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Where does Church wealth come from and why is religion tax-exempt?

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:28am on October 4th 2017
Hi Father,

I read an article on a Catholic website on how it is the church uses its wealth to help people but where does those millions of dollars actually come from to begin with?

Also, there is a lot of people who say that religions should be taxed and should not have this non-profit status. I understand there are certain religious liberties the government should not be infringing upon but what is the purpose of the tax exemption status of the Catholic church for example?


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Hi Antonio, very often what's called the wealth of the Catholic Church, particularly in a country like Italy, is the presumed value of its churches and works of art in places like the Vatican Museum. But these are unsellable, since the laws of Italy would never allow them to be sold, and in the case of the Vatican, the works are held there for the enjoyment of the whole of humanity. After that, the Church's wealth in each country depends on the contributions of faithful Catholics, and is normally used for the upkeep of the many Catholic services often not only to Catholics but to the poorest people in those communities. Countries like Germany, where Christians of the various Churches there pay a percentage of their tax for their Church's upkeep use a generous amount of what's over to support poorer Churches, for example in Africa.

However, individual clergy have to pay taxes in most English-speaking countries, including Ireland and Australia, if their earnings exceed the non-taxed minimum wage for citizens.

Every country is at liberty to work out its own tax arrangements, and generally there are the kind of exemptions all non-profit charities receive for their charitable works, while other sources of wealth, like land or property may be taxed. I'm no expert, but I imagine if you check out the tax arrangements of countries whose political tradition tends to be extremely secular, like France, or the US with its strict constitutional separation of Church and State, you'll find that exemptions are much the same as are extended to all religions and to NGOs like Amnesty International or the Red Cross.

Once I was asked on behalf of the Hindu Hare Krishna Movement in Ireland to defend their appeal before the Irish Tax Court, as the government was about to remove their tax exempt status, and I'm happy to say they won their appeal - while I don't happen to share the Hindu faith, even less the Hare Krishna version, I was certain they were a genuine religious movement and shouldn't fall under our normal tax laws.

To come back to your question, the purpose of any tax exemption in any country will be decided by its political rulers, and the Church is required to make its case like any other charitable body. And as happens, for example, in mainland China, and under some Communist governments, high taxation can be used as an instrument to repress and if possible destroy the Church. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Considering conversion

in topic "Sacraments"
A Xt3 Member asked at 4:05am on September 29th 2017
I was raised Protestant Assembly of God Christian. The enemy tempted me with occult practices. I have experimented with some of it but was convinced and was intended to be done in God's name, not Pagan Gods since I don't believe in Pagan Gods, I embrace the concept of the Apostle's Creed. I am still enthralled with praying the Holy Rosary and the Lord's prayer and have always loved the atmostphere of Catholic Chapels. If I am still allowed or able to convert to Catholicism, what do I need to expect when I confess to this type of sin? I heard there is a "harsh penalty" of some type to undergo in the Catholic Church when confessing this type of sin. I am humbly willing to undergo it out of love for the Lord and for the sake of my own salvation. I just don't want to be kicked out as soon as I get in. I would like to know what to expect. I have been yearning for someone I can trust to confess my sins to, someone in specialized, spiritual training who won't generate pride or harsh negative judgement against me for it. I know the word says to confess to one another to someone I trust, but I would feel more comfortable letting a priest counsel me and pray with me rather than my peers or family members who might not ever understand or might blow it out of proportion. Please describe to me if you can what to expect when confessing to forbidden practices. Thank you, Peace be with you.

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Hi Jodie, you heard wrongly about 'harsh punishments' for dabbling in the occult! For starters, from what you said, your dabbling wasn't very culpable since you thought you weren't doing anything wrong.

For a Catholic, to commit any serious sin, you need three things: gravity or seriousness of the offence (which in itself would include contacting occult forces or spirits), full knowledge of what you were doing, and full consent to doing wrong. While the first condition may have been fulfilled by you, you weren't in full knowledge that it was wrong, so you didn't consent to that wrongdoing. Even if you had, any priest hearing your confession would treat any sins committed before becoming a Catholic sympathetically and kindly. Which doesn't mean ignoring them, or if they were serious, their seriousness. But Jesus already set us the standard of how to treat sinners, both with his approach to the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1 - 11) and with the Good Thief, whom he forgave on the Cross (Lk 23:39 - 43).

In the Catholic Church, while people can of course confess their sins to one another, the reason why we confess our sins to a priest is because of the promise Jesus gave to the Apostles and their successors (that is to the Bishops ordained by what's called the unbroken Apostolic Succession going back to the Apostles, and to the priests ordained by those Bishops). In that promise Jesus said, 'whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them' (Jn 20:23), which echoes what he says to the Apostles in Matthew 16:9, 'whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'

After he's said to the crippled man let down through the roof, 'your sins are forgiven,' the Pharisees righty say: 'Who can forgive sins except God' (see Mk 2:7), Jesus doesn't disagree. So this awesome divine power by the infinite generosity of God has been given to those he delegates to be his Bishops and through them, priests.

