Marc Barnes, author of my new favorite Catholic blog, Bad Catholic, explains, through a conversation with someone he knows, why beautiful cathedrals rise up out of the Church’s holy poverty. The following text is my 2 cents.
One time a non-Catholic friend and I visited a church where she saw a nonthreatening basket of donation envelopes on a table in the back of the chapel, pointed to them and said, “*That* is why I don’t go to church.”
Really? Because if you put on your Critical Thinking Cap, you’ll see why that is a really stupid reason to not be Catholic, if that is indeed your only reason.
A Catholic Church functions on free will donations. We don’t sell tickets to Mass, or have a membership fee. We’re not even allowed to sell religious goods once they’ve been blessed.
People donate to the Church, firstly because they want to glorify God. Consider what our churches house. God Himself, the Creator of all beings, Who died to save us from our sins, physically sits in our tabernacles. Even if you do not share this belief, surely you have enough imagination that it isn’t a strain to understand why we, who do believe that, would want a beautiful place for Him to live.
That, and we want lights to read our missals by, and food to ensure that our priests do not collapse from undernourishment during the homily. We want them to have reliable cars to get them to mission parishes and sick calls, and for our nuns to have books with which they can teach catechism. Them things cost money, honey.
Nonprofit organizations are so called because they don’t make a profit and rely on donations. PETA, The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, public television… I wish I had writing skills to further expound on what I can only summarize as “Duh.”
Speaking of which, did you know that the NonProfit Times names Catholic Charities USA as #2 in the list of top 100 nonprofit organizations? The Church has long supported and started charitable causes, in public and in private. The clergy of my church have, in the past, paid rent and mortgages and various other bills for not only its members, but people who I have seen all but once– when they knocked on the door of the rectory to pick up the check. I wonder why it is that when people need help, they look to a Catholic church, if not because the Church has a long history of generosity. Lay Catholics are strongly encouraged to do volunteer work, and many practicing ones do.
Yes, there is a Precept of the Church that dictates that you must contribute to the support of the Church. Most people tithe, but for those who cannot, “contributing to the support of the Church” can come in the form of volunteering your time, or participating in things like choir, or altar serving. (I quit my job and donated half a year of my time to my church last year. Can you rack up credit points for that sort of thing? My mom says no. [I kid, people.])
This is my favorite part of Marc’s article:
I: […] Your entire argument rests on the arrogant assumption that all the poor want is cash and food. Have you ever asked the Catholic poor whether he’d like the beauty of his church stripped for cash? Boy, you’d get smacked, because the majority of Catholics are poor, and know what’s important in life. Is it not enough that we are the largest charitable organization in the world?
Him: But you can’t deny the Pope lives in a mansion.
I: And you can’t deny that if he didn’t, the Catholic people would put him in one. We’re human, we like to reverence things.