Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FROM: http://www.rev-know-it-all.com/2012/2012---12-09.html

Today's Question
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Why give money to the Church?
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December 9, 2012

I have just been asked two questions that dovetail, I think, rather nicely. One question asks, “Why give so much money to the church?” The second asks “Why not give more money to the church?” I am afraid that the answers to both questions will be rather whiny. A dear and respected friend of mine told me “Don’t do it. It’s Christmas. Write something uplifting, especially after that horrible article about eating babies. Why must you always be so grim?” I just can’t get the questions out of my mind. I am sure that in the following two articles there will be something to offend nearly everyone. Here goes.

Dear Rev. Know-It-All,

Friends of mine are always criticizing my Catholic faith. Now they are all over me like a tax auditor on a pyramid scheme. They ask me how I can be so generous to a church that misuses money so often. The priests and bishops live in mansions and the pope wears jewels and little red slippers and lives in a palace. What should I tell them?

Ira Banks


Dear Ira,
First let me laugh. The clergy doesn’t live in palaces. We live in our offices, except for those who have bailed. That goes for the pope on down. Some offices are nicer than others, but they are still offices. A priest’s office is usually called a rectory. I live in a rectory. The phone rings night and day and it’s rarely someone calling with good news. The computer on which I am writing is about 8 feet from my bed. The usual greeting when I wander downstairs in the morning is “Mrs. Von der Vogelweide died last night. Would you like some coffee?”

My kitchen is at street level. You have no idea how irritating it is to have the pasta just about al dente when a parishioner comes, looks in the kitchen window and joyfully says, “Oh good, the priest is here and he’s not doing anything.” I turn off the pasta, open the door and in they come to explain how their mother-in-law’s Pekinese is demonically possessed. An hour later I, return to my pasta, cold and mushy, the pasta that is, and eat hurriedly because the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Motion starts in five minutes.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a priest. I get to say Mass, but to say that I live in a mansion is a hoot! It’s a very nice house in which I have a bedroom and a sitting room in which I never sit. As for the pope’s jeweled miters and red slippers, I imagine he puts them on and wraps himself in an antique cloth of gold cope and gets comfortable on the papal throne to watch Monday night football. This almost never happens.

Do you have any idea what an uncomfortable garment a cope is? Over street clothes one puts on an alb, a stole, a cope, a humeral veil, picks up the monstrance, (which is a display case for the Blessed Sacrament, made out of brass. The gold is not real. It is just gold plating. The “gems” on it are glass.) So there I am resplendent in my “gold and jewels.” I then carry the monstrance around the block in eighty degree heat while the faithful chant with varying degrees of success. Talk about a life of luxury! Even the Renaissance popes and cardinals, some of whom did live scandalous lives, spent the money on some of the greatest art the world has ever known and have created a tourist industry that has benefitted the Italian people ever since.

There are few intuitions that use money as well as the Catholic Church. We maintain hospitals, orphanages, schools, retirement homes, shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, counseling services and all the while we open our doors to the poor and rich alike for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of humanity. We are the largest charitable institution in the world with, arguably, one of the lowest administrative costs of any charity. It’s a real money saver when the CEO lives above the shop. I, like the pope, live in my main place of employment, right next to the factory floor. How many CEO’s do you know who live at the factory?

For twenty years, I was pastor of a parish with a soup kitchen, a school for poor refugee children, a food pantry and a clothing room. I lived upstairs from it all. I will never forget when one of our soup kitchen guests was sitting in my room sleeping off his pre-dinner cocktail. At another point in my ministry, a gang was going through the rectory on weekly basis, looking for what they could steal. Had I come into my room when they were going through the drawers and throwing the contents on the floor, I have no doubt I would have been killed. There was another time when a heroin addict was robbing us daily. So much for life in the mansion.

Every priest I know whether they are in poor or rich parishes have similar stories. We are the lucky ones. The ones who have it rough are those whose lives are in constant danger because of anti-Catholic prejudice. They willingly serve in places guaranteed to shorten their lives. I feel like a slacker because I live in an actual house, looney bin though it may be. I have known a few corrupt priests and a few nuns who had forgotten their vows of poverty, but all in all, the great majority of nuns, deacons, priests and especially bishops I have known are self sacrificing work-aholics who do it for the love of God, Church and humanity. There are burn outs and sinners among us, but even the burn-outs usually burned out because they were trying to do something worth doing.

