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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What to do about tainted collections?

In Mexico, there is a growing conflict between the government and the Church regarding whether the Church should be spending money earned through the sale of narcotics.

On the side of the government:

"At no time, under no condition, may anyone receive illegal money," said Fox spokesman Ruben Aguilar. "No one may in this way aid in the laundering of money, and nobody can be in favor of organized crime acting with impunity."

On the side of the Church:

"If they have money, they have to spend it; I don't know why such a scandal has been made of this," Godinez said in a follow-up interview with the Televisa television network Tuesday. "If a drug trafficker gives, we are not going to investigate if he's a trafficker or not.

"Let me explain: We live on this, on the offerings of the faithful. And we do not investigate where they acquired the money."

On Monday, the bishop said money can start out being dirty but "can be transformed" when it enters the church, Mexican news media reported. [source]

On the one hand, I think that - especially with continuing focus on the scandls - that the Church should strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. On the other hand, I don't know that we can ask people to show us that their contributions are "clean" before we accept them.

It seems to me, if the government is worried that the Church is receiving money from drug dealers, perhaps the Church can point to how it is using these resources to help those suffering from drug addiction. If the Church can determine that certain funds were stolen, then the Church can make the attempt to return those funds back to proper owners.

I think of the early life of Francis, when he tried to donate a large sum of money he had acquired by selling his father's property. In that case, the priest refused to accept the donation and Francis tossed the contribution onto a ledge. Fortunately the priest didn't accept it, because when his father found out - he wanted his money back.

What would Francis, then, say? He'd probably tell the drug dealer to give all his money to the poor. He would not tell the drug dealer to keep his ill-gotten gains.


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