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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?

Thanks

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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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Church & Politics

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:07am on April 5th 2017
I don't want people in the Catholic Church telling me how to vote or telling me which nominee I should be supporting for the Supreme Court.

I want to go to church to learn about God. I can make up my own mind about who I will vote for and certainly take into account any Catholic teaching when doing so.

I understand the church has taken a rather firm stance on social issues, but does the church not understand some of these things is what has caused people to leave the church, not feel welcome at church at all, or otherwise alienated people from the Churchz

I struggle with this immensely. I'm supposed to be accepted into the Catholic Church at Easter vigil and I'm struggling. One of the priests or Bishops on Catholic Radio yesterday said we all need to be calling our representatives in the USA senate and telling them to support Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court ---- seriously, really?

I presume this is because of Gorsuch's perceived view on opposing abortion rights. However, what about his views on the environment, immigration, worker rights, etc. that are all more in line with Democratic views? I never heard of anybleader in the Catholic Church supporting Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court and encouraging parishioners to support him because of the support he would provide on only issues the Catholic Church has taken positions on.

Like I said, I struggle with this immensely and need some help reconciling it before being confirmed in the church.

Thank you.

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Hi Tyler, the only thing a Catholic is bound to follow is the Church's teaching on faith and morals. And we're never obliged to agree with the stance of Church leadership on political matters other than when they directly affect the Church's teaching. To take a notorious example, all of the English hierarchy but one, publicly accepted King Henry VIII's claim to be head of the Church in England. Saints John Fisher, bishop of the small diocese of Rochester, and Thomas More, at the time the leading Catholic layman in England, both disagreed.

Becoming a Catholic in the US in no way implies being a supporter of the Republican party. Since you're hoping to be confirmed at Easter, I guess you're already a baptized Christian. So I'd imagine the immense treasure of being able to receive Jesus, true God and true Man, in the Eucharist, and having your sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, far outweighs any political difference you may have from time to time with your local bishop.

All Christians are bound to love one another, including to love their enemies, if they want to be serious followers of Jesus. Putting these political differences to one side in order to do this is the - by no means easily digested - bread and butter of us all, poor and limited Christians that most of us are. I think you'll find all sorts of political opinions held by Catholics - what unites us is certainly not our politics, but our effort to live out what Jesus promised when he said 'where two or three are gathered in my name [that is, in my love], there am I among them' (Mt 18: 20). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Poverty

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:14am on December 26th 2016
Hi Father,

I am a recently married man with a young child. Our family will be moving soon into a new house at the beginning of next year. I have been wondering - should we move into a nice house in a well-off area, or should we move into a poor house in a less safe area of the city. I have been reading the Gospel to try to help with this decision, but am somewhat perplexed.

On the one hand, Christ says, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God", "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" and "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me". From these words, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that, to some extent, Christ is actually encouraging us to be poor. So maybe we should move into a small, run-down house in a poorer neighbourhood.

On the other hand, Christ tells us to love one another and show charity to others. I wonder if this means that I should show charity and love for my family by moving into a big house in a rich suburb.

There seems to be some conflict between these two points of view and I'm not quite sure how to reconcile them. To expand a bit on this, it seems that Christ tells us that there is goodness in things such as poverty, suffering and difficulties, but then Christ also tells us that there is goodness in showing charity to people and removing their poverty, suffering and difficulties. But then if goodness is in poverty, suffering and difficulties then why remove them?

If you could throw some light on this (so that we know whether we should move to a big house or small house) I would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

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Hi Jack, I think the first thing you should think about is safety - if possible to live somewhere your wife and family can feel secure. I have Anglican clergy friends and it has been a big problem for them if they happened to be posted to areas where their family would be at risk: they realized they couldn't impose their vocation on their family.

The Church has always distinguished what are called 'the evangelical counsels' of poverty, chastity and obedience - which some, like priests and religious, are called to-from the 10 Commandments, which hold for everyone. So St Paul doesn't condemn money or rich people, but gets to the key issue when he says that 'the love of money is the root of all evils' (1 Tim 6:10).

How to resolve the conflict you mention? Some friends and acquaintances of mine in the Focolare movement are developing what's called the Economy of Communion, where businesses keep a third of their profits to pay wages, another third to develop their company and the remaining third they use to help people in less developed parts of the world with business investment and to pay for training. And there are surely many groups and ecclesial or lay movements whose members focus their surplus wealth to helping those in need.

With whatever is over after looking after your own family, if you have wealth you can share, particularly if your earning power allows you to be continually of help to others, you'll be joining thousands of wealthy Christians who've used their educational and entrepreneurial advantage to help others. In that way, you'll be following Jesus' direct path to salvation - whatever you did to the least of your brothers and sisters, you did to me.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Voting

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:05am on October 18th 2016
If we are to be faithful to our belief (Catholic) and we vote for Hillary Clinton which she is for abortion and after the election can we go to confession and ask for forgiveness will that put us back on track with the church???? Or more importantly,with God?

