Collections, Protests, and the Mass

I told myself over and over again that I wasn’t going to get involved in this, or to say anything publicly about this.  At a time when we’re fighting to keep abortion and euthanasia out of the health care bill, and defending real marriage, this is no time to get involved in tangential issues.  But there’s something about this that really bugs me, and I want to get it off my chest.  So, here goes.

There is a campaign afoot among some pro-lifers to protest the upcoming second collection for the Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  CCHD is a project of the United States Bishops to fund local community-based groups that are working for a variety of causes.  Here in the Archdiocese, for example, CCHD has supported housing advocates, interfaith clergy groups, anti-sweatshop organizers, and immigrant groups.  Apparently, though, in other dioceses, CCHD has supported a handful of activities or groups that are allegedly involved in political efforts and activities contrary to Church teaching, like abortion advocacy or support for same-sex “marriage”. 

Those are disturbing allegations, indeed, and, if true, firm action must be taken.  However, in a recent memo to the bishops by Bishop Roger Morin of Biloxi, the CCHD chairman, he makes clear that funding for these and similar groups were terminated, and that steps have been taken to ensure that no such grants are made in the future.  You can find that memo, and other information, at the CCHD website. The steps taken so far indicate to me that the bishops are taking this matter seriously, and they deserve a chance to put in place corrective measures to protect the integrity of CCHD.

Of course, if people don’t like the causes that CCHD supports, second collections are always voluntary, not mandatory.  If people do not wish to give, they are within their rights to refrain from doing so.  If they would prefer that a collection be taken up for other causes (e.g., pro-life activities), they should petition their bishop at the appropriate time and in the proper way.

What really bothers me about all of this, though, is one of the tactics being promoted by the campaign against CCHD.  Some advocates are proposing that people put a postcard into the collection basket, protesting the activities of CCHD, and demanding that the U.S. Bishops terminate funding for the program. This tactic is being recommended by good people, including friends of mine, who are sincere in their beliefs and who are heroic in their commitment to the cause of life.  I do not mean to criticize them in any way, or to cast doubt upon their motives or good faith.  However, to me, whatever the merits of the campaign and its allegations, this approach crosses an important line. 

We need to keep something very, very important in mind.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not the time for advocacy, no matter what the cause.  Mass is the time for adoration.  The Offertory is that part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when we should be joining our entire selves in the offering of the gifts, including the gifts we place in the collection basket.  We should be praying that we may be transformed into the Mystical Body of Christ, just as the gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the actual Body and Blood of Christ.  It should be a time to focus our attention on preparing for the central mystery of our faith.  Indeed, at that time the priest implores God on our behalf that He may “receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts”.  And he is about to pray that the Holy Spirit will make us “one body, one spirit in Christ”.

To insert a divisive statement — especially one that sets the faithful against their bishops — into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially at that point, distracts the people from the spiritual sense of unity and self-oblation we should be striving for, and substitutes instead a sense of division and partisanship.  That has no place at Mass.

All people have the right to petition their spiritual leaders on matters of concern.  But they have a duty to do so in the appropriate way, at the correct time, and in a respectful manner.  Whatever the merits of the allegations about CCHD, I think this campaign tactic is misguided, and fails this test.

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