There is a serious obligation for a pastor to report each year on how the offerings or tithings of parishioners and other donors have been used. The Code of Canon Law urges pastors and other administrators of the Church’s goods to be “good householders,” and lists some resulting obligations (see Canon 1284). Among these is the responsibility to “draw up a report of the administration at the end of each year.” Transparency in financial administration and accountability to donors are important values in the administration of Church goods.
Canon 1287 requires that this annual report be given to the “local ordinary” (in most dioceses, the diocesan bishop) and also to the parishioners. This canon could not be more explicit about this: “Administrators are to render an account to the faithful concerning the goods offered by the faithful to the Church.”
Expenses can vary according to the size of a parish, its ministries — whether it has a parish school, for instance — and location.
That having been said, in almost every parish, as in most not-for-profit organizations, the largest single set of expenses is staff: wages and benefits for parish employees. Typically, the second largest set of expenses is funding for Catholic education: support for schools and programs of religious education for children and adults.
In many dioceses, a percentage of parish income is taxed by the diocese as a means of providing operating funds for the central offices and ministries of the bishop. Let’s not forget that it also costs money to turn on the lights; to operate heating and air conditioning; to keep water flowing; to maintain the buildings, grounds, and parking lots; to insure the parish property, pay any state or local taxes that are assessed; and even to provide hosts and wine for Mass.
Many parishes also use a portion of the weekly tithing or offering for charitable assistance outside of the parish. This is sometimes called “tithing the tithe” and takes the form of direct assistance to a mission project, or to another parish in need, or to a Catholic social service agency, whether nearby or far away.
It is also good stewardship for a parish to maintain savings in case of unplanned events — a leaky roof or equipment failure, for instance. Many parishes, if possible, try to put a bit of money away each year in savings for this purpose.
Rev. Msgr. William J. King is a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg.