The Christmas Collection

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?

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41 comments

  1. I grew up in Georgia and I never heard of this practice till I got to seminary in 1981. I can’t say how wide spread it was or whether or not it continues in some places, but it seems to have been more prevalent in those areas where pastors, once appointed, never moved. I don’t know if knowledge of the practice was wide spread, but my first year seminary classmates all knew about it.

    1. @Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh – comment #1:
      Same – but my experience was my first Christmas in a parish assignment (not seminary; not mission). Pastor clearly stated at each mass that the second collection was for the priests. Pastor then divided the amount among the clerical staff (including deacons). I was shocked because it was not a small amount; and add in personal checks, etc. that parishioners gave as Christmas gifts to priests individually or to the pastor – it came to a considerable sum. (sorry, this was not in the northeast or even midwest).

      Agree – used to dioceses having various systems of payment for pastors/associates. Thought that most dioceses had moved away from use of collections or sacrament fees. Always thought that best practice was a diocesan policy that was clearly articulated and monitored/audited so that each priest/pastor knew what the monthly stipend would be; what the diocese covered or didn’t cover (included car use or not). Parishioners were made aware of these policies and it never accessed/used collections or sacramental fees. Collections, fees went to the parish; as specified. As it is, this still left room for creativity per pastor – since he set the annual budget and could set spending in the rectory – thus, lots of additional items could be included in this line item without being specific e.g. booze, expensive meals, high dollar technologies (for example – DISH with 4+ movie choices); gym or golf club memberships, etc. My experience is that some dioceses now audit and monitor *rectory line items*.

  2. I am 75 and knew this to be the custom in our diocese and, I presumed, for all dioceses in England and Wales. I never questioned it. It was the case at Easter, as well. If I had a pastor who was likely to fritter it away on expensive holidays or other luxuries, I wouldn’t contribute. If, however, I knew the money would be used well, I would be generous. My pastor does not live luxuriously and I would never begrudge him a collection. As I understand it, the Mass collection isn’t for the poor, it’s to help meet parish expenses. I should say that the practise of the Christmas and Easter collection being for the pastor was discontinued a few years ago here.

  3. It is important to remember that arrangements for the financial support of priests vary from place to place.

    I can see that, where the priest is paid a generous salary, it might seem strange for him also to receive income from the collection.

    On the other hand, priests in my diocese are not paid a salary. We are allowed to draw a small sum from parish funds each month (the equivalent of just under 16 hours work at the national minimum wage). The rest of our income comes from the offerings of the faithful (Christmas and Easter collections, Mass offerings, etc.)

    This arrangement has advantages and disadvantages. It makes our income somewhat unpredictable. It also means that priests across the diocese can have vastly varying incomes (although this is ameliorated by a central fund which receives donations from priests who receive larger offerings so that grants can be made to those receiving less).

    I personally find it very moving that I live from the gifts of the faithful rather than a monthly pay cheque. I know that if I did not accept my share of those offerings, I would not be able to pay for clothes, books, travel to see my family, etc. They certainly don’t pay for me to go on a cruise.

    When I was growing up, parish priests always made it very clear at Christmas and Easter that these collections were given to the priests. I know that the people in our parish are made fully aware that these collections (and only these two) are shared between the priests who serve them. Some people give more precisely for that reason. Perhaps some chose to give less. I am grateful to them all for their generous support!

  4. In the St. Louis Archdiocese the Christmas Day collection goes to support the seminary. I don’t recall much by way of announcement or publicity, though it may state this on the envelope itself.

  5. In England and Wales, at least, Christmas and Easter collections for the clergy are a long-standing custom.

    How long-standing? Well, in a quick internet search to fknd an answer, I happened to come across the text of a parliamentary debate from 3 June 1943 regarding Easter offerings in the Anglican communion and income tax, in which it is mentioned that the Catholics have both Easter and Christmas offerings for their clergy. And it’s spoken of as if it has been the general accepted custom for some time.

    Personally, as long as it’s made very clear that the Christmas offering is for the parish clergy, I have absolutely no problem with the practice.

