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Catholics will give when church moves into future.

Some conservatives assert that Catholics have reduced their contributions because of their unhappiness with the reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council, but I believe the decline in giving followed the disagreements most Catholics have with our church leadership over a number of moral issues, as demonstrated by the June 1962 Gallup survey. The disagreement can be summed up as follows: "The leadership of the Catholic church has not kept faith with the people."

The most well-known moral issue in which the leadership has not kept faith is their refusal to listen to the married laity on sexual love. Our celibate leaders will not accept that sexual love in marriage is good, in and of itself, and should be assisted by contraception.

The split between hierarchy and laity on birth control and its deleterious effect on Catholic contributions was first reported by Father Andrew M. Greeley in 1976. He said the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, by itself, would have reduced Catholic religious practice by almost one-half. However, the decline was held to almost one-third because of the positive reaction by the laity to the Second Vatican Council. He later reported that contributions to the church declined about $65 billion between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, primarily because of this issue.

Women also think that church leadership has not kept faith with them. Until recently, the rate of decline in Mass attendance had stabilized. But in the last five years, the rate in decline of women has increased six percent. That may well have resulted from continued Vatican insistence that women are not eligible to be ordained and from their being shut out of decision-making in the church If women's attendance continues to decline, as I think it will, contributions to the church will suffer further.

Church leaders do not keep faith with their priests. A study prepared for the U.S. Catholic Conference estimated that the number of priests in the United States will decline by 40 percent between 1966 and 2005. That decline already has increased the workload of many priests. Many expected to be burned-out under such conditions. The decline in their numbers affects priests professionally and personally. Professionally they are concerned that they cannot serve the laity properly because fewer priests reduce our access to the sacraments.

Personally, priests must be bewildered as to why Rome disenfranchises priests who many, while at the same time it welcomes married Episcopal ministers as priests.

Church leaders do not keep faith with homosexuals. In 1992, the Vatican reiterated its prejudice against homosexuals by issuing a statement denying civil rights to gays and lesbians. If the population of Catholic gays and lesbians matches the reported number of homosexuals in the population as a whole - around 10 percent - it is a good bet that contributions from them have fallen. Contributions from the families of homosexuals probably have declined as well. They love their gay and lesbian children even as the institutional church rejects them.

Church leaders do not keep faith with the divorced. Divorced persons whose first marriage did not exist can validly seek an annulment. But those who have a valid marriage broken by divorce know they are not eligible for an annulment. Many who seek an annulment know that their first marriage was valid but failed; nonetheless, they deny it and go through the sham of the annulment process. Most divorced Catholics, however, refuse to be hypocritical. They remarry without an annulment and, if they stay in the church, they receive the sacraments in good conscience.

In review of the above, it would seem that the institutional church is an equal opportunity alienator to married couples, women, priests, gays and lesbians and the divorced. Our enthusiasm to give monetary support to a leadership that refuses to be accountable to us, or even to discuss these issues, is, to say the least, underwhelming.

What is the ordinary Catholic in the pew to do in the face of the hierarchy's refusal to keep faith? Because my parish must contribute a percentage of its income to the diocese, and because the diocese must siphon off a portion of that to Rome, I do not wish to contribute significant funds to the parish that ultimately will be used to support the Vatican. If a special designated fund in the parish were set up for pledges and money that would not be counted toward the diocesan assessment, I, and possibly many others, would significantly increase our contributions to the parish.
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Title Annotation:declining U.S. tithes
Author:Davis, Charlie
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 12, 1993
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