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By Steve and Bridget Patton

She says: We should donate only to Catholic Charities

I think we should donate only to Catholic Church charities. They do so much good work, and that way Jim and I will know our money is going to be used to help those in need.

He says: Other charities are important too

I have strong feelings about donating to the Cancer Society and other organizations so they can keep up with the costs of cutting-edge research. Can’t Beth see that these organizations help people too?

It’s a good sign that both Jim and Beth want to donate, and an even better sign that they want to do so in agreement. The easier way to handle their disagreement would be to avoid it entirely by each giving half of their charitable dollars as each sees fit. But they’ve chosen the better way, that is, for their donations to come together from both of their hearts. Here’s a way they can get there.

They need to start by making sure they’re on the same page. While there are no hard-and- fast Catholic rules on charitable giving, two guiding principles are clear.

First, we must support the Church: “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.” (CCC #2043) We give to our Church so it can continuously offer divine worship, maintain its charitable outreaches and provide for its ministers and other employees.

Second, we are also obliged to promote social justice and assist the poor from our own resources. (Code of Canon Law #222)

Here are two related principles to consider: 1) Supporting the Church means more than donating only to Catholic Church charities. It also includes donating to your parish. 2) Promoting social justice and assisting the poor can be done in many ways, i.e., not only through donating to Catholic Church charities.

Can Jim and Beth faithfully “promote social justice and assist the poor” by donating to the Cancer Society? That all depends upon their motives. A single dollar given to the Cancer Society out of love for God and those suffering from cancer would be worth more in his eyes than $10,000 given to a Catholic Church charity if love were not the sole motive for that gift. (See 1 Cor. 13)

How much should they give? Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but the standard suggestion from most bishops is five percent of your income to your parish and five percent combined to any other charities. Our guess is that if Beth and Jim can agree upon that level of loving generosity as their overall giving goal, then the specifics of how much to give to any one organization will easily fall into place.