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Hi Eulojio, why vote against your conscience, then? St Thomas More is the great example of a person who put principle before survival. I just can't imagine him saying - as I'm sure some did at that time - I'll sign that document saying it's alright for King Henry VIII to divorce his lawfully married wife, even though I know that would be wrong. But I'll be able to go to confession afterwards and get my soul right with God and the Church. Soon to be declared Blessed, Josef Mayr-Nusser, from the Italian Tyrol, was sentenced to death in 1945 because he wouldn't put his survival before his conscience. Forced into military service by the Nazis, and deeply impressed by St Thomas More's letters in the Tower of London before his execution, Blessed Josef refused to go against principle. Before his whole troop of soldiers he told the general administering the oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler that 'I cannot take an oath to Hitler in the name of God. I cannot do it because my faith and conscience do not allow it.' Very best, Fr Brendan
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The Death Penalty

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:18am on August 1st 2016
Dear Father,

Why does the issue of the death penalty require deep analysis? How has the Catholic Church developed a deeper understanding of the complexities of this moral issue. What are the theological and philosophical reasons for the Catholic Church's perspective of this issue?

Kind regards,

Marcus

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Hi Marcus, there's no way I'd have time to write a full answer to your question. But St John Paul II in his Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, referring to the punishment of Cain for his murder of his brother Abel, wrote: 'God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide (Section 9)'. And the statement in the 1994 edition of the CCC was modified in 1997 in the light of what he wrote in Section 56 of the same Encyclical, so that the relevant paragraphs now read:

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm-without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself-the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are rare, if not practically non-existent.'

Drawing on what's said there, I'd suggest that a philosophical reason for the Church's stance on the death penalty is that it better brings out the infinite dignity of each person, even of the one who has committed murder. Society, through its authorized representatives can ensure public order by protecting the public from a dangerous person and satisfy the requirement of justly punishing that person without putting them to death.

A theological reason, God's forgiving mercy, is dramatically enacted by St Dismas the Good Thief, who effectively repents-possibly for crimes like murder-and is forgiven by Jesus on the Cross. Every now and then you read about people whose death sentences have been commuted change their lives around while in prison-the death penalty doesn't give much time for such a conversion.

And of course, there are many cases of people sentenced to death whose convictions are later shown to be unsafe or downright wrong-some law students in Chicago found so many prisoners on death row whose cases, on re-examination, were shown to be based on fraudulent or flimsy evidence. Here's an Associated Press story from March 9, 2011, quoting Governor Pat Quinn, who up to then had strongly supported the death penalty:

'If the system can't be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn't have the system. It cannot stand.'...Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 men remaining on death row. They will now serve life in prison with no hope of parole. In his comments, the governor returned often to the fact that 20 people sent to death row had seen their cases overturned after evidence surfaced that they were innocent or had been convicted improperly.

Very best, Fr Brendan.
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Election

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:35am on June 7th 2016
I am having a hard time with the upcoming presidential election. Can I be a Catholic in good standing and refuse to vote for either of the 2 major party candidates. I find both to be completely unsuited for the position, each for their own reasons. I am having a hard time discerning who would do less evil, so I would prefer not to vote for either.

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Hi Mike, that's the great thing about a democracy, unlike the good ole USSR where you'd probably get a few years in jail for even asking a question like that! Of course you can be a Catholic in good standing and exercise your right not to support either candidate.

I remember getting a talk from a trade union representative on how difficult it was to be in a position where you ended up voting for the least bad alternative - he saw it as a form of sharing in Christ's suffering on the Cross. In my later years in Ireland, when the candidates of almost all the parties supported abortion in one way or another - or at least made no effort to oppose it - I ended up voting for pro-life candidates who had little hope of getting elected. Even though I might have to vote holding my nose, if I were a US citizen, my guiding principle would be the same: which candidate is less likely to support abortion and euthanasia?

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is It OK To Be Gay?

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:56am on September 26th 2015
I am 18 years old, and firmly believe I am gay. I have been raised in the Catholic Church, go to church every Sunday, and generally live a modern Catholic lifestyle. However, as I am coming to terms with my sexuality, I have been doubting my position in the Church. I hope to continue my Catholic lifestyle, while also living life as a homosexual. Is this possible? I know being gay is considered a sin (though I don't know where specifically in the Bible it says so), but if God loves all his children, should I be loved the same?

BR

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Dear Ben,

God is love, and He certainly loves everyone that He has made. He loves you. He made us for Himself, to share the vision of Himself in Heaven, with all the saints. This is a glorious destiny, and our lives on earth are meant to be the way to Heaven, with crosses and tribulations on the way.

I am the priest chaplain for "Courage" which is the Catholic Church's movement for men & women with same-sex attraction. We have a website and are an international organisation: www.couragerc.net

It is not a sin to be gay - but it is better not to define yourself as gay. Our identity comes from our parents, from the Church, from our country, but above all from our own human mind and will and heart and virtues. And above all that, our identity is as children of God our Father.

In Courage, we don't say that people are gay or homosexuals, but that there are "people with same-sex attraction" in order not to identify people by their sexual orientation.

Please have a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph nos. 2357-2359.

