New Finance Model for Boston Archdiocese

From The Boston Globe:

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, moving to stabilize its finances and replace an old-fashioned patchwork of parish taxes and fees, is rolling out a new financial model in which all parishes will be expected to contribute 18 percent of their weekly offertory, “grand annual’’ fund-raising drive, and net rental income to the archdiocese’s central ministries....Thirty-three parishes are participating in a yearlong test of the program that began July 1. All parishes will transition to the new system next year.

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The change is occurring at a time when the archdiocese hopes to balance its budget for the first time in years, but still faces a severely depleted priest pension fund, declining Mass attendance, and a drop in Catholic school enrollment. One-third of the 291 parishes in Greater Boston ended the 2009 fiscal year in the red.

The new plan was created by a committee and is similar to that of a number of other dioceses in the U.S. Still, it has met with some skepticism among parishoners.

“I think the abuse crisis and the reconfiguration process engendered a great deal of mistrust . . . and some of that has been demonstrated by a lack of contributions,’’ said Chris O’Brien, a member of Corpus Christi-St. Bernard Parish in Newton, one of the parishes in the pilot program. “I think now what we are seeing is that the archdiocese is coming in on a financial level and simply taking what they want from parishes.’’

...Warren Hutchison, a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline, said he wants the archdiocese to succeed, but he thinks the new system is the wrong approach. “What it very well may do is dissuade people from giving to their local parishes, because they feel they’re being forced to give to the archdiocese,’’ he said.

But archdiocesan officials say the parishes and the archdiocese are interdependent; both must be financially sound to carry out the church’s social and spiritual missions. They also say the new model is more equitable and transparent than the present one, which requires parishes to pay fees to support services provided by the archdiocese, such as schools, auditing, and hospital chaplaincy. The parishes are also expected to help the archdiocese raise money through the annual Catholic Appeal.

The Rev. Richard M. Erikson, vicar general of the archdiocese, stressed the importance of all parishes, however, regardless of their potential for financial contributions.

“We don’t judge parishes on their financial capability or performance; we judge parishes on their ability to bring people to Christ,’’ he said. “We have many parishes in very poor parts of our archdiocese who may not be making it financially, but they are at the heart of our efforts for evangelization.’’

I'd like to hear your thoughts. Is the new finance system fair? Will parishoners change the way or amount they donate as a result of this new policy?

Kerry Weber

    Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
    Livia Fiordelisi
    8 years ago
    If this were to happen in my diocese/parish, it would enough me make me stop giving to my parish altogether, or to switch to in-kind donations of some sort. The rest would go directly to a Catholic social service agency.
    Liam Richardson
    8 years ago
    A cathedraticum will go over like lead in Boston. If anything, pastors have only managed to prevent further deteroriation in parochial fundraising by assuring parishioners about how little of their money will go to the archdiocese.
    Joe Mcmahon
    8 years ago
    I'm not from Boston, but it seems to me that the same audit that is done for the archbishop should be made available in its entirety to the parishioners.  An audit for the fiscal year ending 6-30-2010 should also includes a list of all parish assets of that date, none hidden.  The very details the clerics would want to keep the parishioners from knowing should be revealed clearly. 
    we vnornm
    8 years ago
    No one likes a tax. Perhaps this 18% tax will go over better than a system I know of where the rates start at 18% and then go 25%, 33%, and then 50% depending on how bountiful one's monetary harvest is for that year! 
     
    A thought, though....should rich parishes be sharing more?  Should services received by a parish be taken into account? How many laypersons will share responsibility for deciding how the funds are kept? Will (are?) parishes be audited? Aren't parish schools supported by  a parish?
     
    Will this lead to a Boston Tea Party? :-( / :-)   (sorry)
     
    It is a good attempt to bring some kind of fair standard. But aren't there always going to have to be exceptions?
     
    As parents know, it can be hard to be fair with money, and even harder to say "no." Glad I am not a controller or an accountant. bvo

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