Gospel Thoughts, 11March 2012, Cleansing the Temple

March 9, 2012 at 11:17 1 comment

Today’s Gospel Story (John 2:13-25) is Jesus chasing the moneychangers out of the Temple. This Story suggests a few thoughts about some “money things” going on in some of our churches today. There are any number of anecdotes that point to troubling financial situations in the Church, to include stories coming out of the Vatican itself.

At the start it might be worthwhile to look at how we view Jesus. Aside from all the official titles and dogmas, each of us has our own operational notion of Jesus that we create to help ourselves get through life, although probably everyone of us would say that our view of Jesus is the one the Church teaches. When we ask the question WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) we also have to ask what is our view of Jesus that we are using for a reference. If Jesus agrees with us on everything, we can be sure it is the Jesus whom we have created for ourselves. Having said that, the Jesus I am thinking about here is the Jesus whom I have created in my own image and likeness and who helps me make some sense out of my life.

In the Story Jesus chases the moneychangers out of the Temple, telling them to stop making his Father’s house a marketplace. In many respects the situation these days is not all that different. Churches and parishes legitimately need money to pay the bills, keep the lights on, pay the staffs, etc. Priests in general do not enjoy asking their folks for money, but sometimes it has to be done. But there can be abuses. There are anecdotal indications, for example, that diocesan bishops here and there want to raise large amounts of money. A bishop might hire a fundraising company from out of town to make it happen. Pastors of parishes are told to send this company at the local diocesan headquarters a list of all their contributors, including the amounts each has contributed. The company then researches the list and determines how much each contributor will be asked to pledge. If the pastor were to question any of this, he would be accused of disobedience, and threatened with removal. Despite assurances to the contrary, he has very little say in the amount each parishioner will be asked to contribute. The pastor is instructed to ask each parishioner for a meeting. Depending on the amount to be asked, the pastor is to meet the parishioner at their house, or invite them to the parish office. During the interview the pastor is joined by a member of the fundraising company or of the diocesan headquarters, but the parishioner is not told of this ahead of time. The person outlines the goals of the fundraising drive, and the pastor is instructed to ask the person for a specific amount, and to set up a following appointment to finalize things. In essence the pastor is instructed to follow the script presented by the fundraising company, and not to deviate. There is no assurance that the money actually will be used for the purposes stated. There are too many questions, too many perceived areas of doubt and concern.

Anecdotally it seems that in many places the pastors are suffering badly because of all this. If they are perceived by “downtown” as less than very enthusiastic about and supportive of the money-raising process, they are reported to be disobedient and threatened accordingly. They hesitate to say anything for fear of being accused by the bishop of disobedience and threatened with the loss of their parish, their livelihood, and their retirement. This threat is real and not imagined. This certainly smacks of priest abuse, of some bishops mistreating and disrespecting the priests. I don’t see Jesus treating anybody like this, expect for the moneychangers in the Temple, and the priests certainly are not that. It is also is business as usual. Why would anyone want to be a priest these days is this is the way they will be treated? Perhaps that folks, both men and women, as well as married inactive priests, still desire strongly to serve actively as priests is another indication that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Church. As long as the money keeps rolling in, though, there are no problems for authority. Some bishops are alleged to have enough cash to make substantial gifts to Rome on the occasion of ad limina visits.

In many places, again anecdotally speaking, there does not seem to be honest and open financial disclosure that we ordinary folks can understand. There are many views on this. This seems to be another indication that there exists in many places a cavalier attitude to the “faithful” that makes some bishops think they are absolute rulers and can disregard, not to mention disrespect, the folks who are giving them the money. Thus, there is no need for honest and open accountability.

These are exciting times for the Church. The Holy Spirit is alive and well, and each of us has the opportunity to use our gifts in response to grace. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. In our moments of prayer each day we might ask Jesus what he is calling us to do his and our Church, without, though, asking him to support whatever our pet project might be. There is turmoil in the Church these days, a lot of it. But our faith teaches us that “I will be with you always, even to the end of time”. What is he saying to us. What is, is. Jesus is in our reality, not our fantasy. The Church is all of us together. We are all good folks with different ways of thinking, and when we gather in Jesus’ name he is among us. What is he saying?


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Priest. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bert Rodriguez  |  March 9, 2012 at 14:26

    I like the “anecdotal” reference. Unfortunately, those in the “know” would be punished if they brought this to the public for a glaring look. That is a crying shame. What this sounds like to me is that without transparency of finances and practices, the Bishops can essentially hold local priests hostage. Do as I say, not as I do, and if you don’t, you can say goodbye to all that you have helped us build.

    Smacks of everyday business to me. Work your tail off (Seminary study), build a business with repeat customers (Grow your parish), do what’s right by the customer (Parishioners) and get fired for shedding light on the parasite the company has become to the customer (Upper echelon of the church to the parishioner). On a local level we all know expenses need to be covered. But if money is given at the local level, then taken from that level and “Re-Gifted” to the Vatican then something is wrong. Aren’t those monies meant to help locally and regionally? Sounds awfully greedy to me.

    What can local parishioners do the stand up to the Bishops who are killing the spirit of our priests and parishes and say enough is enough?


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