Can I throw away religious 'junk mail'?

Q:I receive, on a daily basis, mailings from multiple religious organizations requesting monetary help. Often they include address labels, holy pictures, prayers cards, etc.

I feel guilty just trashing them, so I collect them and when the pile gets big, I mail it to one of the organizations, hoping that they will know how to dispose of them. But this gets costly and, as a senior citizen, I have a limited income. Please let me know what I can do. (Cranbury, N.J.)

A: I know exactly what you are talking about because I get these mailings myself - dozens of them. What I do is this: Occasionally, if I like a particular prayer card, I pull it out and keep it for future reference. Once in a while, I send a small financial donation if I think the organization is particularly worthy. But most of the time, I simply throw the whole packet in the wastebasket.

Nearly always, the sponsoring organization is doing worthy work - often missionary activity - and this is one of the few ways they have of raising funds. But you are certainly within your rights, both legally and morally, in disposing of the material. You never requested these items, and they are not blessed.

To expect the recipient, especially an elderly person of modest means, to bear the cost of returning them would be unreasonable and unfair. (One alternative, I suppose, would be to offer such items to your local parish for use in their catechetical program, but you are not bound to make that effort.)

What you might want to do is to write a quick note to each of the sending organizations saying something like this, "I know that you do good work, and I appreciate it, but I no longer wish to receive mailings from your organization. Please remove my name from your address list.")

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016