Tithe Offerings at Mass

I understand that strictly speaking a tithe is one tenth of one’s increase, which Catholics are not obligated to give. I’m using “tithe” here for lack of a better term (please feel free to inform me which word Catholics usually use with respect to their monetary donations during the middle of Mass).

So I have a few questions about this:

  1. Some give cold hard cash while others drop in envelopes. Are these envelopes used for checks or do some of them have cash as well?
  2. Is the purpose of envelopes for the church’s records of who is donating or for the parishioner’s tax records? In other words, are the envelopes as anonymous as dropping in cash?
  3. I’ve noticed multiple collections within a single Mass. Are these for different purposes? Is one collection for the parish and another for the diocese? Or are there special funds respective to each collection?
  4. If there are multiple collections and a parishioner is going to leave cash, but only has a single bill of a single denominations, which collection is the “most important”?
  5. Do parishes ever use e-payments online? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such (assuming the actually occur)?


I’m an usher, so I can probably answer some of these.

  1. Probably both.

  2. Not sure. They probably give the parish an estimate of how much one family donates each year (though I never use them). I guess they’re not anonymous, but I’ve never heard of a parish getting on someone’s case for not donating enough.

  3. Yes, second collections are for varying purposes. These usually go to a charitable cause (food pantries,funds for retired priests and nuns, missionary work, etc).

  4. I go to a really nice parish in a very affluent area, so I always give to the second collection when there is one. I figure the second collection needs the money more than the parish. So which collection is “more important” (as in, being more obligated towards it), I think it’s subjective, depending on the parish and your income.

  5. Yes, my parish uses electronic transfers. I don’t know the pros and cons, however.

  1. Both.
  2. Yes.
  3. Different purposes. Aren’t you told during the homily what the second one is for? :confused: This is another reason for the envelope as it says on them what the donation is for.
  4. For me the main collection takes priority.
  5. Some do I suppose. I wouldn’t want to do this as giving during the Offertory is part of the Mass.

By the way, the documents of the Council of Trent noted we are to tithe (and I believe the documents used this word) at risk of excommunication. Current Canon Law, however, does not contain this requirement. By my understanding we are to support the Church in whatever ways we can, whether it be with money or assisting at Mass by serving, reading, or singing in the choir etc.

I’m in college and only have a part-time retail job, so 10% of my income is too much for me (and my parents rebuke me when I give too much). I asked my bishop about it during a communal confession service, and he told me to obey my parents in that situation.

So now, instead of 10% of my income, I give 10% of what I spent on myself that week. For example, if I buy a video game for $40, I give $4 that Sunday.

I don’t currently tithe either. I’d like to but am not sure I could swing it. I will try to again in future. I think when we do we will find we get it back in other ways. For example, when I was tithing for a short time I found an active $100 gift card in a bush on the sidewalk, more than I had given the previous Sunday. I wish I had kept up tithing.

Above where I said “we should support the Church in whatever ways we can” I should have said “we are expected to provide for the needs of the Church in whatever ways we can.”

Second collections are for specific causes - some are mandatory - universal in all Churches - worldwide or all US parishes … some benefit a particular parish need. Its transparent - the purpose is usually announced either verbally at Mass or in the Parish Bulletin in the weeks leading up to the collection.

Strickly cash donations cannot be credited to a specific parishioner - so cash dropped into the basket is not trackable.

Envelopes can contain either cash or check … some parishes encourage children to write about something they did for God and their fellow man and place that in an envelope :wink:

Envelopes usually have a name and parishioner number on them that allows for tracking - my parish encourages an offertory pledge for budgeting purposes … thus parishioners receive a mid year reminder of their pledge in addition to end of year letters that meet IRS regulations for those that itemize their taxes. A pledge is just that - if your circumstances change during the year - you are not obligated to fulfill the pledge … job loss, loss of a spouse or death of another family member can make meeting a pledge impossible. However, parishes have staff salaries and benefits, insurance cost, utility bills and maintenance in addition to multiple programs and supplies … Offertory pledges allow for the Administrative Council to plan and prioritize … As a member of the Administrative Council in 2008 I can tell you that the economy tanked, Sunday collections dropped and we had to make difficult decisions that involved laying off staff, reducing hours for remaining staff and closing the parish office one day each week. Running a parish smoothly is not an easy task - some expenses you can delay, some you can eliminate - but just like in your homes and businesses many are fixed.

