Westminster archdiocese had borrowed more than £8 million by the end of last year
according to the 1977 diocesan accounts
published this week.
The diocese also had a deficit of expenditure over income of nearly £270,000 in 1977 alone. The deficit would have been much greater -more than £800,000 — had it not been for Cardinal Hume's personal appeal to the people of the diocese which had raised more than £244,000 by the end of the year and proceeds from the sale of property totalling just over £127,000.
The diocese paid nearly £612,000 in interest on loans in 1977 and most of its borrowing has historically been connected with its vast school building programme. Contribution to the Central School Fund also fell drastically short of expenditure.
However the diocese had more than £3,795,000 worth of assets at the end of 1977 in the form of loans to parishes, investments and money owed to it among others by the Department of Education and Science.
The diocese also owns property valued at /138 million but as this consists mainly of churches. presbyteries halls and schools it cannot be sold to help reduce the diocesan debt.
More than 13,780,000 was spent on school building in 1977, but as 85 per cent of school building costs can be recovered from the Department of Education and Science the actual cost to the diocese was just over £608,000.
Nearly £170.000 was spent on administering the diocesan curia, central services, education and pastoral care while grants of more than £83,000 were made to pastoral care, nearly £44,000 to social care and more than £79.000 to education.
Stern measures to improve the diocese's financial position and reduce the capital debt to a manageable figure were announced in May 1977 and parish assessments were sharply raised in some cases almost doubled.
Writing in this month's issue of Westminster Financial News, Mgr Ralph Brown, Westminster's Vicar General with responsibility for finance, said that many parishes were doing good work in fund raising to meet their assessments and that "the overall situation does appear to be hopeful."
However the diocese this week announced two more measures designed to ease the financial situation. A top level for the amount of money that can be spent on any repairs to individual schools has been set and a "cash flow ceiling" has also been fixed which it is hoped will make it easier for the diocese to prepare a realistic budget.
Other schemes that are being worked on include raising interest free loans, and a new diocesan insurance scheme which would operate jointly for all the diocese in England and Wales. The method of assessing how much each parish should give the diocese is also to he revised as some parishes are having difficulty in meeting their assessments.
The bishops arc also considering plans to rationalise the use of parish and other plant such as sharing churches with other denominations and selling redundant school sites.
The Arundel and Brighton diocese also published its 1977 financial statement this week with the news that it has nearly halved the diocesan debt in the last nine years.
In 1968, the debt stood at £1.600,000 incurred largely through building schools but by the end of 1977 this had been reduced to just over £800,000. This remaining debt will however have to be paid off out of future income.
The dioecese has investments valued at more than £967,000 but these are held in trusts earmarked for special purposes such as training priests. Diocesan buildings such as churches have an insurance value of about £51 millions, diocese's schools £25 million.
There is however a shift in emphasis in the financial demands made on the diocese. In the past this has largely been concerned with building schools but now, because of the drop in the number of school aged children, schools will no longer take the lions share of the diocesan budget said the report.
The need for other pastoral activities has greatly increased in recent years and in 1977 the diocese spent a total of nearly £50,000 on chaplaincies to universities, the Spanish and Italian communities and Gatwock airport and on such projects as the religious education service, pastoral renewal and the diocesan matrimonial tribunal.
The Hexham and Newcastle diocese who published a brief financial statement earlier this year hope to make their full 1977 accounts available by the end of the year.