Canon 492, §3 prohibits the inclusion of persons related to the bishop up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity from the diocesan finance council. This prohibition would include brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces of the bishop, as well as their spouses. There is a clear concern here about the avoidance of any scandal or appearance of scandal.

Though this prohibition is prudent, it would seem to me that it does not go far enough to prevent persons with a different potential conflict of interest from serving on the finance council. For example, canon 492, §1 requires the bishop to have members who are “truly expert in financial affairs”. Would it not be common for the bishop to recruit locally successful business people to serve on the council? In so doing, it would seem to create a barrier for those members to accept business from the diocese.

Curiously, the same prohibition is not found in canon 537 on the parish finance council. However, I think the same concerns apply in the case of a pastor and those who serve on the parish finance council.

In keeping with the Standards for Excellence®, dioceses/parishes should have policies in place to prevent actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest. Further, the policies should be applicable to members of advisory councils. Benefits of having a conflict of interest policy are well outlined in the resource packet on Conflict of Interest available to Partners in Excellence, and include useful information on how to identify conflict as well as how to subject a transaction with a potential conflict for independent review and approval. For example, a more obvious conflict of interest appears when the diocese/parish contracts to purchase or lease goods, services, or property from an insider, but it may be less obvious when an insider makes use of confidential information obtained from the diocese for personal purposes. As the resource packet states, "by requiring a deliberate effort to identify and resolve conflicting interests, a conflicts policy will make it less likely that clergy, council, or staff members will intentionally or unintentionally violate their responsibilities."

Do you know of any models or examples for vetting proposed members to the diocesan/parish finance council to insure that a conflict does not already exist before they are asked to serve on the council?

Likewise, do you have sample by-laws to share which include a provision about conflicts of interest?

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