I have been reading so many comments and responses to the terrible latest evidence — in Pennsylvania dioceses — of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and cover-up by bishops. As I suspect many of you have as well.
Some is just ranting, much is thoughtful criticism, all call for deep change in the Catholic world.
One article caught my attention and leads to this “modest proposal.” It’s title: “Catholics consider withholding donations amid recent scandals.” Of course withholding donations is far from the, for me, more serious consequence of simply leaving he church. But for those, like myself, who choose to stay and fight for reform, there is another alternative. It involves setting up trust funds in every parish and shifting donations to those funds.
I’ve written about this idea a number of times, in print and online, but never gotten much response. Perhaps now the time is right.
I know little about the legal and financial mechanics of such a funds, but believe it’s easily done if the folks in the pews care enough.
Laity concerned with putting serious pressure for reform on dioceses could, like any group of citizens, establish a trust fund in their parish and urge fellow parishioners to make their weekly donations and yearly pledges to this fund. The fund would be dedicated entirely to parish and diocesan needs, but its board would be elected by those choosing to donate to the fund rather than directly to the parish. The pastor would have a non-voting voice on the fund’s board. Monies collected would be spent on specific parish needs and opportunities — and similarly on diocesan needs and opportunities, as well as global needs and opportunities. But always with (civic) legal protections to prevent such spending from being used otherwise by a pastor or bishop.
Again, I don’t know the legal and financial specifics for establishing and managing such a trust fund, but I suspect there are lawyers and bankers and the like who could and would (pro bono!) provide advice and assistance.
I do realize that such a fund in parishes could be divisive, but it would only bring into the open already existing divisions and could create the conditions for dialogue across those divisions — in the local parish and in the diocese.
I suspect such a fund, even if it redirected only a portion of Catholic donations, would quickly get attention from the hierarchy.
My fear is, that once again, too many of my fellow Catholics will take the easier paths — leaving the Church, or ending donations, or just ignoring things and continuing their present donation patterns.
My hope in again writing about this is that, as I said above, “the time is right.” That enough Catholics will continue to care enough about their Church to take the slightly more difficult path of active work for reform.