By Archdiocesan Financial Administrator Helen Delahunty
There is much talk among Catholics and the wider community about the shortage of priests. The shortage is real and of huge concern. But as I travel the wide brown lands of this Archdiocese, the question haunts me – can we afford more priests?
The Archbishop’s office has been organising the installation for our new Archbishop in November and in that process we need to ascertain the numbers of all groups attending the Cathedral on 19 November.
It was surprising to me that we have 87 members of clergy in this Archdiocese. That number includes:
· Active priests: 51
· Religious in parishes: 4
· Seminarians: 7
· Deacons: 8
· Retired priests: 17
The active priests plus the religious are the 55 clergy parishes must ensure are justly looked after.
The Archdiocese sets the stipend for all active priests at $19,000 per annum. We also encourage household expenses to run at $12,000 per annum per priest.
So without any extra financial needs, each parish needs to give $31,000 per annum in the first collection to cover the needs of their priest. That is $600 per week. Clearly if a parish has an assistant priest, that number doubles to $1200 per week.
Over the last 11 years, the reports given by the parishes to the Archdiocese convey an interesting story.
Income from the first collection has increased by 9%, while the increase from planned giving (second collection) has increased by 18%. Total income, which includes all income of each parish, has increased by 23%. Expenses over that same time period have increased by 47%.
The income from the Parish collections is going down in real terms and is not keeping up with the growth in expenses. If that is the case – and without arresting that real decrease in the spending power of the collections – how are we going to justify having a priest in each parish?
One of the many roles of the Archdiocese is to ensure our clergy are covered in terms of their basic needs. If a parish can’t contribute enough to cover those costs, the Archdiocese will cover the difference.
Up until August this year, the Archdiocese has paid out over $110,000 to needy parishes. This figure is growing.
Last financial year (12 months to December 2012) the total was just on $110,000. So this year after only eight months, we are already over what we spent last year. Some parishes are not covering the basic costs for their priest and the Archdiocese must be in a position to cover that shortfall.
There are many pressures on the income of the Archdiocese. The past 12 months has seen the costs for responding to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse being borne by all dioceses and congregational orders in Australia.
These costs are calculated for each diocese in proportion to the level of Catholic population. We have paid those costs this year, and will continue to do so for the next few years while the Royal Commission continues its work.
This large expense was not budgeted until the commission was announced. We must be in a position where we can pay our bills even if we are not sure what those bills might be. Planning for the future is essential. Planning for the needs of the Archdiocese is vital.
We have over 50 parishes and not all have priests in residence. There are retirements to come and brand new priests to learn the ropes.
Can we afford them now? Can we afford them in the future? It is up to us, our generosity and our willingness to dig regularly into our pockets, to support our clergy and parish.