The Personalist Project

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Accessed on September 24, 2018 - 5:08:59

Money and the ecclesial status quo

Katie van Schaijik, Aug 28, 2018

The fact that practically the only way for the laity to express our just wrath right now is by withholding money is proof positive of the disorder in the Church underlying the scandals. It's not okay that pastors and bishops are de facto monarchs and CEOs of their respective domains, while the laity are de facto serfs. We're to work their land and hand over its produce, so they can live in luxury and lord it over us. This is not okay.

And I don't care how benevolent and orthodox the bishop or pastor in question may be. Even if he is entirely sincere in wanting to distribute funds justly and for the benefit of the sheep, it's still not okay. It's not in keeping with our dignity as persons and as baptized.

Even GOD said of us (who are ontologically nothing in comparison with Him) "I no longer call you slaves, but friends." How much more, then, should the laity be regarded by the clergy as peers, not subordinates, since we are, as a matter of metaphysical and ethical fact, their equals? And we are, according to Scripture and Tradition, to be loved as a spouse, not a concubine?

You're not a peer if you own none of the property and have no say in how its spent, just as you're not a citizen if you have no vote in a republic. I keep saying it because it bears repeating: Too much power + human condition = abuse.

Imagine a wife who's expected to hand over all her earnings to her husband, while not being allowed to know how much money he makes or how the money is spent. He keeps her sheltered and clothed and fed and gives her an allowance for specific tasks and items, but all the decisions are his, and she's expected to trust him. She's a bad wife if she questions his judgment or interferes with his concerns. Does that sound compatible with the dignity of women to you? Does it sound like marriage in the Christian vision? Or isn't it more like marriage under Sharia law or in a fundamentalist Mormon cult? Wouldn't we advise that woman that she's in an abusive relationship and she should get out it sooner rather than later? She should begin by keeping her money and putting it in a bank account in her own name.

Of course our withholding money will create problems in the Church. The Solidarity Movement in Poland created problems too. So did the Civil Rights movement. There was confusion and suffering and upheaval. Innocent bystanders sometimes got hurt. It's still the right thing to do. The Christian mode of response to unjust social conditions is "non-violent resistance."

If the status quo is unacceptable, we don't just lash out or "hit back" or tear down, like wounded beasts or raging nihilists. Rather, we work to change it by acting conscientiously in our own zone of freedom and responsibility. That zone for laity in the Church is maddeningly small and narrow in one sense, gigantic in another.

The Church simply can't carry on as it's been carrying on unless the laity keep handing over our money. We don't have to do that. We ought not to do that, imo.

Which doesn't mean, by the way (and I'll have more to say about this in the days and weeks ahead) not funding the Church. It only means not giving money to the clergy.

The clergy are not the Church.