I am about to celebrate my 14th year in the priesthood, and for many years, together with my brother priests, we have long been advocating for the abolition of the arrancel system in parishes. The arrancel system is the fixed donations for church services, the fixed rates for sacraments being charged by parishes.
Some of us have already implemented the non-arrancel system in our parishes, encouraging parishioners to give voluntarily, from the generosity of their hearts. Our journey towards concrete implementation, undertaken after serious study, consultations and formation programs, had notbeen easy but has certainly been very rewarding.
Why have we been arguing for the removal of the arrancel when fees are, of course, not payments for the sacraments, but instead, charges for operational expenses and our love offerings when the sacraments are celebrated? Or so goes our convoluted way of explaining and justifying the things that we do in church.
But does the arrancel really help bring the poor to the institutional church? And does this really allow the institutional church to create life-changing breakthroughs in its courageous declaration of preferential option for the poor?
I am humbly recommending, coming from the standpoint of years of experience in the ministry, that charging fees for the sacraments should be stopped altogether. Fees for the sacraments, for one thing, are pro-rich, not pro-poor. It does not help the poor. It even unwittingly becomes advantageous to the rich, not their fault, of course, but the church’s.
A set price limits the rich’s capacity to give. And at times it gives people an excuse not to give more. Of course, many give out of gratitude to God, and also when the church offers exceptional customer service, but that is another topic for heated debate altogether.
A set price limits the poor’s desire to enter the door of the house of God, which should be flung wide open in the first place. A set price, no matter how low, in order to accommodate the poor, will always be too high for the one who has a lot of concerns like putting food on the table and how to get by for another day.
When the church sets a price tag on its services, it unwittingly sends the message that commitment is demanded through one’s capacity to pay, or that commitment can even be doneaway with as long as one pays when in fact what is truly asked of us when we receive the sacraments and other church services is to place immense value on whatis being received: God’s mercy and compassion, God’s salvation, God himself.
Why set a price in the first place? Why also set a distinction where the poor are free and the rich are the ones who need to pay the fees? Why not abolish it altogether? Why not alloweveryoneto give from the generosity of their hearts?
Ultimately, it is not about the price but the value bestowed by the giver on the gift, for after all, the widow’s wholehearted offering of two small copper coins, insignificant in the eyes of the world, deeply moves our God who has everything.
I hope and pray that,during the Lenten season, our church servant leaders will prayerfully and seriously consider the suggestion TO ABOLISH THE FEES FOR THE SACRAMENTS. Our common and shared priesthood will benefit a lot from it.It may be one of the best things that we could ever give, not just to the poorest of the poor, but to ourselves, as ordained ministers, as committed lay leaders. We receive, with boundless enthusiasm and gratitude, with renewed commitment to stewardship, whatever we receive from the people of God. If whatis given is small, and we become truly poor, it may mean the death of us but then again it may very well be the wonderful opportunity we have been waiting for, for us to be renewed and reborn as God’s church of the poor.
Fr. Didoy Molina is a Doctor of Business Administration student at the De La Salle University. He took up philosophy studies in San Carlos Seminary and finished his theology studies in Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila and seminary formation in San Jose Seminary.He finished his MBA at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. He has handled various pastoral and administrative work in the Diocese of Parañaque for the past 14 years and is currently the parish priest of Christ the King Parish in Pamplona Uno, Las Piñas City. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.