Unholy Wealth: It’s only the beginning
The Age special investigation by Royce Millar, Ben Schneiders and Chris Vedelago into Catholic Inc has unleashed a storm of controversy about the stinginess of the Church in response to child sex abuse victims. It is a valuable piece of research that justifiably triggers strong emotions in the largely irreligious Australian population.
The image of a vastly wealthy institution lying about its wealth in court to protect itself from the compensation claims of innocent victims of rape perpetrated by its officials is inflammatory in the extreme. It is, however, a distraction from the fundamental distortions of moral principle that typify the status of the church in our society.
The list is long:
- There is the hypocrisy of the church deliberately lying.
- There is the hypocrisy of the church worshipping money.
- Then there is the complex and fraught issue of the tax free status of religion.
- Then there is the blatant placing of the church above the law by its most senior officers in public, without any shame, regret or attempt at explanation.
- On top of that there is the complicity of the state which pays the church billions of dollars to provide welfare services even though it has been extensively proven that the church committed institutional and systemic abuse and exploitation of the weak and vulnerable in those very welfare services.
While nearly all of these are mentioned in the Age special report, they are simply referred to as part of building the general case that the church gets special privileges that it may not deserve. This article argues that each of these items deserves focused consideration.
Millar, Schneiders and Velago extensively document the nature of the lies and the methods used to fabricate them. The church deliberately misled the courts and parliaments or refused to provide the information necessary to determine its wealth. There is no point in carrying out this subterfuge unless it is to protect that wealth. The act of lying about that wealth implicitly proves that the church is acting to protect and nurture that wealth from the interests of the state in which it operates.
Timothy writes of the duty of servants and masters to behave themselves in the interests of a stable society. He lectures servants on hating good masters and masters on coveting wealth.
Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
Timothy 6:10. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Much of the basis of the 400 year old protestant revolution was based on the sin of the church in being too focused on wealth. This is not a new problem but it needs to be restated a thousand times.
The relationship between church and state is long and complex.
Traditionally the priest caste and the warrior caste performed different roles in society and often came to loggerheads. Jared Diamond in Collapse presents the demise of Easter Island, as just such a tussle. The failure of crops due to overpopulation was blamed on the weakness of the priest caste and so the warrior caste rose to prominence and directed the energy of the people into building its famous stone monuments.
Tom Holland in Rubicon and The Shadow of the Sword describes Rome as perfecting the use of religion as a cheaper tool for subduing populations than force. To have people willingly submit to the state as a divine protector is a handy form of social management.
He extends the notion in Millenium, describing the pact between a struggling church and a rampant force of land dwelling vikings (the northmen, norsemen, Normans) who used the recently discovered stirrup to mount armed raids on a defenceless public and rape and pillage medieval Europe into a blackened mess. By redirecting their energy into the Crusades and promising them wealth on Earth and everlasting accolades in heaven a string of actors from the Abbot of Cluny to Charlemagne founded Christian Europe on a very clear alliance between Church and State.
The separation of Church and State is a concept born in the Enlightenment in an attempt to relegate the Church to a less central position of power. The fact that the Church developed, refined and continues to use every weapon in its arsenal to resist that relegation should hardly surprise us.
We cannot and must not dismiss the notion of taxing the church as impossible or unreasonable not can we underestimate the power and fury with which the church will resist any such attempts.
This is not a simple decision that will be made by a mail order plebiscite, this is a tooth and claw battle that has fuelled many civil wars in the past and is likely to do so in the future.
The current level of debate on this topic is a long way from taking this dangerous, historical dimension into account. /religious-tax-exemption-protects-the-state/
Given the history just outlined, the church naturally assumes a special relationship with the law. Kings ruled by the Grace of God at the whim of the pope. The protestant refusal to pay taxes to the church and await a papal blessing on the choice of spouse is still viewed within the church as a particular characteristic of a certain period of history rather than as the rightful relationship between church and state.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s reserves plenty of room for interpretation about exactly where that line lies.
What is interesting in the alt-right context of 2018 is to compare this with the hysteria around the nature of Sharia law as it is practiced in countries like Saudi Arabia. The alt right feed and fuel the fear that our unholy military alliance with such evil bastards might allow their creepy zealotry to infest and overwhelm our precious democracy. In truth, the enemy is within. It is our own existing religious institutions, especially the Catholic Church, who put themselves above the law and would “prefer to go to jail that inform the police of the [criminal] activities of a priest.” Yes, our democracy is fragile, but it is not immigration that threatens it, it is corruption in the upper echelons of society.
And so to the unholiest alliance of all.
In the name of economic rationalism, modern neoliberal governments attempt to outsource welfare and willingly hand over billions to the churches who are well organised, have the real estate, the workers and the financial framework to deal with those members of society who are not productive participants in the money generating machine.
The fact that the churches all have a notion of the deserving poor, make moral judgements about who should and should not receive that welfare and are more concerned with building and protecting their institutions than in servicing their clients means nothing to the bureaucrats. It is simply handy to get those inconvenient numbers off the books and get on with the business of running “the economy”.
More relevantly, these institutions have been proven to be organised crime syndicates systematically nurturing and protecting rapists and paedophiles. Worse, they blatantly deny any responsibility for compensating the victims or preventing future re-occurences of this criminal behaviour.
Despite this, our governments assume that we will continue to accept the churches as the relevant institutions to teach our children, protect our orphans, feed and clothe the poor and homeless and find work for the damaged and under employed.
At the same time, hardworking secular organisations are branded as advocates and lobbyists and punished for their activism by having their funding removed.
That specific argument is presented in detail in an earlier editions of the Cross. /criminal-gangs/
and so …
It is critical that we act. The heat generated by this worthy investigation into the unholy wealth of this criminal organisation can and should be harnessed to call for fundamental change. We must be ready to back the secular organisations that offer alternatives to church welfare and we must stand up to our pious and self serving politicians that will pay lip service to the cause but fundamentally protect their backsides from the heat of a furious dragon protecting its gold.
Above all we must be prepared to face the truth. The church is not a protector of our morals or a force for good. It is a dark and secretive institution designed to prey on the billions of its members to accumulate vast wealth and wield vast power. We must be prepared to fight it no matter how hard that is.