Let me tell you about my finances. At first glance it seems like a good deal. I get a house, auto and health insurance, a salary, and a generous per diem for food. (We have no cook or house keeper.) Last year the salary paid me by the parish came to a little over $40,000. Not bad. Let’s look a little more closely. I am self employed and must pay the social security tax. I am not an order priest and do not take a vow of poverty. I am responsible for my own finances and I must pay federal and state income tax for which I can claim no dependents. I can’t retire until I’m 70 and then my pension as a priest is about $1,200.00 a month.

 If I live in a rectory, the pension is reduced to $550 a month, so unless I want to live in another office or a cardboard box in my golden years, I must have payroll deductions taken out of my check. When all the dust settles, my take home pay as a pastor last year was $22,750. Money given for Masses, weddings and baptisms all go to the parish unless there is a gift for the priest that is clearly designated as such. That’s not a lot for a someone who has two graduate degrees and 40 years seniority in the company. I am responsible for my own auto expenses, my clothing, medications and all the stuff that comprises life in our times.

In some dioceses of the US priest make more, in some they make less. Priests in the developing world make a whole lot less. Twenty-two or 23 thousand isn’t bad, really. What do I need money for? Actually, the scary thing is retirement. I will need the money for retirement. Just when an old man needs people he knows and loves around him, the priest is compelled to retire. There is a wonderful party, a hearty handclasp and quick goodbye. 

Things were not always this way. Up until 1972, when the young progressives demanded the removal of older pastors from the better parishes, it was expected that a priest would die in the rectory where he had served for most of his life. He may have been an old fossil, but he was everybody’s grandfather. He may have been difficult, but he was yours. That’s gone.

The modern more efficient Church doesn’t want a parish to get stale so they move priests around like deck chairs on a cruise ship. The priest grows old having served in 4 or 5 different churches. He knows a lot of people, but isn’t really close to many of them. No kids no grandkids. He is just old. I remember a cop who told me about going to some 3rd rate retirement home in his paddy wagon to pick up a body bag that had no one to claim it. He unzipped it and there he saw a cold gray face and the Roman collar beneath it. I remember a prestigious old monsignor who had been a seminary rector and who lived in a room in a church basement near the boiler room. He stayed there until the last trip to the hospital. And the old priest’s photo album is a very sad thing. When he dies there are all those pictures of a smiling priest at some sacramental event with people whose names he probably didn’t know. Those whose job it is to go through his things wonder what to do with the pictures. They get put in a box, and thrown away at some later date. The only person to whom they had any meaning has no more need of them. The saying is that there is no one so dead as a dead priest. Remember to pray for the repose of the soul of your priests. You are the only children they have who can do that.

Cheer up. I am not trying to depress you. Really, I’m not. When I was young this is not the way it was. A priest died in his rectory and was mourned by those who knew and loved him. That is gone now. Priests are despised and mistrusted by many if not most. They have no permanent home. There is very little respect given the priest these days. People are constantly mad at priests for the situation of the world, the situation of the Church, the fact that when they called the rectory they got an answering machine, and when they finally got him on the phone, the narrow minded so-and-so wouldn’t do a garden wedding for them next Saturday.

All this means a young man who signs up for the priesthood in these times is one of the most heroic people you are ever going to meet. He may be weak and flawed and even a little odd, but he is not doing it for the perks, the prestige or the pay. He is doing it because he loves Christ and the Church. Somebody like me is always whining, but the truth is, in some ways, things have never been better in the Church.

The young men and women entering religious life, at least the ones I have known, make me want to do it all over again. They sign on for persecution and poverty, a poverty that goes beyond mere deprivation of money and luxuries. It is the poverty of Christ who had nowhere to lay His head. Candidates for the religious life, if they have their eyes open, are looking for only one treasure, the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified. All else they count a loss. They are worth supporting in their work. Believe me, they aren’t in it for the money.


Rev. Know-It-All

Sunday, December 02, 2012

"De Caritate Ministranda" - "On the Service of Charity"...

