Prelate wants end to ‘sacrament fees’

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DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, May 8, 2015—The head of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan has reiterated his position against the “arancel” or the fixed donations for sacraments and sacramentals, assuring his flock that its abolition through “Pananabangan” (stewardship) will not make the Church poorer, but more credible.

More credible

“The Church will not get poorer with Pananabangan. The Church will become more credible, more prophetic and more Christ like with Pananabangan. The arancel system is both a painful scourge on the long suffering people and a shameful stain in the vestments of the Church’s ministers. The arancel imprints an invisible and foul price tag on our priestly stole. It has been tolerated but in the beginning it was not so,” says Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas in a recent pastoral letter.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (Photo: CBCPNews)

The prelate moreover laments how the practice of having fixed rates for the sacraments and sacramentals “smacks of bad taste and intellectual dishonesty” on the part of the Church, stressing blessings and sacraments “must not appear as religious services rendered in exchange for fees.”

Regular giving

“Giving to the Church must become a regular habit with or without the sacraments. It is certainly true that the sacraments and blessings of the Church are not a reward for a virtue nor a prize for being good. In the same way, the blessings and sacraments of the Church must not appear as religious services rendered in exchange for fees. It is the duty of the priest to offer them. It is the duty of every child of the Church to sustain their Mother diligently and generously,” he explains.

Stressing Pananabangan is “not about money,” Villegas states it is the perennial issue about finances that becomes the test if stewardship has indeed been taken to heart, reminding the Lingayen-Dagupan faithful that a clear sign of this spirit is their fidelity to the abolition of the arancel.

According to him, it is the policy in his archdiocese as indicated in the computerized parish accounting system that the parish offices should not require parishioners to make “fixed donations” for Church services.

Spiritual violation

“The so-called ‘fixed donations’ violate the spirit with which we slowly abolished the arancel system of Church sustenance. It smacks of bad taste and intellectual dishonesty to say that we have no fixed rates for the sacraments and church services on one hand and yet insinuate softly later a certain amount to be ‘offered,” he adds.

While he admits he old system of Church sustenance is familiar and feels secure, Villegas points out this is “the security of Egypt not the hope of the Promised Land.”

Security of slaves

“The arancel can give us better security but that that is the security of slaves not of freemen. I know a few of us grumble and complain secretly wishing to return to the familiar and secure instead of the adventure of a new Church. Complainers end up defeated. When we allow our fears to guide our actions we lose our vision and get imprisoned by our griping,” he says. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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