Voice of the Faithful publishes 2023 diocesan financial & governance transparency reports

BOSTON - Dec. 19, 2023 - PRLog -- Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic Lay Apostolate committed to promoting Church transparency, has published its 2023 diocesan financial and governance transparency reports. This year marks the seventh year VOTF has reviewed all USCCB dioceses for their online financial transparency and the second year VOTF has studied their online governance transparency, as reflected by lay involvement in Diocesan Finance Councils. The overall results of both studies continue to be positive, report authors said, but much could be improved.

VOTF conducted its 2023 reviews of all 176 dioceses in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during summer 2023. The reports are "Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2023 Report," and "Lay Involvement in Church Governance Through the Diocesan Finance Council: 2023 Report." These and previous such VOTF reports can be read by clicking here.

The 2023 financial transparency report showed the number of dioceses posting current audited financial statements increased from 115 last year to 116 this year. The report also showed a new high of 10 U.S. dioceses received scores of 100%, but despite this improvement in high-scoring dioceses, the overall average score increased only 1%, from 70% in 2022 to 71% in 2023. In 2023, the five dioceses losing the most points lost a total of 158 points, nearly erasing the gain of 185 points by the five most improved dioceses.

The objective for VOTF's governance transparency review was to determine diocesan compliance with Canon Law relating to DFCs, based on information on diocesan websites. VOTF is particularly interested in DFCs because of the importance of lay membership. Under Canon Law, DFC members have duties of "consent" and "consult" and are to be "competent" in matters of finance, law and real estate. These are competencies making lay membership vital.

Also, Canon 1277 requires DFC consent for bishops to pay "extraordinary" expenses. Secret settlement payments to victims of clergy sexual abuse are 'extraordinary,' and if bishops had obtained consent from DFCs, the scandal of child sex abuse would have been discovered much sooner, the report said.

This year, the governance transparency review saw a 60% increase in the number of dioceses receiving passing scores, 29 dioceses in 2023 compared to 18 in 2022, but the 2023 overall average score was 34% compared to 31% in 2022. The governance transparency report's authors concluded, "evidence of compliance with Canon Law by the Diocesan Finance Councils remains disappointingly low."

VOTF's 2023 report authors emphasized again this year, "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, abusers would have been called to account and victims of serial abusers would have been protected."

Nick Ingala
Communications Director
Voice of the Faithful

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