Millions of dollars each year slip through Roman Catholic collection baskets
The Vatican recently reported finding hundreds of millions of dollars “tucked away” off the official balance sheet. This is only one dimension of the Roman Catholic Church’s need for financial accountability. In the United States, theft, fraud and embezzlement occur at every level, with parishes alone losing millions of dollars each year from Sunday collections.
Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® is urging parishes and dioceses to adopt simple security procedures that can protect weekly collections, which are the primary source of income for most parishes, and has developed a simple test to assess the effectiveness of current security procedures.
A 2007 Villanova University survey found that 85 percent of the responding Roman Catholic dioceses had discovered losses and theft of church money in the previous five years, with 11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen. A 2014 study of small businesses by the University of Cincinnati found that 64 percent of small businesses say they experience employee theft; although only 16 percent report them. Parishes closely resemble small businesses in size and number of employees.
A few headlines from the past seven years continue on that theme: “Priest indicted for nearly $700,000 church theft,” “Deacon sentenced to jail for stealing $120,000,” “Pastor gets five years in prison for stealing $200,000 from parish,” “Catholic priest pleads guilty to at least $100K collection plate theft,” “Ex-pastor accused of taking $83,000 from parish,” “Religious education director and maintenance worker charged with stealing collection cash,” “Former priest avoids prison and repays stolen parish funds,” “Cops charge usher with swiping cash”—the list goes on.
Additionally, National Catholic Reporter reported in 2012 that, “according to the most modest estimates, at least $89 million donated each year by the people never gets to the intended Catholic cause or recipient due to theft.”
But those losses can be cut. Parish and diocesan finance councils, which Church Canon Law requires, “would do well to assess the adequacy of their Sunday collection procedures and make necessary changes to secure the collections,” says Michael W. Ryan, the author of Nonfeasance: The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income, who has conducted a 25-year crusade to convince the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to adopt simple security procedures that protect cash collections.
“The level of this protection varies widely from parish to parish and diocese to diocese, and the quality of that protection ranges from good, to marginal or poor, with the latter being highly susceptible to weekly losses due to theft,” Ryan says. “This is why it is absolutely critical to positively secure the collections at the first opportunity—when the ushers meet to consolidate their baskets—and to maintain that level of security throughout the process, up to and including the deposit of all monies into the parish account.”
But “Ryan’s attempt to help the church clean up the loose security policies that drain funds has met with such deep-seated disinterest that he has virtually despaired of getting anywhere,” the NCR article cited above said.
As a first step toward better security, VOTF has developed a simple self-test, with Ryan’s help. He is a retired federal law enforcement official experienced in the conduct of financial audits and security investigations and serves on VOTF’s board of trustees. The test may be downloaded from VOTF’s website by clicking here. Consisting of 10 true-false questions, this test quickly and easily provides any finance council or interested Catholic a general sense of how well or how poorly their parish or diocese's collections are protected.
As a second step, those who take this self-test and find that their collections are not as secure as expected may download appropriate guidelines from VOTF’s Parish Financial Accountability web page by clicking here. According to Ryan, these guidelines will help ensure that every dollar placed into the collection baskets each weekend is, in fact, properly deposited into the parish account.
As evidence of their efficacy, Ryan says, the guidelines were codified and implemented by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2005. Subsequently, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management adopted them as the best practice for handling collections. NLRCM is a respected organization of laity, religious and clergy working together to promote excellence and best practices in management, finances and human resources within the Catholic Church in America.
More information is available at www.churchsecurity.info and www.votf.org.
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 governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, email@example.com
BOSTON, Mass., Jan. 6, 2015 – The Vatican recently reported finding hundreds of millions of dollars “tucked away” off the official balance sheet. read more »
Vatican report conciliatory towards nuns, but VOTF joins call for removal of LCWR mandate
Nuns in the United States can get on with their missions to those on the margins of society in keeping with the best traditions of their religious orders without undue Vatican interference—sort of. The Vatican issued today a report on its six-year apostolic visitation to religious women in the United States.
Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® joins in solidarity with its U.S. sisters first in being encouraged by the report’s conciliatory tone and second in decrying this investigation in the first place and the mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. VOTF would like that mandate removed as soon as possible.
