Archbishop William E. Lori and his leadership team are committed to accountability in matters related to sexual abuse and harassment by members of the clergy and diocesan personnel, as well as increasing lay involvement and decision-making in the pastoral life of the church.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore implemented locally March 16 a new national reporting system for allegations against bishops that is very similar to Baltimore’s system, the first in the nation, in place since January 2019. Allegations in that system are received by a retired law-enforcement chief who has never been a diocesan employee. The system is at ReportBishopAbuse.org or 800-276-1562.
In Baltimore, several types of misconduct can be reported at archbalt.org; click on “Report Misconduct.” The archdiocese continues to cooperate with the Maryland Attorney General’s investigation, and is providing all documents and information requested by that office.
The U.S. bishops adopted what is called the “Metropolitan Model,” whereby the metropolitan archbishop assumes responsibility for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct or other alleged instances of malfeasance by bishops within his jurisdiction. Archbishop Lori’s role in carrying out the investigation into Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who retired from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston amid allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties, was seen as a first-case example of the new Metropolitan Model. At the request of the archbishop, a team of five lay investigators with relevant expertise in civil law, canon law, human resources and finance carried out the investigation over a five-month period. Their report, which was completed in March, led to Pope Francis’ decision to restrict Bishop Bransfield from ever again celebrating publicly the liturgy as a priest or bishop.
After the archdiocese used the model, Pope Franics (right) released “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You Are the Light of the World”), which set new global norms for safeguarding children and holding leaders accountable. The U.S. bishops affirmed those norms in June.
A newly established Archdiocesan Pastoral Council met for the first time Sept. 14 for a formation retreat and orientation about the work of the archdiocese. The council – which is charged with representing the concerns of the laity, advising Archbishop Lori and proposing pastoral initiatives – includes 10 members representing the various geographical regions of the archdiocese, as well as three members representing the African American, Hispanic and young adult communities. Council members got a briefing from archdiocesan staff members on the structure and pastoral priorities of the archdiocese – focusing on the goal to make missionary disciples promoted by Pope Francis and by Archbishop Lori in his 2015 pastoral letter, “A Light Brightly Visible.”
Archbishop Lori participated Sept. 25 in a forum at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., titled, “The Church Crisis: Where Are We Now?” The four panelists – including the archbishop, law-enforcement consultant Kathleen McChesney, abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz and journalist Peter Steinfels – discussed initiatives nationwide to reverse past failings to deal effectively with the issue of child sex abuse and restore trust and credibility among the Catholic faithful in church leadership. During the forum, the archbishop said the numbers of abuse cases are significantly down, “but one case is still too many.”
He emphasized that it is necessary always to see the charter and norms not just as policies to be complied with. Rather, he said bishops and their coworkers need to have “a conversion of mind and heart.” The protection of children and care for survivors has to be as much a part of the church’s life as evangelization, Catholic education and raising up vocations, the archbishop said.
The archbishop and other archdiocesan leaders have been listening to and engaging with people about the scandals, including 18 listening sessions around the archdiocese before the bishops’ November 2018 meeting. Archbishop Lori also appeared at a Theology on Tap event March 25 in Annapolis, during which he talked about the ongoing crisis impacting the Catholic Church here in the United States and internationally. He outlined the actions underway in the archdiocese to restore trust and ensure utmost levels of accountability for all in ministry, including bishops and clergy, as well as lay employees and volunteers. He took a range of questions and encouraged those gathered to live their faith conspicuously and to help bring about the renewal that is necessary, even while so many are engaged with the vital work of the Church to serve others and particularly those most vulnerable. In September, the archbishop, members of the Independent Review Board and archdiocesan staff met with abuse survivor Marie Collins before she gave a talk in Baltimore.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore strives to ensure good stewardship of the funds entrusted to its parishes, schools and Central Services. From the point of collection, through accounting systems, and to the groups that help advise pastors, principals and archdiocesan leaders on how to allocate funds, many people are involved in ensuring oversight of donations that help support the church’s mission and ministries.
