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.
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.