Serious Catholics are Still Stuck in the 19th Century When it Comes to Paying for Ministry

Somebody writes me and tells me I should be a full-time writer. Here’s the problem: I am. It’s just that I’m paid part time because Catholic Exchange, being a lay Catholic ministry supported exclusively by “serious Catholics” is, of course, desperately poor. I’m only half kidding about the PayPal button. My income is emphatically “*lower* middle class” and I have bills I have no idea how I’m going to meet at present. They can’t even afford dental insurance for my family.

Think about this: Andrew Sullivan just pulled in eleventy zillion bucks from enthusiasts for his gay agitprop blog (and you know a big percentage of them are “Catholic”).

Wanna know what people donate to this site a month (And remember: That’d be about 2000 readers a day? Maybe, in a good month, a hundred bucks. Total.

That’s one of the reasons I laugh when I hear “serious Catholic laity” threaten to withhold their measly dollar from the collection plate to teach those bishops a lesson. Between busting my hump to write this blog and keep Catholic Exchange on the air, I make peanuts and try to feed a family of six on it.

The American Catholic Church is like a big teenager. Both bishops and laity clamoring for Reform chatter a good game about “empowering the laity” and blow lots of hot air about the need for autonomy and how we know what we’re doing and don’t need Dad to tell us what to do and how to think. Then we wreck the car and demand our Roman Dad pay for it. That, in sum, is the history of the American Church’s relationship with the Holy See in the past 35 years. And, as teenagers, we also go on demanding the privileges of childhood (“Everything should be free!”) while in other ways demanding the rights of adulthood (“We should have top-notch Catholic ministries that somebody else does cuz I’m too busy!”). One of the ways in which we do this is to go on treating the growing number of laypeople who are trying to conduct a Catholic apostolate as though we all still live in the 19th Century.

News flash: Much of the work being done to support and spread the work of the Church is being done, not by poor celibate clergy who can rely on the collected pittances from a zillion immigrant families in the parish, but by laity who have to live somehow. That trend is only going to increase, not decrease. Yet woe betide the layperson who says that aloud because, you know, if you are doing Catholic apostolic work, you’re supposed to magically survive on the handful of coins your fellow Catholics fling at you, if they remember it. Everything’s supposed to be free. And if you point out that Catholics all demand quality ministry while steadfastly refusing to contribute to it, you are “only interested in money”.

American Catholics live in the richest nation on earth. They have tons of disposable cash. They *choose* and have chosen for years to spend it on lots of Sharper Image junk rather than on the economic realities that face the laypeople who are trying to serve the Church and who have to have more money than Fr. Luigi did in 1878, just to live. If we want to stop being teenagers and start acting like real adults, we are going to have to face that, or acknowledge that, as I’ve been saying, most laypeople are pretty much content with the state of the Church, whatever gassing we may hear in comments boxes to the contrary.

And by the way, I apply that not, of course, simply to my own work but to the work of every struggling apostolate out there. Catholic simply have to remember that it’s as true in the Church as elsewhere that you get what you pay for.

Update: For them what asked, Catholic Exchange’s donor page is here.