What is tithing? Does the Church require it? Can the money be given to a nonprofit or other good cause?
The practice of tithing (that is, of giving away a set percentage of one’s income as a return to God of the “first fruits”) is found in various places of the Old Testament with the injunction to give one-tenth of one’s income as a tithe. In the New Testament, such a one-tenth tithe is not emphasized, as the New Testament teaches that we offer our “whole” self (not just part). However, tithing remains fitting as a right way to carry out what is now enshrined in the Church’s precepts: that we are to contribute to the support of the Church.
Whenever we speak of the subject of charitable giving, whether we think of it specifically as tithing or not, it is important in our Catholic faith perspective to keep in mind the truth that our contribution is a form of “giving thanks to God for what he himself has given to us.” Yes, all that we have is a gift from God, even if we “earned it,” so to speak – as even the capacity to work and earn our keep is itself a gift. Therefore, any and all charitable giving becomes more meaningful when carried out with a disposition of gratitude to God, sharing or giving back that which he himself first gave to us.
Does the Church require such giving back? As already shown above, the Church gives us the precept to contribute to the support of the Church. In our call to stewardship that contains the three elements of “time, talent, and treasure,” each is called to offer according to their capacity. Does this mean all that we offer needs to be only to the Church? Not at all. In fact, if we follow the traditional “one-tenth” amount in making an offering, it is often traced out that people should strive to give half of that amount to the Church, with the other half going toward other charities of their own choosing. I have long believed that if we all took seriously such practice, no one would be left wanting.
Please explain the controversy with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) giving to pro-abortion groups.
Each November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asks for a special collection to be taken on behalf of this agency that is operated by the USCCB itself. As given on their own website, “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ ‘... to bring good news to the poor ... release to captives ... sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free.’ (Luke 4:18).”
In recent years, the CCHD has come under scrutiny by various individuals and groups who claim that the CCHD has offered grants to agencies or organizations who do not fully follow Catholic social doctrine, and in particular, who either directly or indirectly support pro-abortion policies – even if such policies are not the primary mission of these agencies. While the USCCB has sought to bolster and maintain the credibility of the CCHD, there are still multiple sources who express that CCHD continues to give grants to agencies whose works are not fully in keeping with Catholic social doctrine.
As the CCHD is under the authority of the U.S. Bishops, it is obviously problematic that any beneficiary of the funding may have goals that are contrary to Catholic faith and her social teaching. However, it is also important to vet the sources who have called the CCHD funding practices into question. To that end, as it is also the U.S. Bishops’ who have authority over our own taking up of a collection, participation comes down to each parishioner’s own decision and sense of trust in the agency as to whether or not to give.