Vatican says religious communities must understand finance

Vow of poverty must not mean economic ignorance, say officials.

 Posted on August 6, 2014, 2:02 PM

Taking a vow of poverty does not and should not mean living in ignorance of the economic realities connected to community life and a mission of serving the world in the name of the church, Vatican officials wrote in a letter to members of religious communities.

“Gratuity, fraternity and justice” are the basic principles essential to “an evangelical economy of sharing and communion,” said the prefect and secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

In early August Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect, and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary, published a circular letter on the use of financial resources by religious orders, telling the communities they must adopt modern budgeting and bookkeeping practices and ensure their expenditures are for ministries in line with their founding purpose and the good of the whole church.

“All members of the institute should be aware of the importance of working with a budget and estimates in the knowledge that these reflect the values and spirit of the institute,” the document said.

Because the most pressing needs of the church and society may change over time, every order must “define which works and activities to pursue, which to eliminate or modify” and what new areas of ministry they should try to develop, it said.

Under church law, each order is required to have an “economo,” or treasurer, and that person should receive specific training in budgeting and bookkeeping, but every member of an order must have a general idea of the community’s assets and expenditures.

Too often, the letter said, assigning economic oversight to just one person “generated lack of interest about economics within the community, leading to a loss of contact” with the costs of the community’s daily life and activity and “provoking a dichotomy between economics and mission.”

Knowing what a community has and what it spends, the letter said, also will help “verify the real degree of personal and communal poverty” being lived.

Efficient monitoring, including professional outside audits, will help religious communities avoid simply covering deficits of a particular ministry or institutions without making a conscious choice to continue the mission despite its costs.

The circular letter was a follow-up to a symposium the congregation for religious held in Rome in March. Cardinal Braz de Aviz told the Vatican newspaper Aug. 2 that, while the congregation planned for 400 religious to attend the symposium, “not only did 600 show up, another 500 could not get in.”

The attendance, he said, demonstrates that “the problem is real,” with some orders experiencing growth, others struggling to care for their aged and staff their institutions, and all of them sensing a challenge to increase financial transparency.

“We live in a culture that considers capitalism to be the law that governs the use of money,” he said. “For religious, it should not be this way. It is the Gospel that must prevail.”

In the circular letter, the cardinal and Archbishop Rodriguez asked religious orders to send in suggestions by Jan. 31, 2015, for new guidelines for “improving and making more fruitful the resources providence has placed at the church’s disposal so that the mission of serving Christ and the poor would be more effective.”

Source: Catholic News Service



  1. Isaac Gomes said,

    August 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm


    On his return from the 27th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care in Rome (November 15-17, 2012), Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore and former head of Indian bishops’ health care ministry said that the Church in India has to play greater roles to meet the health care needs of the poor in the country. He said that many people did not have access to even safe drinking water and sanitation, let alone health-care.

    According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), every $1 of investment in water can generate $8 worth of economic development. The MGNREGS budgets for Rs 40,000 crore of spending annually. Based on the UNDP statistics of 1:8 benefit ratio, even if half the budgeted amount is invested on providing safe drinking water, it will generate Rs 1,60,000 crore of economic development! Consider the cost of not providing safe drinking water. This causes diarrhea claiming lives of 1,000 children of five years and below every day! A study by the government reveals that diarrhea is among the top 10 causes of death among infants and children 0-4 years of age. About 10% of infants and 14% of 0-4-year children die due to diarrhea in India. So the cost of combating various water-borne diseases like diarrhea is more than the cost of providing safe drinking water for all.

    In this connection, let us refer to NDTV Channel 12th August 2014 News Report. It said the medical profession is the second most corrupt after the Police and exposed the unholy nexus between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

    According to the Report top pharmaceutical companies go to any length to make doctors prescribe the brands they want to push in the market. In return they offer mind-blowing gifts like IPads, digital SLR cameras and even call girls on demand.

    The Medical Council of India advises doctors to prescribe generic names of medicines as far as possible, and avoid writing specific brand names.

    Because of the NDTV Report, the Doctor-Pharma nexus issue was taken up in the Rajya Sabha with the Health Minister Dr Harshavardhan taking a few questions. He clarified that he has advised the Medical Council of India (MCI) which was the regulatory authority for the medical practice in India and is empowered to suspend or cancel the Licences of errant doctors. MCI on its part said it would discuss the matter in its Ethics Committee Meeting.

    On 13th August 2014, the Ethics Committee of the Medical Council of India summoned three doctors after an NDTV investigation that exposed doctors accepting / demanding bribes in exchange for pushing expensive and often unnecessary drugs on patients. “During the course of the enquiry, we asked doctors to produce papers and then we found this… all these are fake degrees and this is absolutely illegal and thus, we have handed him (Dr J.N. Saxena) over to the cops,” said Dr Ajay Kumar of the Ethics Committee of the medical council.

    Dr J.N. Saxena, a general practitioner, was filmed on hidden camera accepting Rs. 5,000 from the NDTV team which posed as representatives of a pharmaceutical firm. The fake doctor had a flourishing inside Delhi’s Patel Nagar for over a decade.

    The expose showed two other doctors – Dr Lalwani and Dr Ravindra Kumar – demanding a digital camera worth Rs. 1.5 lakh and an iPad mini. Licences of all the three doctors have been suspended today by the MCI.


    The solution lies in putting in place in all parishes, various preventive healthcare facilities. They are:

    • Archbishops dream of more Christian Medical institutions with well-trained nurses.
    • The Bishops in each diocese, in collaboration with the Laity, should tap the civic authorities to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation.
    • Aided by the Laity the Church needs to adopt cost-effective healthcare alternatives, in view of the prohibitive costs of modern health care and the above anti-people nexus. Yoga, swimming, free-hand exercise, naturopathy, homeopathy and eating of organic food are such alternatives to improve the immune system and guard against a number of illnesses. This will also reduce the aid bill of each parish on doctors’ fees, costly diagnostic tests and medicine.
    • Various methods (through Mothers’ Club, Children’s Club, etc.) may be adopted by parishes with expert guidance in various disciplines. Experts’ cost will be budgeted and shared by parishioners and not by parish priest just because he is Shepherd!

    To guard against unexpected hospitalization expenses, mediclaim policies come very handy. But when such an eventuality arises, the first thing doctors ask is whether the patient has a mediclaim policy! It will be seen that the hospital bills match the mediclaim entitlement!!

    The clergy and the Religious must take part in this Preventive Health Care venture. It will reduce their stress and medical expenses too. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)



%d bloggers like this: