Q&A: Is Lack of Giving Having Impact in Right Place?


Q. This is a question for Father Walsh. I wonder if he would be able to clarify whether or not there is a specific stipend that each parish must send to the Archdiocese from their donations. If so, will a parish (and possibly parish school) indeed suffer because of a reduction in donations? I need to figure out if our purposeful lack of giving in the last few months has made an impact in the right (or wrong) place. Thank you.
– Jackie

A. Dear Jackie,

Thank you for your question.  I have had conversations about this topic with many people over the last few months, including the people in my own parish. Your concern for your parish is praiseworthy as is your desire to make a purposeful statement around your objections to the manner in which you believe the Archdiocese has handled cases of sexual abuse.

You are correct that each parish in the Archdiocese pays an “assessment” annually. The assessment is a percentage (roughly 10%) of the parish’s Sunday collection. The Archdiocese uses the money from the assessments to subsidize the Archdiocesan High Schools, fund Evangelization and Ministry to Youth and Young Adults, train the seminarians and deacons as well as to fund the other operating costs of the Archdiocese. It is also correct that the parish is liable to the Archdiocese for this annual assessment.

If a parish is unable to pay its assessment for some reason (perhaps decreased Sunday offerings or increased school deficits) the amount of the assessment becomes a liability to the Archdiocese which will need to be paid off at some point in the future. Thus, the withholding a tithe from your parish has a tremendous impact on your parish financial stability at many levels.
– Fr Chris Walsh

Father Chris Walsh is Pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Northwest Philadelphia. Prior to this assignment, he served as School Minister at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster and Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. Father Chris is originally from West Chester and is a graduate of Temple University.  He firmly believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, even in these difficult days, and that the Catholic Church remains a true instrument of God’s grace in our broken world.

Editor’s note: This assessment is calculated every few years. So the percentage may not reflect current giving but is still enforced at the calculated amount.

If you have a question for our panel, please send it via the Contact page. Please indicate whether you would like to remain anonymous.

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40 Responses to “Q&A: Is Lack of Giving Having Impact in Right Place?”

  1. Perhaps because withholding funds at the parish level makes local parish operations so difficult; it may be the only catalyst we in the pews can create to get the pastors speaking up! What if all the parishes in the Phila Arch were defaulting on their assessments and the pastors all communicated to the cardinal that the funds have dried up because the laity’s love of their parishes is exceeded by their disgust with the lack of moral leadership in the Archdiocese? Might he and his bishops listen THEN? Maybe when there is no dough left for his globe trotting he might begin to listen to members of the Church who are not also attorneys or speech writers.

  2. I truly don’t intend to offend Fr Walsh.

    However, we all know for sure that you can’t trust the Catholic church with the welfare of your children. Why would you trust what they say they do with your money? They can internally do anything that they want because you don’t get to audit it.

    You have seen thousands and thousands of cases about what they did internally when they were confronted with issues of child sex abuse. They reacted in the most horrifying, heartless manner. That’s how they react to crimes against children. Imagine how little they’d care about lying about money.

    Priests didn’t speak up about that. What makes you think they aren’t telling parishes that they have to pay a fixed amount to the archdiocese and to the Vatican regardless of how much they bring in. Furthermore, why wouldn’t they will just shut down churches if they can’t pay rather than have the archdiocese (and Vatican) be short on money.

    Remember that Cardinal Rigali said “there were no priests accused of abusing minors in ministry”, and then when the truth came out in the Philly Grand Jury report a week later, he suspended 37 priests. We found out he was playing word games, and changed the definition of “minor” to mean 10 years old when he knew that everyone in the congregation would think the number was 18 years old.

    Imagine this – the Catholic church takes up a collection for the victims of Japan. The congregation knows that they raised over $10,000 and they pass it on to the church. Rigali says that they sent a “five figure check” to Japan. Meanwhile, the 5 figure check was for $100.00, and he included the digits after the period. They spent the rest of the money elsewhere in the church where he thought it was critical.

    You can’t trust the Catholic church with your children, and you can’t trust them with the truth. Let me help you with the next step – you can’t trust them with money.

    • To clarify, I’m not saying Fr Walsh is lying to us, but I would be willing to bet that bishops are lying to him if it works to their advantage.

