The Economist analyzes Catholic wealth; SNAP responds

Church officials handle money the same way they handle predators—“it’s our business, you stay out of it.” Catholic bishops want the benefits of money from the government but refuse to be clear about or held accountable for how it is used.

It’s important to understand why “the finances of the Catholic church in America are an unholy mess,” according to the Economist. It’s because that’s what bishops want: they want parishioners and the public to know very little about the church’s vast wealth.

We agree with The Economist, which says evidence suggests that “maladministration in the Vatican goes beyond mere negligence.” And we’re grateful The Economist notes that the church’s “national charitable activities” are “just 2.7%“of its overall spending.

We’re troubled by the bishops’ “trend towards replacing dollars from the faithful with publicly raised debt as a way of financing church business.”
The Economist, however, mischaracterizes the motive for diocesan bankruptcies. It’s not about money. It’s about secrecy.

Bishops seek bankruptcy protection to safeguard their reputations, not their assets. Bishops know that bankruptcy effectively stops the disclosure of damaging documents obtained by victims in litigation. Bankruptcy halts the discovery process and shifts the debate from “how much did church officials conceal heinous crimes” to “how does everyone who was hurt by predator priests and complicit bishops get compensated.”

We should remember three things about church bankruptcies:

First, dozens of bishops have threatened bankruptcy over the past 15 years, often on the eve of a trial when shocking secrets about church cover ups would have been disclosed.

Second, essentially the same bishops who for years have claimed few priests molest and no cover ups occur are now asking us once again to believe that they’re strapped for funds.

(It's easy enough to find out whether bishops are honest about finances. They should open their books to independent third parties BEFORE even discussing the possibility of bankruptcy. Until this happens, we must view any threats and filings of bankruptcy as public relations maneuvers and defense posturing.)

Third, tens of thousands of innocent children's lives were shattered because people put blind faith in bishops, and took what bishops said purely at face value. Common sense and common decency demand that we not make the same gullible mistake again. We must insist on true openness.

Read the whole story here... 

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  • John Thompson
    commented 2012-08-17 19:37:09 -0500
    Just as some people do not want tax money going to groups that provide information on or services for abortion so also I do not want my tax dollars going to institutions that routinely abuse children and get away with it. These religious institutions are given tax dollars to pay for ‘charity’ work they provide but there is absolutly no accountability on how these tax dollars are used. These institutions buy child sexual abuse insurance either as a seperate policy or as part of their liability insurance. I want to know that my tax dollars are not being used by these institutions to pay the premiums for this insurance. These institutions think they are above the law and do not report to police when their members break the law and they seem to think they should not be made to spend their own money when their members commit criminal acts. I demand an independant accountint firm to audit these institutions and show how every penny of tax payer money was used. There should be reports issued every year and if it is shown that tax dollars are being used inappropriately then tax dollars should be cut off and past tax dollars returned.
  • Barbara Dorris
    published this page in Media Statements 2012-08-16 14:25:00 -0500

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