By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – As part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the Diocese of Jackson has entered with the Federal Government, a Compliance Board has been established to guide the diocese through next August. The Board consists of financial and legal experts along with pastoral and diocesan curia consisting of Rev. Lincoln Dall, vicar general, Carolyn Callahan, diocesan finance officer, and Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor.
The board, which will gather quarterly, met for its initial meeting on Oct. 13, 2020, to discuss ideas and ways to move forward in implementing the steps listed in the DPA to ensure greater transparency and better communication between the diocese and parishes.
The second meeting of the Board was Jan. 12. The following items were addressed for follow up and implementation:
Improved Communication with parishes – The Flocknote communication system is being implemented in parishes. This is an email and text system that allows the diocese to communicate directly and expeditiously with parish leadership and parishioners. Parishes also can communicate to their parishioners through Flocknote with bulletins, notification of events, Mass reservations during the pandemic, etc.
Lighthouse Hotline – Complaints through this system (see sidebar for more information) may be made anonymously by individuals who have witnessed violations of financial policies and/or ethical conduct by church personnel, including parish or diocesan staff and clergy. For each complaint there are three site administrators who receive notification of that complaint. If one of these site administrators is mentioned in a complaint, the complaint goes to other two administrators.
The board asked that the diocesan Ethical Conduct Review Board, which was established by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in July 2019 to address abuse of vulnerable adults by church personnel, add a member with a finance background. The Board then asked that members of the Ethical Review Board serve as administrators on the Lighthouse System so they can receive all reports made in the system.
The board further recommended the Ethical Review Board develop protocols for consistent handling of reports made to Lighthouse that would encompass response, investigations, and actions. The Ethical Review Board will be meeting in mid-March to develop these protocols for implementation with Lighthouse. The protocols will be presented at the next Compliance Board meeting on April 20.
Annual Audit – The Board was given draft copies of the annual diocesan finance audit ending fiscal year June 30, 2020. The final copy is now posted on the diocesan web site at: https://jacksondiocese.org/offices/administration-finance/
The diocesan department of Temporal Affairs is developing training sessions for parish leadership, including pastors, bookkeepers, finance councils and pastoral councils to educate these entities in best practices and sound policy regarding stewardship of parishioners’ donations.
The Compliance Board will continue to collaborate with and make solid recommendations to the diocese for several more months. These meetings have been beneficial to the ongoing improvements and adjustments in diocesan structures and policies.
By Mary Woodward