      • How could anyone believe anything from the hierarchy in Philadelphia ? They really do have a brilliant set up-they collect the same amount in assessments even if the parish is suffering.So while things may be cut on a parish level-it has no effect on the Cardinals and Bishops.
        It was announced last week that a number of catholic elementary schools would close.One of the closings took everyone by surprise-St Kevin’s in Springfield.Their enrollment has dropped – but is not as low as some other local catholic schools and financially they cover all their bills.It turns out that the rumor is that the neighboring hospital has offered $$$$$$ to the Archdiocese for the property in order to expand.It all comes down to the money.

    • Patrick, On the parish level, pastors rely on the laity to volunteer their time and expertise to the parish finance committee. My own father served many years on his. What Father Chris is saying is a fact. What happens to that money after that fact, well…..I tend to draw your conclusions. I base this on the lack of a comprehensive Archdiocesan annual report with substantive details. It would be wonderful if the laity were relied upon on the diocesan level as well. From what I hear, lay advisers are largely ignored on that level.

  3. I always look forward to your posts Patrick. You are always “on the money”. You verbalize exactly what many of us are thinking. I’ve become very synical about anything regarding the Catholic Church – just as you said in your post, 5 figures could mean $10,000 or $100.00. So as a result, whether it is written or spoken by the Church, I am always “reading between the lines” for the real meaning.

  4. “Is Lack of Giving Having Impact in the Right Place”?

    Yes and No.

    Yes, because when a person’s action (lack of giving) is in sync with a person’s conscience (presumably strained by the abominable antics of the hierarchy), then the impact is that the person enjoys moral authenticity. What “place” could be more “right”???

    No, because, for much of the hierarchy, a poorer, traditional, authoritative and orthodox church is preferable to a just, transparent, and Vatican II inspired one.

  5. Make a donation to the parish church that is restricted donation specified for some particular use. Write on the memo line of the check that the donation can only be used for , e.g., “the pastor’s housing expenses.” Or, send a check to the utility company for application to the church light bill.

    • Martin,

      On two occasions, I have done exactly as you prescribe. On both occasions, my pastor returned my donation to me by mail, saying, rather vaguely, that he could not follow my request.

      Have you been successful at implementing what you prescribe?

      • Writing the check the way you did is exactly what the pastor needs to see. Let him return your money; let your fellow parishoners know what the pastor has done. If he can be so cavalier about your donation, let him!!
        Every person who stands up to the rigid rules of the RCC is a person who lets them know that their control of us is not total.

  6. I gave my life away to a priest who abused me. You tell me what to do, because I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what to do. It’s not about money and I’m so sick of hearing about the Almighty Dollar. My life is totally screwed up. I have nightmares, panic attacks, and night terrors. Father McDevitt is in nightmares and panic attacks abusing me. I don’t know what to do anymore. Tell me, what am I supposed to do?????????? I’m scared. That’s the honest truth… I’m so scared!!!!!!!

    • Rich, please give us little time. I have a plan, and it will take a little time, but some day I think Catholics will finally see you as a hero for having survived this. They will need to hear your story.

      In the meantime, if you can, please try to get some professional help from a psychiatrist who specializes in these cases. They don’t have any magic solution, but some of them can at least make life a little more tolerable.

      I know you’re a tough guy. Please stay tough a little longer. We’re fighting shoulder to shoulder with you.

    • I am not a specialist but my husband was scared of his offender til he was 40 and then once he put him in jail he was not scared anymore because some sense of control was restored to my husband. I think the worse thing about abuse is lack of control and sense of powerlessness. It is an abuse of power as well as a murdering of soul. I think changing the laws would help many heal but does not take away the scars. There is hope of healing……….. When I have been most powerless in my life death of loved one……cancer etc. I give my suffering and powerlessness to Christ and he strengthens me………..

    • Rich, I don’t know how to tell you take your life back. I know that’s the therapist’s job. But I can tell you’re strong. You’ve been through enough. The laity owe it to you to take up this battle. Let us. I won’t ask you to trust us. That is asking to much. The proof will be in our actions. -Susan

  7. Rich,
    Healing is possible. Get help. You have been working with Bob Hoatson, but maybe you have not met the rigth therapist yer. My husband is a childhood abuse survivor and I am a rape survivor. We have recovered, albeit through lots of hard work and desire to put our lives back together again. There are wonderful therapists here in Philadlephia who work with male abuse survivors. Jill Maier is a therapist at WOAR and you can get therapy there for FREE. She is a specialist in working with male survivors. 215-985-3315 You can also see who else is available at malesurvivor.org.
    Diane Langberg is in Jenkintown and has loads of experience in helping clergy abuse survivors find healing. 215-985-3315 I am sure road to Recovery would work with you to get the counseling you need. You have to want it though, really want to heal rather than hold onto the grudge. You have to want to live!
    Destruciton of the Catholic Church will not bring you healing or life. You have mentioned before that is your desire, destruction of the Catholic Church. However, healing your own wounds should be the goal of your journey.
    Michele