And of course when your sins are told in confession, they are told in utter confidence, and can never be revealed for any reason whatsoever, to anyone else. So Catholics have complete confidence that their sins are effectively, through His minister, told to God alone. You're most welcome to join the Catholic Church, and remember, Jodie, bring all the good that you have learned and lived through being a member of the Assembly of God - your knowledge of Scripture, your desire to identify with Christ completely as St Paul did when he said, 'for me, to live is Christ' (Phil 1:21), so that becoming Catholic will be a fulfilment of the Christian life you've been living up to now, but now reinforced especially by the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation (Confession). Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 9:59pm on September 25th 2017
I plan to marry my filipina girlfriend but she tells me that her sister was married in August 2017 and we will have to wait a year to get married or one of us will die within a year. I do not want to wait. I know this is a supresticion from my research but she is stedfast in her belief. We want to get married in the church in Butuan. I would like the church's view on this superstition. I will be in Butuan in October and it would be great if we could get married as soon as I complete conversion to Catholicism. I need an opinion from the church. Please reply

C Fleegal

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Hi Chester, you're quite right, such a belief is mistaken - God has his plans for each one of us and they're not dependent on whatever beliefs people may have. At the same time, such beliefs are hard to shake, and there's a saying that it's better for people, including yourself and your fiancee, to do something that's less than perfect (we're not talking about anything sinful) together, than something perfect in a way that divides you.

Given your fiancee is convinced of this belief, wouldn't it be a sign of your love for her to cheerfully go along with her fears and wait till next year? Being right isn't everything! And your letting her win this 'argument' is a good sign that both of you will be able to build a lifelong relationship based on mutual respect. As you know, Jesus has said that where two or three are united in his name - that is, ready to love one another to the point of being ready to die for the other - there He is among them. And that continued presence of Jesus among you will be at the heart of the sacrament of matrimony uniting you. Very best, Fr Brendan
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I see sins everywhere

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 7:23pm on September 21st 2017
An atheist friend started to ask me out of curiousity if something particular was a sin or not. That forced me to think in Christian life as a bunch of actions to be avoided, even if I know it's much more. Because of that, I can't help but judge every single action I see in my friends life or even when I'm reading a biography or a fictional book, not because I feel better, but out of fear for their souls. That's very sad and I feel I've became a slave of sin and fear, not for me, but for everything else, specially those who are not practising Catholics or accept only part of the Church teaching. My Christian life before was full of joy and love to God, I did my best without being judgamental, but now I don't know what to do. Please, help me.

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Hi Luisa, St John of the Cross puts it very clearly for us - 'in the evening of our lives, we'll be examined on love.' And of course, Jesus has already told us what the questions will be, 'Whatever you did to the least of my brothers (and sisters), you did to me (Mt 25:40).' So being a Christian is being someone who loves, especially those who most need that love, a love expressed concretely, by visiting the sick, clothing the naked, giving food to the hungry, and so on. That's the core of Church teaching - or to remind ourselves of the commandment Jesus called 'his' commandment and the 'new' commandment: 'love one another as I have loved you.' (Jn 13: 34 - 35; 15:12).

All of this is about actions to carry out, definitely not to be avoided. And Jesus is very clear in telling us not to judge others (Mt 7:1), since we never know what grace that person has received from God. Remember Jesus' approach to the woman discovered committing adultery (Jn 8), where he first of all sees off the mob who were getting ready to stone her to death, then tells her he doesn't condemn her, and to sin no more.

So it's not up to us to judge anyone. Rather, we have to try to see Jesus in everyone, leaving judgment to God. If you try this every day, you'll find your day becomes full of joy, since each day gives us another chance to prepare for our final exam, our meeting with Jesus at the moment of our death. Having done our best to love him in each neighbour, he'll recognize us as an old friend! Very best, Fr Brendan
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Bad spirit demon

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 11:36am on September 18th 2017
Hi Father

Can a bad spirit or demon attach itself to you if your in the same house where a Oujia board is being used by people if you are not actually taking part or in the same room? Or is it just the people who are taking part in it who are vulnerable?


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Hi James, while I wouldn't be too happy to be in a house where people were using an Ouija board, you may not have any choice in the matter. But an evil spirit can only do us spiritual harm if we freely invite them - which could unfortunately include people who, whether knowingly or not, are dabbling in that Ouija board.

