Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Influencing the Church, monetarily

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 14, 2019

Looking at the title, many will think I am about to recommend withholding contributions from culture-bound parishes and dioceses which do not uphold the Catholic faith. That is, after all, one way of “influencing the Church, monetarily”. Instead, I have two other topics on my mind.

1. Big money and reform in Rome

You will recall the popular myth among the defenders of Pope Francis that most opposition to his policies and programs is orchestrated by wealthy American businessmen. This is, of course, ludicrous; it is simply the go-to excuse of secularized “progressives” any time a counter-cultural idea gains traction. In sad reality, of course, the prejudices of American business leaders have changed rapidly over the past generation. The majority of mega-businesses with deep pockets are now firmly entrenched in the new and sterile “gender culture”. That culture is awash in money and so “good for business”.

Surely everyone has noticed by now that whenever an American state attempts to restrict sexual license and/or multi-gender advocacy in any way, countless businesses threaten to boycott that state’s convention sites, which will result in losses of millions of dollars in revenue to the people there. No, the ship of American business conservatism sailed so long ago that we must presume it to be lost at sea.

But in the November issue of First Things, editor R. R. Reno makes an interesting ecclesiastical business point in the “Public Square” section (a series of editorial reflections under the title “The Dogmatic Principle”, but you will want to scroll down to the subtitle “Church Strife Under Pope Francis”). In his commentary, Reno aptly contrasts how the money flows into Rome from the two largest sources in the Church—Germany and the United States.

The German hierarchy is the financial beneficiary of a taxation system which distributes huge amounts of money to each of the religious groups, based on numbers of formal adherents. This is a longstanding solution to religious conflict in that country, which now funnels religious funding through the government. As Reno puts it:

Because the money comes from the government…the institutional and financial structure of German Catholicism is such that it could collapse as a spiritual enterprise, with church attendance among nominal Catholics dwindling to 1 or 2 percent, while maintaining a gigantic bureaucratic operation flush with money. Those who sit atop the institutional Church do not need donations; they don’t even need parishioners.

As everyone knows by now, the German episcopate is among the most secularized in the world, and has recently been much in the news for its plans to call a German synod to make “binding” decisions, and for the highly-secularized agenda imposed on the Amazon Synod. Reno points out that the huge coffers of the German Church enable it to provide key funding in Rome to the initiatives it finds most congenial both within the Eternal City and around the globe.

But the other major source of ecclesiastical funding is the United States. In addition to widespread participation in mission support and Peter’s Pence, those who can donate upwards of a million dollars have long since banded together in The Papal Foundation. In the past they pretty much left the disposition of funds to the bishops and cardinals who advised the Foundation. But increasing awareness of the moral and financial corruption among top prelates (like Theodore Cardinal McCarrick) has led the lay leaders of the Foundation to take firmer control of the reins. They have begun pressing Rome for results in combatting the obvious evils at work there, and have become far more particular about how their money is spent.

Scratch a myth, find a fact. The myth in this case is that global opposition to Pope Francis is orchestrated by conservative American businessmen. The fact is that major American donors to the Holy See now expect a spiritual return on material investment. How we frame that fact depends on what we are trying to accomplish, and what we are trying to hide. As Reno concludes: “The Argentine pope has urged us to ‘make a mess.’ He’s getting what he asked for.”

2. Your money and authentic Catholic renewal

But we need not be millionaire members of The Papal Foundation to use our money to foster authentic Catholic renewal. This can be accomplished throughout the world by making our own sacrifices to shape and extend the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are fortunate that in many nations which undermine the common good by suppressing spiritual commitment, there is at least still considerable secular expenditure in support of the corporal works: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.

But both the Church and State are in a prolonged modern crisis when it comes to the spiritual works: Instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and the dead. When we at speak of enriching faith, strengthening the Church, and forming Catholic culture—or when we commit ourselves to authentic Catholic renewal—we are announcing our own mission of fostering the spiritual works of mercy.

As the spiritual stability of the Church has been undermined by the current papacy, a number of newer web-based initiatives have gained strength. Some of these consistently ignore the spiritual works of bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving offenses. Some are also far more prone to condemn than to instruct, counsel, admonish and comfort. I want to emphasize that this behavior can never foster authentic Catholic renewal; all it can do is make angry Catholics feel better about themselves without any real spiritual growth. I will not name names, especially inasmuch as we all fall into these errors at times.

But tries very hard to keep all the spiritual works of mercy in mind when assessing and explaining contemporary Catholic problems. The truth penetrates without constant over-simplification, attribution of motives, condemnation, and fracturing of the Body of Christ. And the truth penetrates most effectively when, instead of leaving us feeling angry and superior, it leads us to a deeper and more fruitful relationship with Christ and His Church. I said in a recent commentary that it is enough for us to address the problems we face in terms of all-too-human spiritual confusion and spiritual weakness, without demonizing or deifying or painting every disagreement in apocalyptic terms.

The Church will endure until Christ comes. But we have three choices: We can fracture the Body of Christ more through name-calling and condemnation; we can let it slip further into the morass of the dominant culture through our own spiritual laziness; or we can work for authentic Catholic renewal, a renewal that keeps the full range of the spiritual works of mercy clearly in mind. It is within this third category of responses that hopes to continue to serve with distinction. It is within this third category of responses that we hope to bear rich fruit. Mercy is always truthful; but truth alone does not meet all of mercy’s demands. If God has done great things for us, it is only because He has shown his mercy to every generation.

But truthful and merciful or not, will not be around much longer to bear any fruit at all if we do not meet the $65,000 Challenge Grant our Boosters have established to match other donations given during our Fall Campaign. This campaign ends on December 9th and we still have just over $40,000 to raise. If you have not yet contributed—and if what I have written here makes sense to you—I ask you to offer a generous donation. This is one way to establish a firm connection—as the subtitle puts it—between “your money and authentic Catholic renewal”.

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Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: [email protected] - Nov. 15, 2019 10:16 PM ET USA

    Interesting article and will read again. It is good but still doesn't get to the heart of the matter. That is the worming into Vatican structure by the devil. We must recognize that there is a war ongoing in the Church and for its spiritual renewal and support for its doctrines and apostolic traditions. I will likely not be here to see the ending but I am confident Christ's Church will be here. St. Michael defend us.

  • Posted by: dianekortan5972 - Nov. 15, 2019 8:14 PM ET USA

    My views are generally more liberal than those of Catholic, but I read you daily for precisely the reason Jeffrey Mirus points out: because your dialogue is honest, respectful and without rancor toward those who do not agree with you. It would be a shame if the Church lost your voice. I am happy to increase my usual token contribution.