Catholic Diocese works to improve parish auditing

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(Host) Officials with Vermont’s Catholic Diocese say they are taking steps to improve the auditing of parishes.

A recent survey found that embezzlement problems were widespread in the Catholic Church.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Eighty-five percent of the Catholic dioceses that took part in a survey by Villanova University reported that money had been embezzled from parish coffers in the past five years.

The Burlington Roman Catholic Diocese did not participate in the survey, but there has been one recent case of embezzlement of parish funds.

Last month a court ordered a bookkeeper for churches in Stowe and Johnson to pay back nearly $25,000 siphoned from Sunday collections between March of 2005 and August of 2006.

Church officials say that is the only case that has come to light in the Burlington Diocese.

Diocese financial officer Martin Hoak says Vermont’s Catholic parishes make financial reports to the diocese quarterly and annually but these reports are not audits. Historically a more thorough review of parish finances takes place only when there is a change in priests.

Hoak says that recently the diocese has taken steps to standardize accounting procedures used by parishes. He says in the coming year, the diocese will institute regular financial reviews of parishes.

(Hoak) “Ideally all parishes would be audited every year. Unfortunately this would require significant resources that we simply do not have available. A review every other year or perhaps when there’s a change in the pastor, whichever comes first, I think is a realistic goal.”

(Zind) Hoak says the Diocese faces many of the challenges of other non-profits in marshalling the resources to conduct audits.

He says he’s confident that parish money is being well managed by priests and by finance councils made up of lay people in each parish.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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