Released by surprise at Roman Noon this Saturday, the following is the Vatican's official English translation of a motu proprio letter of Benedict XVI on the Catholic identity and ecclesial oversight of the church's charitable efforts.

Initially published in Latin by the Holy See, the text is entitled Intima Ecclesiae natura – in English, "The Church's Deepest Nature," with a subhead "De Caritate Ministranda"; that is, "On the Service of Charity"... and in full, here it is:

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"The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable" (Deus Caritas Est, 25).

The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being (cf. ibid.); all the faithful have the right and duty to devote themselves personally to living the new commandment that Christ left us (cf. Jn 15:12), and to offering our contemporaries not only material assistance, but also refreshment and care for their souls (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 28). The Church is also called as a whole to the exercise of the diakonia of charity, whether in the small communities of particular Churches or on the level of the universal Church. This requires organization "if it is to be an ordered service to the community" (cf. ibid., 20), an organization which entails a variety of institutional expressions.

With regard to this diakonia of charity, in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est I pointed out that "in conformity with the episcopal structure of the Church, the Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, are charged with primary responsibility for carrying out in the particular Churches" the service of charity (No. 32); at the same time, however, I noted that "the Code of Canon Law, in the canons on the ministry of the Bishop, does not expressly mention charity as a specific sector of episcopal activity" (ibid.). Although "the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops explored more specifically the duty of charity as a responsibility incumbent upon the whole Church and upon each Bishop in his Diocese" (ibid.), there was still a need to fill the aforementioned lacuna and to give adequate expression in canonical legislation to both the essential nature of the service of charity in the Church and its constitutive relationship with the episcopal ministry, while outlining the legal aspects of this ecclesial service, especially when carried out in an organized way and with the explicit support of the Bishops.

In view of this, with the present Motu Proprio I intend to provide an organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various organized ecclesial forms of the service of charity, which are closely related to the diaconal nature of the Church and the episcopal ministry.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that "practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ" (ibid., 34). In carrying out their charitable activity, therefore, the various Catholic organizations should not limit themselves merely to collecting and distributing funds, but should show special concern for individuals in need and exercise a valuable educational function within the Christian community, helping people to appreciate the importance of sharing, respect and love in the spirit of the Gospel of Christ. The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance (cf. ibid., 31).

The organized charitable initiatives promoted by the faithful in various places differ widely one from the other, and call for appropriate management. In a particular way, the work of Caritas has expanded at the parish, diocesan, national and international levels. Caritas is an institution promoted by the ecclesiastical Hierarchy which has rightly earned the esteem and trust of the faithful and of many other people around the world for its generous and consistent witness of faith and its concrete ability to respond to the needs of the poor. In addition to this broad initiative, officially supported by the Church’s authority, many other initiatives have arisen in different places from the free enterprise of the faithful, who themselves wish to help in various ways to offer a concrete witness of charity towards those in need. While differing in their origin and juridical status, both are expressions of sensitivity and a desire to respond to the same pressing need.

The Church as an institution is not extraneous to those organized initiatives which represent a free expression of the concern of the baptized for individuals and peoples in need. The Church’s Pastors should always welcome these initiatives as a sign of the sharing of all the faithful in the mission of the Church; they should respect the specific characteristics and administrative autonomy which these initiatives enjoy, in accordance with their nature, as a manifestation of the freedom of the baptized.

Alongside these, the Church’s authority has, on its own initiative, promoted specific agencies which provide institutionally for allocating donations made by the faithful, following suitable legal and administrative methods which allow for a more effective response to concrete needs.

Nevertheless, to the extent that such activities are promoted by the Hierarchy itself, or are explicitly supported by the authority of the Church’s Pastors, there is a need to ensure that they are managed in conformity with the demands of the Church’s teaching and the intentions of the faithful, and that they likewise respect the legitimate norms laid down by civil authorities. In view of these requirements, it became necessary to establish in the Church’s law certain essential norms inspired by the general criteria of canonical discipline, which would make explicit in this sector of activity the legal responsibilities assumed by the various subjects involved, specifying in particular the position of authority and coordination belonging to the diocesan Bishop. At the same time, the norms in question need to be broad enough to embrace the significant diversity of the institutions of Catholic inspiration which are engaged as such in this sector, whether those originating from the Hierarchy or those born of the direct initiative of the faithful, received and encouraged by the local Pastors. While it was necessary to lay down norms in this regard, there was also a need to consider the requirements of justice and the responsibility of Bishops before the faithful, with respect for the legitimate autonomy of each institution.

