The money trail

The money trail

Columnist Joan Venocchi is as typical a baby boomer Catholic as you’ll find. Her objections and viewpoints on the Church are so predictable that you could program a computer to write her columns.

Today she talks about the appointment of Bishop O’Malley to Boston. Her view is that the Church plucked O’Malley out of Palm Beach as a PR move and that primary concern is to get the money flowing into collection plates again. In fact, she mentions money over and over again. Look, no one in the Church is stupid enough to believe that getting people back in the pews is about getting money back into collection plates. In fact, I’d venture to guess that the 5 or 10 percent of churchgoing Catholics who stopped going to Mass over the past year averaged less than a dollar per week in the collection basket.

Am I saying that there’s a direct correlation to the depth of your faith and the amount of money you give? No, but if you want an interesting education in Catholic parish economics take a turn at the collection basket some week. There are some people who drop a twenty in every week without fail (or use envelopes which is a sure sign that something equivalent is in there). Then there are the rest who drop a one or change in the basket. OK, some people are genuinely strapped for cash or maybe just forgot to stop at the ATM, but when you see the same people every week, the guy you know is a professional of some sort, who drives the Beemer in the parking lot and wears the expensive Oakley sunglasses, well, you can make some judgments.

  • Talking to the people at my parish who count the money, they tell me that people who use envelopes consistently give more than average (i.e. count the number of people at Mass for the weekend and divide by the collection).

    I’m not saying it is always 20 bucks but it is almost certainly more than a couple of bucks, which is what I mean by the equivalent.

  • It would be nice if that were true. But it isn’t, at least in my parish. The point isn’t the appearances at Mass, but the reality of what people give to the Church.

    The reality is, and nationwide statistics bear this out, that Catholics give about 1 percent of their income to the Church. And that’s including people who give the really big donations in the annual Bishop’s Appeal, so they even skew the curve upward.

  • The point Miss Venocchi, VOTF, Call to Action, et al also miss is this: ‘way before January 2002, only 40% of self-identified Catholics actually fulfilled the Sunday obligation to participate at Mass, period. Only 4 out of 10 Catholics (I’m talking the Archdiocese of Boston here) go to Mass on Sundays.

    The majority of Catholics did not stop going to Sunday Mass because of the “scandal.” The majority of Boston Catholics didn’t go to Sunday Mass BEFORE the scandal! I think one can safely assume that if they don’t bother with Sunday Mass (and the last time I looked, that’s a serious sin, and therefore an amazing scandal in itself) then probably they don’t bother much about the collection basket.

  • P.S. (sorry to post twice here)

    One of the more memorable statements Bishop O’Malley made in his initial press conference: “Peoples lives are more important than money.”

    I agree. My prayer is that the Bishop-elect and his brother priests will focus on the eternal lives of their people…one way to start is to stress that their participation at Sunday Mass is not an option. They can leave their wallets at home, for all I care…but they really have to bring their bodies and souls into participation in the Holy Sacrifice. At least on the obligatory Sunday.