ASK FATHER: Giving money to Peter’s Pence

From a reader…


Father, I keep hearing about Peters Pence.  The Vatican is misusing the collection.  Can a Catholic give to Peters Pence in good conscience?

Modern Peter’s Pence started in the time of the Papal States.  People were asked to contribute for support not just for their parishes or dioceses but for Rome, “the Vatican”.  Eventually the collection was to be used for philanthropy.

Remembering always that money is fungible, nevertheless there have been problems lately with how Peter’s Pence has been applied.

Recently, we heard of the dressing-down of Card. Becciu (is he a Cardinal or isn’t he?) for using Peter’s Pence to buy luxury real estate in London and to fund a movie about openly homosexual Elton John.  It is hard to understand either of those moves as “philanthropic” or as related to the operation of the Roman Curia… the wholesome operation, that is.

It could be argued that because the Vatican City State has very little income, therefore Peter’s Pence has to be invested so as to create funds the Church can work with.  Okay.  But flats in Sloane and Elton John?   And how was the money handled?

No, this is very bad indeed.

Consider also the nightmare stories about money that Card. Wuerl and Mr. McCarrick were involved with through the Papal Foundation.

Speaking personally, I cannot see myself contributing anything to Peter’s Pence, no matter how plaintive the plea.   I now need some evidence that the right people are handling the money and that it is going to things that can be explained with a straight face.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Stopped while St John Paul II was in the latter stage of his Papacy and the rumors about its misuse became hard to ignore.

  2. ArthurH says:

    Took the words right out of my mouth!

  3. Josephus Corvus says:

    Very well said, Father. I’ve pretty much given up on most of these general collections and give to specific Catholic organizations. The other big one was the recent Holy Land collection. When I was growing up, it was specifically stated that it was for maintenance of the shrines in the Holy Land. That makes sense. Lots of damage from all the visitors, ongoing study, security, restoration, repairing ancient structures, etc. Now, they make it sound like it is becoming another social services fund.

  4. monstrance says:

    The most nefarious being the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
    Earmark your giving for specific projects or needs at your home parish.

  5. ChesterFrank says:

    Yes, giving money to Catholic organizations has become a problem with so much of the money used improperly. One wonders if there is a report card available that grades Catholic charitable organization with regard to the way monies are spent.

  6. Matheus Oliveira says:

    Thank you so much for the clarification!

    However, can the same thing be said about the Aid to the Church in Need? Is the ACN in a better situation?

  7. acardnal says:

    Plenty of worthwhile charities out there to give money to. Check them out first on Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and the IRS.

    Once again I note how little money the Bidens gave to charity as a percentage of their total income for 2019. Less than 2 percent.

  8. dafrenchman says:

    I check Lepanto Institute for some of this.
    It’s painfully obvious nowadays that to be a good catholic one cannot give to most charities that have the word catholic in their names. It’s almost a red flag for me….
    Same goes for Diocesan.
    I give to the school and the poor box.
    a few considered safe…

  9. dafrenchman says:

    or this link
    Not sure why they have 2 links.

  10. Matheus, Aid to the Church in Need is marked “safe” by the Lepanto Institute. They have minuscule operating costs, and are very good.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    George Cardinal Pell planned to have the Vatican’s finances examined by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a highly respected firm, despite one error with envelopes at the 89th Academy Awards (2017). We all know where that got him.

  12. sendero says:

    Father Z.
    I find it far better for me to write a check or deliver cash to the local mom her lost her husband, a local family who lost their child, a local parent whose child has been diagnosed with cancer. A local family that lost their house in a fire,

    The local newspaper is a great source for charity-directly-with no “administrative” overhead.

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  14. ajf1984 says:

    Wholeheartedly agree with our reverend host’s take on this matter, but I do have a question as to how Can 221 relates. This Canon instructs that ‘the Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers.’ I am more than happy to continue contributing to our parish in the weekly collection, but does that fully satisfy, say, the third clause–“decent support of ministers”? Admittedly ignorant of how the ‘salary’ situation works here in a midwestern Archdiocese. Are we obliged to contribute to the annual Archdiocesan appeal as well, in order to comply with this Canon?

  15. Just to be clear, people have an obligation materially to support the Church, the works of religion. They are not obliged to support specific initiatives, such as Peter’s Pence or some diocesan appeal or other.

    You can weigh the expressed goals of this or that appeal and contribute as you wish. Some goals may seem better than others. You mention worship, apostolates, and ministers. Those are worthy aims. (As a matter of fact, I often mention here, the TMSM (worship), O.L. of Hope and Archd. for Military (apostolates), and donating here or shopping with my link. Those cover the three aims. It is convenient to contribute to an organized appeal to support those things, but not obligatory. However, it seems to me obligatory to support those goals somehow.

  16. JesusFreak84 says:

    If I were POTUS, I’d use the bully pulpit to ask Congress that Peter’s Pence be investigated to make sure that American Catholics aren’t unwittingly participating in money laundering or the like, and treat the Vatican much like I would any other nation doing the same thing. Note, I know full-well that Vatican City isn’t just another temporal foreign power, but American law is written to treat it as such, and doing so here would have the intended effect. I don’t know what % of Peter’s Pence comes from the US, but I’ll bet it’s enough that, if it dried up, even Pope Francis would have to take notice. If other nations followed suit…

  17. Pingback: Boycotting Peter's Pence - National Association of Catholic Families

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