Reflection: Becoming Like Protestants

by Father Don Thomas

The tongue, as we know, is a most powerful weapon that can be used, as we read in the holy book of James, to bless God, and in the same breath, to curse Him. With the tongue we can very easily build up, and we can very easily tear down and destroy. In this reflection, I would like to address "ordinarily very good people" who have developed the knack of saying "wrong things" to hurt and offend others---family members, close friends and those they do not even know well at all, including people of different faiths.

First of all, I would like to concentrate on those Catholics who have made and continue to make the remark "ever since Vatican II we are becoming just like the Protestants". There is no reason in the world to think or argue that such a remark represents the truth. It is so wrong and offensive to Protestants, and it is an insult to the intelligence of the church authorities even to suggest that such a change could occur. Not one iota of doctrine has been affected by Vatican II, but rather changes that enhance the beauty and significance of church teachings have resulted from Vatican II,. However, none of them were ever intended to make us "like the Protestants". Many who have not even read the documents of the Council frequently make such remarks. Such talk is totally irresponsible and in no way does it contribute to the cause of ecumenism, a better understanding of other religions

I would like to counter those who feel this way about becoming just like the Protestants by saying loudly and clearly "I wish we would". I think it would be fantastic if Catholics became more like the Protestants, especially in the areas of "reading and using the Bible and also tithing". Boy, what lessons we could learn, and how pleased God would be with us! To be honest about it, as Catholics we have made giant strides to improve in our love and respect for the bible, and also in the area of tithing. Believe me, however, when I say that we still have a long way to go. Without a doubt, it is so encouraging to see in so many parishes the formation of bible study groups and bible discussion groups.

It was such a wise move when the church revised the scripture readings at Mass, putting them on a three-year cycle so that the faithful would hear a greater part of the bible rather than the same readings each year. The participation of the laity as lectors has certainly been a step in the right direction and has aroused interest, love and respect for the bible for so many people.

Bible stories for children and adults, tapes and recordings have definitely heightened interest in the bible. Yes, we are becoming like the Protestants in this way, and that is something to be proud of. Now, what about tithing? What an incredible blessing it would be if Catholics could become like the Protestants in the ministry of tithing. Again, I want to be fair and honest about this. I want to make it clear that many Catholics are outstanding in their generosity to the church and the mission of Jesus Christ. Very many! Positive proof exists, however, that perhaps as many as two-thirds of the people in most congregations do not accept their fair share in supporting their parish. Ask for permission to sit in on the counting of the Sunday collection, and you will see, week after week, that this is true. Again,

I allow for exceptions, as we can honestly say, "thank God, some parishes have become just like the Protestants as far as tithing is concerned", and of that we should be very pleased and proud. Some have learned very well about the three "T's" time, talent and treasure. Does the failure on the part of so many Catholics to tithe rest with those people alone? Absolutely not, because the Catholic Church simply has never done a good job in explaining "tithing" to her members.

Allow me to be a bit cynical for a few moments as I endeavor to show the difference between "tithing" in the eyes of a non-Catholic and a Catholic. Both make $80,000 a year as salary. The first thing the non-Catholic does is take 10% ($8,000) and it goes to God. God comes first as a way of thanking God for good health, physical and spiritual, for the marriage, for the children, for the education and talent to have a good paying job, for their faith, their autos, and on and on. The rest goes for family support and expenses. The Catholic handles the $80,000 like this because he was never taught differently until recently. The first thing he does is pay the house note, the car note, insurance, medical expenses, food, clothes, buy the third TV set, the new golf clubs, and on, and on, then God comes last and gets the dollar bill from most Catholics. Please be fair in your judgment of me at this point, as I said above that not all Catholics are like this.

Many do tithe. But as I also said above, that if you could sit in on "counting the collection" on Monday morning in most parishes, you would see all the one-dollar bills and draw the same conclusion that I did over the past forty five years, that about one third of the parish supports the rest. This is just my opinion, based on experience. Nothing scientific about it at all. Incidentally, this provides the answer to the question so many Catholics have by way of complaint or criticism of their Catholic Church. They wonder why the Protestant churches have such beautiful family centers, buses and station wagons to pick up their elderly, swimming pools, basketball courts, and other facilities. Isn't the answer obvious? It is all about tithing. As they say, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a church that collects a million dollars a year is in a much better position to provide a lot more than a church that collects a hundred thousand. Really, we would be blessed to be like the Protestants in these ways.
The End


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