Just about the only people who still use the US Postal Service on a regular basis are charities asking for money. Because I subscribe or have subscribed to various Catholic publications I am on several mailing lists. The appeals for donations are all the same, they use the same marketing companies that print up several page documents using bold type, highlighted words, and underlined words that make the appeal seem urgent. Apparently there is a lot of danger out there for Catholics: If I do not donate to one organization Catholic youth will lose their faith at World Youth Day, if I do not donate to another group babies will be killed with impunity. I have lived in my current home for over 3 years and yet I still receive a pile of junk mail at my previous address. (Memo to the Catholic Bishop of Alaska - it might be time to stop sending me letters asking for money as you have the past 10 years - I would never donate to anyone that keeps such horrible records that they do not purge their mailing lists after no response for 10 years.) Usually I rip these various appeals up without reading them, but yesterday I received a mailing from "America Needs Fatima" that I decided to read. The (typical) multi-page letter had words that were highlighted or underlined to show how important their work was. The letter stated that they sent me a "deeply spiritual" picture of Our Lady of Fatima and that since it was "holy" they urgently wanted me to notify them to indicate that it arrived in good shape. My BS detector immediately went off. Of course, it would be great if I sent a "gift" along with the notice about the picture's condition for their important work. I really get uneasy about the use of religious pictures and objects in appealing for money so I ripped up the picture and the letter and threw it out. I then needed to get scissors to open the next piece of junk mail: a box from Food for the Poor, which although it has no affliliation with the Catholic Church, regularly sends Catholic items geared at eliciting money from Catholics. I received a Rosary with a nice white pouch to keep it in, with my name printed on a metal attached to the pouch. This was a step up from the usual mailing labels and writing paper - Food for the Poor obviously has a lot of money to use in its marketing. They regularly take out full page ads and even color brochure inserts of some Catholic publications. I actually considered keeping the Rosary and pouch and nameplate for a second, then threw it in the garbage with the rest of the pile. Now that I think about it, I should have taken the Rosary, pouch and nameplate and put it back in the box, rewrapped it and sent it to America Needs Fatima as my "gift".
Although the constant appeals for money give me some entertainment, they get very tiring. Some thoughts on giving:
- *I just think many of the URGENT APPEALS are phony and the use of Catholic stuff is sleazy. "Send us money and we will pray for you" - how about if I need someone to pray for me I will ask a Christian who will do it for nothing?
- *I feel bad for those elderly souls out there who I know fall prey to these appeals, writing checks out thinking they are doing some good, even though they could probably use that money themselves. I know there are those who feel guilty about not donating, or about throwing out these pictures, rosaries and prayer cards.
- *Unfortunately, I have seen too many examples of corrupt people, especially priests, to trust sending money to any organization that I do not have first hand experience with. I would suggest to Catholics to stick to donating to charities that they know first hand do good work.
- *I would also suggest donating to organizations that are well managed and focused. If I get an appeal from a charity that says they must have X amount of money by a certain time or they will fold, then I have to assume they are not well run and should fold.
- *It is a sad fact that many of the organizations out there exist to do work that should be done by local parishes, dioceses and religious groups but are not being done. For example, Catholics United for the Faith, Coming Home Network, and the Cardinal Newman Society are each doing good work that is not done well by most dioceses.
- *The sheer number of Catholic and non-Catholic charities out there is overwhelming so donor fatigue can occur. Although there are really good charities out there it is still necessary to limit your giving to what you can afford, and to do enough research to know what your money will be used for. Never forget the scandals of Covenant House, the Legion of Christ, etc.. I worked a second job at a telemarketing company once. They solicited magazine subscriptions by phone and made it sound like they were raising money for the Special Olympics. What was not mentioned was this telemarketing company was a subsidiary of a major publication company, it was essentially the marketing department selling their magazines. Many people assumed they were simply giving to charity, which was not entirely true, although it was somewhat true - the Special Olympics really did receive money for each subscription sold. I lasted there a week until my conscience took control.
- *For the record the only charity I currently give money to is my alma mater Chaminade High School. This could easily change if I feel the school loses its way. My parish also gets a weekly donation as well.