Dear Parishioners: I hope you survived Tax Day on April 15th! The old adage that “the only things certain in this life are death and taxes ” came to mind as I filed my Federal and Rhode Island Income Tax Returns last week! The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us that: “submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes...” (CCC No. 2240) So while some may bemoan the paying of taxes, we are obligated to pay them for the common good of our state and nation. In fact, the Catechism instructs us that it is a duty to pay our taxes. So it seems both God and Caesar want us to pay taxes!
Likewise, the state has obligations to its citizens like providing for the peace, harmony and needs of all citizens especially the disadvantaged. The Catechism also states: “Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged.” (CCC No. 2237) So its clear that both citizens and state have duties and responsibilities. Each are called to provide for justice, solidarity, freedom, and peace. Yes we have a duty to pay our taxes but our government is obligated to provide necessary services like education, healthcare, social services, fire and police services, and upkeep of our infrastructure.
No doubt most of us claimed our charitable deductions on our income tax return. Giving to the Church and other worthwhile charities isn’t only an important thing to do, it is also tax deductible. However, there is currently “tax reform” legislation pending in U.S. Congress that would eliminate all charitable deductions from the tax code. This would effect not only Churches but also universities and colleges and every other charity that depends upon voluntary donations. As you can imagine the charitable community and churches are actively opposing such “reform” as it could have a devastating effect upon financial support of these charities.
There is a common misconception that the Catholic Church pays no taxes. Some even believe that we priests also do not pay taxes. Well I can assure you that priests pay income taxes as I sent my return and check to both the U.S. Government and State of Rhode Island last week! While the Catholic Church is tax exempt organization, priests are not. It is true that the Church pays no property taxes and this is true for all religious and non-profit groups not just the Catholics. This increasingly is a source of animus from many in our society especially atheist and secular humanist groups. They usually direct their vitriol to the Catholic Church whenever our bishops teach about a moral issue.
The customary cries of “separation of church and state” loudly shouted whenever the Church teaches about the sanctity of life and marriage or the dignity of the human person including even undocumented immigrants. Sadly these folks have misinterpreted the principle of separation of church and state and rather ironically they never seem to attack the many liberal Protestant Ministers who advocate for abortion on demand and the redefinition of marriage.
While the Catholic Church is a tax exempt organization there is no exemption from teaching the truth about human life, marriage and human dignity even in the public square. The separation of church and state is not meant to stifle the Church’s prophetic voice but rather protect the Church from government intervention in their church.
Yes, death and taxes are certainties of every life but our lives are meant to be lived not hidden in fear in an room but alive with the faith and active in our society. Our Holy Father, Pope Frances reminded us of this in his Easter Message to the World: “Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” God Bless. Have a great week!