  6. The Christmas Collection at least for my local parish goes into the general annual budget. The pastor always sweats it when Christmas occurs on a Sunday because that means the difference, actually the equivalent of a missed ordinary Sunday) has to be made up over the remainder of the year.

    The local parish has two quarterly extra collections, one for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, another for the parish food bank. My parish contribution is divided in three equal parts among these two and the regular collection. I am very grateful for the ability to impact the poor in the surrounding area through these parish ministries consisting mostly of volunteers. If other parishes did likewise and people funded them as I do we would certainly be heading toward being a church for the poor.

    Additionally I endowed a scholarship at a Jesuit University that pays annually about the equivalent of one of the parish funds. Most recently I have added giving a similar amount to a scholarship fund in Uganda through the local Orthodox Church which has two missioners there.

    Some time ago I decided that I would mainly contribute to targeted entities and purposes that I know well and am associated with and avoid giving to large entities and general purpose endeavors. So I don’t contribute to most diocesan collections, Catholic Charities, United Way, etc.

    So I have evolved a “balanced” way of giving, with about 20% targeted on parish general purpose needs, 40% on the poor of the local community administered through the parish, and 40% on higher education, half in this country and half in Uganda. I am about half invested in meeting immediate needs and half invested in the future (about half the parish money is spent on the school) , The total amount comes out roughly to tithing so I am not that far different from what the average Catholic gives to the average parish (around 2%). However I am not an advocate of tithing. I agree with a fellow parish member who said “simply tell us what you need, and what it is going to be spent on, and we will likely find the money.”

    In regard to priests, bishops have an obligation to see that priests are funded in a manner that means that they are decently supported and are not tempted to appropriate money in illegal ways. Many people in the know seem to think that the “financial” scandal is as large as the sexual abuse scandal, e.g. things like kickbacks, misappropriation of funds, and misuse of funds.

  7. I have no first hand knowledge or experience of this practice, but heard of it from my older diocesan priest brothers when I was just out of seminary. Apparently it was commonplace in my Kentucky diocese in years long past. An important caveat in the accounts as I recall them — the pastor had to provide for all the household food for all the priests in the rectory from those funds. That’s for the whole year. So, in a sense it went to the pastor, but the pastor had obligations to fulfill from those contributions. It made for some very funny and often disturbingly sad stories of padlocked pantries and chained refrigerators.

  8. In the Archdiocese of Boston, all parochial Christmas and Easter collections are sent to the Clergy Benefit Trust. At least by policy. What a pastor decides to actually send in might vary, if it’s anything like when mission clergy come preaching and are ostensibly being given that day’s collection….

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #11:
      But for years — until Cardinal Medeiros changed it — the holiday collections were indeed for the pastor’s personal bank account. One priest told me that long-time pastors of big parishes got big vacation homes on the Cape as a result.

  9. I know many pastors sweat it like crazy when Christmas falls on a Sunday, LOL!! I always like it because it makes that year’s celebration a little less tiring. Christmas on a Monday is the worst!

  10. I never heard of this in either my home diocese of St Cloud or my current diocese of Seattle.

    In fact, just the opposite: pastors count on the Easter and Christmas collections to support the parish budget for a majority of the year.

  11. At one parish I worked in the pastor used the donations from All Soul’s Day to finance his annual trip to different parts of the world. He would rip open the donation envelope, pocket the money and throw the envelope in the trash. He would be gone the whole month. No mention in church about where the money went.

  12. In my diocese, and I think in all of France, every priest receives $12200 per year. I believe that all offerings for Mass, baptisms, funerals, etc., go into the general parish budget, so I am not sure that they have any other income. In France there is no retirement age for priests any more (because there are not enough priests and the majority are over 75 years old), so that is the amount they will get until they die or until the church goes bankrupt. They have healthcare. They pay rent to live in the rectory.

    The bishops’ salary is 50% more than the priests.

  13. My goodness, I was very shocked to read this. While the priests salaries may be low, I am not sure that I have any level of comfort about the Christmas collection (or Easter) going to them. Now if it were something as was mentioned above, such as the priest needing to provide for the food for the entire rectory – that would be a bit different.

