Church Funding in Europe and America

Sociologist Grace Davie has famously described churches in Europe as “public utilities,” state-supported institutions that people assume will be there for them when the occasion demands — weddings and funerals, for example. She contrasts this with the American idea of churches as “firms,” that is, private associations that members support through voluntary contributions. From La Stampa this week, a fascinating piece addressing attempts by the Catholic Church in Europe to move to the American model, so far without success. State budgetary shortfalls and church scandals have made public funding much less certain, and the Church is encouraging European Catholics to see themselves as “stewards” who must support their local parishes financially. The long tradition of state funding makes Europeans reluctant to accept this new responsibility, however.

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