The Church’s Code of Canon Law provides the diocesan bishop with the right to impose an assessment or tax on parishes for the support of the needs of the local church. It’s a practice that dates back centuries and is in wide use in the Church around the world. In the United States, parish assessments are in place in well over 90% of dioceses. To date, the Fall River Diocese has been very fortunate; it has been among only a very few dioceses to have not had to rely on such income.
Unfortunately, the situation today is far different. Over the past twenty-years, a number of financial challenges emerged that have impacted the financial stability of our Diocese In general, since the 1990s, declining church attendance, rising costs and increased spending to support the Diocese have negatively impacted Diocesan financial resources.
In addition, over the years an increasing number of entities in the Diocese have significantly fallen behind in paying for their property and health insurance, requiring the Diocese to advance these costs on their behalf. Exacerbating this financial situation has been many years of low, and at times, non-existent interest rates. What has remained in investments and savings has earned little in return.
Together, these challenges have created a perfect financial storm of sorts, depleting reserves and eroding the diocesan financial foundation to the point where the need for change is imminent.
After careful review of the situation and after prayer, reflection and consultation with the Diocesan Finance Council and the Presbyteral Council, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., has concluded that the implementation of a parish assessment policy in the Fall River Diocese is necessary. The policy will become effective in January 2016.
Revenue from the assessment will help fund the operations of the central administration of the Diocese. Among these services are those handling matters of real estate, clergy personnel, employee benefits and insurance, canonical processes, archives, some facilities and construction consultation, and legal assistance.
This new parish assessment policy will not affect the Catholic Charities Appeal. The annual springtime campaign provides funding for the critical charitable services and programs sponsored by the Diocese to help those in need throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands.
The assessment is a sign that we are part of a bigger community and must do our share to support it. Parishes are part of the Fall River Diocese, and income offered through an equitable parish assessment policy is another way to share in its overall mission.