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January 13, 2020

Diocese Sees 54% Increase in Financial Transparency Rating

We Pledge . .“As the recipient of your generosity, the Diocese takes the responsibility of carefully managing your gifts very seriously. We are committed to the highest standards of good stewardship, accountability and transparency.”

These words from Bishop Ronald Gainer were reaffirmed at the end of 2019 when the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) Annual Diocesan Online Financial Transparency Study was released. This study, annually conducted by the independent VOTF organization, reports on the financial transparency of dioceses and archdioceses throughout the United States. In 2019, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a total score of 86% out of 100%, which is a 54% increase over the Diocese’s score in 2018. The report analyzed the 2018 financial report posted to the Diocesan website.

According to the VOTF report, “The Diocese of Harrisburg also achieved an extraordinary increase in score. Like Erie, they too are under close scrutiny as a result of past failures in responding to clergy sex abuse. The increases clearly demonstrate a move by these dioceses toward more openness about finances.”

“We are pleased with the improvements cited in the VOTF report. The Diocese of Harrisburg remains committed to transparency and the timely presentation of useful information regarding operations and finances,” said Don Kaercher, chief financial officer for the Diocese. “While the Diocese has historically prepared and published most of the items measured by the VOTF report, they may not have always been as readily accessible as possible. We have made great strides in making such information easier to locate, and will continue to make improvements in that area going forward.”

This was the third financial transparency study completed by VOTF. The report reviews a range of criteria through a 10-question worksheet, with each criteria adding a certain value to the final score. Some of these criteria include how accessible the financial information is; if the posted reports have been audited; if information is available on the annual appeal and the programs it supports; if members of the finance council and accounting staff are listed; if financial policies are posted; and if collection counting policies are posted. According to the report, the average score achieved by the 177 dioceses in the United States was 65.25%. Other results of the report included:

  • 65% of dioceses exhibited a commitment to financial transparency by sharing their audited financial statements;
  • Dioceses sharing their audited statements have increased during the past three years;
  • 27% of dioceses provided no financial information online; and
  • The average transparency score dropped slightly in 2019 due to tighter scoring criteria.

While the vast majority of dioceses have shown a commitment to financial transparency, “a sizable minority share little or no verifiable financial information with their members,” said the report.

The five dioceses that received a perfect score of 100% were the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska; the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina; the Diocese of Erie; the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and the Diocese of Rochester, New York.

The complete 2019 VOTF report is available online at http://www.votf.org/2019FWGReport.pdf.

The Diocese of Harrisburg will post our audited 2019 financial report to our website, www.HBGdiocese.org, in the first quarter of 2020.

By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness

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