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Moments in Time Money raising problems

By Gary Macy

As most parish councils know, raising money can be a real problem. Fundraising became even more difficult in the fourth century when Emperor Theodosius included the following law among 370 in his famous code. “Ecclesiastics, ex-ecclesiastics and those men who wish to be called by the name of continents shall not visit the homes of widows and female wards, but they shall be banished by the public courts, if hereafter the kinsmen, by blood or marriage, of the aforesaid women should suppose that such men ought to be reported to the authorities. We decree, further, that the aforesaid clerics shall be able to obtain nothing whatsoever, through any act of liberality or by a last will of those women to whom they have attached themselves privately under the pretext of religion.” St. Jerome, who relied heavily on financial support from his female friends, was furious. “Shameful to say, idol-priests, play-actors, jockeys and prostitutes can inherit property: Clergymen and monks alone lie under a legal disability, a disabiliy enacted not by persecutors, but by Christian emperors.” Needless to say, a way was found around the law and, as we all know, fundraising continued to be part of the church’s daily life.

Gary Macy is a theology professor at the University of San Diego.

National Catholic Reporter, May 5, 2000