The company that manages our electrical service called our parish one day. The agent said the company would do a free energy audit. The audit would produce a report detailing the ways we could save energy and lower our bill. The company also offered us energy-saving light bulbs, free.
We’ve been audited many times. Every three to five years diocesan auditors visit for two or three days to review the parish finances to make sure everything adds up. We’ve been through compliance audits for ethical ministry with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. We’ve had rain, runoff, and wastewater audits. One time, everyone who served at the parish did a time audit. We looked at our daily activities to better understand our priorities and effectiveness in ministry.
An audit is an examination of conscience or review of life. Time is set aside for reflection on a specific area of living. Deep analysis, reflection, and evaluation can bring new insight. In the end, we can accentuate the positives and hopefully address the negatives. A goal is attitudinal and/or behavioral change for the better.
Audits or examinations of conscience are regular parts of Catholic life. So why not a racism audit? Would you or your church community do a racism audit every few years? How do you think you’d do? Right away you might feel defensive and set up obstacles to such a review with statements like: “We’ve done this,” “I’m not racist,” “It’s not a problem here,” “That’s politics,” “The Church apologized for that long ago,” and more.
I respectfully wave off all obstacle-creating excuses. For an audit to measure an organization’s tolerance for and acceptance of diversity and inclusion, two areas of inquiry are required: individual, and organizational. The audit focuses on the individual or personal because an institution is the sum of its parts, and it also focuses on the organization, because structures and systems—like people—hold and transmit beliefs and values.
Employing the audit does not reveal if a person is or is not racist. You don’t pass or fail an audit result. The goal is to measure inclusion, that is, the levels of inclusivity at work in a person or organization. Inclusion can be measured in a number of areas: values and attitudes, skills and abilities, occupation, and personal features or personality.
A level of bias, inclusivity, and/or exclusivity is at work in all of us whether we are aware of it or not. Bias is often unconscious or automatic. Our willingness to examine our own possible biases is an important step in understanding the roots of stereotypes and prejudice in our Church and in society.
How might the Church change if dioceses and parishes—like many corporations and businesses—hired inclusion officers to perform regular audits of parishes and ministries? Racism, prejudice, and bias in our country aren’t going away. Maybe we should add one more audit to the annual list.