ASK FATHER: I’m I obliged to give money for Peter’s Pence?

From a reader…


To what extent are we as Catholics obligated to provide donations to Peter’s Pence? Can we abstain out of principle while still donating to our local parish/diocese and other charitable endeavors?

You are not obliged to provide donations to Peter’s Pence.

Peter’s Pence or Denarii Sancti Petri is a quite ancient custom going back to Saxon England before the Norman Conquest.  It spread the rest of the world.  In some periods it was imposed like a tax, but that is not the case now.  Bl. Pius IX brought the custom back in the 19th c. as an entirely voluntary donation for the Pope’s personal projects.

One of the Commandments or Precepts of the Church is that we must provide for the needs of the Church.  How we do that is not spelled out by a specific means.  In general, it means financial support.   Canon law has points about this:


Can. 222 §1 Christ’s faithful have the obligation to provide for the needs of the Church, so that the Church has available to it those things which are necessary for divine worship, for apostolic and charitable work and for the worthy support of its ministers.

§2 They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the Lord’s precept, to help the poor from their own resources.

And then,

Can. 1260 The Church has the inherent right to require from the faithful whatever is necessary for its proper objectives.

Can. 1261 §1 The faithful have the right to donate temporal goods for the benefit of the Church.

§2 The diocesan Bishop is bound to remind the faithful of the obligation mentioned in Can. 222 §1, and in an appropriate manner to urge it.

Can. 1262 The faithful are to give their support to the Church in response to appeals and in accordance with the norms laid down by the Episcopal Conference.

So, when the Pope or the Bishop or the Pastor of the parish makes an appeal, the faithful should pay attention and consider how they can help.  They shouldn’t mere dismiss or ignore the appeal.   They should weigh it and prudently respond.   It could be that, in some individual case, prudence requires a person not to give money.   It could be that, in some individual case, a person could offer time or skills in working on some project.  It could be that, in some case, a person determines that – for whatever reason – he won’t do anything.  That reason could be that the project is not a good project or the person running the project is not trustworthy.

That said, I think that the principle of subsidiarity is good when figuring out how to support the material needs of the Church.  It seems to me that priority should start close to home, with the parish, and then extend to the diocese, conference and beyond.   However, we must not leave out appeals made by missionaries for places that are far away.

Frankly, Catholics should give heavy consideration to tithing, dedicating 10% of their income or worth to God through the Church.  That was the Old Testament duty which God imposed on the people.  Our Lord, of course, said that we should give up “everything” and follow Him.   That said, we have our obligations to fulfill according to our state in life.   Even so, Christ praise the widow who gave her little bit.

I don’t have the figures, but I’d bet that the average Catholic gives no where near 10% to support the Church, in any form.

Remember that your parish has bills to pay.  People get worked up when parishes close.  If you want a church, you have to support it.

This is probably a good moment to suggest a donation to the TMSM!

Some other entities to support, beyond your borders, could be the Archdiocese for Military Services, our traditional groups like the FSSP and ICK, and small clinics that help the poor according to Catholic principles such as Our Lady of Hope Clinic.

There is a great deal to say about this seemingly simply topic.  However, let this suffice: Everything we have is from God.  We should be ready to give back generously for the works of religion, the virtue which governs how we give to God what is due.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. SanSan says:

    I do give 10% each year. But I am very careful where the my money goes. I’ve done alot of research on local and national appeals and if you “follow the money” it becomes hair raising. Besides my local parish, I have identified parishes or priests who are “faithful” to Christ’s church, so I give them money too. Many religious orders receive my support. I especially try to directly support those in need…..crisis pregnancies, St. Vincent de Paul for local homeless, families in need of rental help, children in need of tuition help, etc.

    General “appeals” I’m more leery of because of the amount of money that has been spent on sexual abuse settlements, contraception, Planned Parenthood, etc. And CRS, CCHD……nope.

