PopeWatch: Peter’s Pence

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Father Z ponders the questions of whether Catholics able to are obligated to contribute to Peter’s Pence:


From a reader…


To what extent are we as Catholics obligated to provide donations to Peter’s Pence? Can we abstain out of principle while still donating to our local parish/diocese and other charitable endeavors?

You are not obliged to provide donations to Peter’s Pence.

Peter’s Pence or Denarii Sancti Petri is a quite ancient custom going back to Saxon England before the Norman Conquest.  It spread the rest of the world.  In some periods it was imposed like a tax, but that is not the case now.  Bl. Pius IX brought the custom back in the 19th c. as an entirely voluntary donation for the Pope’s personal projects.

One of the Commandments or Precepts of the Church is that we must provide for the needs of the Church.  How we do that is not spelled out by a specific means.  In general, it means financial support.   Canon law has points about this:


Can. 222 §1 Christ’s faithful have the obligation to provide for the needs of the Church, so that the Church has available to it those things which are necessary for divine worship, for apostolic and charitable work and for the worthy support of its ministers.

§2 They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the Lord’s precept, to help the poor from their own resources.

And then,

Can. 1260 The Church has the inherent right to require from the faithful whatever is necessary for its proper objectives.

Can. 1261 §1 The faithful have the right to donate temporal goods for the benefit of the Church.

§2 The diocesan Bishop is bound to remind the faithful of the obligation mentioned in Can. 222 §1, and in an appropriate manner to urge it.

Can. 1262 The faithful are to give their support to the Church in response to appeals and in accordance with the norms laid down by the Episcopal Conference.

So, when the Pope or the Bishop or the Pastor of the parish makes an appeal, the faithful should pay attention and consider how they can help.  They shouldn’t mere dismiss or ignore the appeal.   They should weigh it and prudently respond.   It could be that, in some individual case, prudence requires a person not to give money.   It could be that, in some individual case, a person could offer time or skills in working on some project.  It could be that, in some case, a person determines that – for whatever reason – he won’t do anything.  That reason could be that the project is not a good project or the person running the project is not trustworthy.


Go here to read the rest.  Since 2014 PopeWatch has sent the money he would have contributed to Peter’s Pence to some worthwhile Catholic charity.

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