18 Aug Safe Spaces for Catholic Money (3)
Out of the Box Thinking for Catholics, or Ways to Ensure Your Donations Don’t Go to Male Hookers
No, we’re not kidding. This year a male prostitute in Naples, Italy came forward and named names of his clients among Catholic clerics there.
Since then, a huge scandal has broken in the USA. A Pennsylvania grand jury has released a report naming 300 Catholic priests and detailing incidents involving sado-masochistic homosexual abuse of more than 1000 teens and young adult men. ‘Mainstream media outlets are calling for Cardinals to step down as hundreds of articles are detailing the story of a hierarchy riddled with corruption on a massive scale — all in the wake of the June 20revelations about the 55 year career of homosexual predation led by America's senior Cardinal, Theodore Mc Carrick. Some of these reflect the reality that the US Church continues to make massive monetary settlements in abuse cases; one Montana diocese reportedly attempting to assess each family $1000 in order to pay a $20 million settlement there.
While most Catholic pulpits have remained mum on this question, the dam is beginning to break. Unsurprisingly, our email is full of Catholics anxiously asking for advice on how to donate to the Church safely – without enabling the evil that is clearly in powerful positions in the Church today.
We have responded with a series of articles ‘Safe Spaces for Catholic Money’ which we are still expanding.
Many also ask how to donate to their parish safely, if they do not trust their bishop or diocese. We have looked into this, and here’s what we have found:
Q: I never give to diocesan appeals. Does this mean the money I am donating won’t ever end up with the Diocese, which I am sad to say I don’t trust?
A: No. Bishops retain the right to tax any parish any amount they see fit to.
Q: Many parishes weekly turn over a significant portion of their parish collection basket to the bishop, above and beyond specific diocesan “appeals.” Is this true?
A: This varies by diocese, but is generally true. Ask your pastor if your parish is required to do this and precisely how much it amounts to.
Q: Can I earmark funds to go to certain uses, for example a parish building fund? Will this keep these funds out of a bishop’s hands?
A: Yes, though we should caution you that apparently these funds have a waiting period. When they expire, they go to general church use and are, like all general funds, available to the bishop at his behest.
Q: What is the safest, easiest way for me to donate to my parish, worry-free?
A: Many Catholics donate their labor, or ‘in kind’ – that is, by picking up the tab for a new project, a special cleaning, or a regular bill. One may donate material goods to the parish itself. For example: if you want to contribute to your parish, but you do not trust where the money goes, you can ask the parish priest just how many boxes of hosts he goes through a year. The parish priest then gives you a number, and you can place that order with your own money. Thus, you are donating material goods, but not cash, and thus it is not taxed by the chancery. From what we understand if you receive a receipt from the parish, you would be able to write it off your taxes. This appears to be a safe option for most people.
Q: Can I donate directly to my priest?
A: Yes. But it will not be considered a tax-deductible gift if you give money or goods to anyone except a 501c3 not-for-profit.
Q: My church is beautiful and historic, and we have spent a great deal to preserve it. Is the sale of beautiful historic churches part of this scandal?
A: Yes. Sadly, for years, diocesan sell-offs of truly beautiful churches have occurred to pay for settlements when the tragic real story is that often larger amounts were being spent by bishops for extravagant residences, summer resorts, amenities and a host of other superfluous purposes. Donations are fungible. Once money is credited from any source into the diocesan accounts, it could go to any purpose and we have seen where some $ 3,000,000,000+ went already. Payoffs, publicly acknowledged and those undisclosed under settlements. See our article here about saving churches with Brody Hale, J.D.
Q: I am a major donor to my parish. What would you advise me to do?
A: At the very least, set up a controlled escrow account to fund legitimate expenses for your own parish and upon which the pastor can draw for his own parish's pre-specified reasons. This keeps the funds in lay hands until they are dispersed for clearly articulated reasons.
We also suggest that if you have concerns that you consider other, safer options within the church. There are Ordinariate and Latin Mass parishes, as well as Ukrainian, Greek, Melkite and Maronite Rite parishes in union with Rome which are virtually scandal-free. We have also written about seminaries, and convents, and have also interviewed a major donor to learn what his thoughts are. Consider diverting your donations to support these people who are the real, authentic church if you have lost trust in your parish and/or diocese.
Q: I am very involved in and a major donor to our parish. What should I do?
A: Donors have a right to an audit, or accountability on how their money is used. Most non-profits are required to do that. Many protestant churches hold an annual meeting to show their parishioners how funds are being used, for example.
But it is important that this be a lay-lead endeavor, because ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. You should demand and fund independent auditing of all parish accounts, going back at least ten years. Forensic CPAs can unearth and trace corrupt transactions, if any, and report to parish members who got how much for what purposes.
Q: I am a major donor to our diocese. What should I do?
A: Basically, the approach should be the same as the parish level. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer and cooperation in opening the books, you can take the same steps as ‘Steve’ did in this article.
Drawing by Jane Privett