Legatus Withholds Tithe to Holy See Amid Accountability Questions

The group’s tithe to the Holy See this year would have been about $820,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

(photo: Bohumil Petrik/CNA)

WASHINGTON —  A U.S.-based organization of Catholic business executives announced Thursday that it is placing its annual donation to the Holy See in escrow until it can receive clarification on questions of financial accountability.

“We certainly pledge our continued devotion to Holy Mother Church, and recognize the tithe has been an important commitment of Legatus since our founding,” said a Sept. 6 letter to Legatus members from Chairman and CEO Thomas Monaghan.

“However, in light of recent revelations and questions, we believe it appropriate to respectfully request clarification regarding the specific use of these funds.”

Legatus is an organization of Catholic business leaders with more than 80 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. The group’s tithe to the Holy See this year would have been about $820,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In his letter, Monaghan praised the leadership of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, who has called for a timely and thorough investigation into questions surrounding the failings of Church leaders.

Questions have also been raised by Legatus members about the organization’s annual tithe to the Holy See, Monaghan said, “specifically pertaining to how it is being used, and what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions.”

“The Board has begun a dialogue along these lines, and in the meantime has decided to place the Holy See annual tithe in escrow, pending further determination.”

He asked members of Legatus to “pray for healing and clarity during this troubled time: for our Church, for all victims of abuse and injustice, and for our clergy.”

The announcement follows weeks of turmoil in the Church, after retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July, amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors and sexual coercion of young seminarians and priests.

Weeks later, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the U.S., released an 11-page testimony claiming that several high-ranking Church officials, including Pope Francis, knew about misconduct allegations against McCarrick but allowed him to operate in public and hold influential roles in the Church.

The controversy was heightened by the recent release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report, which found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

Questions of Vatican financial accountability had been raised earlier this year by the Papal Foundation, a U.S.–based organization that offers grants to support the global work of the Holy Father.

In February, some members of the organization sharply criticized a request from the Holy See for $25 million for a Church-owned hospital that has been plagued by fraud and embezzlement scandals. Grants from the Papal Foundation are normally no more than $200,000 and generally go toward initiatives to help the poor in developing nations.