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Differing with Professor Bainbridge

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Professor Bainbridge cautions that Catholic parishes and individuals might want to move slowly to partner with specific parishes in the disaster area for fear of having their contributions attached by lawyers representing plaintiffs in the abuse cases.

I don’t dismiss that risk, but surely it is easy enough for a parish to ask its people to send help via money or encouragement directly to an affected parish, or even to individual Catholic to Catholic, though income tax deductability will only apply if the donation is made to a 501(c)(3). But if parishoners in Spokane or any of the other dioceses facing the problem that Professor B. mentions send a check directly to St. Pius X or St. Anthony’s parish in New Orleans, for example, that money won’t get attached unless there’s a judgment against the Diocese of New Orleans, and even if there is such a judgment, my guess is relief money would be spent long before the courts reopen.

I also received an e-mail questioning whether checks sent via snail mail to New Orleans churches will ever get delivered. To which I responded almost certainly yes. The mail will be back up and running soon after the streets are pumped, and probably ahead of most other services.

To both objections and others that seem to favor using the large organizations, I think it is important to keep in mind that it is sometimes too easy just to give money. To establish a relationship with an organization in the city of New Orleans, or Biloxi or Gulfport is a risky thing. The demand on the giver might extend beyond just the contribution. You might end up making a trip down to the region and helping with some rebuilidng. You might commit to finding a new set of choir robes, or serving some time on a work crew helping a particular congregant recover. Church to church, school to school, hospital to hospital partnership isn’t the ordinary sort of response, but I suspect those relationships will endure a lot longer than the generous impulse that, while honorable, has been triggered by the images of devastation.

Speaking of St. Pius X parish in New Orleans, some of the family of the former Archbishop of New Orleans Philip Hannan are hoping to get a report on how he did through the storm. The Bishop was evidently at St. Pius X. Please e-mail me at if you have word on this.


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