In a worrying cause for the Christian pastors, the devotees have stopped contributing to the tithe and Sunday Mass collections, which would be otherwise overflowing with money on normal days. Led by mostly Catholic Christians, the massive drop in collections has now made the Church officials take note. Recent allegations of sexual harassment and rape by the clergy have dented the image of the church and its lax response to these incidents has further disillusioned the devotees resulting in shortfall of donations.
To those unaware, tithe is a practice of giving a chunk of one’s earnings to the Church among Catholic Christians, which is different for different places. Mostly it involves giving 1/10th of one’s earnings normally, but in places like the Catholic Church of Mumbai, the tithe might be reduced further to 1/10th of the previous 1/10th, i.e. 1% of people’s earnings.
Likewise, the Sunday mass collections are mass donations organized by Catholic priests in order to execute special services on the day of Sunday, a day considered holy for Christians.
Now, to the agony of the Church, the church goers, or parishioners are refusing to give their requisite donations, fearing that their donations will be misused. This has been confirmed by the Juhu’s St. Joseph Church in Juhu, when parish priest Fr. Joe P Perreira made an announcement to contribute towards Mission Sunday. To quote a parishioner, who wished to stay anonymous, “Only two of 1,800 families filled their envelopes.”
Supporting this economic boycott, parishioner of St. Michael’s Church Mahim, and advocate Archie Sodder said, “More and more parishioners now suspect that their money is being misused as there is no transparency or accountability [in the church’s fund. Nobody knows where the money goes. It can even be used to allegedly buy a victim’s silence.”
Backing him, fellow parishioner, Patrick D’Souza said he no longer even gets a collection envelope from the parish. “It’s because I do not make contributions despite being a devout Catholic. Every Sunday before the Mass ends, the priest tells us how much money they have collected, but no information is given on what they do with it,” he said, adding cheekily, “The laity has become smarter. We only pay a small sum because we make use of the fan in the church.”
The views of the agonized devotees aren’t worth ignoring either, since transparency of the funds being used by the Church is something every Christian has the right to know. If one does not know where one’s money goes, how shall one build up the trust to donate the money to the same place again?
Curiously, these agonized protests and drop in donations have come in the wake of the Church’s lax response to the rising cases of sexual abuse by pastors towards nuns or fellow devotees, as in the case of Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal. He was accused of raping a nun and was further accused by fellow nuns of trying to hush up the matter by bribing the victim’s family.
Subsequently, he was arrested for the same. However, despite Kerala Police’s strong objections, he was recently given conditional bail by the Kerala High Court, and soon after, one of the key witnesses, Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Is this the reason why the parishioners are now hesitating from donating their hard earned money to the Church?
However, it doesn’t look like the Church is serious about the grievances as posed by the devotees. In a rather dismissive tone, the spokesperson of Archdiocese of Bombay, Father Nigel Barrett spoke, “Fr Joe P Pereira (of Juhu’s St Joseph’s Church) had made a passionate appeal towards Mission Sunday. Two families contributed. But it takes time for collections to get underway. However, we have not seen a drop in Sunday collection, which is voluntary.”
As such, the drop in the Church collections is a cause to worry about, especially for the Church officials. If they come out clean, there’s no cause to worry. However, if they continue keeping mum, as in the case of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, this might lead to devotees losing faith in Christianity, and this wouldn’t go down well with the Church.
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