Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Church Wants My Money

I had an interesting moment yesterday when I got home and picked up the mail. I got a letter from my church. They want money.

I suppose I should clarify. When I say 'my church' I mean the church in my parish. I am a registered parishioner, and I have been to the church on a few occasions. So, loosely, this is 'my church'. In fact, however, the church and all its attendant accoutrements are largely absent in my life.

Not surprisingly, the pastor remains blissfully unaware and so wrote to me that the parish is 'struggling to meet [its] fiscal responsibilities', requiring '$48,000 to operate monthly'. Wow. That's a big number. That's more than half a million dollars a year. The money, according to the letter goes to 18 teachers, 5 pastoral staff members, and 7 support staff members. That's 30 people. Okay.. ummm... carry the 3 and... that's less than $20k per person. Oh. That's a small number. Like the fine Catholic I am under this fast-talkin' veneer, I immediately began to feel guilty.

But wait - I've always presumed the church was getting a boatload of money all the time. I paid for my wedding mass, my children's christenings, have contributed to every funeral mass I've attended, and have provided regular donations to Catholic Charities ever since I was an adult. They ask for crazy money to enroll my children in their schools. If I can't afford that they ask for mortgage-worthy money to have the kids participate in catechism classes. They ask for money every week at mass, for St. Pete's sake! They've got money, haven't they? So they need more money?

I tried to talk myself out of feeling guilty but I'm a damn good Catholic at heart, and the guilt riddled me as I continued my bipolar grumble through the rest of the mail. I couldn't dispel the anvil of obligation weighing on my shoulders. So to ease my mind - and occupy the three minutes the babies were elsewhere entertained with Daddy - I sat down to skim through my latest edition of Time magazine.

And there it was. Page 34. The highlighted excerpt caught my eye.

Right-wing Catholics lobbied the

Boston archdiocese

to refuse the Kennedy family

a church funeral.

Read that twice.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, according to the article, claimed that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who presided over Ted Kennedy's funeral, was 'under the influence of Satan, "the father of lies"'. I read on, mindful of my rising temperature and its implications for the health and well-being of the innocent magazine becoming more and more fiercely clutched in my grasp. Details followed about the on-going debate among Catholics regarding politicians - or any flock members I suppose - who believe that a person's stance on abortion defines the entirety of his rights to the Catholic church, its services or its support.

I'm sorry, what?

Yes. According to some, if you are a pro-choice person, regardless of your otherwise stellar Catholic comportment, you deserve no funeral mass. You don't have to have an abortion. Your attitude sucks the worthiness right out of you. Believing in another person's right to make their own choice makes you such a grave embarrassment and disappointment to the church, that even in death, you cannot be redeemed sufficiently to allow your loved ones to grieve in the house of the Lord.

I've been horrified by the church before, but this one really made the bile rise.

Forget Kennedy and forget this Archbishop or that Cardinal. Just like voters who have no grasp on the constitution, Catholics who have no understanding of the simple tenets of the religion ought keep their opinions silent.

From the Gospel, According to St. John, Chapter 12, 44-50, King James Version

Jesus cried and said, he that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

Where does it say there that some imbecile from the Vatican gets to decide that I'm not Catholic enough because I believe people should make their own choices? May the good Lord help me to understand those who judge the world when not even His own son would do so. How dare these pastoral phonies presume to speak for the Lord, in whose name the Son forgave Judas, saved Mary Magdalene, and gave His life for all sinners? How impudent can they be to suggest that Satan resides in the heart of a man who humbly presides over a ceremony to respectfully dispatch a soul, seeking God's acceptance? It is not the right of the presider to decide whether the soul is admitted into His heavenly home. This is the purview of the Lord Himself. So if the celebrant usurps the Lord's authority, is he not more guilty than the supposed lost soul in the coffin? Blasphemy is the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.

Quotes, definitions and interpretations aside, is not the Lord's teaching one centered on compassion and forgiveness? The filth and vitriol integral to the modern Western political process is finding false roots in our religion and I for one will not abide by it. The right of choice may be a debatable one. The choice to allow others to choose does not a sinner make. And the judgement of sin is best left in the capable hands of He who has not sinned.

I silently affirmed this to myself as I held my Time magazine in one hand and the letter from my pastor in the other. In essence, my pastor must know that the reason his church is failing to meet its fundraising goals is because my Time magazine tells me that my church won't bear - at least not without argument - my funeral. The journey of every Christian's life is one through Christ to God. I shall let Him decide whether I deserve to be received in His home and it is there that I shall pay - with all the life I have spent - my contributions to the church.


  1. "Blasphemy is the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God."
    I've always thought that, but never found the words to express it.
    Although, the church I belong to is open and affirming, I'm having a harder and harder time these days aligning myself with a church (used in the broader sense) that discriminates against groups of people, lifestyles, or life-decisions.

  2. Wow! The church in my view is so poorly alligned with the teachings of Christ that they miss the point almost entirely. This is the problem with faith in church rather than God.