Wednesday, February 11, 2009

USCCB Collections -- A plan of action!

Many of us who are in canonically-regular traddie communities are burdened with almost two dozen extra envelopes in our collection packets over the course of the year. These are "national" collections that are mandated by the Bishops who tow the USCCB boat, and in a couple of cases, they may just be extra diocesan slush fund collections. A PDF file listing the national collections can be found HERE.

They are:
For the Church in Latin America (January)
For the Church in Eastern and Central Europe (Early February/ around Ash Wednesday)
Rice Bowl (mid-February)
For Black and Indian Missions (late February)
Bishops' Overseas Appeal (mid March)
For the Holy Land (Good Friday)
Priesthood - Present and Future (mid-April)
Home Missions Appeal (late April)
Catholic Communications Campaign (mid May)
Peter's Pence (early July)
Mission Coop (mid July)
Catholic University of America (September)
World Mission Sunday (October)
The [notorious] Campaign for Human Development (mid-November)
Retirement Fund for Religious (mid-December)

Most of us ignore these envelopes, because we know we'd be contributing to just another high-overhead USCCB operation and semi-pagan, commie Maryknollers at best, or at worst (in the case of the Campaign for Human Development) directly supporting political organizations which undermine the Church. We think the Bishops and their diocesan and national bureaucacies are just after our checkbooks, as it seems they are. We know that if we give to these collections, even the evil Campaign for Human Development, our pastors and chaplains are bound to transmit the offerings to the diocese (Canon 1266).

But here's a quandry. We really can't just not give anything outside our parish...ever. We do have an obligation to support the wider Church...not just our own community. Many of us do just supporting faithful religious orders, for instance. But is that enough? Canon 1262 provides that "The faithful are to give support to the Church by responding to appeals and according to the norms issues by the conference of bishops."

Now let's acknowledge that checkbooks can be wielded as effective weapons. Wealthy leftist individuals and wealthy leftist foundations often use the checkbook as their weapon of choice. While we can't perhaps write such big checks and wield such big weapons as these guys (they've got .45s; we've got .22s), we can make ourselves heard using our checkbooks.

Think about it. If an average Bishop gets an angry letter from a traddy about waste and corruption and modernism and special collections, what will he do? He'll probably never see it, because his secretary will screen it. If he does see it, he'll probably ignore it. If you're lucky, he might dictate a curt reply to you ... but that's only if you're lucky. I tried that once myself, complaining to Bishop Finn's predecessor about the irresponsible and downright heretical activities that were being funded by the Diocesan appeal. Instead of assuring me he'd clean things up (which I expected him to do...heh...heh), Bishop Boland practically told me to go find a parish in Kansas and hassle Abp. Kelleher instead.

But what if you send the Bishop a check? Even a small check? What will he do then?

If you send a Bishop a check, he'll probably cash it,and he'll probably read the letter it came in...even if it's for $25 or so. In fact, he has an obligation to cash it. Canon 1267, sec. 2, provides that offerings "cannot be refused except for a just cause..."

And what if you send the Bishop a check with specific conditions as to how it's to be used? What will he do them?

If you send a Bishop a check with conditions, he'll have to use it for the purpose stated in giving the gift, or if he can't, he'll return it. Canon 1267, sec. 3, provides that "Offerings given by the faithful for a certain purpose can by applied only for that same purpose."

So what's your point?

If we want to be heard in the matter of all these special collections (or if you want to make a point about anything else), you can use your checkbook and canon law to be heard...even by the Bishop.

Nobody notices an envelope that's dropped into a trash can at home. Nobody even notices an envelope that's put into the basket empty (except perhaps the poor old guys that are counting the collection while you're enjoying coffee and doughnuts after Mass). But if there's a check in the Chancery or the USCCB office...eventually someone at the Chancery or the USCCB office has to deal with it.

How would you do it?

The method I'll propose will involve some stamps. You'll have to be willing to spend a couple bucks per collection on stamps, as well as be willing to put out $20 or $50 or more in a special collection.