The pros and cons of electronic parish support:
Pros -
1] People set up regular schedule of payments - thus they support the parish even when vacations, illness, Super bowl Sunday :rolleyes: and inclement weather keep them from being in the pews.
2] Hopefully it means the family has spent time discerning the value of their faith community and the mission of their parish means to them - thus their weekly/monthly/quarterly or annual gift is purposeful - not based upon the amount of spare funds in their pocket that Sunday
3] Because those who set up payments usually pledge - it helps the parish plan

Cons -
1] You loose the visible witness of Church support - especially important for children in the family - this can be offset by printing a slip or placing an envelope in the basket that states your contribution is coming electronically. Our School families do this - because the parish provides a % support to the school to help keep tuition down and parish families are supposed to be ‘active, practicing, Catholics’ who give a minimum of $10 per week and attend Mass … School families are provided envelopes and told to write Electronic Pledge …
2] Depending on method of giving there is a cost involved … those who give via Bank bill pay $0 cost … but for those who pay by credit card - there are transaction fees … If you use a service like Parish Pay … there is a fee for Parish Pay … but in my experience on the Admin Council - the costs are more then offset by the fact the household gave on a weekend when they were absent from parish - like visiting another parish due to vacation …

The envelope is not anonymous. It has my name and address printed on it.

Repeated absence of an envelope is supposed to be a sign that someone is not attending regularly which could prompt a phone call or visit to make sure that they are okay. It is also for tax purposes.

Whether I put cash or check or a love letter to the financial director of the parish is nobodies business. How much I give is nobodies business.

A laborer deserves his wages and I give at the parish where I receive the sacraments. The priest needs to eat and the lights and boiler cost money to operate. There is a reason why the first collection is first.


  1. yes both
  2. it’s for tax records, and also to determine if they are participating members, practicing, etc. Whether people like it or not, Pastors do check this when people desire “exceptions” be made for them. Also Catholic schools ask for Parish Verifications. In a large parish, the only way to tell of people attend regularly is to look up their giving history.
    3)The second collections (there should not be 3) are always designated in advance, mostly by the Diocese. there are a few open second collections that the parish can use for their own needs: building fund, favorite missions, hurricane victim assistance, etc.
  3. support of the parish in the 1st collection is always the most important. We are obligated to support the running of the parish…electricity, priest salary, etc.
  4. we use e-payments. I find it easier and it’s a way fro me to budget and never miss a collection

You like online giving? It leaves a bad taste in my mouth for some reason.

The three wise men showed up and handed their gifts to Mary and Joseph. Abraham “went out to meet” Melchizedek and gave him a tenth of everything. The disciples lay their proceeds at the feet of the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. I go to the Church and put the envelope in the plate where it gets placed at the foot of the altar during the offertory.

I’ve seen an Evangelical church with credit card readers on the back of the pews!


I know this is diffusion of responsibility on my part, I figure the first collection will be taken care of by the donations of doctors, lawyers, and engineers at my parish (again,where I am is very affluent). They can give more money, more regularly, than I can.

OK, context. The parish I work at requires people to walk up to the altar to give their envelopes. I prefer not to make a show. For this reason, it appeals to me.

That’s the idea behind the offertory. :thumbsup:

I saw stats somewhere that where there are large Mass congregations, the per capita donations tend to be small. Yet there are costs (heating, cooling, etc.) which rise; it seems anything you can give will be appreciated. When your Mass gets discontinued or when your parish closes or merges, you have only yourself to blame. Those doctors and lawyers will be long gone.

Having counted the collection in my parish for years I can say that, with the exception of~3 families, those who give the most are retirerees.

