Webinar: Financial Transparency in the Church – Now More Than Ever

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More than in any other organization, the Church has a moral duty to model financial transparency. Yet studies show that we have yet to achieve it. One 2006 publication by Villanova University found that 85% of Catholic dioceses had discovered embezzlement of church money within the previous five years, with 11% reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen.
In this webinar, we discuss:
• The need for a standard model of financial transparency tailored to Catholic Church organizations
• What developing a standard model might look like
• How to foster efficient processes, reliable financial statements, sound financial controls, and audit processes.


Drawing on their professional experience, the three speakers discuss the necessity and benefits of financial transparency in the Church, which entails the clear communication of accurate and relevant information to parishioners, donors, and stakeholders. They address the call for co-responsibility, which highlights the desire for lay involvement in the Church’s temporal affairs. Since priestly formation typically lacks financial education, the laity can serve as a powerful source for implementing best business practices – including routine audits and adherence to accounting standards. Financial transparency also has many benefits, including increased donations, lower risk of embezzlement, and greater trust in the Church.

  1. (32:26) Finance councils play a crucial role in facilitating transparency
  2. (34:41) Overcoming clericalism and serving our priests
    1. Practical formation for newly-ordained priests: Leadership Roundtable’s Pastors for a New Millennium 
    2. Study revealing dissatisfaction among newly-ordained priests regarding seminary preparation for finances and management: https://cara.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/NACTS.pdf
  1. (14:48) “If you cannot tell the story on one page, then you don’t know the story.”
  2. (18:41) https://standardsforexcellence.org/Home-2/code, https://leadershiproundtable.org/what-we-do/standards/
  3. (27:09) Governance structures can facilitate accountability and flexibility
  4. (42:15) Clarity of communication is paramount
  5. (45:02) Basic checklist – “What they should be looking at is: ‘What do my stakeholders need to know? What would they like to know? What would they be asking if they were here to ask me?’”
  1. (15:26) Transparency increases the generosity of donors
  2. (18:15) Transparency enables greater evangelization through greater trust
  3. (46:43) Standards don’t eliminate abuse, but they heavily minimize opportunities
    1. (48:14) 2008 study shows 85% of dioceses experience embezzlement
      1. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
      2. https://www1.villanova.edu/content/dam/villanova/VSB/publications/National_Catholic_Reporter_-_85_of_U.S._dioceses_report_embezzlements_-_2006-12-22.pdf
    2. (59:30) Increased competency as a charitable institution: “Transparency is not a luxury, it’s an imperative. We are in a competitive market for funds.”
  1. (43:36) Luca Pacioli, 15th century friar and “Father of Accounting”
    1. https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Pacioli/
    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoTc3wLTqkk
  2. (51:02) Award for Best Practices to Archdiocese of Boston for its Financial Transparency Project: http://theleadershiproundtable.org/TLR/Documents/awardremarks.pdf
  3. Further Reading: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/733/article/pastors-toolbox



Charles Zech

Charles Zech

Professor Emeritus, Villanova University

Kerry Robinson

Kerry Alys Robinson

Partner, Leadership Roundtable

John Levins

John Levins, AM, MBE

United Nations Official, World Food Program and UN Joint Staff Pension Fund

Fr. Bob

Fr. Robert Gahl

Vice Director, Program of Church Management, Rome

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