Guidance in an Age of Unethical Charities

Tim Finigan FAITH Magazine November-December 2007

As anti-life values permeate more and more Charities of once great integrity one has to choose carefully how to live out one's duty to give alms. Parishioners in our under-catechised Church are often somewhat ignorant of this need for discernment. As ever such purification of secular outlook
is a delicate and often lonely task of the assiduous priest in the parish. Moreover parishes can
sometimes find themselves caught out in regular fundraising drives for a Charity which somewhat
suddenly appears to be undermining true charity through immoral activity. One way forward
might be to promote all or parts of a Policy such as the below.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are central to the Christian life, based on the teaching of Jesus Christ in the gospels. The work of the parish community in raising funds for charity is seen as a part of this almsgiving and a central part of our following of Jesus Christ.
When we give to assist others, we are expressing that solidarity with all people which comes from recognising our common dignity as human persons made to the image and likeness of God. Jesus said:

As often as you did this to the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.

Each week the offertory collection is taken for the support of the work of the parish. This Charities Policy gives some guidelines on principles and priorities in our other charitable fundraising.


A basic principle is that money which is received for a particular charitable purpose must be paid out for that charitable purpose. All monies received by the parish or in the name of the parish must be accounted for in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Archbishop and his Financial Secretary in the Diocesan Notes on Parish Financial Administration.

In practice this means that money received for charitable purposes is paid into the parish account. All cash is banked (to the last penny). Cheques are made payable to Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. The stamped paying-in slip is retained together with a record of all money paid in. The receipts are then accounted for in the parish accounting records. Payments to the charity are made by parish cheque to the charity’s account and a receipt from the charity is retained with the parish’s accounting records. The parish’s records and the supporting documentation are subject to independent audit and a Financial Return is made to the Archdiocese. The parish’s records may be checked at any time by the Arch-diocesan auditors or by the Inland Revenue (in connection with our covenant tax refund claims.)

Because of the importance of these accounting records to ensure probity, individuals should not bank money in their own account nor should they pay cheques from their own account to the charity in respect of funds raised.

If an organisation (e.g. the UCM or the KSC) has its own approved accounting practices, money may be paid into and out of their account and a record made in the financial records of the organisation.

Charities committee

To help to plan effectively and to ensure that our response to different charitable needs is appropriate, a Charities Committee meets to work with the Parish Priest to assess needs and to plan a programme for fundraising for the year ahead.

Although it is still possible to respond to emergency needs, we seek to avoid small ad hoc events that can draw attention and support away from more important activities. It is always possible to be flexible but it should be understood that the full weight of support of a very generous parish has to be treated with respect and care. It cannot always be enlisted for every good cause.


Approved charity events are publicised in the parish newsletter for several weeks and on the “Parish” section of the Church’s main noticeboard. However, word of mouth is always the most effective way of getting support. It is also possible to arrange volunteers to sell tickets, sign up sponsors or give out leaflets after Mass. This must be well organised because two people are needed for each of the Masses.

To plan publicity effectively for major events, it is best to have a lead time of 6 weeks before the event, to do a notice for the board, to arrange volunteers, to set out a schedule of newsletter announcements and one Sunday for an end-of-Mass announcement.

Selecting charities to support

Whilst the parish recognises the importance of many secular charities, its first duty is to support those charities which are run by or in the name of the Church. These often receive little support in comparison with major national charities which are able to mount expensive advertising campaigns.

Although such charities are Catholic in their ethos, that does not mean to say that they only benefit Catholics – they are run for the benefit of all people in need of the particular help they give. Typically, charities such as these have very low administrative costs and a very good record of getting their funds directly to the people who need them.
The charities which we support can be listed under three headings:

Mission charities
Charities directly concerned with the Church’s mission enable the Church’s work to continue. Aid to the Church in Need and the Association for the Propagation of the Faith are major examples. The various Missionary Societies are others. Each year we have a Mission Appeal, approved by the Archbishop and we may wish to support such appeals at other times. Each year, we will select a Mission Society to receive additional support from the parish.
The Missionary Societies have asked us to support them rather than individual parishes or projects. The society is able to distribute funds to those in most need. The Societies are willing to let us have some local information to give us a concrete idea of how the money is used.

Relief charities

Cor Unum (the charitable organisation of the Vatican) and Aid to the Church in Need are major examples of this type of charity. Whenever there is a major disaster, Cor Unum is quick to respond with its partner charities.

We wish to continue to support the Bexley Deanery Third World Group. This currently receives the proceeds from a box at the back of the Church as well as the £1 a month scheme supported by many parishioners

Local charities

We want to give witness locally by supporting worthy local causes. However we do not want action in this respect to overshadow the principal charitable outreach of the Church which is often for major causes. To try to solve this dilemma, we will have an event each year which will raise a sum of money that will then be divided among five different local causes.

In advance of this event, parishioners who are involved with local causes will be invited to suggest them. Five will be chosen and any that are unsuccessful will be invited to be re-submitted for the following year.

Charities to avoid

Sadly, some charities have aims or activities which we would deplore. Some, for example, directly or indirectly support abortion, euthanasia or population control as a “solution” to social problems. A good guide is the SPUC Charities Briefing which lists various charities to avoid with reasons for the listing. Also, we do not support generic fundraising activities such as Comic Reliefbecause some of the charities supported are those we wish to avoid.

Some approved charities

The charities listed below are all approved for parish fundraising activities.

This list is not exhaustive. However, any charities that are not listed here will be checked against the SPUC Charities Briefing before any preparations are made for fundraising in the name of the parish.

I would encourage you to consider some of these smaller charities which do not always benefit from the “high profile” campaigns that are heavily advertised.

  1. Aid to the Church in Need
  2. The Manna Centre
  3. Association for the Propagation of the Faith (APF)
  4. The Bourne Trust (for prisoners and their families)
  5. Guild of Our Lady of Ransom (makes grants to poor parishes.)
  6. Catholic Children’s Society
  7. SPUC Research and Education Trust
  8. LIFE Care and Housing Trust
  9. The St Francis Leprosy Guild
  10. Seminary Fund (for the training of future priests)
  11. St Barnabas Society (offers pastoral and financial assistance to clergy of other denominations who come into full communion with the Catholic Church.)
  12. Little Sisters of the Poor

See also Sunday by Sunday 33rd Sunday p35

Faith Magazine