    The Christmas collection is counted on for our operating budge as has been mentioned already, as is Easter. In fact, reduced collections at these times would have some serious implications in many parishes I’m sure.

  14. I have never heard of this practice before either, and am not sure what to think of it. I guess like most everything else in the life of the Church, sometimes it’s a good thing and other times, it is not.

    At any rate, as Matthew Hazell (@ comment #8) said, I do think it’s important that when such a collection is made for the priest, that should be made very clear to everyone.

  15. I’m surprised that more folks here at PTB do not have a recollection of the benefice system!

    Google: “the parish as benefice in Catholic tradition”

    One of the first “hits” will take you to a Google book by Fr. Jim Coriden. The full URL is:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=qFssSnRbc-gC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=the+parish+as+benefice+in+Catholic+tradition&source=bl&ots=Sv1HxH9RKh&sig=LUzZgjbpWKfH-pwwWJIN26J0Tss&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uq9vUtqlB5Tk4AOg84CwBA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20parish%20as%20benefice%20in%20Catholic%20tradition&f=false

    FWIW, I was hired as music director at St. Mary’s Church in Greenwich, CT, in August 1969. The priest serving as pastor had been there four years. The pastor before him had personally received both the Christmas AND the Easter collections. Such a practice was a last vestige of the benefice system. (So, it appears that the Bridgeport diocese did not completely reform their practices until 1965.) In much earlier times the pastor received ALL the “income” generated at his benefice, and he was responsible for meeting all expenses from those funds collected. What was left over was his to keep.

    (Prior to 1965 the Greenwich pastor was already spending much of his time at his home in Palm Beach, FL. The “first assistant” was in charge of the day-to-day running of the parish.)

  16. Most people do not know how their priests are paid and the manner in which priests are remunerated can vary very greatly, even within the same diocese. Although many dioceses now operate a centralized salary scheme in which a priest receives a monthly stipend directly from the diocese, this is by no means universal and in some dioceses priests can opt to not be paid in this way.

    The diocesan payroll in my home diocese requires all mass stipends, stole fees for baptisms, weddings and funerals, the Christmas and Easter collections to be paid directly to the diocese who then pay the priest a monthly stipend. If the total from these various sources is less than the diocesan recomended salary (currently about $16,000), the shortfall is charged to the parish concerned and the full salary made up in this way. Tax and National Insurance are deducted at source.

    Alternatively, a priest in my own and some other dioceses, may equally choose to gain his stipend from the hithermentioned sources, in which case, he does not have a regular income and is essentially responsible for his own tax and insurance. In either case, food and utilities are paid for by the parish but not telephone.

    A centralized pay scheme is a great help to a priest in managing his personal finances. In such a scheme, it is only logical to presume that the Christmas and Easter collections, as well as the Sunday collections are in fact a primary source of a priest’s stipend as administered by the diocese.

  17. In the parishes in my diocese , Christmas and Easter collections are part of the general revenue income. Some staff may receive a “Christmas bonus,” but the collections are reported in the annual budget and financial reports.

    When I was a pastor (1996-2008), the parish CCW gave me a Christmas gift of $$$ which was greatly appreciated.

  18. I have not heard of the practice of a specific collection being used exclusively for the benefit of the clergy. Whether it happens in a particular church or not, it seems to me the larger question here is one of transparency. I think parishioners are owed a proper accounting of the funds they have offered for the work of the church—at least a statement of sources and uses of cash (including diocesan assessments), and balances of any capital funds being accrued for future use. My parish does this annually to some degree. This allows me to know, for instance, that one of every three dollars collected in Sunday collections goes to pay for expenses of the school associated with the parish (I believe there are more pressing needs in our community and the world). It doesn’t say (but should) how much money is remitted to the diocese or bishop for various purposes, and it doesn’t say how much of the capital campaign funds raised a year ago are still remaining to be spent (and it should).
    I also believe that parishioners should have to wrestle with whether the parking lot should be repaved or the local food pantry further supported—in other words, stewardship of the faith community’s resources should be managed with significant lay involvement. I believe that would foster a greater feeling of membership and ownership of our priorities. Perhaps very against the “Father knows best” mindset, but so be it.

  19. After reading this post, I proposed at our staff meeting this morning that we institute this practice in our parish, to the general merriment of the staff. So much for my short-lived hope of skiing Aspen this season. In the Archdiocese of Louisville it has long been the practice that the Christmas collection goes to archdiocesan charities and the Easter collection goes to Catholic education. Although our priests’ council has been drafting a new policy on second collections that will transfer the archdiocesan charities collection to the 4th Sunday of Advent and allow parishes to keep the usually larger Christmas collection.
    One thing that I find parishioners rarely know about priests’ compensation is that for tax purposes in the US, priests are considered self employed. This means the church does not pay FICA, the priest pays the entire amount. And this is taxed on housing and living expenses as well as salary. I always find this classification amusing, given that I made a public promise of obedience to my bishop. Twice. I have the video. I can’t think of many people who are less self employed than a Catholic priest.

    1. @Fr Lou Meiman – comment #22:
      And you don’t mention the constant fear about retirement…yep, some dioceses have retirement centers, pension programs (altho these are often underpaid or borrowed against) but can remember the retired bishop of Amarillo, TX, Leo Mattheissen, when he retired. He had to live in an unused convent behind a small rural parish because the diocese did not have the funds to allow him to live elsewhere or to provide him enough resources to live with his extended family in the next diocese.

      Fr. Kavanaugh – yep, can remember the same type of response from local priests in Guatamela. Another difference are religious order priests – usually, their community gets the ciocesan/parish monthly payment and the religious community has its own remuneration schedule – in 1988 it was increased to $75 per month for spending money that also coverred annual vacations. (in one community)

      But, OTOH, all living expenses/car, gas, insurance, and retirement are covered by the religious community. – How many folks today get $75 per month just to spend on *extras*? Would say that most US priests live a middle class, if not upper middle class lifestyle.

  20. When doing research a number of years ago, I came across the story of a Cardinal from Boston (c. 1900) who was reprimanded by the Vatican. Apparently, when a Boston pastor died, he would simply appoint an administrator, and the Christmas and Easter collections would then be sent to the Cardinal (since there was no pastor)!

  21. On the sometimes vast differences in remuneration for priests, when I was on sabbatical in 2004 I became fast friends with a priest from western Tanzania. One day he asked, “Michael, how does your bishop keep you?” I had to ask what he meant and found he was asking what my salary was. At that time we were paid about $25K, but with all the benefits added in, it cost a parish about $50 to $55K “to keep” a priest.
    “Oh!” he said. “I get $60.00 a month and that is the full cost to my bishop.”

  22. Bill – Oh, I know that I live a very comfortable life. I am grateful for the generosity of the folks who “keep” us and very careful in my spending, both for the parish and personally.

    I often tell the recently ordained that they have to remember that they have to keep in mind that they have far more control over 1) their money and 2) their time than the great majority of the folks in the pews.

  23. In administering my parish, (no priest assigned) I was told that the Christmas/Easter collection went toward the general funds of the parish and they helped us meet financial shortfalls (helped us out tremendously make our budget each year). We would treat it as an ordinary collection in December. That being said, I do know of priests that put the envelopes and checks in the accounts and removed the loose cash for the Christmas bonuses of the staff.

  24. While a finance committee is required by Canon Law for each parish, how it runs is pretty much up to local diocesan norms. In most cases it seems that priests can pick their own people, and when they don’t like their advice, they can and do remove them.

    While I think that a priest should be able to pick a third of the members of the finance committee, a third of them ought to be appointed by the bishop, and another third elected by members of the parish. There should be some guarantee that the finance committee has access to all parish financial information.

    Financial reform is long overdue in the Church. The diocese of Cleveland, and the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and New York have all had legal cases in which highly placed lay people have been accused of misusing money. These cases have surfaced through information by people outside the diocese. When so many high placed lay people have misappropriated money, one cannot help but wonder where they get the idea. I suspect it comes from highly questionable or even illegal behavior by priests and bishops.