  2. ChesterFrank says:

    But the question of tithing is, where does one determine which value the 10% comes from. Is that from gross income, or is it after everyone else removes their amount ? Is it 10 % before or after the government takes theirs? Is it before or after other social obligations are deducted? The government has assumed many Church responsibilities , and have already tithed us for them thrice plus times.

  3. WVC says:

    I suspect that there are many who share my distrust of the leaders in the Church (or the committees of laymen they entrust to run their financial operations) to spend the money we donate for the good of the Church or for the Glory of God. The scandal of the Campaign for Human Development fund is really only an extreme example (where Catholic donations went to fund pro-abortion organizations or radical, socialist, liberal agitators like ACORN). There seems to be a general sense that the money we laymen schlubs donate should be used to support every politically liberal cause in play. So, not only do illegal aliens get billions of tax payer dollars funneled through religious organizations (of which the Catholic Church is a big player), but then they also get my tithed donations from things like the Lenten Appeal. In addition to that, how much money goes to folks like Sr. Prejean who go about preaching heresy in the name of the Church? How much goes to fight the “sin” of global warming? Heck, how much goes to food pantries and Christmas gift handouts that are scammed by folks clever enough to realized you just need to drive around from parish to parish to pile up the loot? Compare this “hand-out with no strings attached” mentality with the very shrewd and prudent advice from St. Paul in the first letter to St. Timothy (regarding the care of widows). I trust St. Paul’s understanding of human nature a lot more than that of our current Church Leadership.

    Yes – we must give to our local parish to support its material needs, but outside of that there is a general distrust that the higher ups we give money to know how to use it prudently. Instead, I’ve moved my additional donations to religious orders or groups that I have confidence in, such as the FSSP or the monks at Clear Creek or the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. . . .etc.

    However, if a bishop stood up today and said he didn’t care what the USCCB said and then proceeded to very publicly excommunicated Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion and pro-homosexual, gave full throated support for homeschooling families, defended parental rights with zeal, forbid Catholics from sending their children to any college not on the Newman list, cried out for an answer to the Five Dubia, and said to hell with government tax exemptions . . . I’d right him the biggest check my personal budget could afford. Of course, he’d probably be immediately removed from his See and made the honorary chaplain to the Antarctic outpost. . . .

  4. Kent Wendler says:

    I would like to add that, in a final sense, none of use really *own* anything – the nominal billionaire no more than the homeless person on the street corner. All of us are no more than stewards of what has been placed under our control; and, as in the parable of the three stewards, we each will have to answer for our stewardship at the end of our earthly lives.

    The second thing is that I do not believe that we can be held guilty of others’ misuse of what we give in good faith.

  5. Shonkin says:

    In every diocese where I’ve lived, the call is for 5% to the parish and the other 5% to the diocese and “the poor.” Of course, they also call for 1% directly to the diocese, so that only leaves 4% for other recipients.
    It’s 10% of gross, not net, income. That’s as it should be; Joseph and Mary didn’t deduct their taxes from the amount they gave to their synagogue and to the Temple. Learn by example.
    My wife and I donate 5% to our parish, a donation (but less that 1%) to our diocese, and the rest of the 10% to various charities, especially several Indian missions, the local food bank, some of the second collections, two colleges where I attended, the local diocesan college, etc. I don’t skimp on the diocese just because some of the money goes to pay people who were sexually molested by nuns and priests. It was not our most recent Bishop’s fault; it happened under other prelates, mostly in the early and middle 20th Century. He was just doing what he was legally and morally bound to do when he took the diocese through bankruptcy.
    BTW, I’d like to thank WVC for the tip-off about CCHD funds going where they shouldn’t.

  6. monstrance says:

    That would be the gross – if anyone is counting.
    I try not to count it down to the rat’s rear end.
    If I do, I’m worrying about it too much.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    Money is an issue for us, but regardless, we have rethought giving in light of recent developments.
    I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, but when these men live up to their part of the bargain again, we’ll live up to ours. It gives no pleasure to say that and I’m sure I will be disagreed with. Nonetheless I can’t reconcile this with my own conscience any other way, and I refuse to support apostates or God-knows what else. This does not make me feel good in any way, in fact, it makes me feel lousy. I will give to individuals or good causes. I hope God intervenes with His Church soon, how much longer can we all go on this way.

