Financial problems go deeper than the Scandal

Financial problems go deeper than the Scandal

The Church in the US is facing a major financial crisis and legal settlements for sex abuse are only part of the problem.

“Many of the archdioceses are very marginal operations, and the reason for that is they have a very aging infrastructure that includes the parishes and schools,” Butler said from the Washington-based Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, known as FADICA.

In addition, American Catholics give less per person to their individual churches than Protestants or Jews do, Butler said, adding that those who do give are getting older.

These are problems that have been with us for years and have been creeping up on us. A dollar in the basket on Sunday doesn’t buy as much oil, pay as much mortgage, or fund as much insurance as it used to. Then when you consider that 80 percent of Catholics aren’t going to Mass on Sunday and you begin to see why closing parishes has become a necessity. Of the several reasons given for closing parishes in Boston, the most immediate is financial. It has the most immediate impact in any case.

Some will claim that they have lots of money in the bank. Sure, but for how long? And when you have two parishes with lots of money right next to each other in a wealthy suburb, what do you do about the inner-city parish serving a poor community that needs diocesan subsidies?

The bishops have said they do not own church property but hold it in trust for parishioners. If bankruptcy judges find that parishioners themselves own church property and can dispose of it as they see fit, that would be a major shift, Zech said.

I’m not that’s exactly what they’re claiming since, as we’ve already discussed here, Trusteeism was rejected by the Vatican in the 19th century, although a few dioceses continue to practice a form of it despite the order.

  • Dom, one of the major issues that neither Rome nor the USCCB has been willing to face is the amount of financial misfeasance (if not outright malfeasance) in both parishes and dioceses.

    Much of that has to do with antiquated bookeeping (at best, some parishes let the pastor take whatever he wants as loose change for personal use). An ultra-conservative Catholic (who has a site entitled “Against All Heresies” brought up this point. He quotes a former Treasury Dept. official who says that most diocesan and parochial bookeeping procedures not only increase the possibility of misfeasance, but wouldn’t pass muster in the business world.

    Perhaps such misfeasance is another symptom of the lack of accountability within the church’s bureaucratic hierarchy?

  • The traditionally appropriate gift to the Church is a tithe, or 10% of gross (pre-tax) income, paid to the parish.  This 10% figure (payable from the first fruits of the harvest) was the requirement under the Mosaic Law, but it was also the gift Abraham gave voluntarily to Melchizedek, after the latter blessed and offered the Eucharistic prefigurement. 

    Most people have already mentally spent their salary from the moment they hear the offer from a prospective employer.  Most people can live comfortably on 12-20% less. 

    This gift is appropriate whether or not you actually attend Mass every Sunday.  You aren’t paying for Mass.  You’re returning to God His share of the produce with which He has blessed you from His bounty.  Tithing sanctifies ordinary work.  It is a sacrifice that you can offer to God at Mass, which doesn’t improve upon the perfect Offering of our Lord and Savior Himself, but it’s nonetheless something that you yourself can bring.  Tithing also removes some occasions of gluttony.

    The tithe is not a ticket to Heaven, and it doesn’t make you much better than anyone else.  Indeed, the Gospel and the Acts contain more than one example of people who gave much more than 10% to the Church or to the Temple or to the poor, and who were blessed because of it. 

    We often complain about how unbalanced society has become in the modern age.  Well, we used to pay 10% to the King and 10% to the Church.  Now we pay 50% to the State and 0.1% to the Church.  If we stop paying taxes, we are sent to jail.  So the only option we have to help get society back in balance is to give more to the Church.

  • another symptom of the lack of accountability within the church Besides, any bureaucratic hierarchy—religious or secular, liberal or conservative—stands a better chance of accruing power to itself and isolating itself from accountability than a system in which people have legitimate imput into decisions. Just look at how Soviet Marxists viewed themselves as the “vanguards of the revolution” and behaved accordingly, with perks unavailable to the average person and the arrogance to match.