Heaping up Heavy Burdens

It’s a slow day here on the blog, so I thought I’d raise some hackles.

Though a cradle Catholic, my adult conversion to the Faith was intimately tied to the writings of C.S Lewis, and thus I take somewhat of an academic approach to it.  Add to this my legal training, and I tend to view everything with a critical eye, especially when a proposition seems unreasonable.   I am especially wary of those who make rules for everyone that don’t seem to be universally called for.

One of these is the tithe.  Many Christians, Catholics included, assume it is part of their Christian obligation.  Some say it’s required to tithe from gross income, others say it’s okay to tithe from net.  But for all the talk about it, I’m not finding any Church requirement on the subject.  “Supporting the work of the Church” is one of the Church’s precepts, but I don’t see the Hebrew command of the tithe carried on under the New Covenant.  And yet, some say that it’s binding on us.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight.  If “the tithers’ camp” is right, we Catholics are called to all the following:

 

  1. Have large families/lots of kids (no numerical requirement , but our average family size ought to be significantly bigger than that of our contracepting neighbors);
  2. Raise these children in holiness, which might mean sacrificing greatly for private school or homeschooling for many of us who know what’s being taught in our local public schools;
  3. Be good citizens, including paying all our taxes and not cheating on them – regardless of how bloated and corrupt we believe our federal government to be; and
  4. Tithe 10% of our pre-tax income to support the works of the Church.

In my experience, the cumulative effect of all these “demands” raises up a very heavy burden — indeed, perhaps an unbearable one.  I live in a community of fervent Catholics, many of whom have large families and many of whom homeschool.  And there’s a fair amount of struggle going on.  Harried families who live in chaos, mothers who feel like they have to homeschool because of the lack of real alternatives in their area, mothers who can’t homeschool though they know it’s best for their children because they can’t manage to run their households at the same time.  I sympathize with families who have it so hard because they believe their faith requires all this of them (oh, and also, the financial struggles because mom shouldn’t be working).  And I wonder if maybe starting a discussion about it will give some people the support they need to do what’s best for their family, regardless of what some armchair theologians might tell them they have to do.  Maybe it will come out that we don’t really need to be tithing a full 10% after all.

Then again, maybe the pro-tithe crowd will persuade me I’m wrong.

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Jason is a practicing attorney and the Assistant Director for the International Task Force on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide. Epitomizing the maxim

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