After five years, financial transparency report shows progress, but much improvement is needed
BOSTON, November 18, 2021 / PRNewswire / – This year mark five years that Voice of the Faithful has annually reviewed the online financial transparency of all U.S. Catholic dioceses. Over the past five years, according to VOTF reviewers, overall diocesan transparency scores have increased and some dioceses have achieved considerable success, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The 2021 report shows that the overall online financial transparency scores of dioceses have increased from 65% in 2020 to 69% in 2021, but that only 64% of all dioceses have published current audited financial reports, even though dioceses publishing such reports fell from 104 in 2020 to 113 in 2021. Looking back five years, VOTF reported in 2017 that only 65 of 177 US dioceses have published current audited financial statements. In addition, the 2017 report showed that 15 dioceses obtained a score of 90% or more, while in 2021, 38 dioceses obtained scores above 90%.
The 2021 report shows that several dioceses have achieved considerable success over the past year. Among those who have improved the most from 2020 are the Diocese of Camden, which got 20% in 2020 and 82% in 2021. Similarly, Cheyenne got 25% in 2020 and 70% in 2021; Rapid City 30% and 72%; and Biloxi 57% and 96%.
The highest ranked dioceses this year all obtained 100%: Bridgeport, Charleston, Orlando, and Scranton. The Diocese of Bellville had the second highest score, maintaining its 2020 score of 98%. The worst performing dioceses were: El Paso, 22%; Allentown, 20%; Nashville, 20%; Tulsa, 20%, and Saint-Thomas, 17%.
In addition, VOTF 2021 evaluators concluded:
- Transparency regarding the composition and activities of Diocesan Finance Councils is limited, with an average score of 4.1 out of 10 on this issue. In addition, 62 of the 177 dioceses have not published any information about their CFD this year. This will feature strongly in VOTF’s current review of lay involvement in church governance through CFDs.
- The only area where scores have dropped this year is the issue of parish fundraising security. The decrease was only 3.1 to 2.9 out of 10 points, but mainly reflected conflicting guidelines and conflicting policies found in financial policies posted in dioceses. Consistency between policies posted on a diocese’s web pages could easily increase the diocese’s score in this section.
The fifth annual VOTF review of all dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been conducted between June 1 and August 31 by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2021 Report”, and all previous VOTF Diocesan Online Financial Transparency Reports can be read by clicking here.
VOTF 2021 reviewers concluded that “While significant progress has been made over the past decade, and particularly over the past three years, church members in the United States need to be vigilant if they wish to prevent mismanagement and financial abuse. They recommend the following to dioceses committed to increasing their financial transparency:
- If your diocese does not publish audited financial reports, communicate your concerns
to your parish and diocesan direction. If they say they will provide it on request, ask for it!
- If you cannot find useful information on your diocesan website regarding the Diocesan Financial Council, communicate your concerns.
- If your diocese publishes verified reports, use the guide What to look for when reviewing diocesan financial statements (http://www.votf.org/Financial_Acct-Trans/ReadingFS-VOTF-FWG.pdf) to evaluate the report. If dioceses publish reports that no one reads, who holds them responsible?
- If your diocese’s financial transparency score has dropped dramatically since the last exam, it could be a sign of serious financial problems. Look for possible causes and work to demand transparency and accountability.
Press release from the voice of the faithful, November 12, 2021, Nick ingala, [email protected], 781-559-3360
The Voice of the Faithful®: The mission of Voice of the Faithful® is to provide a prayerful, mindful voice through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and leadership of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity, and shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information on www.votf.org.
SOURCE Voices of the Faithful