Consistency in information systems around the archdiocese makes it easier for the archdiocese to provide checks and balances. It also allows pastors who may move from one parish to another or pastors who oversee more than one parish to work with the same systems and reports. The archdiocese provides support for systems across all parishes and schools for accounting, human resources management, tuition management, student management, student inquiry and parishioner management.
The archdiocese employs five individuals who focus on parish and school financial and operations management. These individuals help locations with accounting, budgeting, internal controls, operations analysis, etc.
The archdiocese endorses and supports several programs used throughout the parishes and schools which allow locations to collect funds electronically.
Utilizing a hotline platform developed by EthicsPoint (visit www.archbalt.org, then click on Ethics Hotline at the top of the page), employees, volunteers, parishioners, vendors and other interested parties are able to report concerns about suspected financial, professional and personal misconduct, and if they choose, to do so anonymously.
When you drop a check or cash in the collection basket, what happens next? Archdiocesan policies require that ushers place the receipts in tamper-evident bags, and two people place the sealed bags into a drop-safe where they are kept until opened, counted and deposited.
According to the policy, each parish should have four counting teams, consisting of at least three individuals (all unrelated), and the teams should be rotated weekly.
Funds should be transported to the bank by at least two unrelated people using a locked bank bag or tamper-evident bag containing the funds, deposit slips and adding machine tapes.
At the archdiocesan level, gifts to the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries, for example, are processed in a secure-access counting room at the Catholic Center. Gifts mailed directly to the appeal’s postal lock box at M&T Bank are deposited and recorded electronically by M&T Bank personnel and reconciled each business day by the AOB Development team.
Electronic giving to parishes and the archdiocese also helps to ensure the integrity of the donation’s receipt.
The archdiocese performs internal audits on the internal controls of parishes and schools on a rotational basis. The results of each audit are provided to the pastor and/or principal, pastoral council and/or school board chairperson as well as the finance committee chairperson and corporators.
The Archdiocesan Audit Committee, comprised mostly of lay people with financial or business expertise, reviews the following at its meetings throughout the year: annual audited financial statements and management letter; annual budget and budget vs. actual results; quarterly financial statements; parish and school annual operating results; internal audit results; archdiocesan high school financials; and risk and legal exposure.
The Archdiocesan Central Services Annual Audited Financial Statements are posted online each year.
In addition to required oversight boards (see below) on matters of general business consideration, Archbishop William E. Lori has established the Allocations Oversight Committee, also comprised of lay people, to ensure that the annual appeal proceeds are used consistent with campaign case statements, that is, that the funds are used for the intended purposes. Additionally, the Allocation Oversight Committee reviews the reasonableness of the costs of administrating the annual campaign.
Every diocese in the world is required to have a finance council. In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Board of Financial Administration (BOFA) is that body. BOFA is made up of lay professionals in the fields of accounting, investments, education, engineering, legal and insurance. Subcommittees help the archbishop in areas of certain expertise including: Audit Committee, Investment Committee and Building and Real Estate Committee. This board serves as a “check and balance” to ensure appropriate fiscal practices by the archbishop and the diocese.
BOFA and the College of Consultors (a body of priests required in each diocese) review and approve the annual financial statements audited by Grant Thornton, LLP, as well as the annual Central Services budget. The archbishop must seek BOFA’s advice on alienation of property or debt of $250,000 or less and must receive consent from a majority of BOFA members on alienation of property or debt greater than $250,000.
Voice of the Faithful, an independent lay group that advocates for church accountability and transparency, has consistently rated the Archdiocese of Baltimore among the top tier of dioceses on the basis of its criteria. In 2019, VOTF ranked the archdiocese in the top 12, with a 94 percent rating.
The investment committee regularly reviews the investments (at almost every meeting) to ensure the archdiocese is in compliance with the USCCB Socially Responsible Investing guidelines. Adjustments must be made periodically when concerns arise about certain corporate practices.