  • Step 1: Write a check and a very short note (not a long missive...less than 50 words) stating that you want your contribution to this collection to be used solely for X, and if it cannot be, it should be returned to the donor. In the case of the Latin America collection, "X" should be "solely for the support of traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) apostolates in Latin America." For the "mission" collections, "X" would be "solely for the support of the missionary activities of institutes regularly providing the traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) to to those they serve." For the Catholic Communications Campaign, it should be "solely for the communication of information and resources on the traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form)." You get the idea. The only problem is the Campaign for Human Development...I'll cover that later.
  • Step 2: Put that check and note in your special collection envelope and drop it, like an obedient Catholic, into the basket at the Offertory on the appointed Sunday.
  • Step 3: Wait for your chaplain, pastor or parish office manager and call to complain that you're making their job harder, and then have them either forward the check and the note to the Chancery or return it to you so you can direct it to the Chancery yourself. If you get the check back from the parish, skip Step 3 on future collections and go directly to Step 4.
  • Step 4: If your chaplain, pastor or parish office manager returns it to you, then mail a check for the same amount, payable to the Archdiocese, directly to your local Bishop with a polite short letter stating that you want to contribute to the collection, but you also want to make sure your gift is targeted to what you see as a critical need in the Church. Don't go beyond that (except perhaps in the case of the Campaign for Human Development, which I'll address below). Don't mention your own community or your own priest. Don't criticize the new Mass or the Vicar General's toupe. Don't even say you're a traddie (trust me...they'll know). Just keep the message focused on how they're to use your check. If you want, you might ask them to confirm with you that the check will be properly directed.
  • Step 5: If the Bishop's office calls you (which is unlikely), then be prepared to state your reasons why you did what you did (here, use less candor and more prudence than you would with your own priest, except in the case of the Campaign for Human Development, where you can be candid). Just state that there's lots of money flowing to people who have the New Mass (Ordinary Form), and you want to make sure that those attached to the Extraordinary Form get something, too, because you worry that they might otherwise be neglected by the USCCB. Remind them that it's your right and their obligation under Canon 1267. But I would recommend that you not use the opportunity to bash the new Mass or comment on the Vicar General's toupe. Save that for another letter on another day.
  • Step 6: if the Chancery returns the check to you, then send a check directly to the USCCB. I think you can probably get the address from one of the collection links above. The same principles apply to the accompanying letter.
  • Step 7: if the USCCB returns the check to you, then send a new check in the same amount directly to an appropriate group (in the case of the Latin American collection, the Campos prelature would be a good one). In the letter, let the recipient know that this is a check you tried to give through a national collection, but that your local Bishop and the USCCB refursed to accept it for the purpose you intended. Copy your local Bishop and the USCCB collections office on the letter.
  • Step 8: be happy that you helped the traditional Catholic cause by (a) getting money to a traddie group who can do some good with it and (b) letting the Bishop and the USCCB collections office that you're out there, and you're not stingy...just focused.

What about the Campaign for Human Development?

As for the Campaign for Human Development, I wouldn't use the above strategy at all. In this one case, I would suggest simply returning your empty CHD envelope to the Bishop about a month before the collection, with a polite letter stating that you cannot in conscience provide support to organizations which are enemies of the faith (perhaps enclosing a short, sober article you find online which details CHD wickedness). State that you're giving $x to a specific worthy organization that actually relieves poverty (outside your own parish or community) in lieu of giving anything to the CHD. Also ask him to stop permitting the CHD collection to be made in his diocese.

How's that for a curmudgeonly strategy for dealing with special collections? I'm open to refinements; please comment below, and forward this idea to all your friends (I don't have many readers now that I've quit blogging, so I could use some help disseminating the idea).

If this idea catches on, I'll try to rough up some sample letters for the steps above.


N. Trandem said...

Draft letters would be great! I'm definitely going to do this, and I'll try and rally a few people at my parish to start doing this.

Christopher said...

Great Ideas

All around awesome

Another point of view! said...

A most curmudgeonly idea. Deliciously planned.

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Hoser said...

I'm a little late. I do basically the same thing, but I keep the money local giving instead to Right to Life, our local food bank or Project Rachel. I frankly do not want to go through the hassle of dealing with the local authorities. Our bishop is going out of his way to make every church Hispanic Social Centers. I suggest instead of making every priest learn spanish that every church say Mass in Latin. End of problem.