The Catholic Church Asks Me for Money

One of the downsides of giving money to charity is that some of the groups I give to resell their donors’ names and addresses. As a result, I get an amazing quantity of mail, most from groups I’ve never heard of, begging for money. It comes from an incredible range of organizations – symphonies, museums, political campaigns, environmental groups, humanitarian groups, animal rights groups, and more. Since I plan my giving in advance and don’t respond to random solicitations, I throw these all out. I feel bad about it, especially since most of them are groups I’d like to support, and I deplore the waste of money that goes into sending all this junk mail – but I can’t possibly respond to so many.

That said, I’m not upset about having cost the sender of this letter the price of postage:

Obviously, they had no way to know who they were reaching. Equally obviously, the assumption that the recipient is Christian is just a marketing tactic, designed to make the strongest possible impression on people who do fit that description. I’m not offended by that. (Although I think the “angel medallion” – a cheap plastic trinket – suggests that they’re targeting the less educated and more superstitious among their potential donors who’d be more likely to believe it has magic powers, similar to the classic Jesus prayer rug scam.)

What offends me more isn’t the message, but the organization behind it. Whatever humanitarian work CRS performs, it’s more than counterbalanced by the real and serious harm that Catholic teachings do: teaching medieval, misogynist notions of female inferiority; exacerbating poverty, overpopulation and AIDS by opposing contraception; opposing abortion even for raped children, or when the alternative is the near-certain death of the mother; battling tenaciously against civil rights for gay and lesbian couples; trying to dictate to parishioners how they should vote; trying to stifle life-saving stem-cell research; and last but certainly not least, the conspiracy of silence among the hierarchy to protect and shelter child rapists and abusers worldwide. There are plenty of secular groups that do just as much good for the needy without spreading these poisonous memes.

It goes without saying that the Catholic church won’t get any money from me. But since they took the time to contact me, I think I owe them the courtesy of a reply. Although the envelope is postage-paid, I’m not going to do anything immature like mailing it back attached to a heavy object. But since the letter specifically invites a response, I am going to send it back with a message explaining why I’m not enclosing a donation. My only dilemma is what to write in the limited space provided. Ideally, it should be irreverent, memorable, and to the point. Any suggestions?

New on the Guardian: Beyond Debating God’s Existence
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  • XanderG

    “I don’t give money to criminals.”

    Succinct and to the point I think.

  • Aegis

    Oh seconded. That’s perfect.

  • Laurence

    I like the prayer checklist, where you can choose who and what gets prayed for and who and what doesn’t. Why would anyone not check all of these? “Let’s see, I want them to pray for the unborn, the pope, and for peaceful death, but those Haiti earthquake victims can go straight to hell!”

  • Arduinnae

    I don’t know how it works in the US, but here in Canada, charities are legally obligated to include a “do not trade my name” option on all their solicitations. When donate to them, look for a check box. Alternatively, you can specify with your donation that you do not want your name traded. It won’t help for the instances where your name is already in circulation, but it will stop further trading.

    About feeling bad at the expense of all these solicitations – I hate to say it, but that’s part of the plan. When I worked in donations processing, I very frequently received letters saying “here’s $10 to pay for the solicitation, but please don’t mail me again.” Some people took the commandment so seriously that I would receive nasty phone calls when they get their tax receipt! In any case, charities _always_ lose money on unsolicited direct mail campaigns. Always. The goal is not to make money, or even for the mailing to pay for itself. Rather, the goal is essentially advertisement and the hope that at least some of the recipients will become loyal donors. Therefore, it’s more of a long term investment, if you want to think of it that way.

    There’s no reason why you should restrict your comments to the space provided. I would frequently receive lengthy letters (mostly positive, but definitely some negative). While every office is different, I can tell you that at mine, we all read them. The volunteer who opened out mail would read them, then they would come to me, then I would give them to the CEO, then he would put them back in the file where everyone else would come and have a look. If it was interesting, if it was very positive, or if it was very negative, it would become a lunchroom conversation topic. SO if the postage paid is an envelope rather than a postcard kind of deal, I would definitely encourage you to write a letter. Obviously, you don’t want to go too long, but the points you brought up in this post would be perfect.

    I would also recommend not mentioning that you’re an Atheist. If I were a Catholic running a Catholic charity and I got a letter like that, I would stop reading at the word “Atheist.” I would think to myself that no Atheist has anything worthwhile to say and it’s probably just going to be an angry rant because he hates God so much. In other words, I think that your letter has a much higher chance of being read, perhaps even by someone who “matters” in the organization, if you leave that detail out.

