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Are nuns required to hand over to their order money they receive as a gift?

Full Question

We have a relative who is a nun and she is about to celebrate a religious anniversary. We were going to give her a small monetary gift, but then we heard that she would just have to turn it in to her order. Is that true?


Quite possibly. As a matter of canon law, whatever a religious man or woman acquires by reason of individual labor or by reason of being a member of the institute belongs to the institute (canon 668). This is an age-old facet of religious life and is consistent with the fact that these men and women have freely chosen to live according to, among other things, the spirit of poverty and to be bound by its consequences. It also recognizes the fact that the religious institute is ultimately responsible for the material needs of its members.

Personal gifts such as you describe do not, strictly speaking, fall under the above canonical headings. However, many (my impression is most) religious orders have, also in accord with canon law, enacted special provisions whereby all members freely renounce their canonical right to own any property, including personal gifts. It is also possible for individual religious to commit to such a practice as a pious exercise (see again, 1983 CIC 668).

If either of these cases apply to your relative, as is apparently the case, she would, as a matter of freely accepted obligation, turn your gift in to her superiors. If you wonder whether such is the rule in your relative’s institute, ask her. It is possible, even in cases of institutional or individual total renunciation, that a small gift from a relative would be “returned” to a religious for his or her reasonable use.

By the way, if your gift is freely given to show your love for your relative, it shouldn’t be of concern to you what she does with it.

Edward Peters



  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    “By the way, if your gift is freely given to show your love for your relative, it shouldn’t be of concern to you what she does with it.”
    That’s not true, if one is not a fan or supporter of superstitious Iron Age religions. If, for example, the gift is a family heirloom the RCC is going to melt down and sell to build another Cathedral, it would be better not to give the gift, and keep it in the family. The recipient is intended to be the person, not the organization.
    If you do give a gift to a friend or relative in the clergy – take a tax write-off on it if it’s going to end up in the RCC’s coffers.

    1. Lorraine Parker Reply

      I know that holy priests are aloud to keep a gift of money from family or friend or even some one from the parish. As the church does not provide for there retirement and give them no were to live. Except in an old priests retirement home. But I’m sure on a special occasion a nun should be aloud. Seems to strict to me and I some times wonder is it from God or the Convent making its own rules man made,

      instead of God made. Amen.

      1. Patrick Gannon Reply

        “Seems to (sic) strict to me and I some times wonder is it from God or the Convent making its own rules man made, instead of God made.”
        That’s a very good observation. You keep asking those kinds of questions, Lorraine. It is a man-made rule. Religions always have rules to make sure the clergy are cared for. In the Old Testament (OT), they benefited from all the sacrificial animals. The continuous need for sacrifices ensured that the priests ate well. In the NT we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira who lived in commune with fellow Christians but failed to donate all of their belongings to the Church so the book of Acts (totally fabricated), has this story about Yahweh killing them for not seeing to it that the clergy were given their due. The message, as always in the Abrahamic religions is clear – that the clergy are to be cared for, and of course it is the clergy who establish those rules for their own benefit.
        In the old days, in the early days of the Catholic Church, priests got married, accumulated property and when they died that property was left to their heirs, their children. The RCC couldn’t have that. They wanted to make sure any property a priest had went to the Church, not to a priest’s children, so they came up with new rules. Clergy had to be celibate and have no families or children, and give their worldly goods to the RCC. The organization, not the priests, not their families, not the parishioners who might have benefited from having local priests who actually had marital and sexual experience so that they might act as useful counsels, was to get any property the priest might have. It’s all about the organization, the RCC. After all these years – it’s still rocked in financial scandal. It’s a business that peddles shame, guilt and fear, and then sells hope to cure it. It’s like a doctor giving you a drug that makes you sick, so he can give you another one to counter the effects of the first one.

  2. wirsiy miranda kinga Reply

    its all true …religious are not to be attarched to anything in this world even family EXCEPT GOD…Infact its a call to every christain.SO her reaction to the gift should not surprise you…its a decision and has to be respec
    ted just like when you decide to fast

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