  8. G1j says:

    If your Parish is like ours, it doesn’t matter what “2nd collections” you do or do not donate to. At the end of the year, the total donations collected in “2nd Collections” are equally divided between all “2nd Collections” that are held throughout the year. Since finding this out from a member of our finance council, I no longer give to the Parish “2nd collections” and donate directly to the causes that I wish through their websites or directly through mail to them. I found the practice of equal division not to my liking.

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  10. DavidR says:

    Also, there are several orders of nuns building/expanding facilities for incoming novices, such as the Norbertine Canonesses of Tehachapi CA, the Dominican nuns of Summit NJ, the Visitation sisters of Mobile Al.
    These ladies get a monthly donation from me; happily.

  11. At the end of the year, the total donations collected in “2nd Collections” are equally divided between all “2nd Collections” that are held throughout the year.

    Wow. Unless this policy is made prominently public, this violates both civil and canon law.

    Canon 1267 §3 “Offerings given by the faithful for a certain purpose can be applied only for that same purpose.”

    Also the USCCB Complementary Norm for Canon 1262: “The relationship of trust between donor and fundraiser requires that … funds collected be used for their intended purposes”

  12. msc says:

    I have long found convincing the argument that when people tithed ten percent there was no income tax and almost no state-supported social services. Given that a certain amount of my income already goes to support the needy and that the churches are not the main source of such charity any more, my wife and I are content to donate closer to five percent of our incomes.

  13. TonyO says:

    I have long found convincing the argument that when people tithed ten percent there was no income tax and almost no state-supported social services. Given that a certain amount of my income already goes to support the needy and that the churches are not the main source of such charity any more, my wife and I are content to donate closer to five percent of our incomes.

    Very true. It is also interesting that back in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, back when pastors regularly and generally told their parishioners they had a moral obligation to send their kids to Catholic schools, those same schools (though they had tuition) also had direct support from the parish and provided tuition assistance to families (especially, caps on tuition at 3 or 4 kids). And, at the same time, the Catholic bishops argued QUITE PUBLICLY and LOUDLY that Catholic families paying for Catholic school tuition should be able to treat those amounts as tax exempt also, as if they were donations to the parish (a position never accepted by the government). So, if the Catholic bishops were to be taken at their word, tuition to Catholic schools would also count as part of your tithe.

    I had a parish priest who was a personal friend argue it this way: you owe the parish a portion not merely as an obligation in charity, but as an obligation in justice: the parish priest has to devote his otherwise ability to make a living to your spiritual care, and this justly means he is owed support to cover his basic needs. In the average parish, this would be (well) covered if you give roughly 3% (there will be some variation in this. He would have been happy if everyone donated the first hour’s pay per week.) The bishop is owed a similar support, but if I understand it properly, the diocese automatically gets a small-ish portion of the parish’s weekly donations, so the basic need there should be met anyway. But the diocese cannot remain intact if they don’t have men in training in the seminary, and support priests in retirement, and so on – there is an obligation in justice to support the diocese separately to some extent, (if, that is, you are convinced the bishop is using the funds properly etc). Beyond these there are all the causes, local, national, and missions, that are worthy, to which we owe consideration out of charity, but that obligation of charity comes second, after our obligations in justice. Tithing is a good base-line, but those who are on public assistance of one form or another are in some sense probably not fully meeting their obligations in justice and should not be tithing for obligations in charity, and those who make considerably more than what is needed to support their living in the station to which they are called should be donating more than 10%, sometimes MUCH more.

  14. AUEagle says:

    It’s been widely reported the Pope Francis used money from Peter’s Pence and donated it to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I take pleasure in folding my arms when the basket is passed for Peter’s Pence while Francis is Pope.

  15. Ranger01 says:

    Give to Peter’s Pence?

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