May 3, 2001
volume 12, no. 123

Fifth Commandment of the Church

"To contribute to the support of the Church"

    By the commandment to contribute to the support of the Church is meant that each of us is obliged to bear his fair share of the financial burden of the Holy See, of the diocese, and of the parish providing each is providing for our spiritual welfare. As Saint Paul says: "What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Who feeds the flock, and does not eat of the milk of the flock?" (1 Corinthians 9: 7-8).

    We are bound to support our pastors, because justice commands it, and God ordained it. Our pastors are those priests in whose districts or parishes we live. Pastors and curates are appointed by the Bishop, and charged to give the necessary religious instruction, administer the sacraments, watch over the spiritual welfare of the faithful, etc. "The Lord directed that those who preach the gospel should have their living from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). Most good citizens seldom grumble about the taxes they pay the government when they are not excessive. They have as great, if not greater, obligation to help support the Church.

    We are also obliged to help support our Bishop, as well as the Pope, and to meet all Church needs according to our ability. If we do not support the Church, we are unfaithful to Christ's command that it "go and make disciples of all nations" To teach, the Church has need of funds; our spiritual superiors need material support as much as we do, if not much more on account of their duties. "The laborer is worthy of his wages" (1 Timothy 5:18).

    Mass stipends are given, not in payment for the spiritual benefits, but as a means of support for the one who says the Mass. One cannot buy a Mass. The Church needs help for many purposes, among which are the following:

  • Maintenance of public worship, education, and charity, as instruction of the young, relief of the poor, upkeep of the churches, seminaries, schools, colleges, asylums, hospitals, cemeteries, orphanages, etc.
  • Maintenance of missions in our country, and abroad.

        Some of the most common ways are by making a liberal and voluntary offering to the priest when he performs some religious ceremony in our behalf, such as blessing our houses and children, etc.

        In parishes with an established schedule of fees for baptism, confirmation, marriage, and burial, the fee should be paid without arguing or bargaining. More than the scheduled fee should be given by persons of means, as the schedule is for those of ordinary financial ability. The very poor are not expected to give anything. Sacraments are administered to them without fee.

        Another way is by not failing to put some offering on the collection plate every Sunday and holyday. Even children should form the habit of putting in a few cents. It is a shame to see people with diamond rings on their fingers let the plate pass by unnoticed, or put in with their jeweled fingers a dime or a quarter. It certainly does not show much sense of proportion to give a quarter in church, and then to go out and ride in a luxurious car and proceed to a party that costs some ten dollars or more.

        There is another way as well by contributing to special funds, as for the erection of a church or a school, the maintenance of religious establishments, the Mission Day funds for the Propagation of the Faith, for missions and retreats, etc.

        We should be especially eager to contribute to funds collected directly for the Holy Father, as a proof of our loyalty to and love for the Father of all Christians, the Vicar of Christ on earth. The alms collected for the Holy Father are called "Peter's Pence." Funds collected on Mission Day are sent to Rome, too, for the Propagation of the Faith, the spread of the Faith in mission lands.

        We can also help by supporting a student in the seminary, some orphans in Catholic schools, catechists and priests in the missions, etc.

        What merit before God it must be to support a student for the priesthood, or a priest in the missions! If we cannot ourselves go to serve Him there, we, as it were, offer Him a representative. If a father has no son for the seminary, he keeps a substitute there! And we remember that such persons as we benefit only naturally feel towards us a special affection, and will devote many of their prayers for their benefactors: what blessings may we not expect from the Masses and prayers of one whom we have helped on the way to the Priesthood!

        We should contribute as much as we can, according to our means. Persons who are in moderate circumstances and with large families cannot be expected to contribute as much as those who are rich. Persons who are rich should remember that God gave them their wealth. They should return some of it to Him in thanksgiving for His generosity, remembering that He gives wealth only as a trust. The rich have to account to God for what they do with the wealth that God has granted them. It is far from edifying to see so many wealthy persons throwing away money on food, clothes, cars, jewels, houses, travels, etc. and then give nothing at all to the pastor of their souls.

        Ordinarily, if we give each month one day's wages or revenue, the needs of the Church will as a rule be taken care of. This is surely not too heavy a burden.

        Many people go on year after year without giving a cent to the Church even when they can well do so. These people should remember that the Church and her ministers cannot subsist on air.

        Wealthy Catholics should remember the Church in their wills. Many of these Catholics leave funds to some secular institution or other, for the erection of this or that building, and completely forget to leave anything to their Mother Church and/or truly Catholic organizations.

        One of the problems today that we have in our Church is that many, many are not getting a 'bang for their buck' if you will. In other words, the monies they are contributing are being used to build edifices that honor man's agenda, not focusing on God and the traditions that sustained Holy Mother Church for over 1900 years. Monies that they are contributing are being funneled into programs that dilute the absolutes of the true Faith, such as Renew and many diocesan programs that have wandered far from the teachings in this catechesis by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow compiled in 1949 from the great Deposit of the Faith. Nothing has changed from that time regarding our doctrines and beliefs, yet there is sometimes sadly little similarity to what is contained in this series APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH and Catholic education today.

        Many ask what should they do in order to fulfill the Fifth Commandment of the Church when true doctrine is watered down so or churches are built with no respect for tradition or the spiritual needs of the faithful; when the bishops press for donations to this diocesan fund or that and we learn that some of these monies have actually gone to organizations that support abortion or promote a creed that contradicts the true teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Or they ask, why should I work so hard to make my pastor comfortable in his luxurious rectory and nice car when he only has half an hour a week to hear confessions for the whole parish and has turned many duties over to radical feminists who have overrun so many parishes? All good points.

        The answer is, as one priest so rightly put it: "No doctrine, no dollars!" Does that mean don't contribute at all? By no means, no. There are two ways to fulfill the Fifth Commandment and all Our Lord asks for. One is to set aside a special trust where you continue to contribute to the parish or the diocese, but they cannot access it until you release it. This gives you the hammer to ensure proper doctrine is taught and liberalism will be kept to a minimum. If more parishioners did this we might see a quiet revolution back to orthodoxy in many dioceses around the world. Just as television ratings equate to dollars in advertising, so also the collection basket should translate to how well our shepherds and pastors are doing in upholding and passing on the true Faith without all the relativism and rationalization that is going on today. Sadly, many a bishop will sit up and take notice when the funds begin to dwindle more than when heresy is being spread in his own see, often times coming right out of his own chancery because of how entrenched liberals have become in those bastions.

        When the tactic to put their donations in a special trust doesn't work and the abuses continue, then there are always contributions to loyal Catholic organizations that seek to complement the truths of the faith in their ministries and apostolates...and there are many. These, often times, though not the establishment, are doing more to fulfill Christ's command in Mark 16: 15 then those in authority who have used their powers to manipulate minds to their way of thinking rather than what Holy Mother Church has passed down for 20 centuries.

        "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the measure, but upon the lamp-stand, so as to give light to all in the house. Even so let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven" (Matthew 5: 14-16).

        Money is not the only way we contribute and shouldn't be. It should be in giving of our time, talent and treasures. If one cannot give of one, then one can give of the other means available. It all comes down to giving of ourselves to God in gratitude for all He has given us. That's surely not asking too much!

    For past installments of this catechetical series on My Catholic Faith, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives

    may 3, 2001
    volume 12, no. 123
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