Diocese of Ossory is top of Transparency League

Diocese of Ossory is top of Transparency League

62% post no Financial Statements on their websites

A recent analysis by Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) in the USA showed that 34% of 177 dioceses did not include any financial information about their diocese on their websites. But our 26 Irish dioceses are far worse with 62% having no financial information on their websites!

Pope Francis has put a strong emphasis on financial reporting and transparency, though he has suffered several public reverses! Strangely enough, Canon Law does not require financial reporting by dioceses. But with all monies for the church raised by donations from all the people of God over many centuries, surely in the 21st century our dioceses should be publishing annual financial reports?

In Ireland the drive for financial reporting and transparency has come from the Charities Act (2009) and the Irish dioceses come under this act, as well as the UK Charities Acts 2008 and 2013. There are numerous Financial Statements in the Companies Office covering many dioceses, parishes and trusts. But in this day and age the website is the shop window for all organizations and that is where this information should be available in each diocese.

The VOTF analysis is based on 10 questions and the same questions were used to analyse the Irish dioceses. The questions and full table of analysis is attached in an Appendix.

Table 1: Dioceses Transparency Scores
Diocese Score Audited Accounts on website
Maximum score:  60  
     
1 Ossory 35 Yes
2 Down & Connor 32 Yes
3 Dublin 30 Yes
4 Elphin 30 Yes
5 Cork & Ross 27 No
6 Limerick 25 Yes
7 Ferns 24 No
8 Cloyne 22 No
9 Killala 22 No
10 Clogher 17 No
11 Kildare & Leighlin 17 No
12 Armagh 15 No
13 Cashel & Emly 15 No
14 Derry 15 No
15 Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora 15 No
16 Raphoe 15 No
17 Waterford & Lismore 15 No
18 Achonry 12 No
19 Dromore 10 No
20 Kerry 10 No
21 Killaloe 10 No
22 Tuam 10 No
23 Ardagh & Clonmacnoise 5 No
24 Clonfert 5 No
25 Kilmore 5 No
26 Meath 5 No

 

Congratulations to Ossory who top the table with their audited 2016 Financial Statements available on their website. But it is disappointing to see Armagh in mid table, though we found a note on their website saying the proper publication of financial statements …. is a priority. Also disappointing is to see a large diocese like Meath at the bottom of the table.

It is of concern that only 5 of our 26 dioceses publish audited accounts on their websites. A further 5 publish some financial data. That still leaves 16 of our dioceses who provide no financial data on their websites. Is this back to the need-to-know thinking where the laity are routinely excluded from such information? The level of trust in our church institutions has declined dramatically in recent years. With the decline in male-only-celibate vocations the laity are being asked to take on many more roles in supporting our church. Surely the publication of audited Financial Statements is a basic requirement for rebuilding trust?

In summary the 2 main points are:

  1. Only 38% (10/26) posted some financial data on their websites. This compares with 66% for the USA.
  2. Only 58% identify the members of their Finance Committee on their websites. This compares to 49% in the USA.

 

Colm Holmes

We Are Church Ireland

 

Appendix

  Table 2: The 10 Questions as used by VOTF Score
  (Maximum score = 60)  
1 Can any financial data be found within a few to several minutes? 0 – 5
2 Is there a workable internal “search” function?                                  Note: Deduct 3 points if present but not on homepage. Deduct 1 point if not on the other criteria pages. 0 – 5
3 Are audited financial statements posted? Note: Enter the latest year in “Notes.” Deduct 5 points if the latest statement is 1-2 yrs old, 10 points if 3-4 years old and 15 points if 5 or more years old. 0 – 15
4 If the answer to #3 is “No,” is financial info reported in another format, e.g., booklet form?     Note: Score 0 if answer to #3 is “Yes.” 0 – 2
5 Annual Appeal Score: Is the appeal’s purpose explained somewhere on the website, and/or is it reported on the financial statements?           Note: Deduct 5 points if neither is true. 0 – 5
6 Annual Assessments (cathedraticum) Is the cathedraticum explained somewhere on the website, and/or is it reported on the financial statements? Note: Deduct 5 points if neither is true. 0 – 5
7 Is contact info for the business office posted?   Note: Deduct 2 points if only one name is posted and their contact info is shown. 0 – 5
8 Is the finance council identified? Note: Deduct 3 points if there are not 3 lay members. Deduct 1 point if credentials are not posted. 0 – 5
9 Are parish financial guidelines posted? 0 – 5
10 Are detailed collection & counting procedures posted?  Note: Deduct 4 points for each “No” answer below. 0 – 10
Are serially numbered containers required?
Are three (3) or more counters required?

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. I think its also worth saying that if we as adult lay members of the Church are to move beyond the childish, passive dependency of the past, we should WANT to know how our money is being spent.

  2. Phil Greene says:

    Totally agree Martin about transparency, anyone contributing their hard-earned money , after tax , to any charity should have the ability to see where their money is being spent. After all the latest scandals charities are now eager to show potential donors how their money is used.. it is not in minute detail.. but these tables had to be produced from basic bookkeeping recording and it is the least we should expect. Knowing that people in positions of power are accountable for their spending of other peoples’ money is vital and instils trust in any given charity. Robust controls must also be seen to be in place at local and regional levels.I also agree with Steve that it is not vital to have the financial statements available on a website, but they should be readily available to the Parish or indeed anyone who requests the information.
    As for finding the right direction for renewal in the Church, isn’t it about being able to trust the institution again at all levels? Being able to see the Financials is another facet of this renewal, dismiss it at your peril.

  3. Thank you ‘We are Church’ for this helpful piece of work. Transparency is vitally important in any institution. That includes the Church, which in the past we naively assumed to be beyond possible wrongdoing. It also challenges the clerical ‘need to know’ mentality and practice that Colm refers to. Yes, as lay members of the Church we do need to know how our money is being spent.

  4. This is a very interesting article and study. To be frank, I’m less concerned about financial data being placed on a website than I am with this information being broadly made available to the people (and clergy) of the Diocese. These days, the internet is a voyeuristic and exhibitionist forum for basically everything. I’m not so sure that citizens at large need to know every last detail about a diocese’s financial health. After all they are not members ‘of the body’ anyway.

    Here in Canada, all registered charities have their charities reports posted to our Revenue Canada (Government of Canada) website to assist the public in researching the merits of an individual charity. I am told that about 500 Registered Charities lose their status every year in Canada which of course means that they cannot issue receipts for charitable giving.

  5. To be totally honest I found this post to be bizarre.
    I have full confidence in the way the finance is operating in the diocese where I live and to be honest I’m not very concerned how the resources of the diocese are used.
    I would have hoped that we have be looking in a different direction to the renewal of the Church in Ireland.

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