    As I said in a previous comment rumors of extensive financial corruption are abundant. Not only should bishops act to avoid a financial meltdown similar to the sexual abuse scandal, they should act to avoid future government intervention. While government officials generally avoid involvement in internal church affairs, they do become involved once a general pattern of corruption becomes apparent and generates media interest. Having a Pope who wants a poor church for the poor may be laying the background for that media interest.

  25. Fr Lou Meiman : After reading this post, I proposed at our staff meeting this morning that we institute this practice in our parish, to the general merriment of the staff. So much for my short-lived hope of skiing Aspen this season. In the Archdiocese of Louisville it has long been the practice that the Christmas collection goes to archdiocesan charities and the Easter collection goes to Catholic education. Although our priests’ council has been drafting a new policy on second collections that will transfer the archdiocesan charities collection to the 4th Sunday of Advent and allow parishes to keep the usually larger Christmas collection. One thing that I find parishioners rarely know about priests’ compensation is that for tax purposes in the US, priests are considered self employed. This means the church does not pay FICA, the priest pays the entire amount. And this is taxed on housing and living expenses as well as salary. I always find this classification amusing, given that I made a public promise of obedience to my bishop. Twice. I have the video. I can’t think of many people who are less self employed than a Catholic priest.

    The terrific guy who does my taxes says that as far as salary/wages is concerned priests are considered employees (thus a W-2 form), but consideredself-employed when it comes to FICA and Social Security. So there is federal and state withholding, as well as full self-employment tax for Social Security and Medicare. We are also told to include $5,000 additional for room and board compensation. Priests in our diocese get a monthly ministerial allowance which is not subject to tax as well as a monthly food allowance (where there is no cook), which is also not subject to being taxed.

  26. Many of the comments in this thread seem to suggest there is something improper about offertory collections contributing towards a priest’s stipend – quite frankly this is nonsense! Where do people think the priest’s stipend come from? It comes from income generated by the parish in its offertory collections and stole fees. This is either paid directly to the priest by the parish or charged to the parish by the diocese. In the latter case, it is debited from the parish account (into which collections have been paid).

    A priest’s stipend is just as much an element of the maintaince of the church as paying the electricity bill or mending the roof and should be undertood as such. Catholics have a serious responsibility to suppport their priests financially as most priests have no other employment or source of income. Where there can be a legitimate concern is where a stipend is taken outside of the principles laid down by the scheme established by the diocese or grossly beyond the level set as a guide. I think this might be a concern in some places in the US (where offertories are considerably higher) more than it could potentially be elsewhere.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #31:
      I don’t think anyone is disputing that priests should be paid salaries and benefits and that this comes from the offertory collection. In fact, parishes should know what the budget is for priests’ salaries and benefits and they’ll see that for the most part it is very modest.

      The problem arises when a collection on a major feast such as Christmas is given to the pastor. That is all well and good if it is common knowledge that this takes place and people give knowing it. The premise of this post, though, is that many don’t know this in some parts of our country and they give thinking it goes to the general fund not as an additional stipend to compliement the pastor’s salary and benefits.

      One would hope that each Sunday’s collection is posted every week in the bulletin and that everyone in the parish is fully aware of the parish budget and its allocations, what is in the bank, etc. Tranparency is the issue here.

    2. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #31:
      The issues here are transparency and accountability.

      In the comments here and in my own experience it is very evident that laity more often than not do not know how the finances of the church (parish, diocese, universal) work, and have seen some situations in which priests don’t seem to be paid sufficiently and other cases in which they seem to be taking advantage of the system (lack of transparency and accountability).

      Foundational to everything is accountability, i.e. that there is really a financial system in place that actually tracks the money so that outside people (and even inside people) can figure out exactly what goes on. Up until recently I suspect those did not exist for most parishes, dioceses, and for Rome! Even now when parishes, dioceses and Rome say they are putting in place systems that permit accountability, in fact you will find that most often not everything is put on the books that purport to track everything. Sometimes this avoidance of accountability is linked to dubious, unethical, or criminal motives, but often it occurs because people just don’t understand, invest, and use good financial accounting systems.

