The diocese of Quebec is in turmoil over conflicting reports about whether there were irregularities connected with the accounting for the Church Society, the oldest missionary society in the Canadian church, which disburses funds from parishes and bequests in support of ministry in the diocese.
Dennis Drainville, who was recently elected co-adjutor bishop of Quebec, described as “erroneous and misleading” a news story published in the November issue of the Quebec Diocesan Gazette, the diocesan newspaper, which raised questions about why the board chose “to ignore figures in a report prepared for them by the joint audit committee and verified by our senior audit partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.”
In December 2006, the diocese launched an investigation into “significant accounting irregularities” that were discovered in the wake of the resignation of Rev. Rodney Clark, who served as treasurer of the diocese and the Church Society. In October, diocesan Archbishop Bruce Stavert released a statement that said questions regarding the audit of the Church Society’s books were “fully resolved,” with the collaboration of Mr. Clark; he also expressed regret “for the inconvenience” caused to Mr. Clark by the lengthy process.
The Gazette news story said the audit committee’s report showed Mr. Clark “still owed” the society more than $280,000. A special meeting of the Church Society had questioned write-offs made by the Central Board, said the Gazette; a group of 11 members of the society also signed a letter (published in the newspaper) distancing themselves from Archbishop Stavert’s October statement concluding the episode.
(James Sweeny, who is both editor of the Gazette and a signatory of the Church Society letter, was briefly suspended as editor and diocesan Web master by Archbishop Stavert.)
Bishop-elect Drainville, meanwhile, said there was no such report from the joint audit committee because it was neither asked nor empowered to conduct an investigation. The figures quoted in the Gazette story, he said, were “preliminary figures” that were gathered at the beginning of the investigation, which was conducted by the diocese’s legal counsel, David Blair.
PricewaterhouseCoopers also received those figures, said the bishop, but it did not verify them. Bishop-elect Drainville (who will assume leadership of the diocese when Archbishop Stavert retires in 2009) also said “there were never write-offs,” adding that “Central Board has been, from the beginning, seeking to ensure that all claims were fulfilled.”
Bishop-elect Drainville said the preliminary figures had “changed substantially,” but they remained confidential. He also would not comment on whether Mr. Clark owed money to the society, citing a confidentiality agreement.
He said Church Society would issue a “fulsome statement” in the future that would clarify the results of the investigation.