A Cheap Trick. Has Catholic Fundraising Gone Off the Rails?

Money Grab or Advancing Catholicism?

“What are they doing?” my husband asked angrily. “This day, that day, they are cheapening the Blessed Mother. They are using her to make money!”

Yet another fundraising letter from a religious organization had arrived. They come two or three times a week because the religious organizations sell their lists to each other over and over again.  The message so far this month was the same:  “Honor our Blessed Lady!” Last week it was “Honor the Assumption!”  This week, “Honor the Holy Name of Mary!”

While these are valid feast days, he has a point. The message is the same: send us the names of your loved ones (read: money too). Return this candle for the procession, use this blessed healing oil (how do I know it isn’t “blessed” canola oil, or if it is blessed at all?), send back this rose petal with your intentions, return this cloth to be part of a banner, send us the piece of blue wax. And, of course, donate.  Then there is the letter informing me, “We are sending you (unsolicited) a calendar for you to enjoy. We will contact you in two weeks to see if you received it.”  A self-addressed envelope with a donation request will come with each mailing. 

It isn’t as if these are single appeals. At least three religious organizations at any given time are using the same gimmick. They must be using the same fundraising company. So I had three tiny “blessed” oil bags and decided, if they were really blessed, I should bury them in the flower garden. And there were three or so birthday-cake-sized candles, some tiny pieces of cloth allegedly touched to a relic (of a relic of a relic?) and so far, only one hunk of blue wax that looked like it could be affixed as a seal to a letter. They wanted it back, though — with money or credit card access for a donation. No mention of green stamps for payment, though. Oh, excuse me, I meant donation.

What is going on here?  I appreciate the difficulties of running a non-profit organization solely on donations (I’ve been with the Wanderer Forum Foundation/Bellarmine Forum for 24 years, tell me about it), but I also know how much raising funds costs. To do these massive mass mailings you have to hire an organization to put it all together, from letter to gimmick to stuffing envelopes. Monthly.  They don’t come cheap. I wonder how many of the poor could be fed or how many seminarians could be educated with the cost of a single fund appeal mailing.

But I digress. The point is, nothing is sacred, not even the Mother of God, on most of these appeals for money.  I would rather get a letter with some words on how to live a Christ-like life, words of hope in these crazy times in which even the sign of God’s promise to Noah in the rainbow has been usurped to promote base deeds. Such are few and far between across the board.  Imagine my surprise to hear a homily last week about our sufferings as those wanting in the sufferings of Christ. The priest reminded his listeners to “offer up” our daily strife.  Or a reference in another homily by a young Italian priest about the “sacrifices we make during the day.” Sacrifices? Bet that was foreign to the young millennials in the congregation. Good Catholic stuff!

I don’t need blue candle wax. I need more reminders like these homilies, these kernels of Catholic practice, to point out my need to conform to Jesus Christ and tame my human nature. Instead of pandering to reverence for the Holy Mother of God, why not talk about meditations for the Rosary? Instead of appealing twenty different ways for money in the name of some saint, why not promote how that saint achieved holiness? Would it bring in enough money to keep these organizations afloat? God provides.

Meanwhile, my donation list diminishes as my recycling basket doth overflow. 

This article, A Cheap Trick. Has Catholic Fundraising Gone Off the Rails? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Cindy Paslawski

CINDY PASLAWSKI earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota, back when truth and accuracy were prized. She has been active with the Wanderer Forum Foundation almost since its inception, while working as a reporter for The Wanderer newspaper. She has also worked on the front lines as a church secretary and most recently as a freelance book editor. As the Wanderer Forum Foundation/Bellarmine Forum's executive secretary and publication editor since 1995, she has overseen production of the Forum Focus and the Bellarmine Forum magazines, coordinated Regional and National Wanderer Forums, and saw to the publication of both Saving Christian Marriage (2007) and Slaying the “Spiritˮ of Vatican II With the Light of Truth (2017). She and her patient husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.

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