In the Vineyard: November 12, 2018

In the Vineyard :: November 12, 2018 :: Volume 18, Issue 20

News from National

VOTF Releases 2018 Diocesan Financial Transparency Scores

Anger over clergy sexual abuse has risen dramatically with new revelations in recent months. Voice of the Faithful has long considered the traditional secrecy surrounding Catholic Church finances to be linked to secrecy surrounding clerical sexual abuse. To address such secrecy, VOTF embarked on an analysis of diocesan financial reporting to the faithful. In late-October, we released our second annual study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency, which shows the average score for those dioceses rising only marginally.

The average overall score achieved by all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Voice of the Faithful’s “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2018” was 39.7 out of 60, or 66 percent, which represents a 5 percent increase over the 2017 average score. Thirty-nine percent of dioceses still have not posted audited financial statements on their websites, and 25 percent do not post a financial report of any kind.

Much of the recent anger over clergy abuse is invested in the secrecy surrounding the abuse. “Carrying out a widespread coverup of criminal acts without access to large amounts of untraceable money is impossible,” said Margaret Roylance, Ph.D., a VOTF trustee and Finance Working Group chair.

“In the wake of ongoing revelations about clerical sexual abuse,” she continued, “every Catholic who loves the Church is justly angry and asking serious questions about our Church leadership. This report is one tool in the hands of faithful Catholics who want to know what each of us can do. Genuine financial transparency will be essential in rebuilding U.S. Catholics’ trust in their bishops.”

In the first public anouncement of the 2018 report summary, at the VOTF 2018 Conference in Providence RI, Roylance called on the faithful to take actions that can enhance transparency:

  • If your diocese does not post its audited financial statement or, worse, not even an unaudited financial report, your diocesan leadership is being less than forthright about its finances. Do something about it.

  • If your diocese does not mandate safe collection procedures, it is failing in its duty to protect the resources you have provided to them. Do something about it.

  • If the names and backgrounds of your Diocesan Finance Council members cannot be found on your diocesan website, you have no way of knowing if they are “truly expert in financial affairs and civil law, outstanding in integrity,” as Canon Law requires. Do something about it.

“We must let our bishops know if their failures of financial transparency prevent us from fulfilling our obligations as good stewards of the gifts God has given us,” she said.

Although the transparency scores of 21 dioceses in the 2018 study dropped from 2017, more than 70 had higher scores and some achieved very significant increases. The Archdiocese of Omaha went from a dismal 26 to 56, and the Diocese of Orlando from 26 to a perfect score of 60, which tied with the Diocese of Burlington.

However, Burlington received a qualified opinion (that is, the auditors found problems) from outside auditors, whereas Orlando received an unqualified (good) opinion on its audit.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa was the only one of the 177 to post highlights of their Finance Council meetings—another significant factor in diocesan financial transparency.

The highest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Burlington, Vermont, and Orlando, Florida, tied at 60
  • Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland, and Sacramento, California, tied at 59
  • Bismarck, North Dakota, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Buffalo, New York, Des Moines, Iowa, Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Omaha, Nebraska, and San Diego, California, tied at 56

The lowest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Orange, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, tied at 19

  • Salina, Kansas, 18

  • Brownsville, Texas, Knoxville, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Portland, Oregon, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, 15

  • Grand Isle, Nebraska, 13

  • St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, 12

The complete 2018 report is available on VOTF’s web site, under Programs/Financial Accountability.

Another Video from the 2018 Conference

You can hear Margaret Roylance talk about the summary of the 2018 Financial Transparency report by clicking this link to the video from our 2018 Conference. Videos also have been posted for the talks by Prof. Massimo Faggioli and Marie Collins on our Speakers page. We should be posting the remaining videos this week.

You also can find more comments from the lunch-time Listening Sessions at the 2018 Conference in the VOICES column in this issue.

Holy Trinity Church in Washington DC Takes Action

Holy Trinity Church entered into a Season of Discernment to help process and respond to the crisis in the Catholic Church. The parish is located in the diocese where former-Cardinal McCarrick was revealed to be a sex abuser and Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigned after evidence that he had covered up sex abuse. (Note: Cardinal Wuerl remains as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese even though Pope Francis accepted his resignation as archbishop.)