The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life began the apostolic visitation that resulted in this report in 2008. The visitation included all U.S. nuns. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began its investigation of LCWR in 2009, and the group presently is under a Vatican mandate calling for their reform and placing LCWR under the guidance of several U.S. bishops.
LCWR leader Sister Susan Holland, however, said the apostolic visitation report was “affirmative and realistic.” And Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, who leads the smaller Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, said the visitation was “a wonderful one,” during which they spoke honestly and “with the knowledge that what they had to say would eventually reach the Holy Father.”
VOTF hopes that, in the coming weeks, the Vatican will encourage the optimistic view represented by these two women religious leaders so that these issues are resolved quickly.
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 governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org. VOTF is a sponsor of the Nuns Justice Project, www.nunsjustice.org.
Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Murphy's comments on SOL reform are only latest Church salvo against abuse survivors
The Catholic Church has long sought to deny victims of clergy sexual abuse one of their only means of seeking justice—civil lawsuits. By fighting reform of state statute of limitations (SOL) laws, the Church helps prevent survivors from bringing suit against perpetrators and those who cover up the abuse.
Rockville Centre, N.Y., Diocese Bishop William Murphy’s comments in a letter to Long Island parishioners earlier this month are only the latest salvo by the Church against SOL reform.
In fact, the Catholic Church, “through its bishops and state Catholic conferences, is the most powerful institution opposing better child protection legislation in the country, bar none,” according to educator and reform advocate Sister Maureen Turlish.
Murphy’s letter, reprinted in many parish bulletins, sought to influence Catholic voters during midterm elections held Nov. 4. SOL reform was not on the New York ballot; nevertheless, Murphy took the opportunity to say The Child Victims Act, SOL reform legislation sponsored by New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, “seeks to penalize only the Catholic Church for past crimes of child sex abuse.” He said the bill “must be recognized for what it is. Those who support that should be opposed by those of us who know how effectively and permanently the Church has remedied that horrific scourge of the last decade.”
SOL laws are essentially deadlines beyond which victims cannot bring civil suits and prosecutors cannot bring charges. But such suits usually are not brought for many years. Studies have shown that the memory of abuse can be suppressed even into adulthood, and as the crime is steeped in secrecy and shame, decades could pass before a victim seeks justice.
“A vast body of research indicates that the effects of childhood sexual abuse often span a lifetime. The opportunity to seek justice should last just as long,” attorney and writer Jon Wertheim concluded in a 2011 CNN column during the Penn State and Syracuse sports abuse scandals.
Actually, the Markey bill, like other SOL reform laws, does not single out the Catholic Church. The bill covers all private institutions and includes families, where most child sexual abuse occurs. The Catholic Church, however, has fought SOL reform in nearly every state where such laws have been proposed, including New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, even hiring lobbyists and public relations firms in some states to bolster letters to parishioners and admonitions from the pulpit.
This opposition is especially scandalous considering the Church has shielded pedophile priests from prosecution and refused to discipline bishops involved in covering up crimes.
Murphy, who was accused of shielding pedophile priests while vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston, has been fighting the Markey bill since 2009, and called it an “annual threat” in his letter. As for how “effectively and permanently” the Church has dealt with the “horrific scourge,” Murphy is still a bishop, even though the Massachusetts attorney general reported he “placed a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to alleged abusers than on protecting children from sexual abuse.” Revelations of clergy sexual abuse also continue to range from Ireland to Australia, and because of suppressed memory and other factors, we may not know for years whether the Church’s present child protection policies prevent child abuse.
Proponents of such reform, such as Yeshiva University law professor Marci Hamilton, have called SOL reform “the primary front for child sex abuse victims.” She has said that, “if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice.”
Always on the moral high ground, the Catholic Church should be first to want justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors. Justice, according to the Church’s catechism is “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.” Fr. James Connell, a Wisconsin canon lawyer and a founder of Catholic Whistleblowers, which attempts to expose the cover-up of abuse by Catholic Church leadership, has applied this sentiment to the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He says, “Only by living in the truth, the complete truth, can human action and speech generate justice and healing. Without truth there can be no justice and without justice, no healing.” Connell first made these remarks during the 2012 national conference of the Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful®.
Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, email@example.com