  • Steve Bowen

    Yes, if you can send a letter, your third paragraph practically verbatim from “Whatever humanitarian work [the]CRS performs,…” seems perfect.

  • Valhar2000

    Does anyone else feel squicked out by the picture of a priest cradling a little girl’s head in his hands? I feel a strange compulsion to run to that girl and pull her away before his penis reaches her.

  • Dominic Self

    You really do need a Data Protection Act! :S

  • Reginald Selkirk

    (Although I think the “angel medallion” – a cheap plastic trinket…)

    Please check again. I’m pretty sure the angel medallion is aluminum.

    Also, keep that “Prayer Request” form around, and whip it out any time one of those “liberal” Christians tries to tell you what prayer is really about.

  • Dan

    I like “I don’t give money to pedophile dynasties” myself … but as mentioned above, your third paragraph is a really nice laundry list.

  • AnonaMiss

    It would be fun to return the Prayer Request form checked “Other” – with a request for AIDS victims in Africa, victims of pedophilia, or oppressed women; or any combination, if you write small enough to get them all on. They would probably either dismiss the request as trolling, or else the point would go over their heads entirely – but I think it’s important for the religious to be reminded of what “godly” people can do.

  • cypressgreen

    I get mail weekly from those shameless prosperity gospel scammers of prayer rug fame, “St. Michael’s Church.” They send me fake plastic coins, cloth bits printed like the shroud or in many colors like Joseph’s coat (to wear on your person), “holy” oil and salt, etc.

    I love to get mail from them. Why?
    1. The lulz. Priceless.
    2. I use them to educate my son on how people will scam you, showing especially how SM’s targets the poor, lonely and elderly. And to show him how people want your email or snail mail address just to make $ off you. As a typical kid, he wants to sign me up for every on line contest.
    3. To waste their $. Guy who runs SM has a million dollar home.
    4. To see if they sell my name. You see, I gave them MY address with my late grandma’s very ethnic name. My son and I are just waiting to see what else turns up.

    We keep the junk a week or so for laughs. We ate the salt right out of the packet instead of sprinkling on money like they said to. LOL (Those cheapskates gave out packets with a bible verse printed on there…but less than ½ the salt as McD’s would give in a packet) I respond to their call for “prayer requests” once a month or so to keep them on the line. I even sent a $1 bill and 3 quarters and wrote that I’m poor and will send more when I can.

    $1.25 is a small charge to purchase a lesson for my son that may save him many dollars later.

  • D

    I also think that you’ve already said everything you need to say to them; though the “pedophile dynasty” crack is a little punchier, it lacks the staying power of a laundry list of horrors. AnonaMiss’ consciousness-raising via prayer request idea is good, too.

    Arduinnae, I have to ask: what kind of charity did you work for? (Religious? Secular? Specific? General? Local? International?) I mean, I’m a quality consultant in a call center, and when I hear a particularly juicy call, I’ll pass it around. But I think that a bunch of desk jockeys tittering over someone bad-mouthing our provincial version of The Man is a little different from an excoriating enumeration of your church’s crimes against humanity. While I would sure like for such a thing to be passed around (Hell, I’d like to see hidden camera footage… with thoughts recorded, as long as I’m wishing), I have a feeling it might get filed in the memory hole. After all, they’ve got a party line to keep up.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Are the tithings not enough? Why is that?”

  • Alex Weaver

    Any suggestions?

    Two heavy objects?

  • OMGF

    How about you send them all your junk mail.

  • Ceetar

    Probably only going to be read by some minimum wage worker-slave who has about as much chance of being Christian as the recipient of the original mailing did.

    Just enclose a slip of paper with a link here.

  • Zietlos

    Send them a copy of the Pastafarian Bible? The Koran? A sheet of nordic myths and a prayer written in runes? God is not Great? They satisfy the requirement of “heavy” as well as the requirement of “thought-provoking”, though in a different way:

    I doubt any message would reach anyone who is both duly able to change how things work as well as open enough to let those changes happen, so you might as well just make it a good lunchtime story for the minimum wage grunts. Coming from a German heritage one one side likely makes me a lot more sympathetic to the minions of evil organizations than most of the masses, I don’t think for a moment the mail clerk is guilty of all the sins laid upon the Church in general, and unless you word it really carefully, all you will do is make him/her feel helpless and depressed, since they’re powerless. A truly carefully written letter, not written in anger but in sympathy, may nudge the reader a bit towards agnosticism, but that seems to be the most ideal scenario of any possibility. Something angry will likely just depress them, I’d know, I’ve gotten those kinds of letters before (though not for a charity group) “Yeah, I know I suck, you don’t need to remind me, but I gotta eat somehow” *crumple, throw away*, would basically be the response otherwise to a letter of condemnation.

