Issue Date: January 28, 2005
Laity wonder where the money goes
By DENNIS CODAY
The churchs most reliable donors -- parishioners in the pews weekly -- continue to call for greater financial accountability and transparency from their parishes and dioceses, and they want more lay input into church financial matters, according to an annual survey of Catholic donor attitudes.
Yet fewer than half say they know what happens to their contributions, the report found.
Furthermore, for the third year the vast majority of survey respondents say the clergy sexual abuse scandal affects them when deciding whether and how much they should give to the church.
Sixty percent of respondents worry that the cost of clergy sexual abuse impedes the churchs ability to fulfill its mission.
Weve done this for three years now. Weve seen that the call of accountability is growing among Catholic parishioners, Francis Butler, president of the association that commissioned the study, told NCR.
Butler said that on the whole, total donations nationally have not declined because some donors (8 percent locally and 5 percent nationally) have increased their giving, but more are giving less (14 percent locally and 19 percent nationally), and overall fewer people are giving. This is why he finds the trend in donor attitudes worrisome.
If I were a bishop or a pastor, I would be very concerned, he said. I would do everything in my power to make sure people understand what is happening with their donations.
The study was sponsored by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, FADICA, and conducted by Zogby International and the Center of the Study of Church Management at Villanova University. It is based on telephone interviews conducted during the first week of December, sampling 803 respondents who reported they attend Mass regularly. The surveys margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent.
Charles Zech, a professor of economics at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and author of the report, said, It is important to remember that the analysis in this report is based on the opinions of regular Mass-attending Catholics, those who attend Mass daily, weekly or almost every week.
This population can be considered the major source of donor support for the church, Zech said.
Zechs report lists three areas of accountability and transparency the laity say they expect:
In 2002, Zech said, 78 percent of the survey sample asked for this; in 2004, 76 percent did. Researchers at John Jay College tried to provide this information in their report on sexual abuse by clergy, which was released in February last year.
Unfortunately, fully 14 percent of the dioceses and religious orders failed to report any financial figures at all in the John Jay report, Zech said. Other dioceses only reported partial figures.
More than 60 percent of respondents want parishes and dioceses to release annual independent audits and 77 percent said they want dioceses to comply with reporting standards approved by the U.S. bishops conference, but only 38 percent know whether their dioceses provide this or not.
This is not saying that [dioceses] didnt do the audits, Butler said, but it does say they are not doing what they pledged to do and that is to run a church that is fully open and where the parishioners are informed.
But he added, My guess is that if you look at the dioceses as a whole you would probably find maybe a third to a half are compliant with the national norms. A goodly segment just are not.
Eighty percent of respondents asked for open forums to discuss parish financial planning and fundraising.
Today most donors are rather proactive, Butler said. They want to understand the charities they are active in. So if the church is going to be an effective steward, it is going to have to invite people in, making sure they are speaking up and that they are a part of the activities of the church. That includes setting budgets and accounting for how money is used.
The survey report lists a number of recommendations, including:
Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Web site
A copy of the Catholic Donor Attitude Survey for 2004 is available at www.fadica.org.
National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2005
|Copyright © The
National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd.,
Kansas City, MO 64111
All rights reserved.
TEL: 816-531-0538 FAX: 1-816-968-2280 Send comments about this Web site to: email@example.com