By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER — In the recent 2021 financial transparency report by the Voice of the Faithful, a national lay organization of faithful Catholics active in the participation and governance of various matters in the Church, the Fall River Diocese ranked sixth among the 177 dioceses belonging to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Most-Improved Diocesan Scores regarding the measurement and ranking of diocesan online financial transparency.
The report, which can be seen in its entirety at votf.org, helps identify those dioceses that are working toward enhanced and improved financial transparency. In the report, it said of the Fall River Diocese, “Another bright spot is the Diocese of Fall River, which went from 55 percent in 2020 to 92 percent in 2021 and added an outstanding finance page on their website.”
The report further said, “Excellent examples of clear, usable, comprehensive finance webpages include those of the dioceses of Biloxi, Bridgeport, Charleston, Fall River, Greensburg, Lexington and Scranton.”
“One of Bishop da Cunha’s top priorities when he became Bishop of Fall River was financial transparency and we have made tremendous progress,” Kevin Kiley, diocesan Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer told The Anchor. “The high Voice of the Faithful report ranking is a testimony to him and his leadership.
“This transparency survey is well thought out and covers many areas including audits, financial statements, laity that assist the bishop and me on finances, etc. It really made us think about how best to improve our operations and website to make this information more readily available to the faithful.”
“I would like to thank Joe Harrington, our Director of Finance, and his team as well as John Kearns, Director of Communications, for making sure we were prepared for this year’s survey and while it wasn’t a perfect score, we were one of the most improved dioceses in the country with regard to financial transparency.”
Voice of the Faithful had its beginnings in 2002 in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, Mass. Today VOTF members number more than 30,000 across the U.S. and beyond.
In 2016, VOTF initiated an annual report, Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency. On its website VOTF said, “Such financial transparency must be one key element of an open response by the Church to survivors of clerical sexual abuse. It will also be essential in rebuilding the trust of U.S. Catholics in our diocesan leadership. If the extent of the financial settlements made by bishops to hide clerical sexual abuse had become known through transparent financial reporting when the abuse reports started breaking long before 2002, lay Catholics would have been aware that the abuse was not a rare exception, but widespread.”
The site further said, “Financial transparency can help address an array of problems that have emerged within the Church in recent centuries.”
Also, according to the site, the 2021 review began on June 1, 2021, and ended on Aug. 31, 2021. “Three independent reviewers conducted the review. Each reviewed all 177 diocesan websites using the 2021 Worksheet, which can be found in Appendix A. Following the independent reviews, VOTF reconciled all scores to ensure that each diocese received proper credit.”
Kiley praised the VOTF for its steadfast resolve as to shining a light on financial transparency and good governance. “The Voice of the Faithful has been at this now for a number of years and kudos to them for creating a sense of urgency among archdioceses and dioceses to get their houses in order so that the faithful can better trust the stewardship and governance of their contributions and support,” he told The Anchor.