Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do Catholics have to give 10% to charity?

Right now in Canada, we are at the deadline for submitting our income tax forms, which is April 30th. In the US it is April 15th. You mostly need to worry about that if you owe money to the government. But the question often arises about how much Catholics should give to charity. A person close to me said we needn't give much because we pay so much taxes, which in turn pays for social services, such as hospitals, schools, welfare and other services. I understand this point. But I think we still ought to give money to charity. The question remains, how much?

In the Bible, we remember when someone asked Jesus if they should pay taxes. He said give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's. I think this is the philosophy we need to take in our modern day. Taxes do pay for many services, but we as a community take advantage of these. I do not necessarily pay for things directly related to myself. I might pay for my children, spouse, parents, friends, etc. I would not say, well I buy food for my children, so I shouldn't give to charity. Taxes pay for the common good. But we must remember that we are commanded to help build the Church.

Giving taxes is the right thing to do, but that does not support the mission of the Church, which is of vital importance, perhaps now more than ever. And we can be sure that money we give to the Catholic Church will go to a good cause, whereas money given to the government could easily go to sinister activities which contravene our faith. For example, taxes go to support abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, sex-change operations, adoption of children to gay couples, contraception, Planned Parenthood, etc. We cannot control this, and we are not morally culpable for supporting these activities by paying taxes. However, if all we give is taxes, how do we expect the Church to combat these evils?

The primary role of the Church is a spiritual one. It is there for the salvation of souls. By its very nature, it is intrinsically involved with the day-to-day affairs of the world. The Catholic Churches is a strong voice for good in the world, and our charitable contributions to the Church help it in this. By giving money to the Church, we support its mission which is to evangelize people and bring them into union with Christ. When this happens, the ills of the world decrease, because light overcomes darkness. By giving money, you support mission work, crisis pregnancy centers, church building funds, pilgrimages, Catholic education and health care, Catholic literature, books, pamphlets, and tracts, etc. You also support the Church's mission throughout the world, in poor countries. The Catholic Church, believe it or not, is the largest charitable organization in the world.

Many say giving 10% is impossible because they do not earn enough money. You are not obliged to give 10%. There is no absolute rule that you must give that much. You cannot neglect your most important duties to your vocation, such as caring for your family. But let's look at a hypothetical situation. Just say a man is making $50,000 per year. He says he can only give about $1000 per year, or 2% of his income. He says $5,000 per year would be simply impossible. But it is quite conceivable that he could receive a raise and start earning $55,000 per year. If he continued his previous lifestyle, he would be able to give the surplus $5,000 to the Church no problem. However, this seldom happens. It is more likely that when people start earning more, they start spending more. This really contradicts the whole idea of charity. Charity is not giving so little that we hardly notice it. Charity is about giving as much as we possibly can. We must realize how fortunate we are, and try to support others.

Many people receive many spiritual benefits from giving money, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it lessens their dependence and desire for material wealth and brings them to a closer union with God. They realize only he can fulfill their lives and that money never will. Also, helping others is part of being the hands and feet of Christ on Earth. Jesus commands us to pray, fast, and give alms. As we continue in the Easter Season, let us be as generous as we can.

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