Parish/Mission Finance Council Guidelines
Revised March 1, 1997
Table of Contents:
Approved For Implementation In The Diocese Of Beaumont
March 1, 1997
Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.
Bishop of Beaumont
The 1983 Code of Canon Law calls for the establishment of consultative bodies in every parish to assist the pastor. Canon 537 mandates a Finance Council in every parish to assist the pastor in the administration of parish goods. “Each parish is to have a finance council which is regulated by universal law as well as by norms issued by the Diocesan Bishop; in this Council the Christian Faithful, selected according to the same norms, aid the Pastor in the administration of parish goods with due regard for the prescriptions of Canon 532.” (Canon 537)
The pastor, without abdicating his pastoral authority and leadership, must be willing to encourage and enable lay persons to assume various roles in a spirit of shared responsibility. A Finance Council can genuinely assist the pastor in his challenge to administer the temporal resources and fiscal affairs of the parish community and to formulate policy and procedures in service to the effective management of parish assets.
The primary purpose of the Finance Council is consultative. It is to assist the pastor, who is the Administrator of the juridic person — the parish — in making administrative decisions and policies, on both the ordinary and the extraordinary level of administration (see Appendix 1). There should be an awareness of the overall mission and pastoral vision of the parish in all consultation.
The Finance Council shall:
- Assist the pastor in the administration of parish goods in accordance with the norms of Canons 1281 to 1288 (see Appendix 2). The Council must be consulted in any matter of extraordinaryadministration before permission is requested of the Bishop.
- Assist the pastor in the preparation of a yearly budget of income and expenditures. The proposed budget should be shared with the Parish Pastoral Council.
- Assist the pastor in the preparation of an annual financial report of income and expenditures for dissemination to the parishioners and forwarding to the Chancery.
- Review the parish income and expense report quarterly and make a report available to the Parish Pastoral Council at least annually.
- Assist parish boards and organizations in preparing and submitting annual budgets.
- Study parish revenues and make recommendations for increasing revenue to meet both parish and diocesan goals and priorities.
- Familiarize themselves with, implement, and evaluate compliance with all diocesan fiscal policies and assist the pastor in meeting these obligations.
- Encourage support of parish and diocesan Stewardship programs.
The Finance Council shall consist of no more than five nor less than two parishioners who are Catholic and, if possible, possess experience or expertise in business, finance, or law.
Members are appointed by the pastor for a three-year renewable term or until there is a change in pastorate. If a member is removed from the Council by the pastor for a serious reason, notification is to be given to the Diocesan Fiscal Officer.
The Council should consist, if possible, of professionals who are knowledgeable about banking, business, investment counseling, accounting, insurance, etc., and who are committed to the work of the Church. They are to be practicing members of the Church and outstanding in integrity.
Excluded from membership on the Finance Council are persons who could have a conflict of interest from such affiliation. Also ineligible are staff members, and any close relatives of the pastor (e.g. brother, sister, nephew, niece, in-law).
The Finance Council shall meet quarterly. Additional meetings are held as the pastor deems necessary.
The Finance Council is distinct from the Parish Pastoral Council. The Chairperson of the Finance Council is to attend the Parish Pastoral Council meetings when input will enable the Finance Council to fulfill its responsibilities (See Functions).
Those activities of an administrator that are done routinely or regularly, such as:
- collecting debts, rents, interest, and regular income;
- maintaining property and checking accounts;
- supporting personnel;
- accepting nominal gifts;
- paying bills;
- making routine purchases.
Those activities of an administrator that:
- Do not occur regularly or routinely;
- Are of major importance according to the economic condition of the parish;
- Are not covered within the meaning of “ordinary administration”.
In the Diocese of Beaumont, effective March 1997, the Bishop established that any transaction over $15,000 constitutes extraordinary administration and requires his permission in advance.
The traditional notion of extraordinary administration includes, but is not limited to:
- alienation (the transfer of ownership of church property by sale or by gift; the disposal of objects of worth due to their artistic, historical, or consecrated nature; or any transaction that would jeopardize the patrimonial condition of the juridic person); Refer to Canons below which govern contracts and alienation.
