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Tithing and Catholic School Tuition

A good decision over whether you should use your tithe for this purpose will depend on your willingness to objectively review your financial situation and apply Christian principles in this area of your life.
by Phil Lenahan | Source:
Question. We are the parents of five children and live on one income. Making ends meet is always a challenge and we were wondering what the Church teaches regarding using a portion of our tithe for the Catholic education of our children. Can you help?

Answer. Section 222 of the Code of Canon Law describes our obligation to support the Church as follows: “The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for apostolic works and works of charity and for the decent sustenance of ministers. They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.” The Church also teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children and providing them with a proper formation certainly falls within the activities described in section 222.

As to whether we should use a portion of our tithe for this purpose depends on the circumstances of the situation. Remembering that the primary reason we tithe is to increase our love for God and neighbor—we should strive to have our sacrifices be used for the good of others. When, due to a lack of resources, a family is faced with not being able to provide an authentic Catholic formation for their children, certainly it would be permissible to use a portion of the tithe for that purpose.

A good decision over whether you should use your tithe for this purpose will depend on your willingness to objectively review your financial situation and apply Christian principles in this area of your life. It wouldn’t be uncommon in our materialistic society for families with sufficient resources to both tithe and pay for their children’s education to feel that somehow their resources weren’t adequate to do both.

Whatever your income, I would encourage you to take the following steps as you strive to make a decision which pleases our Heavenly Father.
  • My first recommendation would be to do a complete review of your financial position (Balance sheet, summary of debts, and budget worksheet). You could use my workbook, Catholic Answers’ Guide to Family Finances as a starting point. Especially helpful may be our guideline budgets which are included. Even if a family believes that it would be impossible to reduce spending, a fresh and objective look at the situation would be a good place to start. 
  • Be as creative as possible when looking at the cost of educating your children. When considering parochial schools, take this opportunity to discuss your situation with the school and investigate the financial assistance programs that are offered. We are aware of some Catholic schools where the education is free after the third child. Contact the school and investigate the different possibilities. Have you considered home-schooling? It is a much less expensive approach than most private schools.

  • If you find that the only way you can afford a Catholic education is by using virtually all of your tithe, I would recommend that a minimal amount (say $5 per week) be committed to your parish via a weekly donation. Our Lord can multiply the amount and at the same time, the visible nature of the gift will provide a good example for your children.

  • Once you have analyzed your income and expenses and prepared a budget, place this issue in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and ask our Lord’s help in making a decision which honors Him. 
  • God love you!

    After years with an international accounting firm and as a financial executive with a Fortune 300 company, Phil joined the staff of Catholic Answers. Since 1995, he has served in various leadership roles, and currently oversees its media and finance departments. Phil is also the founder of Financial Foundations for the Family and the author of Catholic Answers Guide to Family Finances. His professional experience allows him to help families understand and apply the principles of finance embedded in Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church. A frequent guest on Catholic radio, Phil lives in Temecula, California with his wife and seven children.

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    Post a Comment
    Published by: Jenny
    Date: 2011-04-01 00:45:21
    The idea of a tithe being 10% of a person's income is based on what was standard during biblical times. I have never heard, nor do I think this article implies, that the Church obliges anyone to give 10% specifically. A tithe is simply the amount of your income you set aside for the benefit of others. 10% is often a recommendation of many churches and priests with 5% going to your parish, 1% going to your diocese and the other 4% going to charitable works. Of course, everyone should prayerfully consider giving more or less depending on their circumstance. As for this article, I would say more accurately that in this situation you would simply be reducing your "tithe" for the benefit of a Catholic education for your children. The point of a tithe is to give to others, not yourself. That's not to say the decision would not be a righteous one, just that it shouldn't really be counted as part of your tithe. It's too bad more people don't strive for that 10% because if that were the case this family wouldn't even have to pay tuition at all!

    Published by: Eric Jones
    Date: 2011-03-30 18:22:48
    Catholics are not obliged to tithe. They never have been. The Catechism says nothing about tithing (giving 10% of your income to the Church.) To see a Catholic talking about tithing is very bizarre indeed. Tithing is something Protestants often do. It is something Mormons are obliged to do. It is not contained in Catholic teaching. It is not in canon law. It is not in the Bible. In fact, in the New Testament, Christ actually releases Christians from having to tithe. In Corinthians, it is stated that "each should give what he has made up his mind, without sadness or coercion, for God loves a cheerful giver." How can you give cheerfully if a Church is forcing a certain percentage of your income out of you? Catholic Answers: Quick Questions points out that if any Catholic parish demands a certain percentage of our income, that's extortion. We should give whatever we feel comfortable giving in the spirit of a gift, and as nothing else. No specific percentage is demanded, or required. To say otherwise is to go beyond Catholic doctrine and practice.

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