Court Says Priests Must Pay Income Tax on the Rectory

My priest makes a salary.

It qualifies him for food stamps, medicaid and government housing.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a legislating-from-the-bench judge, the courts are now going to have to decide if priests and other clergy should pay income taxes on the privilege of living in the Church rectory. Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling that would require clergy of every type and denomination to have their stay in church rectories taxed as income.

That means my priest would have to pay income taxes on the rectory.

Of course, since Father’s grandiose salary qualifies him for free government housing, we could always just move him in there. It’s not too cushy, but there is an exciting mix of truly needy people, drug dealers, ex-offenders and pimps. He’ll have to learn how to sleep through the nightly gunfire and the screams and shouts from daily assaults, but he did a tour in Viet Nam before he entered the priesthood, so he’s trained for it.

Maybe Father can stop wasting his time saying mass and funerals, hearing confessions and administering our parish and turn his attention to the mission field of his new neighborhood. That will leave the parish somewhat forsaken. But it’s all about Freedom From Religion anyway, so what’s the beef?

My parish will now be free from our religion.

Nifty.

If this ruling is upheld in higher courts, I am wondering if the next move will be to make members of religious orders pay income tax for the privilege of living in their convents and monasteries. How about those military chaplains who live in base housing? This ruling doesn’t just apply to Catholics. It takes in protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, Native American shamans, and probably witches, as well.

The last time I checked, deciding who gets tax exemptions is the business of legislative bodies. Not only did this judge, who has ruled previously that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, set off across the uncharted seas of lawmaking by judicial fiat, she is attempting to shift the taxing powers of the elected representatives of the people to the judiciary.

There is a reason that the framers of the Constitution placed taxing power and budget matters squarely in the hands of elected representatives. The reason is simple. The people can retire their elected representatives to private life at the next election.

But we’re stuck with judges. The trouble is that a lot of judges aren’t judges anymore. They seem to view themselves as appointed monarchs who can use their position to make anyone they don’t like, in the words of Henry VIII, “shorter by a head.” Or, as in this case, they can make them shorter by a rectory.

These judges have left the bench behind and taken on judicial dictatorship. They rule according to their personal prejudices in order to make law with a rap of the gavel. This has become so widespread that it is, in itself, something of a challenge to our democracy.

One of the problems is that judges stay on the bench too long. The purpose of giving judges a life-long sinecure was to create a judiciary that was free of political pressures. It was a balance of power. The elected representatives would appoint judges and the judges themselves would not have to stand for election, but would be able to rule without the pressure to heed passing public moods.

It worked quite well until the 20th Century when the Supreme Court woke up and realized, hey, we can do anything we want.

There has been a considerable (if you will pardon the phrase) trickle down from the Supreme Court to lower courts of this understanding that the judiciary is not required to follow the laws of anyone and can, in fact, make law according to its whim, prejudices and personal vendettas. If a judge gets a hate-on going for a particular part of the populace, like, say, religious people, then you’d better get back Loretta. Those nutty, individualistic and flat-out discriminatory rulings will start popping up like popcorn in the microwave.

We’re having trouble in this country with the second-rate people we’ve got at the top. Whether it’s elected officials (of both parties), the judiciary (appointees of both parties), or the people who are running our finance, media and corporate wings, they appear to be all about changing the face of this country into something that serves their greed, prejudices and various venalities.

How should we respond to these challenges?

Pope Francis is showing us the way. We should respond with love, faithfulness to the whole Gospel of Christ and by walking the Christian walk without being afraid of our critics or changing our message to suit them.

If Father has to move to government housing, we won’t despair. We’ll just say mass there and do what we should have been doing anyway, which is to work to convert the drug dealers and pimps to follow Him, along with us.

From Huff Post:

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.

The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.

The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb on Friday (Nov. 22) ruled in their favor, saying the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

The case, decided in the District Court for the Western District Of Wisconsin, will likely be appealed to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The housing allowances of pastors in Wisconsin remain unaffected after Crabb stayed the ruling until all appeals are exhausted. Crabb also ruled in 2010 that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional; that ruling was overturned the following year.

