February 14, 2019
Dear Parishioners for Justice:
There are a couple of matter that may be interest to those who have concerns about the handling of St. Isabel Parish finances.
You will recall that a letter was posted to the PFJ website on January 22, 2019 commenting on a letter from the Director of Finance of the Diocese of Venice. This letter asked four questions concerning the handling and reporting of finances of St. Isabel Parish. This letter was also mailed to the Director of Finance, the Chancellor of the Diocese, and the head of the Finance Committee of St. Isabel. None of these individuals in a position of responsibility has chosen to respond. The silence on their part in what amounts to a request for transparency is very troubling and only raises more questions.
In the absence of any response, a subsequent letter was written on February 04, 2019 and posted to the PFJ website. This letter was also mailed to the same group of responsible individuals and has not garnered a response. Among other items, this letter requests clarification as to why St. Isabel Parish seems to have been overcharged by the bishop’s Catholic Faith Appeal by more than $34,000. Again, no answer was forthcoming, which only serves to increase suspicion.
Here we report a new development concerning the Catholic Faith Appeal. The Diocese has reported the “final” numbers for the just completed appeal. For this last year, the Diocese reports collections from 61 parishes in the Diocese of Venice. Part of the data reported lists the percentage of households that contributed to the appeal. St. Isabel’s listed percentage of households participating is 15.01%. Only two parishes of the 61 had a participation rate less than this. Furthermore, this participation rate was achieved only after the number of households was reduced from 868 to 634 between November 12 and 19. The reason for this downward adjustment has been questioned, but no response has been forthcoming. Had this adjustment not been made, the participation rate at St. Isabel would have been 10.94%, leaving only Holy Cross Parish with a lower rate. It is of note that St. Isabel was assessed $192,000 (a seeming overcharge as mentioned above) and is reported to have raised $152,335.95. Questions concerning the accounting for and reporting of funds have been raised previously without response. The accuracy of the reported amount is uncertain.
It is most certainly unfortunate that the Diocese of Venice and the Finance Council of St. Isabel Parish seem to operate as if they have no obligation to be transparent, no obligation to be held accountable for their collecting, reporting, and disposition of funds provided by the Catholic people of Sanibel and the many visitors to Sanibel. In light of this failure on the part of a charitable organization, it is hard to recommend that this organization be entrusted with additional funds. There are many fine charities, Catholic and secular, who are more than happy to provide accurate accounting and information as to how the funds are used in fulfilling their mission.