Susan and I picked up a couple of statues, prints and frames of the Sacred Heart of Jesus yesterday. Kreig Borthers, old school charming as it was in downtown Indianapolis, was never very convenient but (shameless plug coming…) Holy Family Books and Gifts is quite convenient on Range Line Road in Carmel. Few in Catholic retail really thrive in business and they can use all the support they can get.
Holy Family Books and Gifts
1327 S. Range Line Road
Carmel, IN 46032
The Problem with Christianity
The problem with Christianity is Christians. Agreed. American Christianity takes on a peculiar hue with its mixture of avoid doing evil, maybe-do-good-but-it-won’t-get-you-to-heaven, a steady dose of once-saved-always-saved and a commitment to sola Scripture (bible only) which is nowhere found in the bible. A sidebar: There is a temptation to see America as most peculiar among nations but every country on earth has its oddities so some notion of some other nation (bankrupt countries in Europe usually being cited) as enlightened is misguided ignorance. Anyway, problematic Christians are an absurd reason to give up on Christianity. In fact, difficult, hypocritical Christians are proof of the need for Christianity and a call to a genuine Christian behavior which is truly humble.
City of God
The former is a reasonable segue to my starting the journey through St. Augustine’s masterpiece. It’s slow going at about a 10 page per night pace but some fascinating insights into the need for humility, why the good suffer along with the wicked, and the futility of false gods combined with an apologetic for belief in Jesus as Savior, it’s all there in just the first 10 pages. I’m not sure I’ll make it all the way through but so far, the hard work of comprehension and absorption has been worth the effort.
Tax Free Catholic Institutions
The message of the City of God leads me to the loud and vociferous, in some quarters, calls for Catholic institutions to be taxed. I have a hard time getting my brain around that since if you don’t make profit, you are not taxed anyway, at least not under state or federal corporate income tax laws and churches are already compelled to be not-for-profit so no tax can be collected under any such scenario. Clergy already contribute to Social Security and pay personal income taxes same as the rest of us. This makes the whole argument pretty mainly bluster. I suppose property tax could kick in but what I have learned in the last three years from my wife’s work and from my own time at the food pantry is that the Church pours millions of dollars into assisting the poor and much of that would go away if these institutions were taxed in any meaningful way. Catholic hospitals in particular give away millions in free care and care is not compromised for the uninsured. Catholic hospitals are, however, an exception to the not-for-profit principle and it gets complex:
Should Catholic Hospitals Remain Tax Exempt?
ObamaCare Could Cause Non-Profit Hospitals to Lose Their Tax-Exempt Status: Here’s How
Hospitals aligned with orders that are part of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that supported ObamaCare are, curiously, also more likely to provide a comparatively small percentage of free healthcare to the poor it appears. They also tend to align with the pro-ObamaCare Catholic Hospitals Association (CHA). So one might see just deserts in taxing them. Problem is, hospitals in small communities which would not support a hospital but for their Catholic affiliation will either close or be acquired by for-profit hospitals.
What I see from my perch, however, are case after case where my nurse practitioner wife has been a team member is providing first rate, uncompromising card for patient after patient at both St. Vincent (Indianapolis) and St. Elizabeth (Lafayette) with no chance of reimbursement and this is further exacerbated by a high percentage of illegal aliens occupying hospital beds and care costing thousands of dollars a day. Likewise, I now see it at the parish level in countless acts by clergy and parishioners to support the most basic needs of the poor.
Problem is, in part, these acts are meant, in fact are mandated to be done without fanfare and I see great fidelity to this principle. On the other hand, those who hate the Church know no such limitations on their ability to engage in hateful vitriol and sloganeering without even a nominal consideration of the real and complex issues involved.
For my part, my exposure to the charitable side of the Church, which has only scratched the surface, has forced an awakening and a reconsideration of my own views as a Catholic but it has also strengthened my resolve to defend her tax free status because I don’t expect atheist charity to fill a vacuum when a Catholic hospital closes in a small community or a food pantry become uneconomic to operate anywhere.
What I have learned
I have decided that the most beautiful church is aesthetically attractive, it’s Masses Catholic-without-comprimose, it is clearly Catholic to its core and it embraces not the present Catholic social teaching which is centered almost solely on environment, gender and pro-abortion (yeah, we have that going on in the family), but rather on service to the poor which cannot be discounted in favor of other concerns and programs.
Learning this also provided a piece of the puzzle to the question of just what is The New Evangelization. The New Evangelization has long been a mystery to my Amercian mind which asked: What’s the strategy? What are the tactics? TV? Radio? Internet? Door to door? Tracts? Sharply dressed young men in bicycles?
The right answer should have been obvious but wasn’t. Here goes: It is all Catholics living visibly profound Catholic lives. Do that, and becoming Catholic becomes so attractive as to grow. Profoundly. In the face of increased persecution and hatred? Bet on it. But that’s the New Evangelization and the job description hasn’t changed since the early Church. The real reward remains intact for those with a truly open mind and a moral imagination.
I’m still working on it.