- land purchases;
- lease or rent of church property which subjects it to a permanent or long-term burden;
- acceptance or refusal of major gifts;
- construction of new buildings or extensive repair of old buildings;
- long-term investment of any kind of capital;
- application for a loan (all loans must be co-signed by the Bishop);
- special collections not prescribed by the Bishop;
- establishment of a school or a cemetery;
- initiating or contesting a lawsuit
The permission of the competent authority according to the norm of law is required in order validly to alienate the goods which through lawful designation constitute the stable patrimony of a public juridic person [parish] and whose value exceeds the sum determined in law.
2. The permission of the Holy See is also required for valid alienation when it is a case of goods whose value exceeds the maximum amount [$3,000,000 in the U.S.], goods donated to the church through a vow, or goods which are especially valuable due to their artistic or historical value.
3. If the object to be alienated is divisible, the parts which have previously been alienated must be mentioned in seeking the permission for alienation; otherwise the permission is invalid.
4. The persons who must take part in alienating goods through their advice or consent are not to give their advice or consent unless they have first been thoroughly informed concerning the economic situation of the juridic person whose goods are proposed for alienation and concerning previous alienations.
- With due regard for the prescriptions of their statutes, administrators invalidly posit acts which go beyond the limits and procedures of ordinary administration unless they first obtain written authority from the Ordinary.
- The acts which go beyond the limits and procedures of ordinary administration are to be defined in the statutes; if, however, the statutes do not mention such acts, it is within the competence of the diocesan bishop to determine such acts for persons subject to him after he has heard the finance council.
- Unless and to the extent that it is its own advantage, a juridic person is not held to answer for acts invalidly posited by its administrators. A juridic person, however, is responsible for acts illegitimately but validly posited by its administrators with due regard for the right to sue or to have recourse against administrators who have damaged it.
All clerics or laypersons who, through a legitimate title, take part in the administration of ecclesiastical goods are bound to fulfill their duties in the name of the Church and in accord with the norm of law.
Before administrators take office:
- They must take an oath before the Ordinary or his delegate that they will be efficient and faithful administrators;
- They are to prepare, sign, and subsequently renew an accurate and detailed inventory of immovable goods, movable goods, either precious or of significant cultural value, or other goods along with a description and appraisal of them;
- One copy of this inventory is to be kept in the archives of the administration; the other, in the curial archives; any change whatever which the patrimony may undergo is to be noted on each copy.
- All administrators are bound to fulfill their office with the diligence of a good householder.
- For this reason, they must:
- Take care that none of the goods entrusted to their care is in any way lost or damaged and take out insurance policies for this purpose, insofar as such is necessary;
- Take care that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is safeguarded through civilly valid methods;
- Observe the prescriptions of both canon and civil law or those imposed by the founder, donor, or legitimate authority; they must especially be on guard lest the Church be harmed through the non-observance of civil laws;
- Accurately collect the revenues and income of goods when they are legally due, safeguard them once collected and apply them according to the intention of the founder or according to legitimate norms;
- Pay the interest on a loan or mortgage when it is due and take care that the capital debt itself is repaid in due time;
- With the consent of the Ordinary invest the money which is left over after expenses and which can be profitably allocated for the goals of the juridic person;
- Keep well ordered books of receipts and expenditures;
- Draw up a report on their administration at the end of each year;
- Duly arrange and keep in a suitable and safe archive the documents and deeds upon which are based the rights of the Church or the institution to its goods; deposit authentic copies of them in the archive of the curia when it can be done conveniently.
- It is strongly recommended that administrators prepare annual budgets of receipts and expenditures; however, it is left to particular law to issue regulations concerning such budgets and to determine more precisely how they are to be presented.
Within the limits of ordinary administration only, it is permissible for administrators to make donations for purposes of piety or Christian charity from movable goods which do not pertain to the stable patrimony.
Administrators of goods:
- Are to observe meticulously the civil laws pertaining to labor and social policy according to Church principles in the employment of workers;
- Are to pay employees a just and decent wage so that they may provide appropriately for their needs and those of their family.
- Both clerical and lay administrators of any ecclesiastical goods whatsoever which have not been legitimately exempted from the governing power of the diocesan bishop are bound by their office to present the local ordinary with an annual report, which in turn he is to present to the finance council for its consideration; any contrary custom is reprobated.
- Administrators are to render an account to the faithful concerning the goods offered by the faithful to the Church, according to norms to be determined by particular law.
Administrators are neither to initiate nor to contest a lawsuit on behalf of a public juridic person in civil court unless they obtain the written permission of their own ordinary.