In NYC St Francis of Assisi on 10/28/14 I went to confession. In the middle of the area that one waits on line for confession is a solid-metal 3-ft high donation box with the laminated sign that requests donations in “gratitude for keeping confession available so many hours.” I guess it is needed, but I thought priests felt that being able to offer confession was a gift of inestimable graces for them. So my question is, should we all consider doing this regularly, to help priests?
I would like to underscore the word on the sign: gratitude.
While I think that that donation box, placed where it is, does not send a very good message, because it seems to connect donations directly to the sacrament of penance, I am going to give them a pass on this.
First, that parish has many hours for confession each day. That means that they have to keep the doors open, the lights on, the heat up and have some people around to watch the church. That costs money. That church is near Penn Station. That means not only commuters are coming in but also homeless people and perhaps some pretty dodgy types as well. People who clean and watch the church have to be compensated. Furthermore, confessors themselves, if they are not assigned at the parish for that task, also need to be compensated. If I, pastor of St. Ipsidipsy, have an Advent penance service and I call my priest friends from St. Fidelia in Tall Tree Circle to come to help with confessions, I must pay them. Dignus est operarius mercede sua. Not only is the worker worthy of his “mercedes” (his wage), priests have the right to earn their living from the altar and by the religious services they provide. The money is not the first consideration: they have to be able to pay the bills in order to continue to serve you properly.
Churches have bills to pay if they are going to stay open. We know from recently controversy about the nearby Holy Innocents that not all parishes are perfectly secure. Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that everything having to do with religion is “free”. We have to pull our weight. In a small way, this is observed when, here in Rome, I say Mass at a church. The sacristan works to make my life easier. He deserves some acknowledgement and compensation.
Sure, it is highly satisfying and edifying for a priest to hear confessions. No question. I am sure that most priests who hear confessions regularly will back that up. But, it is also work. It can be tiring, even as it is a pleasure. I understand the piety and devotion that produces phrases like “a gift of inestimable graces” comes from, but let’s not kid ourselves: it’s work and the bills have to be paid in order to make it all happen in a way that is convenient.
Unless we want to have priests who are itinerate, sleeping under bridges and all that. They will be harder to find that way, of course. Hmmm… am I channeling my inner “ghost of Christmas yet to come”?
People give stipends to priests to say Mass. They give them a donation for baptisms and weddings. It isn’t a huge leap to thank Father for his time by a donation. A donation box is far better than handing it to him. It is odd, in a way, that we don’t blink at donations for other things that priests do, but not for confession. It is odd, but – at the same time – understandable. The idea of connecting confessions and donations makes me cringe inside. There is something about it that doesn’t jive. Perhaps it is because, while we give donations for masses, weddings and baptisms, those things are rather more rare and they involve a lot of time. On the other hand, we need confession frequently and we are already like a raw wire when we seek the sacrament of Penance. Confession is so necessary that when reasonably sought it should be freely provided for.
His dictis, the optics of a donation box near confessionals strikes me as less than optimal. Perhaps near the doors would be better. But I don’t think that there is anything in the fact of a box somewhere that is out of whack.
So, in answer to the question, yes.
If you go to a parish and partake of the services there, you should donate to the parish. If you go to a some parish or other that isn’t your own for a quick confession, occasionally or regularly, you should make a donation for the service you received.
Finally, everyone, GO TO CONFESSION!