By Rev. Michael X., J.C.L.
"Money is power, and rare are the heads that can withstand the possession of great power." - Benjamin Disraeli
For almost two decades now, the lay faithful of the Roman Catholic Church in America have been buffeted back and forth by endless hurricanes of betrayal, deception and breach of trust by those men whom they were told by their bishops were called by Christ, Our Savior, to represent Him on Earth and provide true means for them to access salvation.
Instead, now the faithful are waking up to the evermore sobering realization that not only have their bishops given them too many rotten apples to serve as their pastors, but indeed that their bishops and even cardinals (McCarrick, Wuerl, etc.) have deliberately enabled and covered up the putrid crimes of so many Judases in their midst. The egregious failures of the bishops are statistically leading more and more faithful to desperation, impelling them to throw up their hands to the Lord, asking Him, "Will this ever stop?" The answer is yes, but only if you help the Church help you. It's called the Code of Canon Law (CIC), used together with the power of the purse.
The Catholic Church has always taught that She has the inherent right, independently of any secular power, to acquire and use temporal goods such as money and real estate in pursuit of its proper objectives, so that She, in turn, may fulfill Our Lord's divine mandate that the faithful be provided with true doctrine and divine worship (cf. canon 1254 CIC). This command, however, can only be fulfilled if the Church provides fitting support for the clerical ministers of the Church.
What the ordinary lay faithful of the Church do not realize, however, is that if they do not attach what is called in canon law a "specified purpose" to their financial donations placed in the collection basket, their bishop can canonically and legally do anything he wants with their money. Such "unrestricted" donations constitute the vast majority of offerings given to every parish, diocese, religious order, priest, bishop, cardinal and even pope.
The failings of our episcopal leadership in many ways have been – and I do not write this lightly – enabled unwittingly by the lay faithful who, just like those who feed the needs of drug addicts to their destruction, have given bishops carte blanche to continue behaving very, very, very badly with their financial offerings.
One needs only think of Cdl. Roger Mahony of Los Angeles easily writing checks totaling almost $800 million to abuse victims, or the then-bishop of Pittsburgh, now cardinal, Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. being "open" to the creation of a "slush fund, under-table" (cf. 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report, p. 249) of $180,000, in all appearances to keep a diabolical child predator of a priest from publicly exposing other clerics continuing to work evil against minors.
The general principle regarding donations is that any offering given by a faithful to his or her parish or diocese is presumed in canon law to have been given in an unrestricted manner (cf. can. 1267, § 1 CIC). Unless the Parish is incorporated, this means that the diocesan bishop can use the donation for practically anything he wants, provided it's for some diocese-related use.
The exception to this rule is the norm of canon 1267, § 3 CIC: "Offerings given by the faithful for a specified purpose may be used only for that purpose."
In layman's terms, this means that donations given for a specified purpose in the collection basket may only be used for the purpose specified. Without such specified purpose being communicated to the parish or diocese, there is absolutely no way for a donor to prevent his donation being used as a "payout" or settlement fee to an alleged sex abuse victim, legal fee for the increasing numbers of premium-rate civil attorneys and whole law firms being hired by bishops across the country to protect their proverbial asses from getting thrown into jail.
With all due respect, the lay faithful shouldn't, canonically or morally, have to pay for their bishops' incompetence — if not malfeasance — relating to child sex abuse committed by priests under their watch unless, under one respect, the faithful are negligent themselves by failing to restrict the purpose of their donation.
How does a faithful show that his or her donation was made with "specified purpose"? According to can. 1526, § 1 CIC, “Onus probandi incumbit ei qui asserit," translated: "The burden of proof rests upon the person who makes an allegation." Therefore, there is a patent need for a donor, who wants to protect his donation from being used for an ulterior purpose, to prove the specified purpose attached to his offering.
For example, if a donor wanted to ensure that his offering would only be used to pay his parish's gas bill, the following are ways by which he may prove his restrictive donative intent:
In short, there is a need for absolute clarity on the part of the donor. A photocopy of the donation and any accompanying letter needs to be kept for record-keeping purposes.
The beauty of restricted-purpose donations is that under canon law, an obligation of added accountability is also triggered pursuant to the norm of can. 1287, § 3 CIC: "Administrators are to render accounts to the faithful concerning the goods they have given to the Church, in accordance with the norms to be laid down by particular law."
This means that, upon request made of the parish or diocese, every lay faithful donor who has made donations with restricted purpose, per can. 1267, § 3 CIC, has a right to confirmation in writing that his donation was in fact used for the restricted purpose he intended and none other.
As Thomas Fuller once wrote, "Money is the sinew of love as well as war." The lay faithful find themselves in a time of war that as part of the Church Militant they needs must recognize as having to be fought with every means at their disposal.
This includes legitimate weaponization of their wallet and judicious exercise of the power of the purse if ordinary faithful are to avoid cooperating in the evil of bishops who will most assuredly continue using unrestricted donations of the faithful to cover up their negligence in the handling of cases of abuse of minors under their spiritual care.
For faithful to continue to give unrestricted donations to bishops of the Catholic Church, account taken of the latest revelations hitting the press, is nothing less than enabling them to continue to abuse their ecclesiastical power if not commit the gravest negligence in the exercise of their office, to the most grievous detriment of the Catholic Church.