Charitable Giving

Q. I know that you are supposed to give 10 percent of your gross income for the support of your parish church. My question is: Do you include your contributions to other nonprofit organizations to count as your 10 percent as well or not?

E.V., San Antonio, Texas

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin: 

The Church’s Code of Canon Law teaches: “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 … to assist the poor from their own resources” (Canon 222). 

Although a contribution of 10 percent stands as the traditional ideal, the law does not specify an amount to be given to the local parish church. Indeed, a comment on the law observes: “The obligation is according to each person’s possibilities since no one is held to the impossible, and family obligations are to be taken into account.… Family resources must be safeguarded.” 

Because we must support the poor and contribute to causes that strive for social justice, concerned Catholics might want to divide their charitable resources among a number of causes. Parish needs will always have a prior claim on the generosity of God’s People, but special diocesan collections (or other — even civic — efforts) that aid the poor and seek to make God’s kingdom a visible reality in our time might be considered as well.