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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Hoc Signo

The current machinations of the Roman Catholic Church, both in relation to supposedly "dissident" priests and the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress, are about power and money.

Having made some appalling mistakes in what it taught as articles of faith, the Vatican is now hoisted on its own p├ętard. It would clearly be wise to change its ridiculous teaching on contraception and on married and woman priests. However, such an about face would lead to such a loss of credibility, as it sees it, that it cannot afford to do so and is therefore just digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole. That is the power angle.

There is no justification for not ordaining women priests (and bishops, cardinals and popes, for that matter). However, a priest encumbered with a family, including a wife who might just outlive him, raises questions about the succession of property and is therefore best avoided. Admitting to complicity in child sexual abuse, whether directly or through coverup, could lead to massive compensation payouts. That is the money angle.

And the church is running out of money anyway. Even when she had some she never had enough. There were always more big churches to build and they cost some.

At the end of the 1960s the Archbishop of Dublin decided to introduce a form of "Planned Giving" recommended by American consultants hired by the Diocese. The idea was that parishioners would pledge a regular subscription, and, depending on the size of the subscription, they would be "associated" with an item of church furniture, from the high altar to the cruets. This was the clerical version of squeezing the rich and it might have worked but for the widow's mite.

Some parishioners pointed out that the proportionate sacrifice made by the poorest parishioners, while not much in cash terms, might well outperform the local millionaire, when it came to the morality stakes. Yet the millionaire would have a plaque on the high altar while the poorest contributor might not even qualify for a mention in the mysterious (pauper's) register which would be placed in the sanctuary.

And anyway, the whole thing looked suspiciously like pawning the family jewels. Which is probably why the pilot programmes in three parishes, including my own, were never mainstreamed.

I have included an item on this short-lived experiment in my version of Catholicopoly, which please feel free to enjoy without pain of mortal sin.


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1 comment:

  1. I see that Ballymun Parish have included a reference to this form of planned giving in the fund raising section of their parish history page.

    I had forgotten the name of the American consultants which Ballymun tells me was the Wells Foundation.

    I do remember the literature, including a sort of blurb/handbook that was distributed at the time and despite having searched high and low I can't find my copy. It might even fetch the price of a high altar in todays terms if only I could lay my hands on it.


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