Religious told to keep close eye on their orders’ finances

Members of religious orders should not be ignorant of economic realities in their own communities, the Vatican has told religious.

A recent circular letter from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life dealt with the use of financial resources by religious orders.

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.

The Congregation told communities they must adopt modern budgeting and bookkeeping practices and ensure their spending is 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.

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.”

Efficient monitoring, including professional outside audits, will also help religious communities make decisions around projects.

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