Pastoral and Finance Councils

candleThe revised Code of Canon Law states that every parish must have a finance council, and, if the bishop “judges it opportune, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish…” All of the Bishops of Charlotte have encouraged the use of Pastoral Councils but these were mandated with the promulgation of the Synod documents the Diocesan Pastoral Council guidelines in 2007.

Before this new Code was promulgated in 1983, there was just one “parish council” and, among other things, that council advised the pastor in regard to the finances of the parish.

The role of the finance council is, obviously, to advise the pastor in matters financial. However, the two councils do not work in isolation from each other nor should they be in competition with each other. The finance council, too, has for its mission the spreading of God’s Word. Both councils, then, must work together for the common good of the parish.

How is this accomplished? If the pastoral council has done its work of planning well, the commissions and all other groups that need to submit a budget will plan their programs and activities according to the goals set by the pastoral council. “The various commissions should submit their budgets to the parish pastoral council for approval and recommendation and then to the parish finance council for a recommendation to the pastor. The pastoral council would not change any commission budget but would review and recommend. The parish finance council would not be bound by the recommendation of the parish council but would have to give it weight. The pastoral and finance councils would then meet together for their final recommendation to the pastor.” (Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils, 2007. 31)

The memorandum from Bishop Donoghue to pastors, Dec. 14, 1988 stipulates: “The two councils would meet together for their final recommendation to the pastor.” The two councils must work collaboratively, not competitively. Uppermost in their minds must be the bringing of the Gospel alive in the members of the parish and sharing it with others. No one and no group may use their positions of ministry for self-serving purposes.

Even though the Finance Council is working with the materialities of the parish, it, too, must take care not to lose its evangelization thrust. Time spent in reflection and prayer at the beginning of each meeting makes good sense in terms of good stewardship, responsible decisions, and keeping its focus on the Lord.

For purposes of good communication, it is desirable to have one of the members of the Finance Council as an ex-officio member of the Pastoral Council. The Finance Council then keeps well informed in regard to the direction of the parish as set by the Pastoral Council and is knowledgeable of the reasoning for the priorities set for the parish.