More concerns are being raised with regard to the 2019 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). A number of faithful Catholics in the Diocese of Gaylord have requested financial information regarding not only the CSA but the Diocese as a whole. Although churches and dioceses in the United States are non-profit, tax-exempt organizations, they are not required to publicly disclose their financial statements. Other tax-exempt entities, including 501(c)3 organizations, must allow their financial statements to be publicly available.
The Diocese of Gaylord has provided very limited information on the Diocesan website. There are two financial records available which have questionable information. Links to these records are available at http://www.dioceseofgaylord.org/financial-reports-184/ . These reports raise many questions which could be answered if the Diocese engaged in full transparency of Diocesan financial information.
The first is titled “Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord Pastoral Center Financial Statements and Report of Independent Certified Public Accountants June 30, 2017 and 2016”. Unfortunately, this offers little in the amount of specific information. However, it is revealing as to the following: between 2016 and 2017, total assets for the Diocese increased by 6.4%. The diocese spent close to a million dollars ($815,994) on administrative expenses. This report offers no detail as to what are these administrative expenses; in fact, no specific line item financial information is given for any of the expense categories in the Report.
Also revealing in the report is the description of the “Priests’ Plan”, established in 2004, “for the purpose of accumulating and distributing the money set aside for the benefit of priests who are ordained or incardinated in the Diocese of Gaylord and who provide services within the Diocese as a priest. The Plan is funded by multiple employers, including the Diocese, Parishes, and other Catholic organizations.” Who are these “employers” and “Catholic organizations”? Is this Fund giving money for the legal or living expenses of sexual offender priests? The Report does not answer these questions. A variety of other activities, such as the “Post-Retirement Benefits” Plan, are mentioned but not described in any detail.
The next bit of financial information, notabe for its lack of specific information, is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord Deposit and Loan Program. It is described as having a mission of providing “a means whereby Parishes and other Diocesan organizations may make deposits with or borrow from the Program”. From 2015 to 2017, the cash assets of this Fund have increased by over 300%, ie, from $1,272,362 to $5,080,986. With this in mind, why are some parishes seeing an increase in their CSA tithe? Also, of the loan balances in excess of $1 million, two parishes account for 50% of the total balance, ie, each parish has a loan balance in excess of $1 million. Which two parishes are they? The report also states the following: “No allowance has been made for uncollectible loans because full collection is anticipated. However, two loans totaling $28, 425 have not had principal payments in at least 68 months?” Who are the entities that have been granted these loans? Certainly this has raised concerns of Catholics with regard to hard-earned dollars that they are asked to entrust to the Diocese.
Catholics have a right and an obligation to know where their donated money is going. They are entitled to detailed and accurate accounting of parish and diocesan finances. Accountability and transparency are the key to appropriate fundraising and tithing. We will continue to monitor this issue for the Diocese.