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Charitable Giving: Do You Know How Your Donation is Being Used?

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroDecember 17, 2019
Columnists
Money flying away as a paper airplane

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“The problem isn’t that the Vatican needs money to maintain its operations, but that it is getting millions of dollars from a fund officially designated for helping people. This isn’t new, but it seems all the more egregious when religion preys on those who pray.”

Tis the season to be charitable. But you have to be careful where your money goes and the purpose for which it is used. According to Charity Watch, a top-rated charity spends 75 percent or more of its money on programs rather than on administration and doesn’t hold huge sums of money in reserve. For example, American Humane spends 83 percent of its donations on programs to promote the safety and welfare of animals and received an “A” rating, while Disabled Veterans National Foundation spent only 4 percent on its programs and received an “F” (Consumer Reports Nov. 22, 2019). Sadly, it appears that Pope Francis’ charity fund, Peter’s Place, finds itself far closer to the latter than the former.

Scandal in Peter’s Place?

According to the Wall Street Journal, only 10 percent of the millions donated to Peter’s Place by parishioners worldwide is used to achieve the fund’s stated aim of helping “populations, individuals and families in precarious situations.” Most of the money goes to shoring up the Vatican’s budget deficit.

The problem isn’t that the church needs money to maintain its operations, but that it is getting millions of dollars from a fund officially designated for helping people. This isn’t new, but it seems all the more egregious when religion preys on those who pray.

Case in point: Ananias and Sapphria (Acts of the Apostles 5)

Ananias and Sapphria, a married couple and early followers of Jesus, sold their land intending to give the proceeds to Peter for the welfare of the early church. Being prudent they held back a small amount for themselves. Somehow Peter learned of this, and when Ananias came with his donation Peter charged him with conspiring with Satan to cheat God. Shocked by Peter’s words, Ananias collapsed and died on the spot. Several young men witnessing this, wrapped Ananias’ body, carried him to some undisclosed spot, and buried him there.

Three hours later, Peter confronted Sapphria, who was unaware of her husband’s death. Peter asked if the amount Ananias had donated was the entire amount they received from the sale of their land. She said it was.

Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things (Acts 5:9-11, New King James Version). 

Fear is always a good motivator for fundraising and this has got to one of the greatest fundraising stories of all time. Still I find it troubling.

I’m not suggesting you don’t donate money to religious organizations, nor am I suggesting you lie when doing so. All I’m suggesting is that before you risk the wrath of a God forever short of cash you double check to make sure the money is going where the organization says it is going.

Read Rabbi Rami’s story on The Problem of How to Greet People This Season.


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality. He also hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.” Listen here.


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