  8. I feel like this little fuckin’ kid again. I’m supposed to obey what a priest does right? He’s more important than the cop my mom says and tells me to go to the priest whenever I’ having a problem. So I’m failing religion and for me to get a passing grade I have to let him sexually assault me. I don’t know why but I know I can’t tell my parents that I failed religion. Being the nephew of Cardinal John O’Connor, I can’t imagine telling my parents I failed religion. So I have to do what Father McDevitt tells me. His sharp fingernails and his huge stuture keep me scared. It’s so fuckin’ painful and I feel so all alone and like the world is getting black around me and nobody will ever come to protect me. I pray and pray and pray for a superhero but nobody every shows up. I’m alone and I always will be. I have so much anger because nobody came to protect me. I would protect a child from abuse, but nobody will protect me. I can’t let another child go through what I’ve gone through. Nobody deserves this life. I don’t deserve this life.

    • Rich. You wonder how God can allow such evil and then realize its not God but an evil priest. God gave us freewill and some people chose sin.When you blog like this it is like a stake straight thru my heart. You are not alone ………..you are not alone………Jesus loves you. I know this thru personal suffering of my own. There are many people who have been thru what you have or have loved ones that have been thru what you have. If your counselor is not helping try another one but don’t give up. We all come from God and go back to God if we live a good life. God doesn’t take us til we are done our good work. Sometimes we don’t know how we affect other people til we get to heaven.I think there is alot of people that admire you and are praying for you.Remember the evil that don’t repent go to hell.

  9. I have a therapist and I’ve been seeing her since March 2009. Sometimes life just gets so dark. People here keep defending the catholic church and priests and you have no idea what they did to me. When you support the church you support everything that made my life hell. You support everyone who dies because of what catholic priests did to us. Unless it’s happened to you, you have no idea of what my life has been life. I’d trade it for a good death.

    • Rich,
      Perhaps it’s not good for you to come to this site. You are always welcome. But I can understand why it would be incredibly difficult. Also, you are always welcome to submit your perspectives via my email without visiting the site. Just wanted to offer alternatives.

  10. McDevitt was one of worse, You know what he was like. That congregation needs to apologize and open their files to allow his victims to know how bad this monster was. When I heard this guy was a molester I was sick -gave any info i knew about this guy and others that he may have influenced to a few groups working on this. I pray that you get some peace and hopefully the therapy is helping. People are working on that group and the RCC as well, sorry it is such a long process

  11. Rich, you are the reason why we are all here! Those of us who have not personally suffered the abominations that you have, are ashamed of our church, ashamed of our hierarchy. Believe me, I want to seen the end of the hierarchial system that has taken over our church as much as you do. I believed in the absolute truth of my religion; it was my life. I have been betrayed; I am angry and sickened–especially when I feel the pain that comes through in your writing.

    Keep writing about your pain, Rich. Keep your pain before our eyes so that we may never forget the job we have before us. Write on all the blogs you can find. Let the world know what you have suffered. Remember, we are here because we believe in you. And remember, Rich, surviving is the best revenge.God bless you, and God bless us all . May God show us all the way out of this morass…

  12. You know, I had dreams and ambitions once. Now I just try to make it through the day without being too hard on myself.

    I used to believe in good and evil and in the end of the movie the good guy always wins.
    I used to believe that good guys “should” win.

    Nowadays and nights, I struggle to breathe when I feel like the darkness is suffocating me. I’m afraid of the darkness. I can’t even close my eyes for one minute without thinking the worst of my life.

    I wonder all the time “who I was supposed to be,” because I should be more productive in society and socially.

    When people scream obscenities at me, while I stand in protest of another building and another group of people who allowed a child to be abused, I wish they could see a glimpse of how my life has been.

    When I ask for justice, I want those who knew I was being abused and other boys who were being abused by the same priest or other priests in the order, or the school to feel just a little bit of what I’ve felt in my life.

