People who could have done something about it were aware of the “excessive spending” engaged in by former bishop Michael Bransfield, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. They did not.
So, while church officials have pledged to keep a close eye on spending in the diocese, rank-and-file Catholics can be pardoned for asking why, if problems occurred before, they cannot again.
Last week, church officials took an important step toward rebuilding public confidence. Archbishop William E. Lori announced a new independent auditor has been named for the diocese. Though Lori is from Baltimore, he was placed in charge of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily.
CliftonLarsonAllen account, or CLA LLP, has been selected to audit the diocese’s book. The firm already serves more than 30 Catholic dioceses.
More important than the choice of a new accounting company was the second part of Lori’s news. CLA LLP will conduct a complete audit of the diocese’s books, the archbishop said. Once completed, the audit report will be published in its entirety.
Previously, only parts of audit reports had been published in The Catholic Spirit.
Releasing the full report so Catholics can look at it for themselves is a giant step forward. They need not trust church leaders to spot irregularities and act upon them.
But going forward, more needs to be done. Every annual audit should be published as well as made available on the diocese’s website.
Even more desirable would be to make available detailed, regularly updated reports such as those many state and local governments provide. Individual bills and checks can be examined by anyone who cares to look.
Such a system would be expensive and difficult for the church to put in place. Still, it ought to be considered. At this point, any action that builds trust in the church merits a look.