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Issue Date:  March 21, 2008

Roundtable recommends fiscal standards for church

The eruption of the clerical abuse scandal in 2002 brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny to how the Catholic church operates. One result was the much-needed purge of abusive priests. The greatest legacy, however, may be the widespread recognition that the scandal was largely the result of a lack of transparency that affects so many other levels of the church’s operations, especially finances.

Lay groups such as Voice of the Faithful, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Call to Action and FutureChurch have strongly advocated for church reform, but these organizations have often been at loggerheads with bishops. And none of those groups has offered the kind of comprehensive, hyper-detailed “Standard for Excellence” recently released by the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management.

Founded in 2005, the roundtable is a diverse nonprofit collective of lay and religious leaders who helped formulate the group’s recently released Standards for Excellence, a guiding set of principles and practices written to aid dioceses, parishes and other Catholic institutions. Among the roundtable’s directors are Leon Panetta, President Clinton’s former chief of staff; Paul Reilly, chief executive officer of Korn/Ferry International; Fr. J. Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College; and Fr. Edward Malloy, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. Besides the standards, the roundtable offers ongoing support to Catholic organizations seeking guidance.

The standards recommend best practices for everything from financial accountability (they call for independent audits), to conflict-of-interest management to human resources development. The standards do not require filing a 990 Form, the public disclosure tax form required of most nonprofits. Certain Catholic organizations already exist to offer guidance, says Michael Brough, a spokesman for the roundtable, but the standards are different insofar as they blend the requirements of canon law with civil law.

-- Bill Frogameni

National Catholic Reporter, March 21, 2008

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