      Even when a system looks accountable, pastors can use it in ways that do not make what is going on very transparent. Besides the annual budget, one local parish has a substantial “rainy day” fund supposedly for things like fixing the parish roof. However it is actually used when the pastor wants to hire a new position. Rather than going to the parish directly (or indirectly to the parish council) and asking them to support a new position, he depletes the rainy day fund and then goes to the people to increase their offerings because the rainy day fund has been depleted. This makes it look as if things were beyond his control, but in fact he decided he wanted another staff member and did not want to be accountable to the parish for that decision.

      The accountability problem is not unique to the Catholic Church or even churches, I experienced the same thing both for non-profits and local government. Over the twenty some years of my work there, accountability improved dramatically. In the early part of that period one chief accounting officer was hired by a CEO who told him “your job is to keep me out of jail.” The CEO simply had no idea of how much money he had, where it was going, and if everything was legal!

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #34:
        I absolutely agree that transparency is essential and that members of the parish should have detailed information of how the money they give week by week is a real particpation in the mission of the parish. For this reason, I have always been in favor of central diocesan pay schemes and clearly defined financial guidelines. In this way, the demands of transparency are met and the inequalities that so easily arise between priests who serve in more prosperous parishes and those whose resources are more modest are potentially mitigated.

  27. Is there any current evidence in the United States that Christmas and Easter collections go to the pastor? Certainly it was so in SOME dioceses in the past, but I would be surprised if this practice continues anywhere.

  28. I’m really getting a lot out of these responses, by the way. The fact that there are some dioceses (see #5) where priests don’t get a salary at all comes as a complete surprise to me. I know about the benefice system as a feature of Catholic history, but thought it had died out long ago. The book to which Ron linked above (see #18) looks like an interesting one; I am not familiar with it. (The author’s name is familiar, though. He is a canon lawyer?)

    In the developing world, of course, the resources are so limited that “keeping” a priest for $60 a month is not so shocking as it might be. But what a disparity! (Thanks, Michael at #24.) Of course, this also sheds clearer light on how it must appear to such priests when they are offered an opportunity to minister in places like the US. Clergy stipends which seem humble or modest here must indeed seem munificent. Is it possible that their bishops receive a financial consideration for “loaning” them for service here? Do they give back a portion of their salary to their home bishop? Whatever may be said about the spiritual and cultural issues surrounding international priests, the economics of this phenomenon are also mysterious to most Catholics.

    As to whether this thread suggests that priests ought not to be supported by parish donations (see #31), that is certainly not the issue as I see it, and would indeed be absurd. Allan hits the nail on the head in his excellent and concise summary in #32. The issues are transparency and accountability.

    As Diana’s and Jack’s examples (see #14 and #34) illustrate, some outright dishonest practices occur in a system that lacks safeguards and transparency. This should not surprise us too much, as it happens in so many organizations, including non-profit and extra-parochial church organizations. But it really ought to reinforce our commitment to better standards.

    Lou (#52) made me laugh, and also pointed to that curious “self-employed” idea. Hmm.

  29. We priests are considered employees for the income tax purposes, but self-employed for FICA. Now don’t that sound like fun?

  30. I can only speak from a geographically very restricted experience, but try to obtain an accurate, transparent, well-articulated budget and financial reports from the diocese or any parish therein…and brother/sister…you are way out of luck….

  31. In the Sioux Falls, SD, Diocese, the Christmas collection went to the pastor until about 1978, when our salary structure changed, and such collections, along with stole fees and mass stipends, began going to the parish.

  32. I’m having a ball at this website tonight — my first visit here! So I thought I’d throw in my own two cents. Maybe the practice is a hangover from the British Isles. We all know the trouble Ireland’s been in the last few years. So I was visiting there (Lahinch) with a couple of my siblings last year and we were somewhat shocked and awed. The liturgy and sermon were glorious. And a collection was taken up ENTIRELY for the mission of the church. There was a table that you passed by when exiting the church; all freewill offerings there — and only there — could be left for the support of the parish priest. (Was this a Franciscan church in anticipation of a Pope Francis?). It was made clear that those were the only monies from which the priest could get any recompense. We three were very impressed by an excellent liturgy and fantastic sermon; we all contributed. What would be the effect of such a practice in the States? The practical solution is the transparency noted by Fr. McDonald.

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