Dave Dennis, a longtime friend of Margaret and me, and a CPA with years of distinguished experience in Church finance at the local and national level, was kind enough to go over my books on Wednesday’s post involving diocesan finances and annual bishops’ appeals [February 7]. On the Café Facebook site, Dave corrected a statement I had made, to the effect that Catholic dioceses in the United States must file an IRS 990 report that is available for public review on-line to the general public. I wanted to share his correct information on the blog itself.
Dave explained that Catholic entities listed in the “Official Catholic Directory” are generally exempt from this requirement [to file the IRS 990] and instead granted their Tax Exempt Status through a tax determination letter provided to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which precludes the IRS requirement for public filing of financial statements.
Dave suggested that I explain the importance of the Official Catholic Directory, published since 1817 by P.J. Kenedy [correct spelling] and Sons. The OCD is a very large and expensive one-volume directory considered the official source of all Catholic institutions and clerical personnel in the United States between two covers. Every parish office has a copy despite the cost, because it is considered the reliable source for the addresses of every man in Holy Orders and every religious community, college, and institution. When your parishes observe First Communion, Confirmation, or marriages, certification of the event is mailed to the address of the church where the original baptismal record is kept, as it appears in the OCD. If you are trying to find the current assignment and address of the priest who married you 25 years ago, the OCD will contain this information. [Don’t be afraid to ask your parish office for assistance in this regard.]
As Dave pointed out above, the OCD has quasi-civil legal status in matters of tax exemption, among other things. If a congregation sets itself up and claims the name “Catholic,” but is not listed in the OCD, it cannot claim Roman Catholic juridical status. The same is true with clergy. There are always imposter priests wandering about performing weddings and other services for fees, but only properly ordained priests incardinated into a diocese or religious order are officially recognized in the book. The OCD includes retired clergy and a necrology.
The OCD in recent years has also served as an invaluable if sad service in the investigation of clergy accused of abuse. If my memory is correct, there is a scene in the movie “Spotlight” where the reporters are pouring through older volumes of the OCD to trace the careers of abuse perpetrators shuffled from parish to parish and diocese to diocese. As the OCD is an open publication, law enforcement officers can circumvent uncooperative dioceses by researching the book.
The cost of the OCD in its various print and internet versions is listed for non-clergy at around $399. When I was a pastor, I think I bought ours every other year.