    When I ask for honesty and accountability, I want those responsible for putting a child sexual predator on my path when I was a young boy to be open and candid about this particular predator and what they knew about him well before he abused me.

    When I tell you about my life and being raised in a very Catholic family with a lot of Irish Catholic influence, I’m trying to warn you. I’m trying to protect your child from experiencing my life. I don’t need you to believe me. I just need you to protect your child and all children.

    Part of the motivation I have about seeking justice is to make certain that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else, ever. Nobody innocent deserves this guilt and this shame.

    • I kown how motivated you are Rich, to protect the kids. You are looking out for others so that they will not be harmed.A few months ago on the site you told me that you have no soul.I don’t believe that.For you to have gone through what you did and still want to protect others means you have more heart and soul than many other people would if in a similiar situation.I am so sorry for all that you have endured and continue to deal with on a daily basis

  13. Rich……

    What a nightmare…..what a hellish existence……I cannot begin to understand the torment and misery you live every day…….I would just like to say how very sorry I am that treacherous criminals, their conspirators and abettors of our Catholic Church did such horrible things to your body, spirit, mind, soul, life and future. No innocent child deserves to be the victim of such deliberate, calculating, intentional, vicious and soul-killing criminal conduct and actions that was visited upon you those many years ago. I truly wish and pray that in some way Our Lord will lift and ease this horrific burden on your life and soul.

  14. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/deliver-us-from-evil/ Don’t watch if you have a weak stomach. It took me about 5 cases a beer, a few bottles of whiskey, and 2 weeks to watch this documentary.

    • I watched it. That’s why I am on this site. You want people to know your pain so others will not suffer like you did I understand that. It’s not some abstract thing to you it reality for you.

    • I also watched it the night you recommended it a few weeks ago.It is important for all to watch.The other documentary “Hand of God” also taught me alot about people’s experiences.I have recommended both documentaries to others.

  15. Rich,

    Maybe Susan and Kathy could create a special discussion area on this website, where you and other abuse victims could articulate your grief and needs, and where readers could completely focus on them and respond. Having your own “place” could help to heal you and others, and teach us.

    But the way this site is set up, now, your personal experience posts get intermingled with posts pertaining to subjects associated with the sexual abuse crisis, news stories, questions, etc. In the end, neither you nor the associated subjects get the attention they deserve.

    You are an asset to this site, Rich, but , due to the format of this site, your important input has yet to be fully realized.

    The victims of sexual abuse need their own “place” on Catholics4Change– a “place” to tell and heal, and where the rest of us learn to remove our blinders, discard our protective cloaks, and come to understand the pain.

  16. All are invited to submit blog posts via the contact page. Rich does also publish a site for victims – victims4justic.com – and there are many others listed on the Resources page. I’ll look into adding a forum – not sure whether it works within the framework of this blog template.

    • That would be Victims4Justice.org I’m doing a little construction on the site right now, but it’s still available to anyone who wants to post whatever. I’m in the process of creating a discussion forum for victims, family members of victims, and supporters, and anyone else who is damn sick and tired of child abuse.

      I just need a few more days to get the forum going. I am very computer illiterate, but I’m getting better day by day.

  17. But Hadit, I disagree with you that victims need their own place. In some circumstances we do, and I have my own place if I need to go there, but my point of dumping my heart out here is so that within these discussions, maybe you all can get a glimpse of the reasons you should be fighting the Catholic Church. I don’t want sympathy or some kind of pity party. I just want you to be able to look into my life a little bit, notice where everything went wrong, and hopefully some of my truth will prevent people from donating to the Catholic Church and instead use their money to demand accountability from Church leaders. When you stop giving them your money, THEY WILL LISTEN! They have too. No business can stay in business without money, and when they start running short on funds, they’ll be asking their followers “why,” then you can tell them “why.” You can tell them that you stopped giving them money because you want to protect children from sexual predators.

    • Rich,

      What you are getting here IS “sympathy” and a “pity party” because your posts have spiraled into rants. They are short on wisdom and constructive insights, and long on unchecked and unresolved emotion.

      There are many ways to effectuate change. You now seem grounded in the “shock and awe” way. “Novices” to the pain of sex abuse victims know no other way to respond to you other than with “sympathy” and a “pity party.” So, unless you are happy with that, and you say you aren’t, you should submit posts that elevate and inform the minds and hearts of the “novices” because, believe me, “novices” won’t change the church! Experts will.

