Latest News, News

Lay Catholic group will withhold donations to diocese; seeks financial transparency

MORGANTOWN — Lay Catholic Voices for Change plans a boycott of donations going to and through the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as a means to urge the diocese to establish financial transparency.

LCVC has sent a second letter to Archbishop William Lori, who is acting as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, expressing frustration with his lack of response to its June letter and explaining its boycott plan.

The June 12 letter – with now more than 800 signatories – came as a response to revelations of the financial and sexual misconduct of former Bishop Michael Bransfield, and laid out a five-part remediation and healing plan.

“We wrote to you in good faith,” they say in their new letter, sent to Lori on Tuesday and publicly released on Thursday. “You chose to ignore our letter – in much the same way you and other church leaders ignored or discounted the laity, clergy, and religious who, over the years, cried out for help in ridding ourselves of Michael Bransfield and in much the same way you and other church leaders ignored or discounted the repeated press reports of Michael Bransfield’s improper behavior.

“Now you ignore us – Catholics who faithfully support the church with our time, talent,

and treasure,” they continue. “You apparently have so little respect for lay people, you chose not to issue even a pro forma response to our letter. You simply ignored us.”

Their love for the West Virginia church community, they say, “compels us to shake off any and all complicity with the sexual abuse and financial dishonesty that has corrupted our diocese. We can no longer permit our donations to support a diocese whose financial secrecy and dishonesty are the foundation for its underwriting acts of sexual abuse and immoral spending.”

As part of its boycott, LCVC said in a Thursday press release, it is encouraging parishioners across the state to participate in a “Not a Dime to the Diocese” effort the weekends of July 20-21, 27-28, and Aug. 3-4.

Participants would place into the collection basket and an empty white envelope with the parishioner’s name and the statement “Not a Dime to the Diocese” written on the envelope. 

“This creative method affords parishioners the opportunity to boycott donations to diocesan coffers and, at the same time, continue to support their local parish,” the release says. “Until the commission of a complete independent audit with timeline is released, there will be ‘Not a Dime to the Diocese.’”

The release stresses that it is not encouraging withholding of donations to local parishes.  Participants concerned about the percentage of the general donation that goes to the diocese could earmark donations toward specific uses in their parishes.

The new letter to Lori further explains the plan and their goals.

Until the diocese hires and independent auditor to audit the diocese’s finances, they say, and announces a timeline for releasing an audited financial statement, they will not donate any money that would go to or though the diocese.

Donations to the diocese would include such things as: Catholic Sharing Appeal, Priests Retirement Fund, education of seminarians, Diocesan Scholarship Association and Catholic Charities West Virginia.

“These are all good causes that need honest accounting to maintain the public trust needed for them to survive,” they wrote. “We will remind people that the diocese took our money and gave it to Michael Bransfield to give to his pals, to spend on liquor, jewelry, luxury travel, a personal chef, and opulent renovations. We cannot presently trust a diocese that launders tax-exempt money for non-tax-exempt purposes to properly convey our donations to good cause.

Donations that go through the diocese would include such things as special national collections for the Catholic Communications Campaign.

LCVC told the archbishop that it is leaving donations to local parishes as a matter of conscience, keeping in mind that the diocese taxes these at 9%. “We also do not discourage the exercise of creativity on the part of those parishioners who are finding and sharing novel ways of supporting their local parishes without making contributions that will result in the remittance of tax dollars to the diocese.”

LCVC reminded the archbishop that most U.S> dioceses release audited financial statements, with auditors’ opinions.

“We ask that you pledge the diocese to this course of action now and announce a timetable for the completion of this work now.”

The Dominion Post sent questions regarding LCVC’s two letters to the diocese, which forwarded them to Lori’s office. Answers were not expected and did not arrive in time for this report.

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email