Dismayed by new revelations in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, the actions of Cardinal McCarrick, and the response of the hierarchy over such revelations, over the past three months hundreds of Holy Trinity parishioners have engaged in a series of listening sessions organized as an initial step in response to the anguish and anger such news prompted. They followed up with online outreach for parishioners to continue to express their thoughts.

On November 4, members of the Church met to begin a process that will take them from the listening phase to action planning in a manner that ensures all voices are heard and that is drawn from the principles of Ignatian Spirituality and Catholic social teaching. To read the feedback from the parishioners as well as the next steps the groups will be taking with this feedback, click to the parish’s open forum page.

Holy Trinity is not the only parish hosting listening sessions, writing letters to their bishops, or marching in protests and taking other actions in response to the news that–so far–about one-third of living U.S. bishops participated in covering up clergy sex abuse. If your parish has not taken such steps, we recommend reviewing the process Holy Trinity followed and considering it for your own faith community.

Add Your Voice to a Sirius Podcast of “Catholic Voices”

Here’s yet another way to share your thoughts on the Catholic clergy abuse scandal and the way the bishops have handled it. The producers say, “We want to understand the roots of this problem, what the church has done effectively to prevent child sexual abuse since 2002, and what still needs to be done to ensure healing and justice within the church.”

Complete instructions, including the questions to consider and how to create a recording and then send it, are in a Catholic Community Voices document online.

We encourage everyone to consider responding.

Voices from the Conference

On the agenda for lunch at VOTF’s 2018 Conference were mini-listening sessions, so attendees could express their reactions, feelings, and needs in light of revelations about former Cardinal McCarrick, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, and other news.

Facilitators at each table moderated the discussion, which focused on four questions. Here are a few of the remarks collected on October 6 in reference to Questions 3 and 4.

Question 3: How can you exercise your rights and power as a lay person?

We need to claim our voice. Not just talk but act. We have the rights; we need to exercise our power.

Have a synod of the faithful to make strong suggestions about what we want the Church to be.

Hold priests accountable for their actions not only on sex abuse but financial abuse hold the clergy accountable.

Let us get involved with formation in seminaries. This happens in Australia.

No contribution to Diocean Capital Campaign letters.

Active participation.

Money is power. If we withhold our contributions perhaps we will be heard.

Let’s cut out the ordained bureaucrats and put them in the parishes – like Francis asking that the shepard smell like the sheep.

Question 4: What actions must the hierarchy take in order for you to see credible progress​?

Financial transparency – lay involvement – women priests and deacons.

Back to basics- Love God, Love your neighbor – see God in everyone.

Public repentance for structural sin.

Public apology from parish priest.

Create a Commission of the Vatican that is not beholden to the Vatican – that is independent and that has the power to speak and be heard.

Stop blaming the devil … take responsibility.

Root problem of the crisis is clericalism. We need lay involvement in the selection of bishops. Bishop terms should be limited rather than for life.

It is very important that the laity be involved. – but we need to be careful of the self-interest of the people in power – lay or ordained. Not so sure how to break away from our self-interest.

Open the doors; show results of lay input.

Take their gold off, put on sandals and come to the parish.

Be more transparent – more responsible priests.

Bishop without credibility should be gone.

Need honesty and contrition.

[To] see ordained [should] collaborate with equality with each of us individual catholics.


Confront duplicity and clericialism.

Simplify – dress, aura approach and trappings.

More open to women in all capacities.


