In Canon Law, Can 532 states that in all juridical matters, the parish priest acts in the person of the parish, in accordance with the law. He holds the primary responsibility to administer parish goods in accordance with Can 1281 -1288. Under Can 532 the parish priest is the administrator of the parish and must ensure that the temporal goods of the parish are administered correctly.
In civil law the parish priest is the agent of the Diocesan trustees and he is delegated the responsibility of administering the temporal goods of the parish in accordance with the law and in accordance with the purposes of the charity as stated in the Diocesan trust deed.
The parish priest must ensure that an effective Parish Finance Committee (PFC) is formed and that all relevant information is made available to its members. While he is encouraged to delegate many financial and administrative matters relating to the parish to people with relevant expertise, it is his duty to keep himself fully informed of all material matters relating to the parish.
The Diocese is a registered charity (The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, Charity Number 1173050) and all the assets – land, buildings, contents, investments and cash – are held in trust. The Trustees are appointed by the Bishop as the appointing Trustee, and are responsible in civil law for the correct administration and application of the Diocese’s assets. Registered charity status bestows great benefits to the Diocese, for instance, through the Gift Aid Scheme.
The parish priest can freely appoint the members of the PFC and its Chairman. The parish priest may freely replace any member at any time. The Chairman should not be a member of the parish clergy. The PFC should comprise the parish clergy together with a minimum of three lay people – the gift aid organiser, an accountant or someone with bookkeeping ability and one person with relevant property expertise. The composition of the PFC is drawn from members of the faithful selected according to these norms. This core can be expanded on a temporary or permanent basis as required to include, for example, people to take responsibility for fund-raising.
In each parish (Can 537) there must be a finance committee to help and advise the parish priest in the administration of the goods of the parish, without prejudice to Can 532. The PFC is a consultative body that assists the parish priest. It is expected that all members of the PFC observe the strictest confidentiality.The members of the PFC will also have additional functions, such as fund-raising, gift aid, financial planning in relation to property, etc. It is important that any lay persons willing to offer their services in this way are given full information and understand the nature of their responsibilities.
The PFC must be consulted over any major expenditure and before any application for a borrowing facility is requested from the Diocese. The members of the PFC shall be consulted about applications to the Diocesan Finance Committee for permission:
– to carry out work costing more than the permitted maximum (currently £10,000)
– to lease, sell, demolish or structurally alter parish property
– to appoint approved architects or contractors
– for any expenditure other than regular running expenditure by a parish in debt
– to borrow from the bank, Diocese or other parishes for any specific purpose.
The PFC shall ensure that parish property is well maintained and safe, and due diligence is exercised over all parish assets. The PFC will also ensure that any lay staff employed in the parish are, in accordance with Can 1286, paid a livingwage and all civil laws relating to labour observed.