THE SENATE of priests, at a meeting last month, heard that the Westminster Archdiocese accounts, for the financial year to June 30 1986 shows a deficit of £1.7 million. This latest figure brings the accumulated deficit for the Diocese to £11 million.
The financial report, prepared by the recently appointed Archdiocesan Financial Secretary, John Gibbs, concludes that although in the current financial year the situation has been stabilised, the £11 million deficit should be wiped out by 1989.
Despite financial difficulties facing the Archdiocese, Mr Gibbs told the Catholic Herald, that he is at present working on "a number of possible solutions to stabilise the budget within the next two years".
All diocesan agencies have been investigated, said Mr Gibbs: overall expenditure is to be reduced by 20 per cent, and "one or two agencies will disappear", in an effort to reduce expenditure on staff.
A second trouble spot to emerge is diocesan schools. With more than 200 schools in Westminster Archdiocese, school building costs — both maintenance and new works — "cannot be funded out of the income from the parishes", Mr Gibbs wrote in his report for the Senate.
The schools' costs, explained Mr Gibbs, are not fairly distributed at a parish level: there are 74,000-80,000 school children in the diocese, but of these, no more than 30 per cent have parents who regularly attend Mass and contribute to parish finances.
In his report, Mr Gibbs emphasised the need to continue to assess the parish on an individual level: parishes in less affluent areas should be assessed at lower rates than those situated in wealthy areas. As the Chairman of the Senate, Mgr Patrick O'Donoghue told the Catholic Herald, "Mr Gibbs was briefed by the Cardinal not only to reduce the deficit, but to reduce the assessment, as well."
Although the parishes' contribution to the Diocese had been previously estimated to reach £2.25 million, only £1.8 was actually received. This can be explained by a "combination of reasons", according to Mr Gibbs. For one, the bills had not reached the different parish priests in time for the assessment. Another difficulty which Mr Gibbs pointed to is the lack of financial training many priests receive before they step in as head of a parish. In order to combat this problem, the Financial Secretary is now preparing a "Parish Administration Manual", which will be available for all parish priests in June.
The manual covers a range of financial subjects, from bookkeeping to estate management and legal matters.