$100 bills in U.S. currency are seen in this photo. (CNS photo/Lee Jae-Won, Reuters)

SCRANTON- Through the Diocese of Scranton’s listening efforts during the Synod on Synodality in 2022, one of the main themes that emerged from online surveys and in-person listening sessions was a broad demand for greater transparency from church leadership in all matters of importance. One of the areas frequently mentioned is parish financial matters.

Financial matters can be difficult for clergy to talk about, and in some cases, difficult for parishioners to understand. However, as the People of God, parishioners who donate money and service to their parish have the right and responsibility to understand how their money is used.

The bottom line is that in order to be good stewards, parishioners should have a basic understanding of parish financial operations.

On August 31, 2022, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera signed a decree instituting “Norms for Annual Parish Financial Reporting” which are to be considered law in the Diocese of Scranton. Each year beginning in 2023, on the second weekend in January, every parish in the Diocese will be required to publish a five-year financial trend analysis in its bulletin, which will include a narrative to help people understand the document.

While a pastor/parish life coordinator is primarily responsible for the day-to-day supervision of a parish’s financial and physical resources, they receive assistance from a Parish Finance Council. The Parish Finance Council is a consultative body of laypersons that advise a pastor in matters pertaining to the financial affairs of the parish. It is widely accepted that an active, well-informed Parish Finance Council strengthens accountability and assists the pastor with his responsibilities.

Parishes are much more expensive to maintain now than they were in the past. As the Diocese of Scranton continues in its Vision 2030 Pastoral Planning Process, striving to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade, it is critical for parishioners to have an understanding of the financial position of their parish.

It is the hope that by having more financial transparency between a parish and its parishioners, there can be greater trust and cooperation to further the mission of the Church. Pastors and parish staff must be open, consultative and collegial in the conducting of affairs and parishioners must accept responsibility for their parish and contribute generously – both money and service – to its programs and projects.