      Don’t submit meltdown posts. Come to the table as a poised, albeit conflicted, victim of sex abuse, intent on being a formidable participant in these discussions. If you aren’t ready for that, there are other sex abuse victims who are. Look at them, and learn how they got there.

      I stopped giving money to the church. When my decision did not move every other Catholic to do the same thing, when it did not “bring down the church,” I did not melt into a temper tantrum. Every day, I struggle with being poised, responsible, insightful, articulate and informed so that I can bring something to these discussions… so that I can change the church. However, inside, I am angry and
      frustrated. It has taken me years to gain the self-control it takes to engage in the process of changing a medieval, corrupt and dysfunctional church. Get a grip on your anger and frustration, Rich. It has no utility whatsoever.

      I wish you would get your website together because there will be sex abuse victims who come there and blow you away… those who are coping, those who have retrieved their well being through therapy, those who are surviving, those who are invested in changing the church in meaningful ways.

      The next time you post here, Rich, blow me away!

  18. No thanks, Hadit. You’ve got it all figured out on your own.

  19. This blog is indicative of how daunting the struggle to stop the sexual abuse in the RCC and bring aid and comfort to those abused. As humans, we have our weaknesses. That is one of the main reasons why the RCC is able to get away with what they do or don’t do. Let us be for real and focus on what the problem is.

    Real change is not going to come to the RCC unless the people rise up. Blogging here, and getting publicity everywhere we can get it, is most important. Keeping this tragedy before the public eye is essential.

    Does anyone have any information on the lecture given by Jason Berry and his insight into the finances of the RCC? That is an area on which the people of the church need to be enlightened. I’m afraid they are sooo powerful financially that we may have no hope…

  20. I’m not sure if another forum on this site is necessary or not. The blog is titled Catholics4Change for a reason.

  21. I feel for you Rich. I can understand what Hadit is saying, but I think it is kind of harsh. The kind of emotions that Rich is expressing, are such that have been repressed by the church, and quite frankly, Catholics in general. Most don’t want to hear the bad, the unpleasant. Well, unpleasant doesn’t even begin to cut it, with the sort of abuse Rich and others like him have suffered.

    My anger in my own parish has been such, that people begin to decide that you are the problem. I’ve posted about this previously, even doubting what effect I was having. But here’s the deal. I am not a perfect person. I make tons of mistakes, probably on a daily basis. I’m not the most politically correct person or gental on this topic when discussing it, either. But whatever issues I have, I am not the cause of what is going on in the church right now and neither is Rich (though he in fact IS the victim here). The only way I know how to communicate effectively, is by being honest. And if it helps Rich to come here and vent, or obtain support, good for him.

    I have shared and vented here, and I think it has been extremely helpful for me. We discussed this at a group I went to of a few people from our parish that were so upset by the scandal. One of the people did comment, when discussing the need for a parish meeting, that they were not interested in hearing angry people vent, etc. My response was why not? If you don’t allow honest dialogue, what exactly are you going to get?

    Well, what we got from this parish meeting was exactly what I expected. A tightly controlled, manipulated meeting. As I see it, transparency in everything should continue to be the main goal. That includes the good, bad and the ugly.

  22. The laity in each parish need to set up an alternative financial system that only their elected representative control ( Ithink a non-profit 501c account is what they call it). Then parishoners could divert their donations and have control of expenditures. That way parish expenses could be met and the laity could prevent their money from going to the bishop. As it is now every pastor pays a tribute assessment to the bishop, and the laity have no control over how their money is spent.Even if a parish has a pastor who is well liked, a separate system needs to be set up so the laity can support their pastor, but at the same time cut the bishop off because he is unworthy of support. Bishops have shown themselves to be completely unworthy of trust. Stop sending them the money!

  23. Ex-Catholic & Saved By Grace Reply July 17, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Tom Doyle is the first priest I have had any respect for in years. I am still suspicious of him, even though. Why is the RCC allowing him to do this…does he play both sides? Why aren’t other priests allowed to do the same thing?

    I do agree with this…I read it somewhere, sorry I cannot remember the site: Tithing = Enabling

    The power of the purse is the only real leverage available to the laity.

    Use it.

    And here is a good Scripture that Rome does not follow, and it is in my Catholic Bible too. If you go against God, you always have sin.

    1 Timothy 3:1-7 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

  24. Rich – All I can say is that if you don’t heal, the abuser has won. I have no idea what you are going through.

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