Initially, I thought that was a very interesting strategy by the RCC. However, when we peal back the issue a few theological problems arise.
1) It confirms a consumeristic approach to Church. Suddenly, buying a new Plasma TV becomes an act of generosity. It suggests that a me-centered approach to money, materialism and giving is adequate. Much like the RED campaign.
2) There is no act of giving. I have always struggled with why we pass the plate in the pew each week, especially with automatic bill pay. However, I believe there is something about taking money physically out of one’s wallet or putting the pen to piece of paper to write that check in order to place them into the offering plate that is quasi-sacramental. It is a visible sign of our understanding that all things belong to God and we should rightfully return them to Him. It takes concious thought, not mindless spending.
3) It legitimizes the credit crisis many people in America are facing. Suddenly, the plastic charge card will carry a sense of holiness as families go further into debt. I strongly believe that consumer debt cripples and enslaves many families as they struggle to live outside of their means because “one day I’ll be able to pay it off.” Therefore, putting the Holy Seal onto a credit card gives a false sense of godliness to an industry that is not interested in helping the Roman Catholic Church’s Mission Fund, but their own bottomline.
While I give credit (ba-dum-cha) to the RCC for trying to creatively address it’s financial struggles, I do not think that a 1% reward will do anything other than create further problems as many other faith groups are a-critically considering similar moves.