of a woman is better,” he does not support women’s ordination. It remains to be seen what the results of the Synod have to share on that topic, and how that will be received by Catholic leadership at all levels.
For a discussion of synodality and women’s roles, see this Commonweal article; you also can download a set of discussion questions for a meeting focused on the article.
For VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the Church, please see here.
Lists of Accused Abusers in California Published
According to a release by Jeff Andersson & Associates last week, 66 Catholic clergymen were accused of child sexual assault in 116 lawsuits stemming from a 2019 state law that expires at the end of the year. The locations of the alleged abuses are affiliated with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archdiocese of San Francisco, Diocese of Fresno, Diocese of Monterey, Diocese of Oakland, Diocese of Sacramento, Diocese of San Jose, and the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Some of the alleged abusers are deceased, but the whereabouts of others are unknown, as are their proximities and access to children. Attorney Mike Finnegan said of the accused perpetrators, “There is great public risk. We are urging the public to help us in any way they can. If you know anything about these newly accused perpetrators, contact law enforcement.”
These accused perpetrators and many others have been identified as part of a wave of lawsuits stemming from a 2019 state law opening up a window of opportunity for victims to file claims of sexual abuse against both individuals and institutions, irrespective of the victim’s age or timing of the alleged incident. Many of these claims would ordinarily be outside of the statute of limitations, so this law allows many to seek justice when they would normally not have such a chance. The period is set to close on December 31st, 2022. More than 1,000 suits involving the Catholic Church have been filed because of the law in the nearly three-year period. Another attorney with the firm, Mike Reck, said “To those survivors who have been suffering in silence for decades, this is an ability to safely, effectively and confidentially say, in many cases for the first time, ‘this happened, this was wrong, and this was not my fault.’”
Bishop Jaime Soto, of the Diocese of Sacramento, ordered that the list of credibly accused perpetrators be released in 2019, and that list included 44 priests and 2 permanent deacons. Bryan Visitacion, the spokesperson for the Diocese, said “We take all allegations of clergy sexual abuse seriously and thoroughly investigate each one. Where appropriate, we will add new information to the list of accused clergy.”
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called for those who served in Sacramento but were accused of abuse elsewhere and those who were credibly accused of abusing adults to be added to the list just last year.
To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
VOTF 2022 Conference Videos
Don’t forget–you can revisit the presentations from our annual conference or, if you missed the event, catch up on what you missed. You will find all the videos on the 2022 Conference page.
More on the Synod and Ongoing Work
Much like VOTF has convened groups to discuss the Synod on Synodality, Today’s American Catholic (TAC) also convened sessions during the Diocesan Phase. Encouraged by the response to the listening sessions and an expressed need for a deeper sense of community, TAC recently started a pilot program to host, promote, and network new and existing Small Christian Communities.
To learn more about these Small Christian Communities, TAC has published, “Cords of Human Kindness: An Introduction to Small Christian Communities,” a brief overview of the origins, methods, and intentions of SCCs that includes additional resources. To learn more about this initiative, please click here.
Evidence suggests Pope John Paul II knew about abuse of minors decades before becoming pope
“A Dutch journalist based in Poland revealed evidence on Friday (Dec. 2) that Pope John Paul II was involved in covering up the abuse of minors while he was the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Krakow. The journalist, Ekke Overbeek, spent the last two years combing through archives in Poland, where he resides, and found several cases where the prominent Catholic Church figure knew about priests who abused children and helped them evade punishment, including transferring them to other parishes.” By NL Times
- Polish church seeks victims of deceased pedophile priest to offer support, By Notes from Poland
Vatican vendettas: Alleged witness manipulation jolts trial
“The text message to the Vatican monsignor offered forgiveness along with a threat: ‘I know everything about you … and I keep it all in my archives,’ it read. ‘I pardon you, Perlasca, but remember, you owe me a favor.’” The message was one of more than 100 newly revealed WhatsApp texts and other correspondence entered into evidence at the Vatican courthouse last week that have jolted a financial crimes trial involving the Holy See’s money-losing investment in a London property.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on ABCNews.com
Head of Cologne abuse investigation commission resigns
“The state-appointed chairman of the commission to investigate abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne has quit, saying he doubted the independence of the commission and wondered whether its main aim was to protect Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. The German Catholic news agency KNA reported Stephan Rixen has stepped down as head of the Independent Commission for the Investigation of Abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne and has withdrawn from the body. Rixen told KNA Dec. 5 that his initial doubts about the independence and effectiveness of the committee had been confirmed.” By Catholic News Service on USCNews.com
Study of moral injury measures ‘added weight’ of clergy sexual abuse and its concealment
“A research team from Xavier University in Cincinnati has created a tool that measures the ‘moral injury’ caused by clergy sexual abuse and its concealment by officials in the Catholic Church. In a report on the pilot study, released Dec. 12, moral injury is described as persistent psychological and emotional distress, spiritual anguish, moral confusion, social isolation, and distrust for institutions. It results from a betrayal of trust or violation of deeply held moral values.” By Katie Collins Scott, National Catholic Reporter
‘We have not hidden anything’: Jesuit superior general interviewed in abuse allegations against Marko Rupnik
“Any case like this is very painful, [but]…. we have not hidden anything,’ says Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus, in a short interview … This represents the first public comments of the superior general regarding the allegations against the Slovenian artist Marko Rupnik, S.J. Father Rupnik, whose mosaics decorate chapels in the Vatican, all over Europe, in the United States and Australia, has been barred from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction after what the Jesuits described as complaints about his ministry. The Society of Jesus released a statement on Dec. 2 responding to the allegations of abuse against Father Rupnik and describing the restrictions on his ministry.” By Antonio Marujo, America: The Jesuit Review
- Jesuit priests demand transparency in abuse case against Vatican artist, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter
- Jesuits admit artist excommunicated before new abuse claims, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
- Closing of Jesuit abuse case left victims feeling betrayed, expert says, By Philip Pullella, Reuters
- Jesuit case underscores secrecy, leniency for abuse of women, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
A Recent Message from Pope Francis
A recent message from Pope Francis focused on remembering how God is always present. He said, “Let us bear this in mind: God is hidden in our life, he is always there – he is concealed in the commonest and most ordinary situations in our life … He is there, in our daily work, in a chance encounter, in the face of someone in need, even when we face days that seem grey and monotonous, it is right there that we find the Lord, who calls to us, speaks to us and inspires our actions.”
He spoke on the importance of preparedness and alertness for God in this Advent season: “In this time of Advent, let us be shaken out of our torpor and let us awaken from our slumber. Let’s try to ask ourselves: am I aware of what I am living, am I alert, am I awake? Do I try to recognize God is present in daily situations, or am I distracted and a little overwhelmed by things? If we are unaware of his coming today, we will also be unprepared when he arrives at the end of times. Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us remain vigilant.”
To view the full Angelus, please see here.
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Vineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.
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