--1--I can't speak for the protestant denominations, sects, and communities (I've heard that they are universally better-off financially than Catholic parishes, though how much better off probably varies), but most of the Catholic parishes which I have been a member of have budgets in the red (or perilously close to it). Yes, there are a few parishes which are (or seem to be) well-off, and there are also a few which squander what resources they have; but a great many have more expenses in the form of building maintenance and staff salaries than what they collect in voluntary donations.
|Typical tithe at my parish.|
--3--If you are still convinced that the parish wastes too much money on frivolous matters--and I can attest that there are some parishes which do!--I think that it is generally possible to earmark exactly where in the parish your donations go. It is certainly possible to do this in some parishes--mine takes up special collections which go to specific projects of problems, such as the school endowment, the social ministries (outreach to the poor, infirm, etc.), and buildings maintenance, to name a few. Consider using these special envelopes to help your parish, if you want to see the Church roof in good repair but don't want to pay for the staff's salaries (despite what I've said above).
--4--In one of the first pieces I wrote for IGNITUM TODAY--then named Virtuous Pla.net--I gave three pieces of advice to college freshmen for how to remain Catholic (or really any kind of Christian) in school and beyond. My third piece of advice was to get involved with the parish community as a volunteer. This is also a form of tithing (you are giving time and talent) and can be more helpful to the parish than money (treasure); this is, after all, the foremost tithe made by any priest or religious. It will strengthen your faith, and it will help you to remember that you are part of the community and not only a member of the congregation. Tithing money can also give you a sense of belonging and not merely attending, since most people tend to care more about the things which they invest in (both financially and time-commitment wise).
--5--Many parishes--I would venture to say most if not all Catholic parishes--also have various social outreach programs. Ours has a food pantry, a Saint Vincent de Paul society, a Mobile Loaves and Fishes ministry, to say nothing of ministries geared towards elderly/hospice patients, the sick, and the imprisoned. I do not think that much of the tithe money goes to these things, but there are usually special collections taken up for each. These collections make you a participant in several of the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and at times even harboring the harborless. I'm not sure if prison visitations count for "ransoming captives" or are funded through such collections, and I doubt that there is any provision for burying the dead, but 5/7 ain't bad. Especially in light of Matthew 25:31-45.
--6--I've heard many fiscally conservative Christians complain about the government's social spending. Being a fiscal conservative myself, I agree with those people, but also note that there are plenty of people who can be helped by such things (others are actually hindered in the long-term, but that's for a different post). These are things that the community--in particular the local community--once could take care off absent the government. A large factor in this was the contribution of the churches; however, if the churches are reduced to a state fiscal insolvency through lack of tithing, it is hardly surprising that they are unable to do as much "social good" as they once were*, nor is it surprising that the government steps into this void**. This kicks local problems up a few levels, to the cold impersonality of the federal bureaucracy, which sometimes hurts men by making them dependent when they could be less so, and others hurts them by cutting off what really is a lifeline for them.
*They still do plenty of good "social" work, though; but my point is that they could do more if people would tithe or even approximate tithing.
** At times, the government oversteps the void and then drives the churches out, which should also be resisted
|Catholics use less ornate plates in most parishes; they get less money, too!|
*The average per-person tithe at St Louis parish; per family, it was $12/week and has since declined to $9/week
Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.