BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 20, 2019―Voice of the Faithful has completed its third annual study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency and concluded that, although a majority of dioceses have made a commitment to financial transparency, a sizable minority share little or no verifiable financial information with their members.
The report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2019 Report,” found that:
- 65% of U.S. dioceses have exhibited a commitment to financial transparency by sharing audited financial reports on their websites;
- The percentage of U.S. dioceses posting audited financial reports has increased from 56% in 2017 to 61% in 2018 to 65% in 2019;
- 8% of the dioceses provided only unaudited reports in 2019, and the remaining 27% posted no financial information at all;
- The average diocesan transparency score dropped slightly in 2019 due to tighter scoring criteria, but some dioceses achieved dramatic improvement; and
- Other dioceses have stopped posting audited reports, causing their scores to drop sharply.
The average overall score achieved by all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Voice of the Faithful’s 2019 report was 65.25%. Five dioceses received perfect scores of 100%:
- Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska;
- Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina;
- Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania;
- Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and
- Diocese of Rochester, New York.
The report pointed out that “financial transparency can help address an array of problems that have emerged within the Church.” One of these problems is the “horror” of worldwide clergy sexual abuse. “If the extent of the financial settlements made by bishops to hide clerical sexual abuse had become known through transparent financial reporting when abuse reports started breaking long before 2002,” the report said, “lay Catholics would have been aware that the abuse was not a rare exception, but widespread.”
Another problem is “fraudulent” diversion of funds donated by the faithful by clergy or laity. “The absence of clear and accessible financial reports, certified by audits, and of properly implemented collection and reporting protocols, makes it much easier to divert funds donated by members of a diocese … 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.”
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.