Minnesota Bishops Faulted
(Minneapolis, MN) – In a new report, a nationwide Catholic lay group, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), has analyzed the relative ‘financial transparency’ of nearly 200 US Catholic dioceses or archdioceses. We applaud the study and harshly criticize Minnesota bishops for being “as reckless and secretive with parishioners’ money as they are with their own child molesting clerics.”
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:
- Out of the six Minnesota dioceses, one had a lower score compared to last year (New Ulm)
- Two Minnesota dioceses showed no improvement (St. Paul-Minneapolis & Crookston)
- Three Minnesota dioceses (St. Cloud, Duluth & Winona-Rochester) improved their scores
- On average, over the past five years, Minnesota’s dioceses with the worst scores were:
- New Ulm (average score 34)
- Crookston (average score 36)
- Duluth (average score 41)
- Cloud (average score 42)
- The diocese with the biggest score drop was New Ulm (45 to 28)
- The diocese with the biggest score increase was Winona-Rochester (66 to 96)
- In one year (2019), the highest nationally ranked Minnesota diocese was Winona-Rochester (129th)
- In another year (2018), the highest nationally ranked Minnesota diocese was Duluth (126th)
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“By hiding assets, Minnesota bishops have shown where their true priorities lie,” said Jeff Anderson. “These actions illustrate the horror of self-serving secrecy.”