If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage everyone to read Professor Jack Ruhl's analysis of diocesan fiscal practices, found in the National Catholic Reporter. Under the title, 'Survey Finds Serious Flaws in Diocesan Financial Management', Ruhl provides a thoughtful and thorough explanation of the pending crisis in funding for the retirement of priests, as well as an explanation of how diocesan pension plans are managed and funded. He also evaluates the types of financial reports provided by Catholic dioceses to their faithful, concluding that many are little more than 'an unsupported assertion by the diocese'. 

The article includes a very useful spreadsheet including information for all dioceses for which detailed financial information was available, and listing those for who it is not. The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis appears as being somewhere between the two categories, despite the recent bankruptcy-driven financial disclosures.

Ruhl's conclusions may strike some as being obvious, unless one considers how infrequently they are done. For instance, he argues that every diocese should post a full set of audited financial statements on its website within 60 days of the close of the fiscal year, and that such disclosures should include the entire diocesan accounting entity (including, for instance, seminaries and pensions). He also suggests that priests and laity should assume the roles of financial watchdogs over diocesan resources, and that all dioceses with projected pension shortfalls should initiate a plan to fully fund the shortfalls within a reasonable period (he suggests three years).

Should these things be done? Yes, obviously. Will they? Not likely. It is simply beyond the capacity of dioceses and diocesan employees to bring such things into being (due, I suspect, to a lack of will as well as a lack of resources), and without the resulting transparency and disclosure, the laity and even the presbyterates will remain without an accurate idea of how diocesan resources are being managed. 


Tom Mulrooney
02/25/2015 7:34pm

Having driven the archdiocese into bankruptcy, its leaders can surely not object to a future in which lay experts produce an expert accounting of its finances. "Fool me once..."

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    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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