Stop sending me your religious trinkets

“I’m getting more and more ticked off about this stuff,” I said. 

“How’s that?” my youngest daughter replied. 

“Day after day I get these direct-mail appeals from religious groups. No doubt some of them are good causes, and I assume that they all operate within the law. But the pitch that many of them make really does get under my skin.” 

“How’s that?” the daughter asked again. 

“Look at these.” I read from a couple of the envelopes. “‘Enclosed you will find a medal that touched the saint’s relic.’ ‘Send us money and we’ll send you blessed oil — strictly as a gift of course.’” 

Religious groups are entitled to raise money and to use direct mail if they wish. But sending cheap religious articles to people who didn’t ask for them crosses the line into a realm that can reasonably be called sacrilegious. 

Here’s a real-life illustration of the harm this practice can have. I used to know a pious Catholic woman, now deceased, who was afflicted with scrupulosity. One form that took was the idea that she had to send money to every single religious group that sent her a request. Now, she was not wealthy, and I imagine she had to strain to come up with even a small check for every outfit that asked.  

Yes, some people welcome the religious articles they receive this way. So here’s an approach that takes that into account while facing up to the problem I’m talking about: Tell everyone who gets your mailing that they can receive the religious item simply by writing back and asking (free-will offerings gladly received, of course). 

Religious groups should stop exploiting people and causing scandal. And Church authorities should speak up about an obnoxious practice that’s gotten out of hand. 

— Russell Shaw