Catholic bishops' position on donations is worth emulating

Catholic Bishops make a symbolic commitment to fight corruption during the Kenya conference of Catholic Bishop National prayer day at Village of Mary Subukia National Shrine in Nakuru County, on Saturday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
That corruption is Kenya’s enemy number one is not a secret. Every year, billions of shillings are siphoned by graft cartels, denying citizens the services they sorely need.

As a result of corruption, hospitals go without vital services, projects ground to a halt after being suffocated of funds and youths fail to get employment because money that could have been used to create job opportunities, by for example boosting the manufacturing industry, ends up in a few people’s pockets.

These are just some of the negative effects of corruption, which some of us have perfected so much that Kenya is perennially ranked globally among countries most tainted by the vice. 

It is because of this unenviable reputation and graft’s debilitating effect on the economy that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government added oil to fight against corruption, which has seen the lowly and mighty, even within his administration, paraded before court.

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But amidst this renewed war against the vice, allegations that the Church has been a major beneficiary of corruption have been unsettling. Places of worship have in the recent past been accused of receiving huge sums of money from people suspected of acquiring it corruptly.

In a move that appeared to give these allegations credence, the Catholic Church banned donations in hard cash during church fundraisers at the weekend.

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops now wants any monetary gift to their churches submitted electronically or using cheques, arguing that this will leave a "clear trail of donors". The church will also keep a record of any gifts it receives that exceed Sh50,000, to help in investigations if need be.

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Though belated, the move is in the right direction. By issuing the edict, the church sent a clear message that dirty money has no place in houses of worship; that God is not interested in graft-tainted cash.

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This is an example that other religious groups should emulate, more so following Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s warning yesterday that corrupt leaders are increasingly channelling their ill-gotten wealth to religious organisations, mostly churches.

Needless to say, the anti-graft agency, if indeed it has such intelligence, ought to conduct investigations quickly and ensure culprits have their day in court.

On the other hand, if the church has a smattering of evidence that it has benefited from money that was looted from the poor, it should do like the biblical Zacchaeus—return such money to the poor.

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Catholic churchChurch donationsCorruption