Peter And His Pence

This weekend, because it is the closest weekend to the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29) baskets will pass before the US Catholic population shilling for money that will go directly to Pope Benedict.

Unlike other collections, local, national and missionary, there is no stopping at the diocesan level dropping off a percentage of the take.

The whole caboodle in 2009 (the latest year for which there are figures) amounted to $82.5 million worldwide, with American Catholics anteing up nearly one third of the total pot.

This collection is billed as a way to support the Pope's philanthropy for emergency assistance in times of natural disaster, war, oppression and disease.

It's a thousand year old collection and its Middle Ages media slogan was a "penny from every hearth."

From Jason Berry's new book, Render Unto Rome, The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, we now know that only 11 per cent of this money is accounted for by the Vatican.

In round numbers, for a $50 gift to this collection, only $5 of it shows up as being spent to relieve suffering and $45 goes into Fortress Vatican.

In big numbers, that put about $73 million in 2009 into a sloshing petty cash drawer leaving acres and craters of disaster, war, oppression and disease unaddressed from the Throne of Peter. Multiply by a thousand years.

These numbers beg the question: Why would anyone in their right mind not get paralysis of the hand when this collection basket is passed this Saturday and Sunday?

Yet, we know there are many, many, many Catholics not only in the United States but throughout the world who will fill envelopes for this collection that will be supplemented by others loose bills poured into the soliciting baskets.

We ask them:

In light of this quote from Pope Benedict that was used to promote last year's Peter Pence collection. "Let us make sure that none of God's children ever feels alone" how about the Vatican pledge just 11% of this year's take to survivors of sexual abuse of priests, bishops, cardinals, and nuns to ease the disaster, war, oppression and disease that's befallen them?

This year, how about a novel approach: let's make the apologies real, let's put our money where our mouth is and "do everything possible" for victims of sexual abuse.

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