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Pope Francis Dedicates 2015 to Consecrated Life

 

Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be dedicated to consecrated life.

His message to consecrated people is consistent with the message he has been delivering since his papacy began. He called them to “go out to frontiers, working first and foremost with people excluded from society … to avoid hypocrisy and clericalism and to develop a tender heart.”

This message is not just for the consecrated, but for all of us. It is a call to convert the world and to begin that work by following Christ in our own lives.

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Pope Francis Issues New Document. Calls for Missionary Church.

 

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued a beautiful new document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, and a wonderful exhortation it is.

Needless to say, the popular press has already begun issuing their skewed interpretations of what he said.

I think the reasons for this constant re-writing of the Holy Father’s message is twofold. First, they are literally putting words in the pope’s mouth to advance their own social/political agendas. Second, the drive to pick out the most compelling headline and pull readers into their publication leads them to sensationalize Pope Francis’ statements.

I’m not going to write in detail about Evangelii Gaudium until after Thanksgiving. We’ve all got turkey on the brain right now. I’ve been steam cleaning and dusting and vacuuming. Then I’ve got to start preparing food for a small army of hungry family and friends.

That’s why I put the quote above. I can’t take the time to analyze the Holy Father’s statements until after Thanksgiving, but I can, and have, let him summarize himself.

The Holy Father did not, as one press report I’ve read claims, call for the dissolution of Vatican authority in the Church. What he did do was call each and every one of us to our universal Christian vocation of living for Christ and sharing the Gospel with the world. It’s a beautiful document that spoke to my heart as I read it.

He’s so right about what ails us and what we have to do to live out our vocation as Christian evangelists in this fallen world. Those of us who live in the post Christian West have our own unique challenges. Our first challenge — and it appears to be a tough one for most Christians — is to know and to believe that we live in a culture that is hostile to Christ and His message and to us as Christians. We have to choose this day whom we will serve. That choice has eternal consequences.

A lot of us don’t want to believe that uncomfortable fact. We don’t want to chose and make people mad at us by our choice. We want to slip by without incurring the wrath of the culture and still slide home to heaven after it’s all done.

We’d rather compromise our faith than face the wonderful fact that we are a new First Century generation, called to evangelize a libertine and openly anti-Christ culture. We have been entrusted with the gift of being able to stand up for Jesus and take a couple of verbal brickbats for him from our child-sacrficing, marriage-and-family-destroying, women-and-children-selling culture.

Our grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to stand for Him that we’ve got. They lived in the days of ez-pz faith in a country where saying you were a Christian opened doors instead of shutting them.

But we can stand for Jesus in a way that makes a difference. That is the challenge of, and the gift to, our generation.

Pope Francis is all about issuing that call to stop hiding our light and make a stand for Jesus. He is leading us to give up passively sitting in the pews and watching self-absorbed priests wave around incense and preach feel-good homilies that don’t address the human meat market world in which we live. We are, all of us, from the bishops on down, being challenged by a pope who sees the problem and knows that the solution is us and our fidelity to Christ.

The time for lukewarm ministers, politically correct bishops and social club laity is past. It is no longer a get out of jail free card to be a Christian. In fact, proclaiming your faith in Christ and the teachings of His Church will get you reviled, mocked and attacked.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful, much-needed document calling you and me, our bishops, priests and all the religious to our true vocation, which is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by how we live, what we say, and what price we are willing to pay.

You can find Evangelii Gaudium: On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World here.

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Keep Your Mouth Shut

Warning: Rant ahead.

Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, is now running for Congress.

I have no problem with that. But he’s evidently written a book about and is now going around discussing the people he guarded while he was in the Secret Service, including both Presidents Bush and Obama.

I have a bit of advice for Mr Bongino, as well as other Secret Service agents: Keep your mouth shut.

The same goes for priests, nuns, counselors, therapists, doctors and politicians.

These are privileged positions which give those of us who hold them access to the deepest secrets of people’s lives. If you can’t keep your mouth shut about the deeply personal things that people share with you, then you shouldn’t be in a position of such trust.

What that means is don’t talk about the things your parishioners, patients, constituents, or the people you guard share with you. Don’t gripe about it, don’t gossip about it, don’t make fun of it, don’t talk about it or allude to it, or discuss it, even without using their names. Ever. To anyone. Period.

I don’t know anything about Mr Bongino’s politics, but if the story I read in which he discussed two presidents he protected are true, I know all I need to know about his character. If he can’t keep his mouth shut, he shouldn’t have been in the Secret Service, and he doesn’t belong in public office.

 

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Archbishop Carey: Church of England ‘One Generation Away from Extinction’

“One generation away from extinction in Britain” is the phrase.

Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, used it in a speech at the Shropshire Churches Conference.

The news stories I’ve read conflict as to whether he said that “Christianity is one generation away from extinction” or “The Church of England is one generation away from extinction.”

There are news stories with quotes around the phrases saying it both ways.

The point is still the same. Decades of blundering around, chasing the culture and trying to be politically correct rather than preaching Christ have taken their toll. Acceding to the monster of extreme secularism (which, when it’s carried to its most aggressive end is a form of tyranny that seeks to wipe out religious belief) has backed the church in England into such a tiny corner of insignificance that it can no longer behave as a church.

In an odd sort of way, this is exactly what I’m trying and failing to talk about when I keep calling for the leadership in the worldwide Catholic Church to stop talking to one another and begin talking to the laity and to use simple, direct language to do it. They must stop hiding behind mush-mouthed theology-speak and start communicating with the larger culture.

Lord Carey talks about a need for ministries for young people as a way to revitalize the Church of England. My advice is far simpler: Preach Christ and Him crucified.

When Church leaderships, whatever the denomination, fall in love with themselves and their access to the various halls of power, they have fallen for the first and most pernicious form of corruption Christianity can know. I see it in a small form at the Oklahoma legislature when I see religious leaders subvert the Gospel they claim to follow in order to cozy up to political power.

This form of corruption happens in both the right-wing and left-wing churches. It is done by both the Rs and the Ds, although I will say that the Ds are much kinder in how they treat “their” religious leaders who step out of line than what I’ve seen from the Rs. The point here is that I’ve seen religious leaders toss their religious leadership out the window in order to not lose their access to political power.

The Church — and by that I mean all denominations that make up the body of Christ — has become too much in love with the world and too addicted to sitting at the big table at the front of the room at political gatherings.

The reason the Church of England is foundering is that it has made too many accommodations of the Gospels of Christ to fit the various political and social fancies of the days through which it has passed. There is no reason to get up on a Sunday morning and go sit on a hard pew to hear the same social/political claptrap that you hear outside the Church. That is especially true when the social/political claptrap in church is spoken in a mumbly, sneering manner.

My family attended the Episcopalian Church (which is the American version of the Church of England) for several years. Our first vicar was a good man. When he left, the bishop put a replacement in who was, in my opinion, a charlatan. This man, who also taught at one of our universities, stood up in the pulpit and bragged about how he had destroyed the faith of a Southern Baptist student who had come to him for counseling in a time of doubt.

He preached that Christianity was just one faith among many and that the miracles in the Bible were lies and that most everything in the Scriptures was untrue. He didn’t believe in the trinity, the Virgin Birth or much of anything else.

Why would anyone continue to go to a church that preached this nonsense? These are not the words that lead to eternal life. This is the teaching of the evil one, wearing vestments.

This is, hopefully, an extreme example. But tepid faith and compromised Christianity deserve to die because they are not the words that lead to eternal life.

If you preach Christ and you don’t back down or run away when the resistance comes, people will begin to fill your pews.

The world is a butcher shop. Young people today are so damaged by the excesses of their parents with their divorces and obsessions about jobs and career and me, me, me lifestyles that vast numbers of them cannot marry and form families of their own. Their values are so degraded by the sex education and oppressive amoral training in relativism that they receive in the schools that they cannot see themselves or other human beings as children of God.

They are easy prey for any amoral, destructive teaching that comes down the road. They are ignorant of Christianity. When a young person asks, in all honesty, “Who is Jesus?” as a young person asked a friend of mine recently, you know that the culture is post Christian.

People are dying spiritually, our whole Western world is dying spiritually. This vast spiritual vacuum will be filled with something, and it will not, in the end, be atheism. That philosophy is too cold, hopeless and shallow to sustain a culture.

The question becomes what will fill the God-sized hole in the people today if the Church continues down its road of self-absorption and cowardly accommodation to its own demise?

The possibilities  are many, but the one true fact remains. Nothing and no one but Christ and Him crucified will suffice. Only Jesus Christ has the words that lead to eternal life. Our only hope as a culture and as individual people is the empty tomb.

People need Christ.

Let me say that again.

People need Christ.

They also need clergy who will stop pandering to the larger culture and preach Christ. The larger culture, which is increasingly dominated by the values of the pit, will react with anger to anyone who preaches Christ. The belittling, smearing and slandering will follow close on the heels of anyone who speaks for Jesus. That is no reason to stop doing it. It is confirmation of how badly it is needed.

The Church of England needs clergy who mean it. They don’t need ministries. They need faith. And courage. And conviction. And a willingness to live and die for Jesus.

Preach Christ.

The rest will follow.

From iOL News:

London – The Church of England is just “one generation away from extinction”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said on Tuesday.

Lord Carey laid the blame at the feet of Church leaders who he said should be “ashamed” of their failure to bring youngsters into their services.

His stark message was echoed by the Archbishop of York, who told the General Synod that compared to the need to attract new worshippers, “everything else is like re-arranging furniture when the house is on fire”.

The Most Reverend John Sentamu told the Synod – where leaders will debate how to persuade traditionalists to accept women bishops – that they spent too long “arguing over words and phrases, while the people of England are left floundering amid meaninglessness, anxiety and despair”.

Lord Carey, who stepped down from Lambeth Palace in 2002, remains among the most high-profile campaigners for Christianity in the country. He said: “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We are one generation away from extinction – if we do not invest in young people there is going to be no one in the future.”

The series of high-level warnings about a looming crisis comes at a time when Christian belief and the Church of England appear under attack on a number of fronts. Recent census figures have shown a decline of more than 10 percent in a decade in numbers of people who call themselves Christian, and the courts have rejected a series of pleas from Christians for respect from the law for their beliefs.

Last month, one of the most senior judges struck a blow. President of the Family Division Sir James Munby declared the courts are not Christian and “the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals or religious beliefs”.

Ministers – who ignored the Church of England’s objections to same-sex marriage – have gone so far as to threaten the autonomy of the Church of England by hinting that the government will intervene to force its hand if it cannot bring itself to approve the appointment of women bishops.

Lord Carey’s warning was delivered in a speech at Holy Trinity Church in Shrewsbury as part of the Shropshire Churches Conference 2013.

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Pope Francis Hands Out Boxes with ’59 Little Pills’ in Them


Pope Francis offered medicine boxes that contained “59 little pills,”  in St Peter’s Square this weekend.

This medicine is “good for your health, your heart and your whole life,” the Pope told his audience. “Don’t forget to take it.”

What is the ‘medicine’ the Pope is prescribing?

Watch the video below and see.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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Billy Graham: God Can Change the Past

I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.

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US Bishops Get Ready to Elect New President

 

Cardinal Dolan is stepping down as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I imagine that he has mixed feelings about this.

On the on the one hand, an enormous amount of responsibility, as well as the stress of being the public face of the Catholic Church in America, will be lifted off him. On the other hand, he’s so good at it, that he’s bound to enjoy it. I’m sure that after he steps down, he will both miss it and be glad it’s gone.

In the meantime, here is a run down on the list of candidates. Given the tumultuous times the Church is facing, I pray the bishops chose Cardinal Dolan’s successor wisely.

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Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help

 

After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

 11/08/2013 Comments (3)

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-collecting-diocesan-data-not-lay-opinions-in-worldwide-survey?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-8%2022:12:01#ixzz2kAjgql7O

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