Charitable Dilemma

I have been tithing for years and receive many requests for financial assistance from different ministries and apostolates. While I give to our parish and Catholic apostolates, I also give to a number of non-Catholic ministries. Is this appropriate — or should my donations be reserved solely for Catholic organizations?

Once we begin tithing, one of the great joys — and responsibilities — is in determining who should receive our gift. I remember the story of the founder of a Fortune 500 company who donated half of his income to charitable causes. He felt one of his greatest responsibilities was how he managed the allocation of those funds.

As to whether we should reserve our tithe only for Catholic organizations, let’s review what the Code of Canon Law says. In section 222, we read: “The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for apostolic works and works of charity and for the decent sustenance of ministers. They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.”

Certainly a good portion of our tithe should be reserved for specifically Catholic purposes, especially for divine worship. However, we are not excluded from using a portion for non-Catholic organizations.

Before you decide to support a non-Catholic ministry, you’ll want to ask yourself whether there is any aspect of the ministry’s outreach that is contrary to Catholic teaching. Let’s use a couple of examples to clarify how we should make this decision.

I have served on the board of directors of our local crisis-pregnancy center. While the organization is non-denominational, its work clearly advances the culture of life. This is an example where it would be good to offer support to a non-Catholic ministry.

On the other hand, there may be popular non-Catholic television or radio ministries you consider to be inspiring or informative. While many of these accomplish a great deal of good, some teach doctrines that are not in harmony with our Catholic faith. For example, some promote a “once saved, always saved” understanding of salvation. Once you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, they say, nothing you do afterwards can keep you from reaching heaven — not even committing serious sins. Obviously, this contradicts Catholic teachings on the matter.

Such ministries may well be helping to build the social and moral fabric of our American culture — but they’re also putting souls at risk and implicitly tearing at the integrity of the Body of Christ. You would do wrong to lend them your support.

Before you decide to give to a non-Catholic ministry, I would encourage you to search for a Catholic organization involved in similar work. You’ll find religious orders, outreaches in media, programs to assist the poor and other apostolates that follow the magisterial teaching of the Church and are worthy of your support.

God love you!

Phil Lenahan is the author of The Catholic Answers

Guide to Family Finances. To bring his seminar to

 your group or parish, visit