Having homosexual desires or urges is not a sin, but the Bible says that homosexual acts are sinful, for example Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Also in the New Testament, St Paul condemns homosexual acts just as he condemns fornication and adultery: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10. Also St Paul's Letter to the Romans 1:26-27.

Sin, serious sin, ruptures our union with God and never leads to genuine happiness. So I would urge you to live an upright Catholic life, as you have been doing, and to be active in the Church with Mass, personal prayer, works of service, and being in any association that you are interested in. It takes courage to be chaste and not to be ensnared by the "gay lifestyle" - but it is worth it. You, as anyone, need good healthy friendships with good people who share your faith.

If you live in Sydney and want to meet me privately any time for a talk, I would be happy to meet and talk things over.

May you know God's love and the way of friendship with Christ our Lord.
Father Peter Joseph
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Are Catholics obliged to vote during elections?

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:03am on March 18th 2015
Are Catholics obliged to vote during elections? What if there are no political candidates that share our Catholic values?

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Dear Sammy:

A document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith some years ago spoke about the participation of Catholics in public life. Among other things it said.

"It is commendable that in today’s democratic societies, in a climate of true freedom, everyone is made a participant in directing the body politic.[4] Such societies call for new and fuller forms of participation in public life by Christian and non-Christian citizens alike. Indeed, all can contribute, by voting in elections for lawmakers and government officials, and in other ways as well, to the development of political solutions and legislative choices which, in their opinion, will benefit the common good.[5] The life of a democracy could not be productive without the active, responsible and generous involvement of everyone, «albeit in a diversity and complementarity of forms, levels, tasks, and responsibilities».[6]"

It encourages people to vote and to be active in civic and political life. There are a number of footnotes that refer to other documents that you could follow up.

In one of his apostolic exhortations St. John Paul II said.

"In order to achieve their task directed to the Christian animation of the temporal order, in the sense of serving persons and society, the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in "public life", that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good." (Christifideles Laici, par. 42)

Therefore, it is important for Catholics to vote and to be active in politics. It might be that there is no ideal candidate in a particular election, but it is legitimate to vote for the least worst person, even if their position on some issues is not ideal.

Your question also raises the issue of having Catholics being more active in politics, so that we can have candidates for election to public office that stand for Christian values. We can certainly lament the lack of those who represent Christian values, but we also have to ask ourselves what we are doing to change this.

Answered by Fr John Flynn
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Need Help Urgent

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:58am on November 21st 2014
Dear Father

Im Apinya Tajit

Deputy Director Stella Maris Seafarer Centre , Chanthaburi Diocese .
And be committee of National Catholic Commission on Seafarer , CBCT
Committee of Talitha Kum Thaiand
Caritas Thailand , CBCT

My work is for seafarer , Fisher , Refugee , Human Trafficking .

I need the help of local church in Ambon Island

I will go Ambon on 24 and back on 28-29 November 2014

Have so many human trafficking on Thai , Myanmar , Cambodia fishers in Ambon Island


Now our team was there and help Thai people and sent them to Custom and wait to sent back Thailand .

The team NGO is not Catholic , but we work on human trafficking case together ..

Our Problem is - sometime have ship owner come to harasment our team in hotel ...we no have local people to help or explain what we had done ...

Caritas Thailand ..wish to have network and join hand with local priest for help the victim , and be our safety place in time of need .

have so many fisher crying for help , and in one time we can not help all of them , we need local priest welfare them during in detaintion waiting for sent back Thailand for image of God ..


Pleae be advise me ...what I must do next ...I plan to go Ambon and go Church ask help ...

and who i can contact with ?

The victim is waiting for iyr help

God bless us all

Apinya
Ms Apinya Tajit
Deputy Director
AOS Sriracha , Chanthaburi Diocese


Vice-Chairperson
International Seafarers"s Welfare and Assistance Network ( ISWAN )
South East Asia ( SEA)

Address : 1/5 Tedsaban 1 Road
Sriracha Cholburi
Thailand 20110

T: +66-38-771313
F: +66-38-771316
M:+66-81-4012816
Skype: Apinya Stella Maris
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/apinyastellamaris?ref=tn_tnmn

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Dear Apinya:

I think the best thing would be for you to contact the local diocese where you will be visiting and also the bishops conference or organizations like Caritas who are active in the area you are interested in.

Answered by Fr John Flynn
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Representation at the Synod on the Family

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:55am on October 15th 2014
Fr John

With the Synod on the Family, how are different countries represented at the Synod?

How many Australians would be in attendance?

Are there representatives of various demograhic groups - Bishops, Laity, Celibates, Married, Single and so forth?

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Dear Becky:

If you look at the list in this report you will see that the president of the episcopal conference of each country is invited to attend the Synod. In addition the Pope names some representatives. Then, there are lay persons, delegates from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also representatives from other Churches.

In addition to the president of the conference of bishops of Australia, Archbishop Hart, Cardinal Pell is also a member of the Synod. Plus, there is a married couple from Australia, Romano and Mavis Pirola, and the head of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre of the archdiocese of Sydney, Chris Meney.

For more background information on the Synod you can read this section on the Website of the U.S. bishops.

Answered by Fr John Flynn
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