One of the biggest struggles many Catholics face each year is how to financially support our parishes and dioceses, while also giving to the poor and needy, and providing for the needs of our families. This topic results in a wide range of opinions, some of them heated.
The most recent sex abuse scandals, including the horrifying Grand Jury Report out of Pennsylvania, has made it even more difficult for many people to want to support their parishes or dioceses financially. This withholding is seen as a just response to the scandals and it is true that money talks. Withholding financial contributions is an effective mechanism for bringing about change, but in doing so we need to consider prudently, justly, and charitably what we hope to accomplish and the consequences of withholding our financial support, especially within our own parishes.
There are in fact just reasons for not donating to a certain cause, even within a diocese, but we should prayerfully discern if this is what God is truly calling us to do. We are stewards of the parishes we are members of and we share in that responsibility together as a community. If we do not provide for the material needs of our parishes, then they will no longer be able to function and provide for the needs of the worshipping community now and for future generations. In truth, our sharing in the material gifts and goods that God has given to us is an act of love towards God and our neighbor.
Our decision should be measured and prudent, so that we don’t end up hurting our own communities and the efforts of the many good and holy priests serving our parishes.
Financially supporting the Church in love
There is much more to supporting the Church financially than simply an obligation or a duty. In fact, a sense of duty only moves us so far. We are meant to support our parishes and the Church out of love—caritas. It is within our parishes where we are nourished by the Word of God and the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Holy Eucharist through the celebration of the Mass. It is in our parishes—as the worshipping community—that we enter into the great mysteries of our faith as one body and encounter the Living God. It is in that encounter where we learn to love as Christ loves and that love sends us outward into the world.
Love dwells in relationship and relationships always require something of us. There is nothing more demanding and life-giving than our relationship with Christ who draws us into the life of the Holy Trinity and who binds us to one another in the love between the Divine Persons.
In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along her path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his Word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence, and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He has loved us first, and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 17
This community of believers is comprised of those men and women who have entered into the Sacrament of Baptism in order to die to self and rise to a new life in Christ. We are no longer on our journey alone, rather, we are now in communion—communio—with the rest of the Mystical Body. We most readily live that communion through our parishes when we come together in the Liturgy, Sacraments, prayer, service, and community. In order for the Sacraments to be made present to us, to attend Mass, enter more fully into communion through ministry, and delve deeper into what we believe, we must have buildings and resources at our disposal. This is an aspect of being a member of the worshipping community.
Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.