Bishops approve pandemic-influenced budgets for 2022

A face mask hangs on a fence near St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill Church in Washington May 11, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops voted Nov. 17 to approve budgets for 2022 that were crafted with upheavals wrought by the coronavirus pandemic fresh in mind.

"The anomaly of 2020 made challenges for predicting 2022," said Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, treasurer of the U.S. bishops and chairman of their Committee on Budget and Finance, in an introductory message to his fellow bishops.

Due to illness, Bishop Parkes was not present in Baltimore, where the bishops' Nov. 15-18 fall general meeting was being held.

Despite the uncertainties, the overall budget carries a revenue surplus of $527,080, Bishop Parkes noted. Part of that is driven by investment income averaging of the past three years. "In this case," he said, "while 2018 was a loss, both 2019 and 2020 experienced double-digit gains."

The bishops dealt with budget issues on the second of two days of public sessions during their assembly, which was the first in-person gathering for the body of bishops since 2019.

The vote was 223-4 to approve the budgets, with five abstentions. Approval required a majority of bishops present and voting.

The plural "budgets" is accurate: One is for unrestricted funds and the other for restricted funds.

The budget for unrestricted funds is financed in large part by an assessment levied on each diocese. Bishop David W. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, who was standing in for Bishop Parkes, told the assembly that for the second year in a row, there will be no assessment increase.

"We have reason to be optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is behind us," but the upcoming budget "reflects a cautious optimism," said Bishop Malloy, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace. The budget was made, he added, by "exercising conservative revenue projections and controlling expenses."

One secretariat at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops receiving a significant increase from the unrestricted funds budget for 2022 is Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It's up $150,000, or 22.4%, in anticipation of staffing and travel needs for World Youth Day in 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Regarding the budget for restricted funds, spending is governed by federal government rules or "donor intent," Bishop Malloy said.

A restricted-funds line item budget decrease is in store for the bishops' National Collections Office, down $603,000, "largely due to lower collections offset by inclusion of investment income which was excluded in 2021 budget as a conservative approach to capture the uncertainty during the pandemic," Bishop Parkes said in his message.

Bishop Malloy said 2023 budget projections were submitted along with the 2022 budget requests "for planning purposes," but they project a $1.35 million fund surplus.

The value of the U.S. bishops' long-term investment portfolio, Bishop Malloy said, stands at $274.9 million, up from $252.3 million last year.


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