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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The New Mini-Series I

I cannot continue with the new mini-series as the book is only available to me online.

I can share this much: from Blessed Antonio Rosmini's book The Five Wounds of the Church.

I want to point out the relevancy of the times. The Church in America is facing a great loss of freedom. The Church in Europe will see the same, but from a different perspective. Read this and think on the loss of property, movement, resources.

133. The early church was poor, but free. Persecution did not deprive her of freedom of government, nor did the violent appropriation of her possessions damage her true liberty. She was free of vassallage and enforced protection; she was no man's ward and paid no compulsory legal fees. But restrictions on the use of church temporalities were introduced by conditions which made it impossible for the Church to maintain her own traditional standards in the acquisition, administration and use of material benefits. As she gradually declined from these standards, which served to neutralise the corrupting and illusory aspects of temporalities, she was threatened by increasing danger. Let us see what these standards were.
134. The first requirement was that the acquisition of temporalities should depend upon spontaneous offerings. "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!'... And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages" (1). The last words express the rule of the apostles, repeated more than once by St. Paul (2). Christ obliged the faithful to maintain those working for the gospel, and bestowed upon the latter the right to be maintained. But although Christ commanded maintenance, its obligation did not reduce the spontaneity of the offering which depended upon the deeper, free acceptance of his gospel, and willing incorporation into the body of the faithful. Human spontaneity ceases only when moral obligation is enforced with violence. Christ's one sanction was the words: "And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town" (3). Punishment for refusal to accept the obligation was left to divine justice, in the spirit of meekness proper to the divine lawgiver who promised nevertheless that justice would be done in good time (4).
The story of Ananias and Sapphira proves the same point: Peter said: "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your own disposal?" (5). In the same way, the collections ordered by St.Paul in the churches of Galatia and Corinth on behalf of the needy at Jerusalem were left to each believer's spirit of charity and discretion: "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside, and store it up, as he may prosper" (6).
135. Moreover, the obligation Christ imposed on the faithful of maintaining the clergy did not extend beyond the strict needs of the preachers of the gospel who were told: "to remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they may provide," edentes et bibentes quae apud illos sunt. St. Paul used Christ's own expression when he wrote: "Do we not have the right to our food and drink?" (7). If it were left to the faithful to decide spontaneously what was necessary for the basic, obligatory maintenance of the clergy, offerings which exceeded the limits of this need would naturally depend even more upon the people's own initiative.
136. Tertullian is a witness that heartfelt spontaneity was still the rule at the end of the second and beginning of the third century. "Each one who can, puts aside some money monthly, or when he decides. No one is forced; all give spontaneously. These funds are the investments of piety" (8).
This rule reappears more or less clearly in the Church's finest centuries. She insisted that the faithful were not to be forced or fraudulently solicited to make offerings. At the end of the 9th century, the 3rd Council of Chalons issued decrees against these abuses in order to safeguard spontaneity of the gifts offered to the Church by the faithful (9).

137. Tithes, which God had assigned in the Old Testament to the Levites, were not confirmed by Christ under the new law. The reason, I think, is that the Author of grace did not want to add any extra burden to that required by the nature of things. Circumstances imposed only the maintenance of the clergy upon the faithful for whom they were working. There is no mention of any specific offering because needs would vary according to the number of workers. A predetermined amount would sometimes be excessive, sometimes insufficient. However, the Lord did not forbid tithes; he left them dependent upon the discretion of the faithful. As a result, the old rule was kept spontaneously in the first centuries, especially by
Christians coming from the synagogue (10). As late as the 6th century, Justinian forbade the forceful exaction of offerings and the use of ecclesiastical penalties for their non-observance. The decree seems to have been published at the insistence of bishops who wanted to preserve ancient customs (11).
The Church could and did command what had previously been custom. She first did this spasmodically during the 6th century (12), and later extended the precept universally when she found it fitting or necessary in order to ensure the maintenance of the clergy. Spontaneity only ceased when the offerings were enforced by sanctions imposed by the secular arm. This came about with the advent of feudalism in the 8th century (13).