The LA Times has an editorial today on the LA Archdiocese’s decision not to publish its financial statements. Usually, the diocese publishes its statements in the diocesan newspaper every March, but this year it said “rapidly changing financial conditions” made the report irrelevant to “current conditions.”
The Times takes the archdiocese to task for failing to live up to new promises of openness. I’m reminded of Cardinal Mahony’s early criticisms of Cardinal Law for how the latter handled the Scandal in Boston, but of course that was before Mahony’s own misdeeds were publicized. It seems “Cardinal Hollywood” (as he likes to be called) has decided that a little silence covers a mess of trouble.
So what’s behind the lack of disclosure? Some people are saying that huge expenses for the opening of the new cathedral/concrete blimp hangar have shifted funds away from ministries and programs for the poor. Others are saying that legal expenses and settlements from the Scandal have drained the treasury. The big question is: do the 5 million Catholics in LA who fill those coffers have a right to know how it is spent? Decades ago the answer would have been no, but nowadays the laity expects to be part kept informed. The old days of “pray, pay, and obey” are gone, we are told, and while the conclusions some people are drawing from that are suspect (it doesn’t mean we get to choose bishops), it does mean that the clergy and laity are to be seen as collaborators. In all possible areas there should be openness and transparency.
Because if the LA archdiocese is going to hide what it does with its money, the people in the pews might start to talk with their wallets and say, “you don’t get to spend my donations without telling me what you’re spending it on.” It’s a whole new world and bishops have to realize they’re living in it.