THE reshuffle of priests in the Cebu Archdiocese, announced last June 14, 2019, was preceded by two small rounds in 2013 and 2016. Customarily done every six years, the two earlier changes in assignments were made by Archbishop Jose Palma to prepare for the big one this year.
As early as last March, Palma talked of a “grand reshuffle” not done before “in this magnitude and scale.” When it finally happened the other week, it affected more than 320 priests in 150 parishes in seven districts and archdiocesan commissions. And it was done simultaneously, with the priests to report at their new places of assignment on Aug. 6.
That is still more than a month away, yet reports of complaints from a number of priests already have come out and reached people and places outside the archbishop’s residence. Archbishop Palma may even be the last person to receive the complaints.
No longer surprising as he expected that not everyone would like the changes. He reportedly left the San Pedro Calungsod Chapel at South Road Properties immediately after the names and new postings were announced there. And he has made himself scarce since then.
Policies in revamp
One complaint that stands out, because a high-profile church personality raised it, comes from a monsignor who no longer heads the team ministry in his new assignment.
It’s about rank or title. A guideline in the reshuffle made by Personnel Board and “consultors” is that a high-ranked priest may not be the leader in the group of priests who run a big parish. The purpose apparently is to familiarize the leader with the position of a subordinate and vice versa. And the twin purpose: to expose a priest in a poor and remote parish to the experience of running an urban and rich parish.
Inevitably though, the questions also involve money:
A priest who is used to getting big income from a rich parish will be bothered by getting much less from a smaller and less affluent flock.
A priest who has been struggling in a poor parish would like to improve economically, so he could focus on his religious work, not on surviving financial hardship.
Standard living allowance
Not talked about in the June 14 announcement is the further step taken in implementing a form of standard living allowance (SLA). A national convention of priests held in Cebu in the late ‘70s adopted the proposal for giving priests fixed salaries. Nothing much has happened since then but in 2013, the Archdiocese of Palo adopted an SLA for its 140 priests then.
What the Cebu archdiocese adopted, but not reported in media along with the new postings, is adjusting the amount the parish will turn over to the chancery, based on past history of collections. The parishes are classified, from Class A to D, obviously based on their income.
What’s good for the priest under this system, instead of just fixing percentage of the total income that goes to the chancery? The parish will have more room to increase its collection without reporting the sum to the archdiocese. As to parishes so poor they have to be subsidized, the chancery adjusts the amount of monthly help.
The amount fixed, for the money that goes to or from the chancery, may be the cause for complaint. But how can they complain now when the priests still have to know actual operations in the new assignment?
One suspects that it’s more the fear of a sharp reduction of income that causes the quick complaints. There are a few parishes that are really money machines and those are run by a favored few who are used to a “rigodon” during reshuffles: they just swap rich places and don’t go to a poor parish.
So aside from just learning who their new parish priest is, Catholics in a community may want to know how much money their parish earns and keeps–-and maybe where parishioners can help.