As we know from the New Testament, and from the Church's experience over the centuries, evil spirits can sometimes bother saintly people, but cannot do them moral harm, since that kind of harm only comes from deliberate consent to evil. It strikes me that it's highly unlikely an evil spirit would in any way attach itself to you - there are enough ill-advised people already open to such evil spirits if they're using an Ouija board. But I'd keep up my personal prayer to Jesus, to Our Lady, St Michael the Archangel, my guardian angel and all the saints, to ensure my heart is completely closed to any evil presence, and maybe include those other folks in your prayers.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Right to Refuse: Interracial Couple & Same-Sex couple

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:04am on September 15th 2017
Hi again Father,

I have been talking to someone about the plebiscite on marriage and in our discussions, he brought up the refusals of service to same-sex weddings from religious businesses. I said these people weren't discriminating against people but activities and that conscientious objectors in other areas of service aren't forced to violate their beliefs.

In response he said to me, "So how would you respond to a business owner who refuses service to interracial marriages? He isn't discriminating based on race because he will happily serve a black and white person themselves, he just won't serve at an interracial wedding because he disagrees with that. Owner is also refusing to serve the 'event' of an interracial marriage."

How should I respond?

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Hi Miguel, I'd be inclined to ask just where and when this refusal to provide services (I'm presuming hotel reception, flower supply or baking a cake) for an interracial couple actually happened. Is it a recent event - if so, I'd be surprised we haven't heard about it in the media, which are rather find of publicizing these kind of situations. Even in the US, where there's been no legal prohibition of interracial marriages since 1967. That objection seems to me at least 40 years out of date, as there's no way such a refusal would be allowed in the US today. As far as I know, once Australian Aboriginals were granted citizenship in 1967, there could have been no legal prohibition of interracial marriage here either.

For a Christian, as St Paul puts it several times, we're all one in Christ Jesus (see Gal 3:28). But Paul also very clearly regards gay or lesbian activities (the Church is careful to distinguish between a gay or lesbian orientation and gay or lesbian sexual activities) as sinful (Rom 1:26-27). That's why there's a difference between an interracial marriage which doesn't go against Christian morality, and a gay marriage (presumably including sexual relations) which does.

That doesn't ever mean that I consider myself morally superior to anyone else. As I was saying in my homily last Sunday:

'A few years ago, in Ireland, I was on a radio programme with Quentin Fottrell, a gay journalist, and was asked what about the Church's teaching that homosexual activity is an objective moral disorder. I said that that was the clear teaching of the Church going back to the New Testament, and even to Jesus' only statement about sexual sin, that 'anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery in their heart.' In other words, that any using of another human being for merely sexual enjoyment is committing a form of adultery.

But I went on to say that when the Church says something is objectively disordered, it's not making a pronouncement about the person's subjective state. For example, if someone is involved in a gay relationship but doesn't understand or realize that it's sinful from a Christian perspective, we can't make a judgment about that person's subjective moral state. So I said to that journalist, Quentin, that you may be nearer to God than I am - which wouldn't be hard - since I can't comment on your personal moral status with God. And it's a big mistake for me, as a sinner, to ever think I'm better than anyone else.'

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Pagan Blood in Christ's Lineage

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 12:51am on September 11th 2017
I'm just curious about what the pope said that Christ had pagan blood running through his veins. (This is the proper translation. I've run it a few times and double checked it with Catholic sites that posted his full Homily in english)

What does he mean that Christ has Pagan blood running through his veins? The only thing I can find in his lineage would be Ruth who was born a Moabite but became a convert to Judaism. Is that what he means by Pagan blood in Christ's veins?

Cause It just doesn't sound right.

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Hi Dee, Pope Benedict in his wonderful little book, The Infancy Narratives, notes that in the genealogy in St Matthew's Gospel, before Mary is mentioned at the end, 'four women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the wife of Uriah... none of these women were Jewish [though as you say, Ruth converted to Judaism]. So through them the world of the Gentiles enters the genealogy of Jesus - his mission to Jews and Gentiles is made manifest' (pp. 6 - 7).

But Abraham wasn't Jewish either, since we can say that it's only with him that the Chosen People came into existence. As we see often in the life of Jesus, the pagans, like the Sidonian woman, like the centurions, are often way ahead of their Jewish brothers and sisters in their openness to Jesus -- so that what counted with Jesus, and then, after some hiccups, with St Peter and obviously St Paul, isn't blood but faith. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is Allowing Divorce a Redefinition of Marriage?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:12pm on September 9th 2017
Hello Father,

I have been watching Catholic talks on marriage. One speaker gives examples of important pillars within marriage that are under attack. One example is that the life-long union aspect of marriage was removed through no-fault divorce.

The speaker says that marriage before no-fault divorce would probably be best as the statistics in everything were much better. He does say that during this time people needed serious reasons for divorce (abuse, abandonment or adultery) which meant the divorce rate was so low.

My question would be, if marriage was reverted back to the way it was, wouldn't it still be a redefinition of marriage since it allowed for divorce? Would we then campaign for no legal divorce at all? If so, wouldn't this be the opposite of separation of Church and state?

