Question—/ wonder if you could advise me on bait, much we should contribute to the "support of our pastors" and how much of our income we should give for the alleviation of world poverty. I realise that this is a difficult question, but perhaps
at could at least offer a Jew guide-lines.
Answer--Charity and justice are not optional lines of conduct which we are equally free to adopt or not; we are hound to be just and we are bound to he charitable. On the other hand, there are, of course. all manner of individual charities which are optional and which we may or may not support.
We are under no obligation to contribute to the National Trust, for instance, or to help with a retiral presentation being raised for the local doctor or milkman. or to give some thing on the occasion of the parish priest's silver jubilee' All the above is merely, a long-winded preliminary' to saying that the twin matters of supporting our clergy or alleviating world poverty come into quite a different category; they are definitely not charities, which we may choose. or not choose, to support.
Of course. it is a blessing that we do not think of pay.! ing the priest in precisely the same way as we think, of paying a shopkeeper or a tradesman but, even although most parish priests do not present us with bills for services rendered, their support is just as much a. debt to be honoured as is the payment we owe for the' repair of the drains or for the supply of the groceries.
Again. while the hungry. two-thirds of mankind can-, not send a note demanding payment. in their case, too. it is a debt of justice that we should strive realistically for a more even distribution' of the riches which God has intended for all mankind.
There are differences between, on the one hand, what we owe to the plumber and the grocer and, on the other hand. our debt to the underdeveloped peoples or to the local clergy. For the same services a tradesman is entitled to expect roughly -the same flat rate of payment. whether the customer is a wealthy tycoon. or an old-age pensioner. or a couple in their thirties with four young children and a mortgage.
When it comes to supporting the clergy or helping needy nations, there is no fixed charge and our exact individual contribution must be settled before God and in the privacy of our own conscience but. greatly daring. I offer one or two suggestions.
If we decide to base our contribution on our total income, there is much to be said in favour of the oldfashioned institution of tithes. We might decide to set aside ten or five per cent of our earnings and to divide this amount between the Church and overseas aid.
Other people find a yardstick in what they spend each week on luxuries. Before the cinema underwent its present decline in favour of television. some Catholics were in the habit of putting roughly the same sum in the Sunday collection-plate as they had paid at the box-office the previous evening.
A modern A'ariant of this is to calculate what we spend on tobacco and drink and other things which are not necessary and then to distribute the same amount of money between the underdeveloped nations and the Church.
The really important thing is that we remember that all this is a matter of debts which we owe; so as not to neglect them. we should decide on a realistic rule, one which we can adhere to. and then we should follow it faithfully.