THE SOCIAL KINGSHIP OF CHRIST AND CHURCH SUPPORT
An important part of our Christian faith is to understand the totality of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work upon the earth. It extends to all human affairs, including the ordering of society. Christ has redeemed the social order together with our individual souls, and if we want to have a happy and positive society then we need to pay attention to how the ways of the Gospel would have us do it. We need to pay attention to what is called the “Social Kingship of Christ”.
The support that we as Catholics are bound to give for the maintenance of the Church, out of our own substance, ought to be understood in connection with this Social Kingship of Christ. We are not permitted to separate our individual faith-commitment to Christ from our social duty to give our “church support” in proportion to our means.
Having the responsibility to maintain a parish church as its Pastor, I am more and more aware of how widespread the problem of non-giving is among Catholics. There may still be a sense of conscience about the Sunday obligation, that is, that skipping-out on Sunday Mass without good reason is a sin. But there is little to no corresponding sense of conscience that not paying attention to supporting the parish church with your donor dollars is also a negligence. Failure to give adequate church support is, I think, a very good example of a “sin-of-omission”. It is also a failure in charity towards love-of-neighbor because it allows for others of your fellow-Catholics to be burdened with sacrificial giving while you are not.
The difficulty of supporting a church structure has been here from the beginnings of the Catholic Church in the United States, a “missionary country”, where everything had to be started from scratch.
At the First Synod of Baltimore in 1791, the American bishops declared the following:
Owing to the increasing number of Catholics dispersed over widely-separated tracts of the United States, there is need of a much larger number than formerly of laborers in the Lord’s vineyard, and these cannot be obtained or supported unless the means be given by the faithful as indeed they are bound by Divine precept to give them, for the Apostle says that it is but just that those who sow spiritual things for others should reap of the latter’s carnal things (I Cor. 9:11). Therefore the faithful should be frequently reminded of this obligation, and if they do not satisfy it, they have only themselves to blame if they cannot have Mass on Sundays or feast days nor obtain the sacraments in their extreme necessities….
We cannot say then that we are in an entirely new situation in America on account of the clergy scandals and the other “issues-of-theday” regarding the problems of raising adequate church support from what the people-of-God are freely willing to give. We might even say that the phenomenal building projects of the immigrant Catholic Church, which lasted roughly a century from the American Civil War to the 1960s, masked the underlying weakness of the U.S. Church’s real ability to support itself from the voluntary gifts of the faithful.