Bishops Blasted for Hiding Assets the Same Way they Hide Offenders
ALERT: Statute of Limitations is up December 31 for California Child Sex Abuse Survivors
(Los Angeles, CA) – In a new report, a nationwide Catholic lay group, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), has analyzed the relative ‘financial transparency’ of every US Catholic diocese or archdiocese. We applaud the study and harshly criticize California’s 12 bishops for being “as reckless and secretive with parishioners’ money as they are with their own child molesting clerics.”
“They hide their assets the same way they hide their offenders,” said attorney Jeff Anderson.
For the sixth year in a row, the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful has issued a 49-page study called “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency”. Over a three-month period (6/1/22 – 8/31/22), independent reviewers weighed ten factors including whether dioceses post audited financial reports, list diocesan finance council members, and use “common sense chain of custody” procedures, like “using at least three unrelated people to count parish collections and tamper-evident bags for transporting and storing the funds.” After reviewing the ten factors, each diocese was then rated on a scale of 1-100 points.
“Everyone who cares about kids, and about fiscal responsibility, should be grateful to VOTF, who painstakingly assembled this data despite a largely secretive church hierarchy,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. Jeff Anderson & Associates have fought against child sex abuse and cover-ups for nearly four decades and now represent thousands of survivors across the country.
The following are among the report’s findings:
- Seven of California’s 12 dioceses (Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, San Diego, Monterey and Stockton) show no improvement over last year’s report.
- Two (San Bernardino and San Jose) actually had lower scores compared to last year, and
- Two (Oakland and Fresno) show what Anderson called “minimal improvement” over the last year.
- Only one (Stockton) appears on the “top 20” most transparent list.
“Parents and parishioners are the real beneficiaries here,” Anderson stressed, “and the ones who deserve more honesty from the elites who quietly move money and predators around for their own comfort, convenience and careers.”
No California diocese appears on VOTF’s “top five” most transparent list, or on the group’s “most improved” list. San Diego ranks relatively high, with a score of 93. Still, that represents a two-point decline from its 2019 score.
“The only real transparency, as best we can tell, is what we call ‘forced transparency,’ in which accurate data about church money is pried from bishops’ hands through civil abuse lawsuits, criminal abuse prosecutions, attorney general reports or grand jury subpoenas,” Anderson explained. “We’ve done these cases for nearly 40 years from coast to coast. Rarely do we see a Catholic official voluntarily disclosing anything but the bare minimum of information, whether it’s about a bank account or a child-molesting priest.”
“We can only surmise that many top church officials want their expenses and income to be hidden because that enables them to pay lots of money hiring defense lawyers and protecting predator priests with minimal oversight or criticism,” said Anderson. “It is clear that the California bishops are now faced with massive liability because of the opening of the statute of limitations”
In a news release, VOTF officials emphasized that “if the Church had been transparent about payments made to silence victims of clergy sexual abuse,” the “horror of clergy sexual abuse,” although not prevented, “would have been reported, not covered up, and abusers would have been called to account for their crimes. Victims of serial abusers would have been protected.”
“Financial secrecy is the coin of the bishop’s realm.” said attorney Jeff Anderson.