A reader writes:

I can’t turn this into comment-boxable form, so I’m punting to you, perhaps hoping this can at least be grist for the mill.

Does it seem wrong, or at least odd, that people propose what boils down to a boycott of their own diocese? “If that rotten bishop doesn’t do what I want, I’ll just send my money elsewhere.”

I have at least two problems with that. One is that this is a very American, or at least very Western, approach, giving new meaning to the term “sacramental economy”. Using dollars rather than prayer and fasting as weapons . . . I don’t get it. Or maybe I do. There’s a lot more visceral satisfaction of showing the bums what’s what in the first one. That doesn’t make it a good idea.

The other, and given my own situation, perhaps more personal problem, is that even if it were effective, there’d be an awful lot of collateral damage along the way. Do you think the social outreach will be the last to go? How about stipends for retired priests? How about the expenses of the seminarians who are a necessary part of the hope for the future (that’s the part that gets personal)?

It’s like the people who wanted to go bomb “them” after 9/11. Somebody needed bombing, and I hope we did a good job of selecting who got it, but random violence against any vaguely Middle-Eastern looking foreigner doesn’t cut it.

Am I making any sense?

Some sense. I agree that it’s often counterproductive to just lash out and punish “them” without giving thought to who “they” are. Not a few of my commenters talk as though “the bishops” (that monolith) are “guilty” and need to be “punished”. This is dumb. It’s usually a good idea to find out if your bishop has done something wrong before you punish him for the crime of being a bishop. He might be a good one. Also, it’s good to find out if your punishment is going to punish him or just punish some kid in your diocese who is getting help from some charity. Also, it’s important that your punishment is not really just a way of saying, “Good! Now I can spend my tithe on that new DVD I’ve had my eye on.” And, of course, if your bishop is demonstrating penitence (assuming he did something wrong) then some practical questions have to be addressed, such as “Are you going to eternally punish him anyway?” and “Do you want God to treat you like that for your repented sins too?” If such criteria are thought about, however, I would say that there *is* a legitimate place for laity, not to *withhold* their tithes altogether, but to direct them to something besides the coffers of a corrupt diocese that has pissed away the finances of hard-working people on things that bring the name of Christ into disrepute. Instead, direct your tithes elsewhere, to charities and ministries that are doing the work of the gospel (I suggest Mercy Corps or some prolife organization, perhaps especially on in Michigan). Lay people have precious few ways of making it clear to a corrupt bishop that his abuse of power is wrong. And they may have a positive obligation to see that their money is not used to subsidize evil. That’s just my opinion, of course, and I’m open to other views if folks have them.