France: Worrying deficits in several dioceses

Source: FSSPX News


Mgr. Roland Minnerath, the new archbishop of Dijon, named last spring, spoke in grave terms, at the end of September, of the financial situation in his diocese: “No one is unaware that since 2001, the running deficit (€800,000) has reached worrying proportions and that the budget has not stopped shrinking…We must aim as quickly as possible at reducing the haemorrhage of squandered expenses…and return to an economic equilibrium. The only service I can and must render for our common good is the reduction of our expenses on every front, wherever possible…Nothing will turn me away from this objective.”

In the diocese of Dijon, some people are asking themselves: How can this be possible? Leaders knew the situation, why did they not stop the haemorrhage? Why continue to give, if the money is badly managed? But others have applauded Archbishop Minnerath’s initiative. “I don’t like to see my Church lay off people, like an ordinary employer at Medef (French employers association), Jean-Louis Pelotte, president of a Dijon association, told La Croix, but that situation could not continue. Matters need to be clarified and allowed to start up again on a new basis: what projects and by what means? I hope that this crisis will spark a true realization, not only in the diocese, but in the whole Church.”

A number of dioceses are also experiencing real financial difficulties. Montpellier has already had to reduce the number of employees at its radio station, RCF-Maguelone. At the beginning of this year, those responsible were forced to abandon the restoration of the diocesan house Saint-Guilhem, in the heart of the city, through lack of funds. “To renew the old would cost much more than to build the new, explained Fr. Régis Coste, the vicar general. We have therefore chosen to sell Saint-Guilhem and to build something less expensive and more functional, to accommodate all diocesan services.” In his opinion, given the annual deficit of €1.2 million, it was the only solution: “We are not just in the red, we are in the dark red.”

The diocese of Lyon, also in debt, has reacted drastically. “On the arrival of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, in 2002, we set up a sort of financial healthcheck and, in view of the results, a five year financial recovery program,” Laurent Charignon the diocesan bursar told La Croix. With 226 lay people at the service of the diocese, either in the administrative sector (57), or in the pastoral (169), we have a significant wage bill (the equivalent of 133 full time employees). Furthermore, and paradoxically, our property costs us a lot of money.” The deaths of the two preceding archbishops (Cardinal Jean Balland in 1998 and Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé in 2002) have delayed the measures which were necessary. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has taken up the case again and undertaken, with the help of a cabinet-council, to consider the reorganization of the diocese. “We are approaching the year 2004-2005 as a year of decisions,” he has just written to the priests and lay people in charge in the diocese. “The choices which are going to be made in the property domain, as regards finances, the reorganization of services or human resources, have been coming to fruition for many months, and must no longer be delayed.” Thus, “project-teams” have been set up to work in five particular areas: human wealth, budget, property plan, communication and management.

The diocese of Belley-Ars (Ain) is also in an alarming situation. According to the 2003 budget, expenditure rose to €3,162,000, against receipts of €2,800,000. Hence, a deficit of €362,000. “The cost of staffing,” according to the latest diocesan report on the contribution to parish costs, “said that this alone represented more than 60% of expenditure, or €1,914,000. The contribution to parish funds, presumed to cover these expenses, only brought in €1,879,000.” According to initial indications, the trend in 2004 is hardly encouraging. It looks set to be more of a downtrend.