Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese income down by €2.25m in 2021 amid pandemic

Final payments by GAA in €95 million land and property deal with archdiocese concluded last month

Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese experienced a drop in income of more than a third in 2021, from €7.4 million in 2020 to €5.2 million in 2021, according to its latest financial report.

During last year the pandemic continued to have a detrimental effect on Mass collections due to the prolonged suspension of public worship and restrictions on numbers allowed attend. When churches were permitted to reopen, only 50 people could attend services and passing collection baskets along pews was not permitted.

“It was hoped that 2022 would see a return of the collections to the pre-pandemic levels. However, this has proven to be too optimistic as this has not been the case to date. It is anticipated that the closure of the churches will have a longer impact and may take some time for the collections to return the pre-pandemic level,” the report said.

According to the financial report “the real benchmark is to compare the Mass collections with pre-pandemic collections”. It found that the Common Fund collection (first collection at Masses) had dropped 49 per cent when compared to pre-pandemic collections.

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Most of the costs of running diocesan offices are met by the second weekly Share collection. It dropped by 1 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020 figures but, when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 collections, it was down by 61 per cent.

During the pandemic, Tap and Go debit card devices were introduced in 20 parishes as a “safer” way for parishioners to donate. Currently, 124 parishes use these devices.

A voluntary redundancy programme which ended in December 2020 resulted in 40 diocesan staff, or half the archdiocese’s employees, taking the package offered. As a result, staff costs in 2021 were down by €2.77 million to €2.6 million, from €5.4 million in 2020.

Overall, the archdiocese’s funds increased by €14.17 million in 2021, to €97.87 million, up from €83.7 million in 2020.

The main reason for the increase is that in October 2021, the third tranche in the sales contract with the GAA closed and the archdiocese received €12.4 million. The final tranche in that €95 million deal was paid last month.

Priests’ salaries, which were reduced by 25 per cent in 2020 due to the pandemic, have now been fully restored.

Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese files two financial reports annually with the Charities Regulator. The first for 2021 comprises the financial statements of the Diocesan Support Services and a number of other charitable funds administered by the diocese. The second relates to the parishes of the archdiocese, all 189 of which have separate accounts. An additional eight parishes are run by religious congregations.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times