Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Poverty and mission: the Pope and Archbishop Coleridge

One of the more attractive aspects of Pope Francis' preaching has been his emphasis on the idea that the Churches riches should spiritual not material, and that the business entrepreneurial mentality has no place amongst the clergy.

Poverty and entrepreneurialism

The Catholic News Service Reports:

"Proclaiming the Gospel must take the road of poverty," the pope said at Mass June 11 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Those who preach and share the Gospel need to give witness to poverty, where the only abundant riches in their lives are the free and joyful gifts received from the Lord, he said.

The pope, who concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, highlighted a line from the day's reading from the Gospel of Matthew: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."

When Jesus told his apostles, "Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick," he was urging them to proclaim the Gospel "with simplicity," Pope Francis said...

"Evangelical preaching flows from gratuitousness, from the wonder of the salvation that comes and that which I have received freely and must give freely," he said.

This was the experience of the early church as "St. Peter didn't have a bank account, and when he had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to the sea to fish and find inside the fish the money for paying," the pope said.

Also, he said, when Philip met the treasurer of an Ethiopian queen on the road from Jerusalem, Philip didn't see the moment as an occasion for business, to "set up an organization with him to support the Gospel."

"No! He did not strike a deal with him: he preached, baptized and left," the pope said.

Meanwhile back in Australia!

Contrast that with Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane's comments last week, on the Archdiocese's inaugural 'Annual Catholic Campaign' to be held next weekend:

"THE Annual Catholic Campaign is a fresh answer to an old question: How might we raise the money we need for mission?

The Church isn't a business: we don't need money for the sake of money or to pay a bigger dividend to our shareholders.

But we do need money for mission. This has always been the case.

Who bank-rolled Jesus as he moved through Palestine on his mission?

Even more to the point, who bank-rolled St Paul and his team on their complex and costly mission through the Mediterranean world?

We need a St Francis every now and then to tell us that there's more to life than money and possessions.

But we still need resources for mission.

That's what the Annual Catholic Campaign is all about.

We need money for ministries within the Church but also for mission to the wider world.

Without the money, there can be no mission...."

Preparing ourselves for secularism

Back in the days when he was in charge of Canberra-Goulburn, Archbishop Coleridge followed many of his fellow bishops in launching business plans to sell and/or redevelop Church properties claiming the diocese was broke.

In the end, even though the various sales and developments have not proceeded (as yet) and despite ever declining numbers of Mass goers, the Archdiocese has actually posted significant surpluses for the last two years.

There is I know a practical reality that has to be acknowledged.

But wealth, as we all know, can too readily become a distraction, and in an era when the Church is increasingly being persecuted even in the West, forces compromises.

If a Catholic welfare organisation receives Government funding for example, it generally has to accept the strings that come attached.

If a Catholic organisation employs staff, there is pressure to conform to secular employment laws in areas such as 'anti-discrimination', even in those areas that are directly contrary to Catholic beliefs.

In the UK the Church has already been forced to close down its adoption agencies and some other activities, because of requirements not to 'discriminate' against same sex couples.  And that was even well before gay marriage actually passed Parliament.

In the US, the fight of late has focused on health care, but there has also been a prominent case of a diocese having to pay compensation for sacking a teacher who used IVF.

Australia is yet to really face these fights full on, partly because the Church has been able to defend its exemptions so far.  But partly, one suspects, because as in the US it hasn't really always practised what it has preached and actually demanded that teachers comply with Catholic teaching and tht hospitals comply strictly with Catholic teaching on other subjects.

Still, if we were thinking ahead, as opposed to sticking our heads in the sand, I think dioceses would be looking at downsizing their activities and focusing more clearly on providing services to Catholics primarily, as opposed to all comers.  It would be looking at moving back to volunteers as much as possible, rather than paid employees.

I certainly don't think 'just trust us' and 'give us money so we can do good' style fundraising campaigns are the way to go at the moment.


Fr Mick Mac Andrew West Wyalong NSW said...

Spot on Kate, the Church must divest itself of the 'corporate' style and resurrect its true nature - that of community, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need," Acts 2:44-45, which is the ideal for priests and religious.
When I came to the West Wyalong Parish it was $337 000 in debt arising out of a 'corporate style' of management. There were 'corporate' uniforms, even 'corporate' drink coasters. We've had to go to a volunteer base with one part-time paid employee to look after the financial management as it is critical we know how we are going as we try so hard to reduce the debt, look after the assets that good past parishioners have provided out of the sacrifices they made to their Church.
The real benefit of having a community structure in parishes is that everyone gets to know what is going on and everyone then takes responsibility according to their abilities.
And I can tell you, it works and I as a priest feel so much more strongly supported because of I'm not having to carry the responsibility by myself.

Anonymous said...

"Who bank-rolled St Paul and his team on their complex and costly mission through the Mediterranean world?"

I believe he worked as a tent-maker and paid his own way. In fact, it was a point of pride with him that he didn't 'peddle' the gospel for financial support.

And another point: who used to do so much of the work the Church now employs (at great expense) the laity, or even non-Catholics, to do, e.g. nursing, teaching, etc.? The religious, or course, who have almost disappeared from our schools, hospitals, parish offices (or at the very least, made themselves invisible).

Kate Edwards said...

Anon - please give yourself a name so others can reply to you more easily.

Good point though!