Dispositive Part

Consequently, upon the proposal of the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and after consultation with the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, I establish and decree the following.....

Art. 1.
§ 1. The faithful have the right to join in associations and to establish agencies to carry out specific charitable services, especially on behalf of the poor and suffering. To the extent that these are linked to the charitable service of the Church’s Pastors and/or intend to use for this purpose contributions made by the faithful, they must submit their own Statutes for the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority and comply with the following norms.

§ 2. Similarly, it is also the right of the faithful to establish foundations to fund concrete charitable initiatives, in accordance with the norms of canons 1303 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and 1047 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO). If foundations of this type correspond to the characteristics set forth in § 1, they will also observe, congrua congruis referendo, the provisions of the present law.

§ 3. In addition to observing the canonical legislation, the collective charitable initiatives to which this Motu Proprio refers are required to follow Catholic principles in their activity and they may not accept commitments which could in any way affect the observance of those principles.

§ 4. Agencies and foundations for charitable purposes promoted by Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are required to comply with these norms, and they must follow the prescriptions of canons 312 § 2 CIC and 575 § 2 CCEO.

Art. 2.
§ 1. The Statutes of each charitable agency referred to in the preceding article must also contain, in addition to its institutional offices and structures of governance in accordance with canon 95 § 1 CIC, the guiding principles and objectives of the initiative, the management of funds, the profile of its workers, as well as the reports and information which must be presented to the competent ecclesiastical authority.

§ 2. A charitable agency may use the name "Catholic" only with the written consent of the competent authority, as laid down by canon 300 CIC.

§ 3. Agencies promoted by the faithful for charitable purposes can have an Ecclesiastical Assistant appointed in accordance with the Statutes, according to the norm of canons 324 § 2 and 317 CIC.

§ 4. At the same time, the ecclesiastical authority must bear in mind its duty to regulate the exercise of the rights of the faithful in accordance with canons 223 § 2 CIC and 26 § 3 CCEO, and thus to avoid the proliferation of charitable initiatives to the detriment of their activity and effectiveness with regard to their stated goals.

Art. 3.
§ 1. With regard to the preceding articles, it is understood that the competent authority at the respective levels is that indicated by canons 312 CIC and 575 CCEO.

§ 2. For agencies not approved at the national level, even though they operate in different Dioceses, the competent authority is understood to be the diocesan Bishop of the place where the agency has its principal office. In any event, the agency has the duty to inform the Bishops of other Dioceses where it operates and to respect the guidelines for the activities of the various charitable agencies present in those Dioceses.

Art. 4.
§ 1. The diocesan Bishop (cf. canon 134 § 3 CIC and canon 987 CCEO) exercises his proper pastoral solicitude for the service of charity in the particular Church entrusted to him as its Pastor, guide and the one primarily responsible for that service.

§ 2. The diocesan Bishop encourages and supports the initiatives and works of service to neighbour in his particular Church, and encourages in the faithful the spirit of practical charity as an expression of the Christian life and sharing in the mission of the Church, as indicated in canons 215 and 222 CIC and 25 and 18 CCEO.

§ 3. It is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop to ensure that in the activities and management of these agencies the norms of the Church’s universal and particular law are respected, as well as the intentions of the faithful who made donations or bequests for these specific purposes (cf. canons 1300 CIC and 1044 CCEO).

Art. 5.
The diocesan Bishop is to ensure that the Church enjoys the right to carry out charitable activities, and he is to take care that the faithful and the institutions under his supervision comply with the legitimate civil legislation in this area.

Art. 6.
It is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop, as indicated by canons 394 § 1 CIC and 203 § 1 CCEO, to coordinate within his territory the different works of charitable service, both those promoted by the Hierarchy itself and those arising from initiatives of the faithful, without prejudice to their proper autonomy in accordance with their respective Statutes. In particular, he is to take care that their activities keep alive the spirit of the Gospel.

Art. 7.
§ 1. The agencies referred to in Article 1 § 1 are required to select their personnel from among persons who share, or at least respect, the Catholic identity of these works.

