The OpenBooks Project

Library of briefing documents
provided for UK Bishops & beyond

This page lists the current public documents for the Project. All are in PDF format, and aim to be easy on the eye and brain on-screen or in print.


The OpenBooks Project at
is one of the unusual activities of
Hugh Gibbons under the title


This page last updated
29 January 2024

A Practical Financial Transparency Policy
for any Catholic Diocese in the UK

Rationale: respecting courtesy, common sense, Canon Law and synodality now

This two-page PDF in October 2023 is something of a 2-minute required read for all bishops, their finance and other councils, Trustees, and synodal and curial teams.

A public policy such as this could help to make sure that Dioceses are seen to be as open as possible today with all areas of finance – appreciating all those parishioners and others whose offering make their work possible.

The first page sets out the rationale for a general policy of transparency in a range of diocesan and parish settings. Financial transparency matters. It does so because being open about things is a key element of trust and integrity. It’s a sign of courtesy and appreciation. It’s also common sense: people give more if they’re more informed. It’s an expression of applied synodality. And Canon Law has obligations very much on the side of transparency as part of good stewardship.

The second page shows how a policy might be applied - making fuller use of existing diocesan and parish websites. The obligations will be familiar and widely practiced at least in part; and meant to be straightforward, not particularly onerous, and purposeful. The policy has suggestions about the priest's annual finance report to the parish, finance committee minutes, and getting the blessing of parishioners for the concept.


Project Summary & Suggestions October 2022
with covering letter

was sent to all UK bishops in October 2022. (An initial report on the outcome is in the June 2023 Brief below.) The Summary contains key information on the Project methodology, sources, findings and simple suggestions for bishops and others.

To make it a cheery as well as useful read, the pages are packed with quotes from voices encountered on the way. They offer information, surprises, more than a few laughs, and lots of food for thought.

Project Summary & Suggestions November 2022
is the above document updated to include Transparency as an essential from #79 in the Vatican's October 2022 Document for the Continental Stage.

For a short, sharper version in June 2023, see below Vatican: we have a §2 problem



Vatican: we have a §2 problem

This is an updated brief version of the Summary & Suggestions with the Rome Synod in mind, sent to a member of the working party that prepared the Instrumentum Laboris and Document for the Continental Stage.

As you might sense, it's a more sharper update - referencing The Mother of All Errors and other takes on the observance of Canon Law 1287 §2.


Birmingham UK v Birmingham USA

This 2-page PDF in September 2023 shows that "the Catholic Church is universal, but some parts are more universal than others." It's another eyebrow-raising read.

It compares and contrasts the diocesan financial procedures of two dioceses, and how they handle Canon 1287 §2. Not that it seems to matter. Surveying their parish websites shows little sign of observance of this requirement for transparency.

In the case of Birmingham UK, the 2008 Procedures were found in 2017 on the website of its Coventry Deanery, but are not on the current (September 2023) archdiocesan website. So whether they still apply is unknown. They are clear in the duty of the parish priest, and give diocesan Trustees the duty of ensuring that annual reports are made to parishioners.

With Birmingham in Alabama USA, the current guidelines on their website say nothing on c1287 §2, and shift the duty of reporting on to the Finance Council - who may or may not pass it on to parishioners. This is at odds with the good practices guidance by the US Catholic Bishops' Conference.


Helping Synodality Live in Liverpool

This package was created in early 2023 in response to a request from the Archdiocese for help with their diocesan plan, and has five practical suggestions.

Acclaim Our Everyday Saints Applying synodality by applauding the inspirers, encouragers, uplifters suggested by our young people

Open up Canon 1287 §2 Applying synodality by updating structures in parish financial transparency to ensure the parishioners right to be kept informed

Cherish our peoples’ stories Applying synodality by priests & parishioners to make history together with Parish Yearly Notebooks

Reach out & stand up with FairTrade Applying synodality with a ready-made recognition of social justice

Harvest our families of languages Applying synodality as parishes showcase the Lord’s Prayer - the one they have in common with other churches around



Witnesses Statement

This PDF set of suggestions was sent in late 2022 to Portsmouth Diocese as a contribution to the feedback on the draft of the 10-year Plan called You Will Be My Witnesses.

Other Feedback from parishes is seen and analysed at Feedback on the Ten-Year Mission Strategy - Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth

The Feedback noted that: "Certain themes recurred across the feedback, for example lay leadership, a call for transparency and better communication...

But the Final Plan in late 2023 does not include any mention of transparency - as you can check at Ten Year Plan - Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth


A Priest's Appreciation of his Parish - 10 years on!

Parish websites rarely show any annual or other review by the parish priest, his appointed finance or optional pastoral committee or groups. Yet they can form part of the easy-access archive for present, past or future parishioners, visitors or others. A personal eye-view can be valuable – especially when it’s prepared for the laity rather than a bishop.

The review in this document came by e-mail to Hugh Gibbons. Spontaneously, the priest sent his appreciation as a gift in case it might help with another project.

NB1 It’s biased to the happy side of things: listing strengths but not opportunities for improvement. But it does reflect what parishioners might welcome knowing, and be a reminder that a priest is only one transient part of the parish history. The benefits would be a courtesy for present and past parishioners, a help for an incoming priest, and a gift to help make parishioners feel good about themselves, their parish, and the Church.

NB2 The reference to the effort to respect everyone within the community, not least in relation to communication and transparent decision making – topics which are seen as signs of authentic synodalism in 2022 parish reports, diocesan and national syntheses, and Vatican Synod documents.

NB3 Short reviews like this should not a major burden, with help from informed parishioners. They might be a valuable perspective one year after the priest’s arrival, and on leaving the parish.


This set of five practical suggestions for parishes is in response to some of the issues raised at the Synod in Rome in October 2023. The suggestions are set out in detail in the PDF
  • #1 Acclaim your unofficial saints

  • #2 Celebrate your language family

  • #3 Cherish your people's yearly story

  • #4 Join in the worldwide Fairtrade reach-out

  • #5 Grow your own financial transparency policy