    So yeah, norse runic legends is my vote.

  • Libby

    Dear Catholic Church,
    I’m sorry, but financing child rape just isn’t in my budget this year. You’ll have to ask someone more twisted and sadistic.

  • TFM

    How ’bout a strikethrough line for all but the Pope, with the comment:

    “I’ve crossed out all the undeserving causes. I checked the Pope box, so please help me pray that he won’t waste any of the Church’s prayers on stupid stuff. Thanks for the angel coin. Will it work in Heaven’s vending machines?”

  • jane hay

    As a mail carrier, I get to deliver those St.Matthews Churches pieces of dog vomit every week. And they DO target the gullible and desperate – the route customers who send them back are the ones on SS and live in tiny little rundown homes. (Now there are even more fodder, the newly unemployed, since the onset of the Bush Depression.) However, I take comfort in using them as object lessons for my coworkers in the office – some fundies and some not. I ran off a couple of expose articles on James Ewing and I pass them around whenever we get new personnel. Opens a lot of eyes. My small contribution to the war on ignorance and superstition.

  • Yahzi

    I think you should do a reverse 411. Tell them you’d love to donate $10,000 but first you need a small bank fee so you can get the money your grandma left you from the lawyers.


  • TEP

    If it was me, I’d do something like this:

    “To the Catholic Church,

    Thankyou for your letter inviting me to contribute to your cause. Donating to charity is something I believe strongly in, and I make an effort to contribute to all causes which provide a positive benefit for the human race. Although I would greatly like to provide the financial contribution your fine organisation deserves in recognition of all the wonderful work it has done to promote the good of humanity, I regret that I am currently unable to do so, as unfortunately the government is yet to introduce negative denomination currency.”

  • valhar2000

    TEP, that was excellent!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Make a donation to Planned Parenthood in their name, and mail them the receipt.

  • Ebonmuse

    Reginald, that’s a fantastic suggestion. I think I just may have to do that.

  • Eurekus

    In addition to Reginald’s suggestion, mail them a photo of a loving and responsible lesbian couple. With one of the couple having a swelling tummy. Add a text to the photo, “the results of Planned Parenthood”.

  • Uncle Otto

    I get lots of junk mail solicitations from different places too because I do give to a number of non-profit organizations. I got one three weeks ago from the Republican party National HQ with an anti-Democrat, anti-Obama questionnaire in it. I chucked the thing in the recycle bin, and in the postage-paid return envelope I put a coupon for Hungry Howie’s Pizza. That way they have to pay the postage. Religious crap gets the treatment too.

    Hey somebody has to do it.

  • Ian Smith

    Just send them a short explanation of why the catholics are a dangerous sect that should be stripped of their ill-gotten gains; and an invoice for the time taken to read and reply to their missive.

    Standard emergency consulting rates of $1000 per hour or part thereof. State any further communication will be dealt with under the same terms.

  • Ebonmuse

    UPDATE: I took Reginald’s suggestion and made a donation to Planned Parenthood in their name, and sent them the receipt along with an explanation, drawn from this post and some of the comments. I enclosed my address, so if I get any kind of reply (which I doubt), I’ll be sure to write a followup.

  • Rachel

    I’m sorry, I just had to comment.

    You claim to be offended by the Catholic Church because of their intolerance (basically) and yet you are intolerant of the Catholic Church’s beliefs.

    I donate to charity as well and I also only donate to those charities I find worthy of it. I also receive mail from every other charity under the sun asking for money, but I do still respect their beliefs and their choice even I disagree with it. Therefore when I get letters from charities, political fundraisers and other such things that I disagree with, I usually just throw them away.

    What you did was intolerant–the very thing you seem to claim you are–along with slandering and, technically, fraud (i.e. donating in another’s name without their consent).

  • OMGF

    So, Rachel, criticizing intolerance is now the same as being intolerant? If that’s the case, then the word no longer has any meaning. And, personally, if being against the actions and stances of the Catholic Church makes me intolerant, I wear that badge with pride.

    You’re also wrong about a few other things, like claiming slander and fraud. Where in the hell did you get those ideas from? Did you even read the OP (I’m guessing no)?