Ah, ok, that is my bishop. I've not met him, though he seems like a very neat person. (My parish priest is a convert as well)2005.11.10 AP: Senate approves bill requiring churches to disclose
BOSTON (AP) -- Churches and other religious organizations would be
required to disclose their finances like other nonprofit groups under
a bill overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.
Supporters of the bill, which has met opposition from the Catholic
church and other religious denominations, say there's no reason to
exempt religious groups.
They say secrecy helped the Roman Catholic church in Massachusetts
hide the burgeoning clergy sexual abuse scandal from public view, even
as church officials shuffled abusive priests from parish to parish.
One way to prevent a repeat of the scandal is to bring the finances
out into the light, backers of the bill said.
"We have a law that enables that darkness," said state Sen. Marian
Walsh, D-Boston, chief sponsor of the bill, which was approved 33-4 in
the Senate. "Moral transparency and financial transparency are
Critics and parishioners have demanded greater transparency since the
Boston Archdiocese began paying out sex abuse settlements. The sexual
abuse crisis that struck the church worldwide started with the release
of court documents in Boston in 2002.
Protestant and Orthodox denominations have also lined up to oppose the
legislation, saying it would allow the government to intrude on
private affairs of the church.
The House has yet to take up the bill, but plans to do so, according
to a spokeswoman for House speaker Salvatore DiMasi. The Legislature
ends its formal session on Nov. 16, but pending bills will carry over
into the new year.
Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley last month pledged "full disclosure"
of the archdiocese's finances, including the sources of all clergy sex
abuse payments and the fiscal health of every parish, comparing the
self-imposed rules to the disclosures required of public corporations.
Critics applauded the move, but said voluntary disclosures aren't good
Under state law, charitable organizations are required to file the
reports to show how the money donated to the groups is being spent.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, issued a statement
after the vote criticizing the Senate for pushing through the measure.
"We oppose the legislation. It crosses church-state lines and is an
affront to the constitution," he said. "If passed, this legislation
will cost the Archdiocese $3 million to implement. What programs would
they like the Archdiocese to cut?"
Other religious leaders said the bill could put financial strains
small, struggling congregations by requiring every congregation,
Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others, to pay for financial audits and
fees to report their finances to the Attorney General.
The Rev. Dr. Diane C. Kessler, executive director of the Massachusetts
Council of Churches, criticized the Senate for rushing the bill to the
floor for a vote on the same day that they debated a complex overhaul
of the state's health care system.
"It is ironic that those advocating transparency would resort to these
tactics which are far from transparent," Kessler said in a statement.
Senators said the bill wasn't meant to punish religious groups, but to
put them on an equal footing with the state's other 30,000 registered
charities such as the Little League that must file the disclosure reports.
They also said the bill was designed to protect people who made
donations to the groups to make sure the money was being spent
"All of those institutions and the Catholic church as well are still
going to exist. Are they going to have to be a little more open? Yes,"
said Sen. Brian Lees, R-East Longmeadow. "Why would you want to hide
what people are giving you? What's the purpose of that?"
The new disclosure policy outlined by O'Malley was developed by the
archdiocese's Finance Council, an advisory committee made up of church
officials and lay people. In the first quarter next year, the
archdiocese will release consolidated audit reports for 2004 and 2005,
including "full disclosure and explanation of the Archdiocese's
Also in early 2006, the archdiocese plans to reveal the sources of all
payments to sex abuse victims. In November 2006, each parish will
release an unaudited report of its finances. External audits will be
completed on each parish every three years.
The archdiocese is also in the midst of a consolidation that includes
closing about 80 parishes. Some parishes have staged around-the-clock
vigils in protest, saying their churches were still vital.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
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