Church Financial Questions and a Response
Tommy Sierra, Cape Town – By way of comment on the letter from Fr Raphael Thomas entitled “Parish finance: A priest’s view” (March 22), I would like to turn attention to archdiocesan finances.
I am open to correction as far as specifics are concerned with regard to time and amount, but if my memory serves me correctly, quite some years back it was reported that the archdiocese of Cape Town was running an overdraft of some R6 million.
Not unexpectedly, this situation raised questions as to budgetary and financial controls, and as a consequence a call was made for financial assistance in the form of contributions/donations and investment of funds.
I am not sure as to the degree to which the call was successful, but since then matters appear to be under control and less likely to ever occur again, which presumably can be ascribed, in the main, to the levy in the form of a tax — on a sliding scale — prescribed by the archdiocese on the income of parishes where these exceed the prescribed exempted threshold.
As an example of the extent of such levies, the parish of which I am a member of its finance committee budgeted for the 2016/17 financial year for an amount in excess of R250 000 to be paid to the archdiocese, notwithstanding the relevant budget reflecting a projected deficit for the year.
In the light of this, questions arise as to the financial situation of the archdiocese and its budgetary allocations. My parish priest declines to provide any information in this regard nor provide a copy of the archdiocese’s latest budget.
This would appear to fly in the face of society’s expectation of the need for accountability and transparency with regard to monetary affairs.
By virtue of being a monthly planned giver to my parish, a portion of my contribution is included in the levy referred to above and, as such, I need to enquire as to whether the archdiocese will provide a copy of its latest annual budget and outline its policy with regard to the provision of information of its financial affairs with particular reference to its annual budgetary allocations.
Graham Wilson, financial administrator of the archdiocese of Cape Town, responds:
Mr Sierra is correct that the archdiocese was R5 million in debt almost 20 years ago. Parishes and individuals responded very generously with donations and loans to clear the debt, and all parish loans were repaid within four years.
Since that time, the archdiocese has been very careful to be as transparent as possible about its finances and financial health.
As part of this, its audited statements are distributed each year at the priests’ AGM.
Also, a year ago, all parish finance councils were invited to one of two comprehensive financial presentations, which covered the history, current state, and future of parish and archdiocesan finances.
Parish levies currently make up half of the archdiocese’s annual income: the rest comes from fundraising, investments, bequests and donations.
Mr Sierra might not have participated in those meetings last year, but he (or indeed any parishioner) is very welcome to contact me directly at any time to discuss the financial health of the archdiocese.
Contact the archdiocese at firstname.lastname@example.org