IS IT RIGHT TO IMPOSE QUOTAS OF PARTICIPATION FOR PARISH CELEBRATIONS?
This has, by now, become a tradition that nobody dares to question. But here someone is prepared to challenge such tradition, even to the point of refusing to comply to impositions. Money may be useful, or at times even necessary, but it must remain in the rank of servant. If it is allowed to dictate, yes, it will soon become a dictator and cause havoc wherever people live and relate. The Gospel (Jesus) calls money “that tainted (dirty) thing”. It always tends to be God’s antagonist: “You cannot serve two masters…”
One wonders: “Is it right to impose quotas (fixed amounts) on a given community so that all “needs” for the occasion may be taken care of, when there is a special celebration ahead that concerns several parishes and communities?”
NO, IT IS NOT! No one in the Church is entitled to extort money from his brothers and sisters. It is not the Christian way! It is not the Gospel way! Prophet Ezechiel (Ch. 34) denounces and condemns shepherds who “fleece their flocks” in order to pander to their personal needs. But someone may object: “If we cannot impose quotas, we shall never be able to gather ENOUGH for a proper celebration”. But “how much” is ENOUGH for a celebration?
The first step in the right direction begins with making an appropriate, reasonable budgeting. The team in charge must try to make a budget that is realistic, respectful of people’s situation, modest, not extravagant. Contribution MAY be asked, encouraged, solicited, but NOT IMPOSED! Yes, every community should try to respond generously, but it should not be compelled to take up collections for weeks or even months during the MASS, and so reduce the Mass to a fund-raising activity! This would be an insult, a profanation of the Mass, contrary to all liturgical rules and to the teaching of the Church. Our Archbishop has repeatedly condemned this bad habit, but – I am afraid – without convincing people and priests, who continue to “overload the Mass with excessive demands for church collections” (Pastoral Exhortation, 2012).
If you happen to belong to a community that is small, you have to accept the fact that you are limited and poor. You do not have to worry, trying to build a large bank account, simply for the sake of feeling good or in order “to be like the others”! You can live with poverty and still feel at ease. Poverty is a Christian virtue, is it not? Jesus gave us a shining example.
If one day someone will come to you and say: “There is a special occasion coming up. Your community will have to contribute TWO MILLION Leones!” You may simply say: “Presently we do not have that money in the bank. Sorry, we cannot give you what we do not have. We shall certainly appeal to our community and take up one or two collections, and give you that amount… whatever it may be”. Why worry about what our brothers or sisters or other people WILL SAY about our failure to respond? Maybe the ‘organisers’ will have to further reduce the budget and adapt it to the real, human situation of the people.
Is it a crime to be poor? Did Jesus condemn the poor widow for having contributed to the treasury of the temple so poorly: only a few pennies? On the contrary, Jesus praised her greatly and did say loudly she had GIVEN MORE than all the proud Pharisees with their fat wallets.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), at n. 2043, when dealing with the 5th Precept of the Church (“You shall help to provide for the material needs of the Church”), says that the faithful have the duty to provide for the material needs of the Church “EACH ACCORDING TO HIS OWN ABILITIES” This is the spirit and the letter of the law! In the Catholic Church extortion of any kind is banned, because it is against the Gospel. What must prevail is humanity, understanding, simplicity, respect, good sense… and generosity, of course. Not forgetting that God looks to the heart, not to appearances.