More Money than God?

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During the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said that “that the pursuit of money and success is pointless” and that those who seek “success, career or money are building on sand” [1].

These are remarkable words coming from one of the wealthiest institution on Earth: The Catholic Church!

Let’s look at the numbers shall we:

In 2007, the church made a whopping $79.8 million dollars from donations alone! [2] Here is a breakdown of the biggest contributors according to the Vatican:

United States: $18.7m
Italy: $8.6m
Germany $4m
Spain: $2.7m
France: $2.4m
Ireland: $2.2m
Brazil: $1.4m
South Korea: $1.1m

Keep in mind that this in only donated money. It does not include revenue from television, radio, newspaper, tourism, the selling of religious artifacts, and real estate. Not sure what the total number is, but we can be more than confidents that it’s a substantial sum.

Now, in order to get an idea of just how wealthy this church is, let’s look at what it has paid out in sex abuse scandals during the last 10 years:

  • December 2003: $100 million to sex abuse lawsuit brought by 87 plaintiffs
  • June 2005: $35 million to 33 victims
  • August 2005: $56 million to 56 people
    December 2006: $60 million to settle to 45 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests
  • January 2007: $48 million as compensation to people abused by priests
  • July 2007: Record-breaking pay-out of $660 million to settle 508 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests
  • September 2007: $198 million to settle 144 claims of sexual abuse by clergy
  • March 2010: $166.1 million to Native Americans sexually abused by US priests

This is a total of roughly $1.3 billion dollars, just using the little information that I’ve been afforded [3].

And it gets better, because according to a BBC News article; they are calling on “churchgoers to increase what they put in the collection plate” [4].

So, here we have an extremely wealthy institution, whose profits have been hit by the sex abuse scandals and the economic crisis and they have the audacity to ask for more money from its members. And this is exactly what churchgoers have been doing despite all the abuse of children by catholic priests.

“After hundreds of incidents of priests sexually abusing their parishioners were disclosed in 2002 in the U.S., fundraising by bishops and parishes went up, said Claude Harris, a Seattle-based expert on Catholic finance and author of ‘The Cost of Catholic Parishes and Schools’”.

“During a period when things were extremely negative, annual appeal and offertory collections increased,” said Harris.

Pledged gifts to bishops’ appeals and offertory contributions from parishioners in the U.S., where churches are financed by voluntary donations more than anywhere else in the world, rose 18.8 percent to $7.7 billion in the four years after allegations of abuse in Boston emerged in 2002, according to the most recently available data from the International Catholic Stewardship Council in Washington.

On average, each of the 22 million registered Catholic households gave $317 in 2006, according to Harris’s analysis of survey data from the stewardship council. That’s almost $7 billion dollars in donations alone for that one year!

There is not a Catholic bishop on this planet who drives a smaller car or does his own laundry or takes fewer vacations or has suffered any tangible consequences. Instead, it’s the churchgoers who are literally paying for the sex abuse bills!

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who is disgusted with all this; even the faithful are starting to question this “business practice”. Roberta Colucci, an Italian kindergarten teacher sums up my feelings: “I can honestly say I have never been so disgusted,” she said. “When I think of such an abuse of trust, it really makes my skin crawl. That is why I am really questioning for the first time where my money goes. I don’t want them to have access to a cent that I earn.” [5]

And now for the clincher:

In 2008, after the end of a week-long training seminar in Rome for priests aimed at encouraging a revival of the practice of confession – or the Sacrament of Penance in Church jargon, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti [the Vatican’s number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance] updated the traditional seven deadly sins by adding seven modern mortal sins it claims are becoming prevalent. [6]

Among the new “modern mortal sins” is the accumulating excessive wealth!!

Oh, the hypocrisy…

Just so we are all clear on what happens to sinners, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell”.

Even Father Gerald O’Collins, former professor of moral theology at the Papal University in Rome, and teacher of many of the Catholic Church’s current top Cardinals and Bishops, welcomed the new catalogue of modern sins!

If you walk away with anything from reading this article, please remember these two points:

1) The sin of accumulating excess wealth only applies if you are not the church.

2) Quite literally, the church has more money than “God”!

Thanks for reading,

Notes:

1. Pope criticizes pursuit of wealth http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7654878.stm

2. Weak US dollar hits papal profits http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7501486.stm

3. Timeline: US Church sex scandal http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3872499.stm

4. Faith Diary: ‘Open your wallet’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8149797.stm

5. Catholic Donors Give While Priests Abuse Children http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601101&sid=a69DY8u8r5Kw

6. Fewer confessions and new sins http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7287071.stm

7. US Jesuits agree to school sex abuse pay-out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12868046

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