Have you ever wondered where the Catholic Church gets its money? Or why your Parish has so many fundraisers? Maybe you want to know why the Church collects tuition from families enrolling in classes. Well, this is actually a very simple concept, but to fully understand, let us recall a few key facts:
The “Church” is the “Body of Christ” which consists of all the “faithful” or, all those people that are part of the Church. “So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.” (1 Corinthians 12: 14)
The building in which we praise God and celebrate Holy Mass, and the campus on which we celebrate feasts and holy days, is called a “Parish”
All Parishes within a certain region are under the authority of a “Diocese” which is directed by a “Bishop” appointed by the Pope.
The purpose of a “Diocese” is to assist Parishes and the communities that they serve in many ways. One such way is by overseeing the legal implementations and responsibilities of all parishes and ministries/organizations that are imposed by the government they fall under, in our case the U.S. Government.
In scripture there are many references to a concept we know as “tithing” which is the very small portion of one’s income that is donated to the “Parish” to support its utility needs as well as the material needs of the community. This amount should never have to be crippling to the family and can be as little as necessary to keep a family in good financial standing.
The Catholic Church and most of its ministries/organizations are Tax-Exempt in the U.S. This is because the government recognizes the Church as a charitable organization that has done substantial work and donation to countless causes around the world. The simple explanation is that, factually and statistically, the Church donates a far greater amount of money to the rest of the world than what it takes in at any given time. Included in these many organizations is “Catholic Charities,” which was the 9th largest U.S. Charity in 2016.
Where Do My Donations Go?
Parishes operate in the same way, taking in various amounts of donations from the community to sustain the physical needs such as electric and gas bills, facility supplies like toilet paper, soap, etc. The surplus after paying those expenses goes to extra services that benefit the community both local and international. Special collections are held when there is an extraordinary need; whether it be for victims of disasters, victims of violence, or victims of hunger. These collections also go to feed local families or to develop education systems, or to fund programs that serve a larger population of people around the world. Sometimes, there will be a collection to fund the expenses of a special event open to the whole community. Furthermore, there are often collections that go directly to the Diocese; these funds are used in many of the same ways, but more specifically in the region of the diocese and for the purpose of developing and growing all aspects of that particular diocese. This in turn allows for a greater capacity of service in the community.
With this said, the extent to which a Parish can serve the community and offer resources is directly tied to the amount of financial support the parish receives from parishioner donations. This does not mean that any one individual should contribute an extraordinary amount to the Parish; instead, it goes to show the importance of “tithing” among ALL parishioners even in the smallest amounts.
Let’s Look at an Example
Take a Parish with a community of 10,000 families like our St. Christopher Parish here in Moreno Valley (which has a larger community than this). If every family contributed only $10 in a collection for one weekend, that would be $100,000.00 dollars that could go to support the needs of the Parish AND provide for the cost of many services to the community. That small amount is 400% percent more than the average weekly collection at our parish. That is only counting Families, not individual persons, and again, does not reflect the larger community that we actually serve.
If We Donate to the Parish, Why are There So Many Fundraisers?
If you have gone to other parishes in the state or even around the country, you will notice without a doubt that not all parishes are the same. Most especially, they are not all supplied with the largest campuses, state-of-the-art equipment, or high-attendance events as some are. This difference is more often than not, a direct reflection of the financial status of the community the Parish is located in. However, there is often a much more complicated explanation for the quality of a Parish’s facility. The vast majority of practicing Catholics do not know the theology of “tithing” or at least they do not see the importance of it. Many families do not donate or they donate a minimal amount when they can comfortably afford to give more. The quality of a Parish’s campus and its service to community will always be dependent on charitable givers because there is simply nowhere else for the money to come from other than the Parish’s own parishioners.
Understanding these concepts will help explain the need for fundraising in most Parishes. If a Parish does not receive adequate donations to cover basic operating expenses, the Parish will close down completely. If the Parish does not receive more than that minimal expense, it has no way to afford extra events or equipment to serve the community better. Finally, if these minimums are not met, there is not enough resources to educate/catechize over a thousand students in the parish and supply them with books and materials needed for their formation. In conclusion, The Parish must conduct fundraisers to supplement what is not contributed by parishioners and also charge for minimum tuition to cover the cost of supplies and furthermore, pay the living wages of employees that serve in various capacities to supplement the lack of willing volunteers to fill the needs of the Parish ministry. In our local parish for example, we do not receive adequate donations to fund all the services that are in demand by the community or to develop the Parish to serve a larger number of families; thus, we have to charge students for the cost of books and conduct many fundraisers to make these services available.
How Can I Help?
Your part in serving the needs of the Parish are very simple; be involved in ministry and tithe an amount that is affordable to you. When the Parish has abundant volunteers and ministers, there is a smaller need for paid employees to be staffed and thus less expenses to be paid. Tithing an appropriate amount is also a huge help of course, and encouraging others to do the same will promote a spirit of true stewardship in the community.
Is Tithing in Scripture and/or the Catechism?
The concept of “tithing” is introduced in many of the Old Testament books like Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Chronicles, however it is possibly most noted in a passage of the Gospel of Matthew. “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12: 41–44). St. Paul also relates “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7).
As with all teaching of our Holy Church, we can refer to the Catechism for further instruction. The Church holds a list of 5 “Precepts” “[In brief] The precepts of the Church concern the moral and Christian life united with the liturgy and nourished by it.” (C.C.C. 2058) These obligations created by the authority of the Church are meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor. The 5th Precept states "You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church" this means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability. The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities.
To learn about the other 4 precepts of the church check out this article.