I 100% agree with Catholic teaching on marriage and the talks were really good but I was trying to think of questions an opponent might bring up so I thought of this but couldn't really give a good answer.

Thank you

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Hi again, Miguel, I think the basic point here is the clear distinction between Church and State, as Jesus put it, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). So whatever laws about marriage the state makes, they don't touch the nature of Christian marriage, which is always a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, which is open to the generation of children.

It's true, as you say, that legalized divorce, and especially no-fault divorce, very deeply affects how people perceive marriage as no longer a lifelong commitment. The reality is that the society surrounding us can either support marriage - as it did in most Western countries until divorce became easier and more acceptable to many. Or it can undermine marriage, by offering divorce as an easy way out of difficult relationships.

The Church has never said that a couple can't separate - which may be necessary due to seriously abusive behaviour or infidelity by one of the spouses. But, following Jesus' words against divorce, 'what God has joined together let no man put asunder' (Mk 10:9), the Church can never approve remarriage, once the first commitment is understood to have been a valid one.

In Ireland many Christians campaigned against the introduction of divorce, which was explicitly forbidden by our 1937 Constitution. But the grounds of that 1986 campaign had to be put forward in terms than anyone, Christian or non-believer could accept - especially the huge impact on children of divorced couples. Now, while Ireland's divorce rates are not as high as neighbouring countries, they're currently around 4,000 a year. Since divorce is allowed in almost every country in the world except the Philippines, I don't think you'll be coming across that many opponents in this matter.

Of course the Christian answer to a divorce culture is the witness of happily married couples and families - I've heard of couples with young families volunteering to live in some African countries where polygamy is practiced, since it's less by preaching than by the example of their lives that people are won over to the Christian vision of marriage in the light of the Trinity. As St John Paul II notes in his 1994 Letter to Families:

'In the light of the New Testament it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of his life. The divine "We" is the eternal pattern of the human "we", especially of that "we" formed by the man and the woman created in the divine image and likeness' (S6).

Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:05am on August 20th 2017

Is there any way of speaking with a priest online privately? Not for a confession but a small amount of life advice.

My circumstances stop me from being able to seek any form of consolation outside the confessional and inside. I've tried everything over many years just for a few moments for a bit of life advice and I am turned away no matter what I do. I've even prayed for an opportunity and left empty handed. Confession is always left to the last minute prior to mass in my region and every region I have ever visited and so I am rushed through.

Tonight for example I said goodbye to the priest after praying and he was about to start a conversation and it was interrupted by another parishoner who took all of his attention away.

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Hi Camilla, since the sacrament of reconciliation is meant for the confessing and forgiving of sins, what's often called spiritual direction is a different matter - or even the kind of one off one-on-one discussion you are looking for. A lot depends on whether there are people available to do this outside of confession. Have you thought of contacting any religious communities, including monastic ones, in your neighbourhood? It strikes me that you might be able to have that conversation you're looking for with a monk or a sister, just as well as with a priest.

I doubt very much if an online discussion would be what you need, since it's only face to face that whoever you're turning to for advice can get the full picture. Maybe if you're not in a big town you'd be best off to check out on various websites, what are the religious establishments in the nearest big town or city to you. I'm putting you in my list of people I pray for every day, that please God, you can find a good adviser. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Does Revelation 12 symbolising the rapture?

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:38am on September 3rd 2017
In the passage Revelation 12, it states this:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her childthe moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter." And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angelsfought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

There have been articles about this signalising the rapture on September 23, as that is the day that the stars align in such way. However, I may be wrong, as God says that we shouldn't obey the star signs.

Thanks again and God Bless!

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Hi Bryce, I think this Apocalypse text isn't too difficult, the sign from heaven of the Woman (both spouse and mother) clothed in the sun (meaning in divine presence: see Apoc 1:16), with the moon under her feet indicating she has power over time and history (since the moon was traditionally the measure of time), and the crown of 12 stars probably referring to the Church founded on the 12 Apostles, with the back reference to the 12 tribes of Israel.

The Woman and the Dragon recall Genesis, 3;15, with its prophecy that she will crush the serpent under her feet. Her Son is identified with the Messiah, Christ. The verb describing birth is continuous, referring to her continual struggle with the devil, so that Mary here refers to the Church's painful struggle in giving birth to Christ continuously throughout history. While the word 'taken up' can be translated in the Latin form expressed by the English 'rapture,' there's no intention in the Apocalypse to refer to a particular date, nor would it depend on any alignment of stars, since the verses after this quote, 10 - 12 are a liturgical interval explaining the battle between God and Satan: 'Now the salvation and power and the kingdom of God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down...' There's no mention of the beliefs associated with the 'rapture' - of the elect being swept up to heaven before the final tribulation on any particular date. Very best, Fr Brendan
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