Census changes have bishops scrambling

November 14, 2011

OTTAWA – Changes in the no-longer-mandatory long-form census have prompted the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to look for new ways to fund their Ottawa-based secretariat.

In an email, CCCB general secretary Msgr. Pat Powers said the conference "used to rely on Statistics Canada to provide data on the Catholic population of each diocese."

The census will no longer ask for religious affiliation. The CCCB was among many groups that opposed the changes.

"With the changes in the long census form, it is no longer evident on what basis our per capita contributions will be determined," Powers said.

Each diocese must contribute a per capita payment based on the number of Catholics living there. In 2007, the last year that data was made public, the English per capita rate was 28.43 cents, while the French per capita rate was 18.78 cents.

The CCCB's estimated operating expenses that year were over $3.1 million.

Powers said the bishops agreed during the 2011 plenary last month that the co-treasurers "will be working on all these questions over the coming months with the other members of the advisory committee on financial issues."

Their work will assist the executive committee and permanent council "in bringing forward specific recommendations before the 2012 plenary assembly," he said.

"All the bishops recognize that the financial questions facing the CCCB are serious," he said.

In August 2010, the then CCCB president Saint-Jerome Bishop Pierre Morissette wrote Industry Minister Tony Clement urging him to reconsider plans to change the long form census, noting that the information gathered is "most helpful to all faith groups."

As has been customary for several years, the CCCB did not release its financial statements to the media this year.