Catholic bishops promised reform in sex-abuse scandal. But they didn’t look at their own misdeeds
“Sixteen years after the clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded in Boston, the American Catholic Church is again mired in scandal. This time, the controversy is propelled not so much by priests in the rectories as by the leadership, bishops across the country who like (Bishop Robert) Finn have enabled sexual misconduct or in some cases committed it themselves. More than 130 US bishops — or nearly one-third of those still living — have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to a Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer examination of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.” By Jenn Abelson and Thomas Farragher, The Boston Globe, and Julia Terruso and William Bender, Philadelphia Inquirer

DiNardo, USCCB head, was bishop during years diocese hid priest’s abuse
“The Diocese of Sioux City admitted Oct. 31 that it had concealed for decades the identity of a priest who had abused dozens of Iowa boys, as reported by the Associated Press. One of the bishops during that period was Daniel DiNardo, now cardinal archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Associated Press obtained a Feb. 12 letter written by the diocese vicar general. According to the letter, AP reports that ‘in 1986, Coyle reported his ‘history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys’ to Sioux City’s bishop, revealing that he had victimized approximately 50 youths over a 20-year period while serving in several Iowa parishes.” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Federal government tells Catholic bishops not to destroy sex abuse documents
“The Department of Justice has sent a sweeping request to every Roman Catholic diocese in the United States not to destroy documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse, a sign that the federal investigation into the church could grow far more extensive. Catholic bishops have been asked by the federal government to retain their files on a broad array of internal matters, including sexual abuse investigations, and the transfer of priests across state or international borders, or to treatment centers. The request includes documents contained in ‘secret archives’ — the confidential files that are kept by each diocese.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times

A Step Toward Accountability
Reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the church hierarchy have led to increased attention to the church’s secrecy around its finances. Until only recent decades, U.S. diocesan financial affairs were kept confidential and knowledge was compartmentalized; even some very highly placed diocesan officials were unaware of the settlements used to keep clerical sexual abuse under wraps. It was generally assumed that once contributions hit the collection basket, parishioners had no business knowing how the bishops used that money. What they would have learned is that the U.S. Catholic Church has spent $3.99 billion related to clerical-abuse settlements.” By David Castaldi, Joseph Finn and Margaret Roylance, Voice of the Faithful, on

Synod ends, calling women’s inclusion in Catholic leadership a ‘duty of justice’
“A worldwide gathering of hundreds of the Catholic Church’s prelates ended Oct. 27 with the issuing of some of the global institution’s strongest language yet for the inclusion of women in its all-male decision-making structures, calling the matter a ‘duty of justice’ that requires a ‘courageous cultural conversion.’ Although the final document from the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops does not mention women’s ordination — neither to the priesthood nor to the diaconate — it acknowledges that women have been excluded from decision-making processes even when they ‘do not specifically require ministerial responsibility.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Amid sex abuse crisis, Pope Francis calls on bishops to gather for retreat hosted by Blasé Cupich
“Pope Francis has called on Catholic bishops nationwide to gather for a historic seven-day spiritual retreat at Mundelein Seminaryin suburban Chicago in January as church hierarchy grapples with the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal. As chancellor of the seminary, Cardinal Blase Cupich — an Omaha native and leader of the Chicago archdiocese — will serve as host of the gathering, which could include some 300 bishops from around the country.” By Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, in Omaha World-Herald

The U.S. Catholic Church is facing an unprecedented wave of sex abuse investigations
“In the months since a Pennsylvania grand jury announced the names of more than 300 priests who’d abused at least 1,000 children, authorities across the United States have launched investigations of unprecedented scale into sex abuse within the U.S. Catholic Church. On Wednesday (Oct. 24), Virginia became at least the 15th state where officials have announced a plan to investigate sex abuse allegations within the Church. At the federal level, the Justice Department has subpoenaed records from at least seven of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses in a probe believed to be the first of its kind.” By Carter Sherman,

New York bishop accused of sexual abuse
“An auxiliary Catholic bishop in New York, John Jenik, has been accused of sexual abuse and removed from his public ministry, Catholic officials said, the latest scandal to hit an institution already reeling from revelations of inappropriate behavior by its clergy around the globe. “Although the alleged incidents occurred decades ago, the Lay Review Board has concluded that the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in a statement on Wednesday (Oct. 31).” By Sharon Otterman, The New York Times

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …

Start Your Christmas Shopping with VOTF

If you are super organized and ready to start your Christmas shopping, please consider starting at this link Amazon will donate a portion of its profits to VOTF.

Pope Francis November Prayer Intention

“We can speak with splendid words but if there is no peace in our heart, there will be no peace in the world,” says Pope Francis in his November prayer intention – watch it here.

Questions, Comments?

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