Diocese of Karonga Finance Council


Summary of Guidelines

The Canon Law, Book V – The Temporal Goods of the Church, CC 1254 – 1310 clearly describes the Church’s position regarding acquisition, retaining, administering and alienation of temporal goods of the Church.

‘Temporal goods’ is the term used in Canon Law for church property. ‘Temporal goods’ are distinguished from those goods designated as its ‘spiritual’ goods. The temporal goods include all non-spiritual assets, tangible or intangible, that are instrumental in fulfilling the mission of the Church. These include: land, buildings, furnishings, liturgical vessels and vestments, works of art, vehicles, securities, cash, and other categories of real or personal property. They are described as being ‘of the Church’ because they are used for the work of the Church.

Temporal goods are held by the Church to be used for:

  1. Divine worship;
  2. The provision of fitting support for the clergy and other ministers;
  3. The carrying out of works of the sacred apostolate e.g. education, health, justice and peace and development; and
  4. Works of charity, especially for the poor.

The Church owns property so that it can fulfil its mission. It is a means to the end, not the end itself. The following articles of the Canon Law are of particular importance: 

Canon 1276

  1. Responsibility of the authority [Bishop] to supervise carefully the administering of goods.
  2. The Authority to see the organisation of the entire administration of Ecclesiastical goods by issuing special instructions.

Canon 1284

  1. All administrators are bound to fulfil their office with the diligence of a good house holder.
  2. Seek accurately and at the proper time the income and produce of goods, guard them securely and expend them in accordance with the wishes of the founder or lawful norms.
  3. Keep accurate records of income and expenditure.
  4. Draw up an account of their administration at the end of each year.
  5. It is earnestly recommended that administrators draw up each year a budget of income and expenditure. However, it is left to particular law to make this an obligation and to determine more precisely how it is to be presented.

Diocesan Finance Council:

A Diocesan Finance Council is required by  Canon Law in every Diocse. The members of the Diocesan Finance Council provide advice and , in certain instances, direction to the Diocesan Bishop about the Financial matters affecting the Diocese.

Responsibilities of the Diocesan Finance Council

Notwithstanding the fact that the ultimate responsibility of administering a diocese vests in the Diocesan Bishop, Church law strongly recommends that the Diocesan Bishop carries out his responsibilities in collabolation with others. This is particularly so in regarding the Church’s temporal goods. To this effect every Diocesan Bishop is asked to institute a Diocesan Finance Council which should be consulted by the Bishop for various administrative decisions of a financial character, especially but not exclusively specified in Canon law provisions regarding the Church’s temporal goods (c.493). The Bishop must consult the Finance Council in the following matters:

  1. Appointment and removal of the Finance Officer (c.494.1-2).
  2. Before asking the Christian faithful to give in cash or kind for the needs of the Diocese e.g. projects or celebrations (c.1263). In this particular case he must also consult the Diocesan Council of Priests.
  3. Before embarking on major and expensive diocesan projects (c.1277). In this particular case he must also consult the College of Consultors (Advisors).
  4. Before placing restrictions on church institutions regarding projects that they can venture in (c.1281.2).
  5. Before approving an investment by the Diocese (c.1305).
  6. Before allowing, for example, a church institution such as Lusubilo Orphan Care Centre that was founded to look after orphans free of charge to start charging some kind of fees (c.1310.2).

The Bishop must obtain consent of the Finance Council in the following matters:

  1. Before embarking on major and expensive diocesan projects (c.1277).
  2. Before allowing a church institution to give away or sell its property at prices determined by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi which is required to set such prices (c.1292.1).
  3. Before giving away or selling diocesan property (c.1292.1). In this case he is bound by the determination of the Episcopal Conference on the same and he must also have the consent of the College of Cosultors and any other interested parties (e.g. DCOP and Laity Council in our case – Karonga Diocese).

Other Responsibilities of the Diocesan Finance Council

  1. Aproving annual financial statements produced by the Finance Officer.
  2. Accepting audit reports produced by the auditor of the Diocese.
  3. Approving the annual budget of the Diocese prepared by the Finance Officer.
    1. The Council shall not approve a budget that has a deficit.
    2. While the Diocesan Finance Council has a final say on the budget of the Diocese, before the budget begins being implemented, it shall be presented to a meeting of all priests for their information and any comment that does not entail increasing expindture.
  4. Taking a leading role in initiating Diocesan income generating projects.
  5. Receiving financial and narrative reports on Diocesan income generating activities and providing financial advice on the same.
  6. Receiving reports on adherence to project budgets by departments of the Caritas Commission: Development, Health, Justice and Peace, and Education.
  7. Ensuring that salaries of employees in the Caritas Commission, Pastoral Commission and Finance and Adminstration are in harmony.
  8. Taking an active role in monitoring all major projects of the Diocese.
  9. Receiving appraisal reports from the Human Resource Officer concerning officers in the Finance Department and taking necessary subsquent decisions.


Every Diocesan Bishop is obliged by Church law to form a Diocesan Finance Council (c.492.1) which shall be presided over by the Diocesan Bishop or his delegate

Qualifications of Members of the Finance Council:

It is required that there be at least three Christian faithful in the Finance Council. It is further required that members of the Finance Council, whether clerics or laypersons be skilled in financial matters and civil law; outstanding in character; not related to the Diocesan Bishop lesser than fourth degree (c.492.1,3).

Duration of Office:

The Finance Council is to be named for a five-year term, which may be renewed for other quinquennia – meaning he can be named after other five-year terms (c.492.2).