"The Church needs economic resources to achieve spiritual ones."

Omnes talks to Anastasio Gómez-Hidalgo, diocesan treasurer of the Archdiocese of Toledo since 2011. He talks to us, among other things, about the importance of co-responsibility or about the economic management of the dioceses.

Diego Zalbidea-August 20, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes

Anastasio Gómez Hidalgo, married and father of four children, has been diocesan bursar of the Archdiocese of Toledo since 2011. He has just been appointed for the next five years. His training is completed with the recent award of the degree of Doctor of Law at the University of Castilla-La Mancha with a doctoral thesis qualified with Excellent cum Laude and entitled "Towards a comprehensive system of Transparency for the Catholic Church in Spain. A practical proposal". This thesis was born from the illusion of providing the entities of the Catholic Church in our country with legal tools for the better establishment of a culture of transparency and good governance. Guest professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and the Complutense University, he publishes articles, gives lectures and participates in various organizations to help the Church to manage its resources in the most professional way possible.

How does a doctor of law get along with the numbers of a diocese?

Well, it is too early to take stock of this relationship, but I have to thank the numbers of the diocese because without them I would not be a doctor of law. The economic field of the Catholic Church has allowed me to ask myself questions, to find answers and above all it has led me to have a great illusion that I have transformed into research. Numbers are stubborn, they speak with exactitude, but law admits discussion, analysis and opinion. It is fascinating to unite both realities in a doctoral thesis and if this union is produced talking about the Catholic Church the degree of interest rises to indescribable heights. It has been fascinating for me to be able to investigate this amalgam of concepts and give them a common thread. 

What helps people to be more generous to the Church?

That we tell them what we do. Let them know how their entities work and, above all, let them see that their resources are well managed. The Church must have economic and human resources to achieve the most important ones, which are the spiritual ones. Some time ago I wrote an essay on the Balanced Scorecards for a diocese and in that work I explained that the economy and the law are not important in evangelization but without them evangelization would have to be done in a different way. To form the economic councils as true organs of opinion and debate on the matters that affect the administration of goods and money is key. The Code of Canon Law obliges to it.

It helps people to know how their entities work and, above all, to see that their resources are well managed. The Church must have economic and human resources to achieve the most important ones, which are the spiritual ones.

Anastasio Gómez-HidalgoBursar of the Archdiocese of Toledo

How has the pandemic affected the needs of dioceses?

Well, a good article could be written on this subject, but trying to summarize it, even at the risk of not being precise, we could say that the dioceses are going to come out as entities with more debt due to the subscription of loans because of the fall in income; I also understand that the extraordinary projects or initiatives are going to be suspended for some years to focus efforts on the day-to-day and to be able to assume the day-to-day commitments and finally to say that the parishes have learned, almost definitively, that the subscriptions of the faithful are the key to support the real needs in the medium term. 

Will we come out of this more co-responsible?

The fact that we have not been able to go to the churches during the pandemic has sharpened our wits and the parishes have been strengthened by the longing we have felt at not being able to celebrate the sacraments. We have learned that the real treasure in the parishes are not the altarpieces or the church itself but the sacraments that are celebrated there. Co-responsibility has usually been understood as the sense that the faithful have of belonging to the Church and that leads them to collaborate financially and in other ways to support it. For me, the pandemic has changed the sense of co-responsibility and I think that now it will be the Church entities that will have to demonstrate that their management is adequate and professional. These months of pandemic should have served to establish work dynamics capable of facing the next five years with clear guidelines of what to do and how to do it. The entity that does not establish it and does not make it known will have failed in the necessary co-responsibility.

Advice for a pastor overwhelmed by bills?

Burden in a parish doesn't just come from bills. Pastors are overwhelmed by other things. It is exemplary to see priests give of themselves and mimic the pain of their parishioners during these rare and difficult times. The burden of a priest comes from the burden of his parishioners and their problems. To relieve them of the burden of their bills, there must be adequate ways for the diocesan administrations to articulate simple procedures for resolving financial problems. Ah! sorry! I forgot my advice. Better suggestion: before doing, ask. When in doubt, ask. The verb to ask well conjugated avoids many problems. Today, all economic management is wrapped in a very accentuated technical role and asking before doing becomes a must.

Why does money keep us awake at night?

What is disturbing is not having it or having too much of it. That is why the management of money in Church entities has to be adequate. I would say that in any field having adequate resources is an objective that a manager must have. In the face of scarcity, look for where to get.  

Money management in Church entities has to be adequate. I would say that in any field having adequate resources is an objective that a manager must have.

Anastasio Gómez-HidalgoBursar of the Archdiocese of Toledo

Toledo has traditionally been at the forefront of Church economic management since the 16th century. Can the Church speak on equal terms with experts in economics and management?

Every day there are more and more models of economic management in the ecclesial sphere that deserve to be studied. The longed-for self-financing has given way to models of economic profitability of the heritage bequeathed to us by past generations. A clear example is the models of management of visits to the monuments of ecclesiastical ownership. They are so relevant and are part of an economic reality of generation of economic impacts that in cities like Toledo are decisive in shaping the economy of the city. We know that when the Cathedral closes, the economy suffers and that is due to the positive influence that generates having it open 365 days a year and 313 in a schedule that favors the visits in very wide schedules. Also the phenomenon of the Tourist Bracelet of Toledo that brings together 7 monuments open 363 days a year to tourism and that complements the tourist offer of the City constitutes a path towards self-financing. Talavera de la Reina also has its Tourist Bracelet around the ecclesiastical heritage and other dioceses such as Burgos, Barbastro-Monzón or Calahorra-Logroño-La Calzada where this project is already a reality are exportable models. Cities such as Segovia or Cordoba have already copied us.

Is it easy for a pastor to get along with his bursar?

In the end, the Bursar is a person who takes care of the priests, mostly parish priests, as a matter of priority, and he takes care of them to the best of his ability and gives the best of himself. With this formula it is easy to get along. 

To what extent should resource management in the Church be professionalized?

It must be professionalized. You must have professionals who are responsible, and someone can only be responsible if they have sufficient training to be able to face management challenges as if they were a company. The savings when it comes to having good professionals are obvious. On the other hand, it costs millions of dollars to have at the head of certain entities people who come from other sectors or who are not permanently dedicated to the management and administration of the assets. In the end, it turns out that this second option is more expensive than if a good professional had been hired and his or her salary had been in line with the labor market in relation to his or her responsibilities. Attracting talent to religious entities is a challenge and talent is attracted by people's commitment, but also by how their work is valued from an economic point of view and the facilities they are given to work with. 

Can a bursar advance the mission of the Church from his position?

This is, in fact, the verb that best fits its mission: to drive. Also to prop up or support. A bursar must know that his mission is to the side or behind. The impulse is made from behind, it is supported from behind and shored up from below, but the economic work in these entities cannot be the first or stand out from the others. The mission must be based and cared for from the economic point of view, but the mission of the Church transcends all areas. What is important is what is important.

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