Voice of the Faithful, an independent group of lay faithful, released its fourth annual diocese financial transparency survey in the United States, with the Archdiocese of Baltimore one of only five in the country to achieve a perfect score of 100 in the 2020 exam.
Dioceses with a perfect score range from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with 1.3 million Catholics to the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, with less than 45,000 Catholics. Baltimore was the second largest of this group with 517,000 Catholics. The other dioceses in the upper group were Rochester, NY, and Erie, Pa.
“The Archdiocese of Baltimore got its perfect score in 2020 by adding five points to its score in question 3 when it released a current audited financial report and adding a point to question 8 when it posted dates appointment of members of its diocesan financial council. ,” the VOTF report noted.
Since 2017, when the organization began its diocesan financial transparency review, Baltimore has consistently ranked among the top dioceses. In this first year, the Archdiocese obtained 55 out of 60 points (92 percent).
The report notes that VOTF “focuses on diocesan websites because the public face of any large business or organization is its website. It can be reasonably assumed that unpublished information accessible on an organization’s website is not intended for public viewing.
VOTF said that access to financial reports and information on financial advice and budgets helps Catholics understand where their donations are going.
“Some bishops have made a clear public commitment to financial transparency, even during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges associated with it. Others reveal almost nothing, ”the report says. “This 2020 report, and the three that preceded it, provide tools that faithful Catholics can use to understand how their diocese is using their gifts and to help them exercise good stewardship of the gifts God has given them. “
John Matera, Archdiocese of Finance, said: “We are very pleased to receive a perfect score in the report and proud of the steps the Archdiocese of Baltimore has taken to achieve financial transparency and integrity.
“We remain committed to this goal and are grateful to the members of our Financial Board and to all who work hard every day to ensure that the resources entrusted to the Archdiocese are channeled appropriately and effectively to serve the God’s people and those in greatest need, ”said Matera, who is also executive director of management services.
The VOTF exam, conducted each summer, consists of 10 weighted questions, with points awarded according to the importance of the subject, as perceived by the lay organization.
The questions relate to the accessibility of financial information on the diocese website, the availability of audit reports, financial policies, and collection and counting procedures in parishes and diocese.
For example, in the question on diocesan financial counseling, points are awarded if the membership is published, if each member’s terms of service are listed, if at least three of the members are lay people, and if the credentials are member are listed.
The archdiocesan finance council, the Financial Administration Board (BOFA), meets regularly to oversee budgets, audits and tax policy. It has 25 members, including 19 lay people, with experience in financial affairs and civil law.
Mercy Sister Helen Amos, executive chair of the board of directors of Mercy Health Services and vice chair of BOFA, told Catholic Review in a 2019 interview: “For the most part, the role of the board is advisory, but there are specific issues where the size of a proposed transaction requires the Archbishop to have BOFA’s consent to act.
VOTF said the overall average transparency score of U.S. dioceses has declined slightly from 65.11% to 64.76% in 2020, although the average score in the key area of audited financial reporting has fallen from 15.73. at 16.19 (out of 25 possible).
Only 59 percent of the 177 dioceses and archdioceses have published an updated audited financial report; 6% only posted a summary and 24% posted no financial report.
Two dioceses improved their scores by more than 50 points – the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa. From 37 points to 92 and the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul from 45 to 96.
For more information on financial accountability in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, visit https://www.archbalt.org/the-archdiocese/fiscal-accountability
Email Christopher Gunty at [email protected]
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