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Parishes in cash crisis as levies fail to meet costs

EIGHT out of nine deaneries in Scotland's biggest Catholic Archdiocese are in the red.

UNDER THREAT: We told yesterday of plans to cut the number of parishes.
UNDER THREAT: We told yesterday of plans to cut the number of parishes.

As the Church braces itself to close half of the parishes across its Glasgow heartland, new figures show most are failing to raise enough in basic levies to cover rising costs such as insurance and heat and light.

Papers show that the nine deaneries - clusters of parishes - in the Glasgow Archdiocese lose a total of £330,000.

One - the North East with its wealthy suburban parishes in East Dunbarton-shire and North Lanarkshire - operates in the black. The rest rely on extra-ordinary fundraisers or collections to pay their basic bills.

The figures mean that the average parish in the archdiocese - there are 94 - loses more than £3000 a year on its shoestring budget.

It was revealed yesterday that the Archdiocese was concerned about the future of half of these parishes because it could not find enough priests to fill pulpits.

Church insiders stress these changes are down to priest shortages, not money problems.

Ronnie Convery, spokesman for the Archdiocese, said: "The current consultation is not driven by finances.

"Any money raised as a result of a parish closing or merging does not come back to central funds, but follows the people and becomes part of the patrimony of the newly enlarged parish. The Church's Canon Law is very strict on this point.

"The Archdiocese as a central body does not benefit financially from parish closures.

"Many parishes operate at a modest surplus or loss, but their accounts are closely monitored and a system is in place to assist particularly disadvantaged parishes from a diocesan-wide collection.

"The current process of discernment is about how best to deploy our priests and churches in the face of changing demographics and fewer vocations. It is definitively not about saving money."

The Deanery with the biggest average annual deficit is the North-West, which includes parts of East and West Dunbartonshire. It loses £112,000 a year across 11 parishes. The West End Deanery loses £107,000 in 13 parishes.

The Herald has obtained accounts for individual parishes in the South Deanery, which covers Govan and Pollok. It showed one parish, St Anthony's in Govan, had average annual losses over three years of £22,852. The church makes £46,943 a year but spends, on top of other costs, more than £7000 on insurance and £8000 on heat and light.

Church insiders insist there is no relationship between such profit and loss accounts and any future decision on closure. Deficits, even when looking bad on paper, do not include one-off fundraisers or bequests that can keep parishes afloat.

Glasgow Archbishop Philip Tartaglia late last year launched a consultation on parish mergers, promising there would be no "hit list".

The South Deanery, in Glasgow's south-west, stands to lose at least seven of its 12 parishes, according to a consultation document.

The deanery caters for 5715 regular worshippers and 28,000 Catholics.

The number of diocesan priests in the archdiocese fell from 196 in 1991 - including men whose vocations began during the peak ordinations of the 1950s and 1960s - to just 85 in 2012.

And it is expected to fall to just 45 within two decades, meaning there would be fewer than one priest for every two existing parishes. There are only two men in seminaries training to be parish priests in Glasgow, according to Archbishop Tartaglia.

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