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Home : Faith/Spirituality : The Question Box
2/19/2016 3:13:00 PM
Selling religious goods not same as simony

Deacon Owen Cummings

Q — Our nonprofit thrift store receives donations of religious articles such as rosaries, Bibles, medals, crucifixes, etc. I have heard that it is not permissible to sell items that are blessed. If this is true, how would one know if something has been blessed? If we shouldn’t sell these items, what should be done with them? Some are quite valuable monetarily, i.e., rosaries with gemstones.

A — Thank you for this question. It shows an appropriate sensitivity concerning the sale of religious goods, especially those which may have been blessed. Catholics have a long-standing tradition of having rosaries, Bibles, medals, crucifixes, statues and other religious images blessed by a priest, as in fact you note. We also have a long-standing tradition of avoiding the sin that has come to be known as simony. Simony is the sin of selling church offices and roles. It is called “simony” after Simon Magus, described in Acts 8:9-24 as offering money to St. Peter and St. John so that they would provide him with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The term “simony” thus came to mean more broadly selling spiritual things for money. A blessed religious article such as those described in the list above is a material reality used for spiritual purposes. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with selling such religious goods or articles for money in your nonprofit thrift store.

There is no way for you to know if these articles are blessed or not. Even if they have been blessed at some point, it is not the blessing that you are selling but the material entity. You are not trafficking in spiritual goods. If selling these goods at a modest and appropriate profit lends itself to helping the less fortunate – one of the reasons why nonprofit thrift stores exist – then that becomes a good thing itself.

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