§ 2. To ensure an evangelical witness in the service of charity, the diocesan Bishop is to take care that those who work in the Church’s charitable apostolate, along with due professional competence, give an example of Christian life and witness to a formation of heart which testifies to a faith working through charity. To this end, he is also to provide for their theological and pastoral formation, through specific curricula agreed upon by the officers of various agencies and through suitable aids to the spiritual life.

Art. 8.
Wherever necessary, due to the number and variety of initiatives, the diocesan Bishop is to establish in the Church entrusted to his care an Office to direct and coordinate the service of charity in his name.

Art. 9.
§ 1. The Bishop is to encourage in every parish of his territory the creation of a local Caritas service or a similar body, which will also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity. When appropriate, this service is to be established jointly by various parishes in the same territory.

§ 2. It is the responsibility of the Bishop and the respective parish priest to ensure that together with Caritas, other charitable initiatives can coexist and develop within the parish under the general coordination of the parish priest, taking into account, however, the prescriptions of Article 2 § 4 above.

§ 3. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop and the respective parish priests to see that in this area the faithful are not led into error or misunderstanding; hence they are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching.

Art. 10.
§ 1. It is the responsibility of the Bishop to supervise the ecclesiastical goods of the charitable agencies subject to his authority.

§ 2. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop to ensure that the proceeds of collections made in accordance with canons 1265 and 1266 CIC and canons 1014 and 1015 CCEO are used for their stated purposes [cf. canons 1267 CIC, 1016 CCEO].

§ 3. In particular, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that charitable agencies dependent upon him do not receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching. Similarly, lest scandal be given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.

§ 4. In a particular way, the Bishop is to see that the management of initiatives dependent on him offers a testimony of Christian simplicity of life. To this end, he will ensure that salaries and operational expenses, while respecting the demands of justice and a necessary level of professionalism, are in due proportion to analogous expenses of his diocesan Curia.

§ 5. To permit the ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Article 3 § 1 to exercise its duty of supervision, the agencies mentioned in Article 1 § 1, are required to submit to the competent Ordinary an annual financial report in a way which he himself will indicate.

Art. 11.
The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name "Catholic" and to take the necessary measures should personal responsibilities emerge.

Art. 12.
§ 1. The diocesan Bishop is to encourage the national and international activity of the charitable agencies under his care, especially cooperation with poorer ecclesiastical circumscriptions by analogy with the prescriptions of canons 1274 § 3 CIC and 1021 § 3 CCEO.

§ 2. Pastoral concern for charitable works, depending on circumstances of time and place, can be carried out jointly by various neighbouring Bishops with regard to a number of Churches, in accordance with the norm of law. When such joint activity is international in character, the competent Dicastery of the Holy See is to be consulted in advance. For charitable initiatives on the national level, it is fitting that the Bishop consult the respective office of the Bishops’ Conference.

Art. 13.
The local ecclesiastical authority retains the full right to give permission for initiatives undertaken by Catholic agencies in areas of his jurisdiction, with due respect for canonical norms and the specific identity of the individual agencies. It is also the duty of the Bishop to ensure that the activities carried out in his Diocese are conducted in conformity with ecclesiastical discipline, either prohibiting them or adopting any measures needed in cases where that discipline is not respected.

Art. 14.
Where appropriate, the Bishop is to promote charitable initiatives in cooperation with other Churches or Ecclesial Communities, respecting the proper identity of each.

Art. 15.
§ 1. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has the task of promoting the application of this legislation and ensuring that it is applied at all levels, without prejudice to the competence of the Pontifical Council for the Laity with regard to associations of the faithful as provided for in Article 133 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, the competence of the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States, and the general competences of other Dicasteries and Institutes of the Roman Curia. In particular, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum is to take care that the charitable service of Catholic institutions at the international level is always to be carried out in communion with the various local Churches.

§ 2. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is also competent for the canonical establishment of charitable agencies at the international level; it thus takes on the responsibilities of discipline and promotion entailed by law.

I order that everything I have laid down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio be fully observed, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of particular mention, and I decree that it be promulgated by publication in the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and enter into force on 10 December 2012.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 November, in the year 2012, the eighth of my Pontificate.