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The Players in the Church's Temporal Goods World
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(A) Introduction: Episcopal Temporal Goods Governance Role

In presiding over a diocese (c. 369) as its key leadership figure, the bishop is principally responsible for managing or administering diocesan personnel and financial resources. He is to do this in accord with certain pastoral principles in order to take care of the spiritual well-being of the people of God as effectively as possible. He manages such resources especially in order to achieve the following goals: the celebration of divine worship, the ministry of charity, the care of the Church's ministers, and the conducting of the Church's apostolate. In this connection we might note the 2004 Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (Directory), an executive document of the Congregation for Bishops that discusses in some detail various aspects of the bishop's teaching, sanctifying, and governing office. Paragraph 189 notes five criteria of temporal administration: the criterion of pastoral/technical competence, the criterion of participation, the ascetic criterion or the criterion of evangelical simplicity in the use of temporal goods, the apostolic criterion calling for the use of temporal goods in the service of evangelization and catechesis, and the criterion of being a good householder in stewarding the Church's resources (c. 1284). We will strive to integrate these various criteria of ecclesial administration throughout the following reflections on selected structures of diocesan and parish financial administration. However, we will not examine the implications of such criteria for other juridic persons such as religious institutes or public associations of the faithful.

When one examines especially Book V of the Latin code on temporal goods, certain points stand out:

1.   Church goods are basically designed to serve church purposes, e.g., the celebration of divine worship, the support of church ministers, clerical or lay, and the undertaking of apostolic works, especially ministry to the poor.

2.   Such goods are administered in the name of the Church as a public institutional trust. This illustrates the administrator as good householder principle which the Directory affirms (c. 1284).

3.   Church authorities are the primary administrators of such goods; the following reflections focus especially on bishops and pastors since they are the key administrators with whom canonists, finance officers, and members of diocesan and parish finance councils primarily work. Major religious superiors would also fit this category of church authorities, but they are not the focus of this article given its diocesan and parish orientation.

4.   The code envisions a diversified involvement of the faithful in this area of church life. This means that various church administrators are regularly to interact with those they serve and those with whom they engage in various financial decisional processes. This is a good example of the Directory principle of participation.

The bishop is the administrator only of properly diocesan goods since he immediately governs the diocese. For there is a close link between the one who governs a given juridic person like a diocese and the one who administers its temporal goods. The bishop, however, is also a supervisor who is bound to exercise vigilance over the administration of the goods of the juridic persons subject to him such as parishes. Among his key concerns here is assuring the use of such goods for the aforementioned church purposes. He is to see to it that no abuses occur in the administration of such goods, while setting the proper administrative tone in the diocese, i.e., an atmo sphere of transparency and accountability.

Church temporal administration is in principle a highly diversified reality and a particularly fruitful area for lay involvement. For example, canons 210-212 highlight the basic right and duty of the faithful to be involved in the pursuit of the Church's mission and to express their opinion on ecclesial concerns in light of their knowledge and competence. These rights and duties surely have special relevance for church financial administration.

This article will briefly and somewhat generically examine the key persons and consultative bodies involved in administering temporal goods in the canons on the diocese and the parish. We will especially note the role of those select members of the faithful who closely assist bishops and pastors in this administrative enterprise. Hopefully our reflections...



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