By Father Kenneth Doyle
Catholic News Service
Q. Last week in our diocesan paper, two news items referred to financial irregularities (in one case, fraud) within institutions related to the church. This prompts me to ask a question which long has troubled me: Why aren’t Catholic institutions, particularly parishes and dioceses, audited? And if so, why isn’t this data shared with the faithful? Wouldn’t the assurance of financial propriety both preclude mishandling of funds and also encourage additional donations to surely worthy causes? (City of origin withheld)
A. While an external audit of a diocese’s finances is not required canonically, such an audit is the common (if not universal) practice of dioceses throughout the United States. Many dioceses then post their audited annual financial statements on a diocesan website and publish it in their diocesan newspaper.
What the church’s Code of Canon Law does require (No. 492) is that each diocese have in place a finance council, which should consist of “at least three members of the Christian faithful truly expert in financial affairs and civil law, outstanding in integrity.” These finance councils — which usually include financial planners, bankers and certified public accountants — meet regularly to review diocesan budgets and financial statements and, in many cases, to select an external auditing firm.
Similarly, individual parishes are not obligated canonically to conduct external audits, but they’re required to establish a finance council to oversee budgets, contributions and expenditures on the parish level. Many parishes are relatively small, with annual budgets of under $100,000 annually, and to spend hundreds of dollars (or even thousands) for a yearly external audit might be deemed an imprudent expense.
But parish financial reports are submitted regularly to diocesan offices, and further oversight is exercised by the parish finance council. Additionally, No. 1287.2 in the Code of Canon Law stipulates that parish administrators “are to render an account to the faithful concerning the goods offered by the faithful to the church.” Many parishes fulfill this requirement by publishing an annual financial statement in their parish bulletin.
In general, supervision of church finances in recent years has become stricter and more comprehensive. In December 2014, the Vatican announced that an “auditor general” would be appointed, autonomous and answerable only to the pope, with the power to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See at any time.
Q. I was a daily communicant in my teenage years. I enjoyed the solemnity of the traditional Latin Mass. After I got married and moved to the United States in 1972, I tried for decades to appreciate the new community Mass but was turned off by the loudness and the handshakes of empty goodwill.
I couldn’t hear myself talking to the Lord nor could I feel his presence. So many new songs were thrust upon us that I couldn’t learn them. (The hymns at the old Masses meant so much more and sometimes made me weep.) So I stopped going to church altogether. I still say my prayers in the quiet of my home, and I try to be a good person. I am 74 years old. (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
A. It saddens me that you are depriving yourself of the grace and comfort offered by the Eucharist. Nothing else brings one so close to Jesus; nothing else can replace the Mass. And besides, you are suffering needlessly.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, in a document called “Summorum Pontificum,” allowed for a wider celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. Here is what he said: “In parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal.”
A report published in 2014 by a group promoting the traditional Latin Mass noted that there were more than 400 places in the United States where the Eucharist was celebrated in that form. I would suggest that you contact your diocesan office to find out where the nearest location might be.
Not only does the moral law of the Catholic Church require regular Sunday attendance, but what matters to me even more is that the Mass is the one way Jesus chose to keep his memory alive.
He could have said: Stay home and, once in a while, think about me. Instead, he said: Come together often for a meal with those who share your faith. Celebrate and tell stories to remember me. And I will be the food for that meal, to strengthen you until we’re all together in heaven.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.