Priests Authority Within His Parish


#1

Does a parish Priest have the authority to abolish the "Parish Council"?


#2

Yes.


**Parish counsels are highly recommended but not required, and the pastor can allow one - or disband an existing one. **


Also a parish counsel is only an "advisory counsel" anyway; they have only as much authority that the pastor wishes to give them. Even if he to give the counsel authority over, lets say, the parishes' rel ed curriculum, or any financial matters, he can still overrule any decision that they make.


#3

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Amen.


#4

[quote="Discerning13, post:1, topic:336817"]
Does a parish Priest have the authority to abolish the "Parish Council"?

[/quote]

Not necessarily. It may be that the Bishop requires that each parish has a parish council. In my diocese there is a small book that has been issued by the bishop that contains all the rules for running of a parish. It includes the mandate to have a parish council and a finance committee. In such a case, the parish priest cannot abolish the parish council. Perhaps he could change the members of it.


#5

[quote="Joan_M, post:4, topic:336817"]
Not necessarily. It may be that the Bishop requires that each parish has a parish council. In my diocese there is a small book that has been issued by the bishop that contains all the rules for running of a parish. It includes the mandate to have a parish council and a finance committee. In such a case, the parish priest cannot abolish the parish council. Perhaps he could change the members of it.

[/quote]

The finance council is mandated by Canon Law. The parish council, OTOH, is not mandated by the Church. Unless the Bishop mandates that there be one in each parish, the pastor is free to have one or not. It still is only a consultative body and the pastor is not bound by anything they want to do.

In my early years of serving on parish councils I found that some pastors resented them. One pastor would take credit for everything that went well and blame the parish council for everything that went wrong, even if all those things had been parish council decisions.


#6

In England and Wales, the Parish Priest is legally and socially responsible for anything done in the Church's name within the Parish boundaries. He may have a Parish Council to advise him, but he is not obliged to take their advice. He can abolish the Parish Council or sack some of the members as he wishes. The only practical constraint is that it is the laity that do most of the work and he needs to keep them onside.

The law is likely to be different elsewhere, but generally if something goes wrong in a Parish, the buck stops with the Parish Priest not with a Parish Council. We just have to foot the bill.


#7

PARISH COUNCIL. Modeled on the diocesan council, a group of parishioners organized to co-operate with the pastor in the apostolic work of a parish. After describing the functions of diocesan councils the Second Vatican Council decreed that "Such councils should also be found, if possible, at parochial, inter-parochial and inter-diocesan levels, and also on the national and international plane" (decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 26). As conceived by the Church, parish councils are merely advisory to the pastor and are meant to assist him. Unlike their counterparts among Protestants, a Catholic parish council does not operate under the trustee system. It does not either replace the authority of the pastor or make him juridically dependent on its decisions.


#8

Yes, unless the particular law of his diocese legislates otherwise. Would the decision be wise is an entirely different matter.


#9

It depends on what the archdiocese requires. In many places, only a finance council is required and the parish council is optional. Even if a parish council is required in a particular archdiocese, the pastor still has the right to disband the current council and appoint new members if he chooses to do so.


#10

I have been on the financial council at three different parishes in my life. In each case, they are nothing more than rubber stamps for the priest. In general, I have found that good financial practices and controls do not exist in Catholic parishes. The incredibly loose bookkeeping would not be tolerated in any corporation.

A better system is the way the Protestants do it. The minister has charge of the spiritual side of the house and the laity has charge of the physical and financial side. The Catholic system concentrates way too much power in the hands of the priests and bishops.


#11

I don’t know about where you’re from but our parish, as a registered charity, is required by law to file a financial report with Revenue Canada each year. We are also required to file a financial report with the diocese and our bookkeeping has to be accurate.

Our financial council is quite competent and we don’t tolerate sloppy bookkeeping, knowing that that would only come back and bite us.

The diocese limits how much the Pastor can shell out on one project without prior diocesan approval.


#12

I am truly happy for you. Not so in the U. S. however. The bishop is legally a “corporation sole” and does not have to submit financial information to the government.


#13

Why should he have to? The Church is distinct from the government


#14

What is the appropriate course of action when a “parish administrator” (he is the only priest there but is canonically not the pastor) both abolishes the Finance Council and dismisses the business manager/bookkeeper hired by the prior pastor, taking total control himself? The bishop knows about this but nothing has been done thus far.


#15

I am in the US and I can assure you our diocese takes financial controls very seriously.

We have a diocesan finance manual governing parish activities, and we have an onsite financial audit every three years by external auditors. Be “we” I mean every parish in the diocese. In addition we have a yearly report that we submit to the diocese.

Our diocese does not use “corporation sole”. Each parish is a separate corporation, the bishop and 2 members of the diocesan Curia are board members, the pastor, and two parish lay members are also board members.


#16

The appropriate course of action is to meet with the bishop and make your needs known to him.


#17

That is excellent, more dioceses should be like yours. The problem is that a new bishop could take over and eliminate all of this progress you have made and you will have no recourse. In our diocese, our new bishop moved some $ 20 million into a “Foundation” which does not get audited. Rumor has it that he used much of the money to build himself a palatial mansion but I don’t know if that is true or not.

The diocese annual financials do get audited but the auditors will not give a “clean sheet” because of the money flows back and forth among the diocese, the Foundation and a new “cemetery fund”. So we get only a qualified audit opinion.

My main point is the total lack of control on the part of the laity.


#18

“We have a diocesan finance manual governing parish activities, and we have an onsite financial audit every three years by external auditors.”
Even with all of this in place, it is possible to skirt the procedures. Let me show you how:
Projects in our archdiocese have to be approved by archdiocese if they are over a certain amount. So, the projects are chopped up into smaller projects and then done a little at a time so that the project isn’t subject to approval. Pastor wants to give project to a certain parishioner rather than a lower bid (who would be just as good a contractor) so favored parishioner lowers his bid and when parish get rebate check for energy efficient improvements from the local electric or gas company, he just endorses check over to contractor to make up the difference from original bid. Auditors won’t see this because it’s not mentioned in the contractor paperwork and maybe no paperwork is kept for the energy rebate request to the energy companies . Another example, pastor wants to contribute cash for certain ethnic group’s event that is being held off site (even though though this isn’t a parish group and only some are parishioners) so he gives them some money and calls it parish entertainment. How is auditor going to know where it really went?
I think it is easy in some parishes for there to be no accountability. And if the pastor is saying a certain expense is for x item and he writes all the checks himself or disburses the cash, there’s a lot of leeway for financial abuse.


#19

They do if you have segregation of duties, which we do.

A receipt is required for everything in our diocese.

This is a violation of the segregation of duties required in our diocese. The pastor does not have signing authority AND custody of the checkbook and accounting software.


#20

Certainly. That is as it should be. The bishop and his delegates (pastors) are the custodians of the temporal goods of the Church.

I hope you didn’t misunderstand me to be implying otherwise.

However, the bishop and his pastors are called to be good stewards of the temporal goods of the Church. The way in which our bishop(s) have seen fit to do so in our diocese is through high-quality accounting practices, separation of duties, audits, and accountability.

Can fraud occur? Certainly.
Does it occur? Certainly.

But, at least our bishop does not want to be answering to the “Man upstairs” regarding his custodial role over the temporal goods of the Church. He has made a good faith effort to safeguard and properly use them.


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