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An Invitation to Pope Francis: Change the Money Culture of the Catholic Church Before Asking the World to Change.
I'm waiting for your response, Pope Francis... and my plane.
Matthew 7:1 - Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged.
The headline was a dose of hypocrisy too colossal for me to swallow:
“Pope Francis condemns global cult of money: Catholic leader urges world leaders to do more to help the poor”.
The article, published by Al Jazeera on 16 May 2013 (along with every major news service) (the link is available at the bottom of this article) went on to state:
“…Pope Francis has called on world leaders to put an end to the "cult of money" and to do more to help the poor, warning that insecurity was rising in many regions of the world and the "joy of life" was diminishing in developed countries.
"The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal," Francis said in an address to ambassadors to the Vatican on Thursday…”
By no means am I a religious man. I believe in divinity, but certainly not in a form prescribed by any text I have read – and I have read the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran. I’m not a Catholic, but I have some Catholic relatives. I confess to having never attended a confessional, at least not my own. I also admit that I found merit in the arguments of English biologist Richard Dawkins as set forth in his book entitled “The God Delusion”. In another time, I would be labeled as a heretic and likely burned at the stake to save my immortal soul. These days, I’m allowed to write my heresy on the Internet. I make these admissions as an open statement of my bias, being to logic over dogma. To those who believe, I respect your choice. All I ask is that you read these words with an open mind.
In the early 2000’s, I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe. It was my first time on the southern tip of that continent and I made my way from Faro, Portugal to Porto. During my journey, I encountered my first real experience of Catholic dominated culture. While there were many positive experiences, something left an indelibly negative impression on me in a small town between Faro and Porto. The town itself was a dilapidated place. It featured prominent buildings from another age that told of a history of affluence. However, these structures had fallen into a state of disrepair. The faces of the people told a different tale, most had never seen a day of prosperity in their lives. It seemed that Portugal’s colonial days had passed long before their time. In the shadow of a church that was erected in the town square, homeless people gathered and asked for charity. We entered the church that day. It was an immaculate building inside, beautified with works of art and preserved without compromise. Inside its walls there were many ancient relics, and each told a tale of the church’s history. Many of those relics were adorned with precious metals and jewels. It was an impressive and terrible sight. So much beauty within, yet so much unalleviated suffering without. On my way out, I ignored the charity box and gave what little I could spare to an elderly woman outside.
Over a decade later, I was visiting my cousin in Hannover, Germany. He told me a sad tale over a glass of ale that he looked like he desperately needed. His father, a German citizen and Catholic by birth, had some time ago objected to paying a tax that is levied on all Catholics in Germany by the Catholic Church via the government. It was levied at 9% of his income, and in addition to taxes payable to the state, he simply could not afford to pay the Catholic Church and keep his family financially secure. So out of necessity he objected to the tax and did not pay it. While he was not pursued by the state for failing to pay his ‘Catholic tax’, his family was made to pay in another way. My cousin told me with tears in his eyes that his father had suffered a fatal heart attack. In the days after, despite trying every Catholic Church within proximity to the cemetery, he could not find a priest willing to perform the burial rites for his father. As a consequence, he was buried without a prayer, save for the one made by his grieving family.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch - laughing all the way to the bank.
I was shocked when I heard the tale. I simply did not believe him. I found it inconceivable that any institution of faith could be so completely compromised by money as to refuse such a plea for assistance. So I did my research. Sadly, I confirmed his statements as being true. The priests contacted by my cousin did refuse to perform the service that day. The refusal was in line with the instructions of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Germany. Zollitsch decreed that not paying taxes for the Catholic Church is a grave spiritual offense, and sacraments will be banned for those who distance themselves from the church in this manner. As a consequence, in 2011 the Catholic Church gathered $6.5 billion in taxes from Catholics in Germany and yet could not afford to perform the burial rights for my poor cousin’s father. (A link to a news article confirming Zollitsch's decree and the tax revenues in 2011 is available at the end of this article).
So it seems that the path to heaven comes at a price if you are Catholic and German. I wonder what Jesus would have to say about that? Didn’t he throw the money lenders from the temple in Jerusalem in an iconic demonstration of how money and faith do not mix? Did he not eschew material gain in the spirit of giving to his fellow man? Tell me, Pope Francis, what do you have to say about that? What exactly is the difference between the secular world’s “cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal” and the behaviour of Catholic Church in the example of my cousin’s father? Is refusing to grant burial rights to a deceased Catholic in front of his grieving family because he did not pay the Catholic Church not about the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any true human goal? Why should the world change its behaviour on the strength of your decree when you do not change such behaviour in your own house?
There is a colossal difference between the examples set by Jesus and the modern Catholic Church. Jesus actually practiced what he preached. Pope Francis expects believers to practice what the Catholic Church won’t. In secular circles, such behaviour is called hypocrisy. If the next coming of Jesus was to happen tomorrow, I would expect a repeat within the Vatican of what occurred in the temples of Jerusalem all those years ago.
Here is a message on behalf of all the deceased German Catholics who lie interred and unblessed: Shame, Pope Francis, shame.
Al Jazeera article: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/05/201351616303447140.html