On the books we have 450 families. The annual collection averages out to $125/family. Of course many give nothing, one gives over $4000/year and supports family in Africa. There are 3 or 4 over $2000. The vast majority give less than $500/year. As Father put it, 35 families give 90%.

It’s not a necessary part of Mass. The “gifts” refer specificly to the bread and the wine.

It’s interesting to note what the GIRM says about the money:
73. (…) Even money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, are acceptable; given their purpose, they are to be put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table.

According to Matthew Kelly’s research, “roughly 7% of Catholic parishioners are doing almost everything in their faith community and paying almost entirely for the maintenance and mission of the parish.” (excerpt from The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic)

So I guess that means your parish comes out just about average in comparison.

I like electronic giving. My life is complicated as I live and work in different locations - 3 hours apart. And during certain times of the year my work involves travel that is unpredictable - for when, to where and for how long. My family [children - grandchildren] lives nearer to where I work … thus I regularly attend two parishes - one near the family and one where I live … electronic giving allows me to financially support both of my spiritual homes - even when I am not present … I also volunteer at both parishes … It can be a scheduling nightmare at times but our lives often times don’t follow the path we envision nor go according to our plans … Electronic giving is simple and manageable.

My spouse [sadly now deceased but I continue the tradition] and I spend time in reflection every fall about our life, our blessings, how thankful we are for health, family, faith, and the love our God bestows on us and prayerfully decide how we will reflect those blessings in our contributions to both parishes and other charitable causes that further our Christian vocation … for us this involves supporting both parishes, the unborn, poor and homeless and a local seminary - both financial and action.

With the death of a spouse I can attest - your finances change - and the easiest place to make adjustments is here - this is totally discretionary spending … it is important not to lack faith in God’s abundant love … God provides … and he does so - even if you give electronically :wink:

Whether you use the collection plate or electronic means your gift should come from your heart - the important thing is to give back to God in thanksgiving for His great gifts - given from your need not merely from your abundance … its a conscious decision.

I remember over 20 years ago - we compared our tradition [which I don’t do any more - different place in life now] of Pizza on Friday night … it was a gathering of both family and friends around a meal - which contrasted nicely to our family meal at Mass … We wrote down what was important about Pizza night - friendship, conversation, sharing life, laughter, love … and what that cost us in $$s each week, per month and annually … then we wrote all of the important aspects of Mass - God’s love for us, sharing faith with our family and friends, the Sacraments, etc … and how much more important that “Family gathering” was in our life and the life of our family then Pizza Night … and looked at what our $$ contribution to our parish was … what an eye opener that was :eek:… it vastly changed how we approached our thankfulness to Jesus for his Sacrifice for us from that time to the present …

I’ll just answer numbers 3 and 5.

For #3, our priest just talked about this. We generally have 2 or 3 second collections a month. They are generally announced a week or two before so that people know what second collections are coming up. Our parish takes 10% of the first collection off the top and send that to another charity or impoverished parish. If the collection for retired religious were to be funded this way we would have donated between 1,800 - 2,800. With the second collection we donated over 8,000. As the pastor said, second collections allow people to be more generous.

For e-payments we have both online and a kiosk in the narthex. I think we get between 12 and 18% of the monthly donations via e-payments. The major disadvantage is that there are fees associated with it (not sure how much exactly). The advantage is as we move more towards a cashless society. I rarely have cash and write very few checks; the vast majority of my spending is via debit card. My donation is one of the few checks I ever write. I think the other advantage is we tend to get larger donations via e-payments. Cash donations are generally under $50 (many are just a five or couple ones folded together). Checks generally range between $20 and $250. E-payments are normally between $50 and $500. The final advantage is that the funds are guaranteed. There are costs associated with cash and check (i.e. we have to have a safe for them, but not e-payments). Checks can also bounce (very rare in my parish, but has happened).

Makes sense. I’m not putting down electronic giving and it avoids the issue of carrying forward a balance until the check clears, that’s for sure.


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