Some years later in his letter to the Church at Rome Saint Paul would repeat this teaching of our Lord in this way, “Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Roman 13:7).
The instant question then is – Does the Catholic Church in the Unites States render unto Caesar (the government) what belongs to it? And if it does not, what price is there for it to pay for such an act of disobedience? I answer that question by saying, ‘No’, the Catholic Church in the US has not rendered unto Caesar what belongs to him since the 1950’s and 60’s, and the price that it has paid for its disobedience has been a loss of grace, which comes by the way of clinging to the things of this world.
What I’m addressing here is the 501(c)(3) tax exemption, which is a part of the 1954 Revenue Act that established the tax codes as we know them today. Every Catholic Church in this country and over eighty percent of Protestant Churches receive the 501(c)(3) tax exemption, which allows them receive financial contributions, donations, and tithes without having to render unto Caesar his taxes on those monies. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
The divine principle at work here is that when we do not render unto Caesar what belongs to him, we are, thereby, disabled from rendering unto God what belongs to God. We cannot serve two masters. Either we cling to the things of Caesar, or we cling to the things of God. There is abundant grace in clinging to the things of God, as well as tremendous liberty when we render back to Caesar what we ought not cling to.
To elaborate more upon how the Catholic Church is has been hindering God’s grace for nearly seventy years is by looking briefly at the only three duties given to it from God. Those being: (1) To Proclaim the Word; (2) To Administer the Sacraments; and (3) To Perform Works of Charity. By clinging to what belongs to Caesar the Catholic Church is unable (legally) to fully perform its very first duty – To Proclaim the Word. Oh, it can proclaim the truth of our faith, but as long as it doesn’t attempt to influence legislation, or be engaged as part of any activity against a political candidate. Therefore, the faith that it can proclaim is neutered, and something less than authentic or helpful.
Even in 2012 we had candidate for the office of President of the United States whose reelection we knew for certain would not be in the best interest of the health of the Church or humanity altogether. Yet, because the Church (perhaps with a sense of entitlement) clings to what belongs to Caesar, it could not render unto God and to His people who belongs to them; namely the truth. The price it has had to pay for that act of disobedience is persecution at the very hands of the man who they couldn’t openly speak against.
Are we surprised that prior to the Catholic Church becoming a liege of the Federal government that its seminaries were full, that Churches didn’t lack for priests, that it didn’t wane for influence over its own educational institutions? Indeed, from the time that the Catholic Church in the United States made a conscious decision to not render unto Caesar what belongs to him by paying taxes, it has not been able to render unto God what belongs to God. And for not rendering unto God what belongs to Him, there has been a step price payable and is still due.
I first wrote about this issue back in 2012, but back then I didn’t connect it disobedience to God, and the just penalty we pay for rejecting His teaching. Now I am. The Catholic Church in the United States fell into a snare from Satan when it foolishly thought that it didn’t have to render unto Caesar what belongs to him. Now it has fallen in the second snare of Satan by being a slave to what it believes is an entitlement.
The Catholic Church in the United States needs to break free from the government and the muzzle it accepted to be put over its mouth, so that it can once again have the liberty to openly and audaciously preach all that given to preach, and to be the instrument of true freedom that it was created to be.