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Theories on Low Catholic Giving

11 Jul. 2013 Posted by Denis Greene in Stewardship

Church Development shares some expert opinions as to why Catholic giving is lower than that of Protestants.

Last time I shared a debate between the late Fr. Andrew Greeley and Bishop Robert McManus as to the source of low Catholic giving. Two of the common beliefs—the lower socio-economic status of Catholics and the cost of Catholic school leaving less for the collection plate—were debunked. So then, what is it?

Well, everyone has a theory:

Fr. Greeley’s theory was controversial in that he believed low Catholic giving was due to laity alienation from the Church hierarchy teaching, namely over issues such as birth control. He argued that, in their anger against these teachings, the laity withheld their giving. 

Bishop McManus instead believed that Catholics “focused too much on their parish’s needs (a parish that was out of debt obviously had less need) and not enough on what they themselves could afford to give” (pp 19). Bishop McManus asserted that most families should be able (and could be taught) to contribute 2-4% of their income, depending their income.    

Researchers Peter Zaleski and Charles Zech studied giving in 201 congregations and found that parish size had great impact on giving. In focusing on larger, more impersonal Catholic parishes, the duo concluded that “reducing Catholic parish size would be the one action having the greatest impact on giving” (pp 19). In a different study, Zaleski and Zech believed giving could be based somewhat on a sense of “competitive pressure” in the area, as parishes where Catholics were the minority received higher contributions than areas where Catholics were the majority.  

These aren’t the only theories though. More to come next time. 

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Source: Charles Zech’s Why Catholics Don’t Give… And What Can Be Done About It 

Denis Greene is the Founder and President of Church Development.  He is the author of The Stewardship SystemStewardship-Based Capital Campaigns, and How To Ask For Donations as well as numerous articles on stewardship. Denis has helped over 200 churches across the USA raise more than $200,000,000. 

A complete list of Church Development’s services (including capital campaign management and consultation, feasibility studies, and year-round stewardship ministry programming) is available here.