The Economist on the American Catholic Church's Finances

The Economist has posted an interesting story, reporting the results of its detailed investigation of Church finances in the U.S.. (HT Daily Intel) It does not paint a pretty picture. Here's a taste, but go read the whole thing:

The documents that have been disclosed reveal that some bishops in the bankrupt dioceses presented the diocesan funds of parishes, schools, hospitals and retirement accounts as separate when they were really simply book-keeping entries in the same pooled investment account. The diocese of San Diego, for instance, reported to the bankruptcy court that it had over 500 accounts. But these were merely entries in a Parish, School Diocese Loan Trust Account, maintained in a single bank account at Union Bank of California.Such pooling saves on administrative costs and allows dioceses to use a surplus in one area to cover shortfalls in another, often a legitimate course of action. But it has presented problems when it comes to working out which assets belong to whom in bankruptcy proceedings.The vast majority of parishes that commingled their funds with those dioceses now in bankruptcy lost all their investments. In some cases they were misled into believing that the money would be kept separate from the main diocesan funds, and thus safe in the event of bankruptcy. The judge in the Wilmington bankruptcy, Christopher Sontchi, said parishes that had suffered this fate had grounds to sue the diocese for breach of fiduciary duty. None hasbut that is hardly surprising, given that the bishop and the chancellor of the diocese sit on the five-member board of trustees of each parish.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

Also by this author
No Bailout for You!

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Religion
Books
Collections