France: Dioceses Confronted With Financial Deficit

Source: FSSPX News


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The French daily La Croix, in its January 7 edition devoted a whole study to the very worrying financial situation of the dioceses of France. Everywhere advertisements are posted to draw the average faithful’s attention to financial necessities. In Amiens, for instance: “Money does not rain down from the sky, even for the Church”; in Lyons “The only shares (in French there is a pun on the word “actions” which is also used to mean “shares”) which never drop are good actions… To give is to act to keep the Catholic Church living today.” In a video clip broadcasted on the Internet in December, the bishop of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes (Paris suburbs) Michel Dubost, thus summed up the dead end in which his diocese was: “Years in, years out, the “denier du culte” (voluntary alms from Catholics to their dioceses, which is the sole financial resource of the Church in France) brings some 3.5 million euros whereas the expenses (essentially salaries) rise to a total of 4.5 million euros. We are seriously in the red, so much so that I wonder how we are going to make ends meet…”

“The problem mainly comes from the diminishing number of donors,” observed Joëlle Delanoux, the bursar of the diocese of Evry, “those who still remain are more generous, but we do not manage to replace those who die or who move after their retirement, especially with donors from the younger generations.” In Amiens, the bursar Jean-Yves Bourgois admitted the same: “After three years of progress, the receipts from the “denier du culte” stagnated in 2007, and they must have gone down some 2 to 3% in 2008.” The diocese of Troyes gave out the same figures. In Limoges, the drop in donations might reach 4%. In Lyons, renewed appeals at the end of the year should enable the diocese to round up the year with stable revenues, but there is fear of a more difficult year in 2009.

Up to now, many dioceses used to make ends meet thanks to legacies or by drawing into their reserves or still by selling buildings. “The tragedy is that, when you sell a diocesan building in order to get food, five years later you have neither food nor house,” said Jean-Yves Bourgois.

So how to face the future? Reduce expenses still more? Some, La Croix wrote, would wish to sell buildings which have become useless: parsonages, disused Catholic schools, for instance in the diocese of Limoges. “We would like to rid ourselves of those buildings, but in the present situation, they are hard to sell,” Fr. Jean-Louis Montville acknowledged. Of course, hunting down useless expenses will remain the order of the day everywhere. But it is not sure that it will prove sufficient: “If I do without letterhead paper, it will not make much of a difference,” Bishop Dubost said.

Two roads remain open: to convince the faithful of the vital necessity of giving; next, maybe, to diminish the number of paid employees. In his message broadcasted on the Internet, Bishop Dubost even considered the possibility of laying off employees, “if there is no other solution.” The diocese of Troyes has “not yet reached that point” but “examines the renewal of jobs, which are not systematic.” Sometimes a full time job is replaced by a part-time job, and the diaconate (permanent diaconate, Ed.) is encouraged to the detriment of lay persons (hired, Ed.).
The two journalists of La Croix, Marilyne Chaumont and Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner conclude by pointing out that on the horizon is rising the increasing weight, in diocesan demography, of very old and dependent priests.” (Sources: La Croix/Apic)