Sunday, February 18, 2007

Financial scandals

Christianity Today posts these interesting stats regarding financial fraud in diocese of the US Catholic church:
U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses that have detected embezzlement over the past five years.
Embezzlement cases in which the theft exceeded $500,000.
Dioceses that conducted an annual internal audit of their finances.

It seems to me that here is evidence that we remain confused about the nature of leadership within the church. We profess that in matters of faith and morals the teaching of the church is to be the dominant factor in shaping our conscience. At the same time we have evidence like the stats above as well as evidence from the sexual abuse scandal that indicates a lack of leadership, at least in these particular matters. By the way at least part of the problem in both these areas is not that human beings are capable of sin. The problem is that in the case of the sexual abuse scandal the leadership of the church initially reacted very poorly. Their reactions generally indicated a concern for the institutional structure of the church instead of a concern for the spiritual well being of those who were being abused. In the financial statistics above the alarming statistic is not the extent of the theft going on but the fact that only 1% of dioceses conduct even internal audits of the finances. I know we have to respect the leadership and that the church is not a democracy but I think that both of these scandals point to the need for transparency and accountability (who is a bishop accountable to?) in the church.

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