In the annals of “I don’t really know what is going on in my own church” I think I’ve reached a new low. I’ve been told that at least in some dioceses, by custom, the Christmas collection goes to the pastor. Not to the parish, but to the pastor personally.
When I heard this, I must admit, it shocked me. It’s not that I think pastors are undeserving of bonuses at Christmas time. The point is that the collection at Mass isn’t for that purpose. It’s a ritual way of giving support for the needy and for the church as a whole. “Special” collections are always identified as such, so that you know—at least in a general way—where the money goes.
If I knew that what I put in the basket at Christmastime was going directly into the pastor’s pocket, rather than keeping the lights on or caring for the church’s mission, I would evaluate the Christmas collection entirely differently. Now I am wondering what actually happens in my own diocese. Is it possible this has been going on for generations and I never knew about it?
Don’t get me wrong. People want to be generous at Christmas and that’s great. If there were a common gift to the pastor, I think that most people would give to it cheerfully. I simply think that the collection at Mass should never go to a single individual. If folks give to the church at Christmas, especially those once-a-year attenders, it should be clear that it’s going toward the common good or to outreach and service, not paying for a cruise for father.
Does anyone have any further information about this practice? How it started? Whether it is widely followed? Would it make a difference to how much you gave at Christmas if you knew it was going directly to the pastor rather than to the parish?