The Diocese of Harrisburg’s commitment to the highest standards of good stewardship, accountability and transparency in the financial gifts it receives from the faithful were reaffirmed with the recent release of the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) Annual Diocesan Online Financial Transparency Study. This study, conducted each year by the independent VOTF organization, reports on the financial transparency of dioceses and archdioceses throughout the United States.
In 2020, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a total score of 86% out of 100%, maintaining its score from 2019.
The VOTF report identifies those U.S. dioceses that are working toward enhanced financial transparency. Financial transparency, the report says, “can help address an array of problems that emerged within the Church in recent centuries” and also “guards against fraudulent diversion of donated funds by clergy or by laity.”
This marks the fourth financial transparency study completed by VOTF. The report reviews a range of criteria through a 10-question worksheet, with each criteria adding a certain value to the final score. Some of these criteria include how accessible the financial information is; if the posted reports have been audited; if information is available on the annual appeal and the programs it supports; if members of the finance council and accounting staff are listed; if financial policies are posted; and if collection counting policies are posted.
The Diocese of Harrisburg maintained its score from last year, despite being unable to publish its financial statement due to the ongoing bankruptcy process which began in February.
As stated on the Diocesan website, “Consistent with its policy of providing financial disclosure, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg has worked hard for many years to provide financial transparency. On February 19, 2020 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Due to this ongoing process, we are unable to release financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019 until this process is complete. The financial records of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg will be made available through these proceedings. All documents related to the bankruptcy can be found at https://dm.epiq11.com/case/rcdh/info.”
“We remain pleased with this year’s results as cited in the VOTF report. While our overall score remained the same, improvements in certain areas were offset by our inability to provide audited financial statements due to the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings,” said Donald J. Kaercher, chief financial officer for the Diocese. “We look forward to the time when the Diocese emerges from bankruptcy and we can resume our regular financial reporting. We also applaud VOTF for their work in promoting and improving financial transparency across dioceses. In Harrisburg, we remain focused on and committed to the same standards and financial transparency promoted in the report.”
The 2020 review process began on June 1, 2020, and ended on August 31, 2020. Three independent reviewers conducted the review, with each reviewing all 177 diocesan websites.
According to the report, the overall average diocesan transparency score dropped slightly from 65.11% in 2019 to 64.76% in 2020. The average score in the key area of audited financial reporting increased from 15.73 to 16.19, however.
Other findings in the VOTF report include:
- 70% of U. S. dioceses have exhibited a commitment to financial transparency by sharing audited financial reports on their websites, up from 65% in 2019.
- Several dioceses achieved significant increases in financial transparency in 2020 while others share little or no verifiable financial information with their members.
Five dioceses that received a perfect score of 100% were the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska; the Archdiocese of Baltimore; the Diocese of Erie; the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and the Diocese of Rochester, New York.
The complete 2019 VOTF report is available online at http://www.votf.org/FWG%202020%20Report%20for%20Website.pdf.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness