Trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, violence, assault and other religious fuckwittery
Back in 2012 (yes, this blog has existed forever), I wrote about our favourite National Politician, George Christensen, forgetting the history of the Catholic Church while he was defending it. It’s pretty funny (it’s not) that he hasn’t said anything about the goodness of the Catholic Church since, given all the morally reprehensible things that have come to light since.
This post is mostly going to focus on Western Catholicism, specifically the churches in Northern America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Churches of the colonisers and settler states.
I’m separating this post into multiple sections because a) it’s taking so long to write, and b) it’ll take WAY too long to read.
There is a reason that I am writing this blog post today versus any other time, and that is because I have spent the last 3 months hating the Catholic Church more than I have ever hated it before, and today with news that US Catholic Church dioceses have started publishing names of Priests (and sometimes dates, churches, etc) who have been involved in child sex abuse (and I acknowledge the adults who have been sexually abused and are rarely discussed), I’ve just overflowed with rage. So here is a blog post of shit that the Catholic Church has pulled that has infuriated me recently.
I’m starting with wealth because I think this is where root of all the problems of the Church lay. The Catholic Church, in their centuries of amassing amazing amounts of wealth, seems to have forgotten the following:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.1 Timothy 6:10 (New International Version (Bible))
There is no forgetting that the Catholic Church is an incredibly wealthy organisation. No matter how much some religious orders talk about vows of poverty, the whole church is literally rolling in wealth. Sure most of that money is tied up in property, precious metal artefacts, and art, but it has billions and billions of dollars worth of stuff that they’re just sitting on.
If we just look at Australia, the ABC recently calculated how much wealth the Catholic Church has, and it’s estimated to be around $30 billion. That is a lot, and that’s for an organisation in Australia that has only operated for just over 200 years. That’s for an organisation that has a few precious artefacts and artworks, but mostly has an epic fuck tonne (imperial because it’s bigger) of property.
The Catholic Church in New South Wales was also responsible for the Ellis defence:
Ellis sued Duggan, the trustees of the Roman Catholic church for the archdiocese of Sydney, and Cardinal George Pell, but the NSW court of appeal found Pell and the trustees were not proper defendants in the proceedings. It ruled the trustees didn’t control Duggan and weren’t responsible for his conduct, and couldn’t be sued.
The upshot of the defence was that as Catholic Churches and other institutions were unincorporated, no one was specifically responsible for the actions of priests and others who assaulted and abused people, and so they couldn’t be sued. This was recently undone by new legislation in NSW (as per the link above).
Also think about how each week the Catholic Church collects money from its parishioners, which used to (in Australia) go towards funding Catholic education, but which now goes to… goodness knows, and Catholic Schools now charge exorbitant fees for the privilege of indoctrinating children and maintaining the right to sack staff (of those schools) that demonstrate values that differ from Catholicism, like unwed mothers, being outed as LGBTIQ, etc.
So that’s just Australia, the Catholic Church globally is dripping in money. There are certainly poorer dioceses in the developing world, but collectively the Catholic Church has so much money that it doesn’t even know how to not fuck it up. What do I mean by fucking it up? They have their own bank, and have (probably for centuries) allowed money laundering through it. The first conviction into money laundering was at the end of 2018, and only after the Pope in 2010 decided to enact laws to make it a crime. Well done everyone for that.
What does the Catholic Church do with all its money? It could certainly end global poverty if it wanted to. It could offer free education to everyone who wanted it. It could distribute medicine and health-care to the poor and disadvantaged. It could properly compensate those who have been abused by the Church or its institutions.
The Catholic Church is a big employer. It has all those priests, nuns and brothers, general lay assistants and administrators, teachers, nurses, doctors, etc etc to pay. So sure, some of this money is going towards salaries, but then again, given that a lot of stuff the church provides (education and hospitals as two big examples) are user pays or are partly funded by the State (in Australia at least), there are less salary burdens than you’d think.
There is upkeep of the MILLIONS of buildings that the church owns. It always disgusts me when I’m travelling through Europe that I have to pay anywhere between EUR1 and EUR25 to go inside so many churches and look around. There are many that are free, but an amazing number that aren’t. Where does that money go? Why is the Catholic Church, which is worth billions and billions of dollars asking for more money from people? Is there really a need to have a church on every other corner? Couldn’t some of them be sold to maintain others? Yeah, tourists are made of money, and will spend money to experience things (that’s partly what tourism is about), but the Catholic Church isn’t gaining any converts by being greedy.
The Church could also sell its MASSIVE art collection, including the wealth plundered from the New World. No one needs hundreds (probably thousands) of gold chalices inlaid with precious stones. Even if god did exist, there is no need for Jesus’s blood to be any more precious in a golden chalice than a plastic cup. So many church museums in Europe have this shit on display. It’s not used. Surely a handful is enough, and the rest can be melted down and used for good instead of used for nothing.
And when you think about where a lot of these precious items came from it starts to get a bit awful.
Pillaging the rest of the world – and your own faithful
Today governments in Europe are actual governments and not monarchies (for the most part) and there is a much clearer separation between Church and State. This is all relatively new, as both Spain and Ireland can attest to. The Catholic Church has a view that it should be the official religion of the State, despite this being 2018, and despite a multitude of different beliefs throughout the globe. (That link just there is fairly eye opening, I recommend a read).
If we step back 200 years and earlier, when Catholicism was the official state religion of many countries, where missionaries converted by the sword, where indulgences (the ability to buy your way out of purgatory) was a thing, and where tithing (giving 10% of your income) to the church was rigidly enforced.
Oh… tithing is still a thing. I just found out with the research I was doing to back up my point that the Church expected everyone to give them money to avoid being excommunicated (nice blackmail there), that some countries around the world still assist the Church with tithing through taxes. Here is the Wikipedia page on that. Other governments, like the Australian and US Governments, give the Catholic Church money for them to provide services, education, health, aged care, homelessness shelters, youth work, etc. So they get money anyway, whether it be from their congregants or the government. If they have so much money, why do they need more?
Back in the days of compulsory tithing, and the belief that if you gave the church enough money that any time that you might spend in purgatory would be reduced, people gave huge amounts of money and food and other stuff to the Church. This included royalty and the nobility, who had even more money and more reasons to want to spend less time in purgatory. So when Europe discovered parts of the world that other people already lived in, they stole gold and silver, often quite horribly (Columbus was known for cutting off the hands of Taíno people who could not provide him with the gold he demanded, so they’d bleed to death and the Spanish genocide of the Incan empire).
People got rich, they might have felt slightly guilty and paid for indulgences, but they certainly were required to tithe to the church, and so the church got richer, and was able to pay for monstrances such as the above one in silver (which is so gross by the way), reliquaries, chalices, and way too much bling for statues. Bigger and more impressive churches were built to show how big and impressive the god of pillaging and murder was… The “age of discovery” went hand in hand with the age of genocide, theft, and dishonesty.
Not that dishonesty and lying for Jesus were new things for the Catholic Church. It had been busy lying for centuries about pretty much everything, so this was nothing new, just yet another attempt to cement their power through conspicuous displays of wealth. Travel to any European city that was a colonial power and check out the paintings of the clergy and saints. Well fed, satisfied individuals all of them.
Next in the series
There is a lot more ground to cover. Other topics include:
- Lying for Jesus
- Child (and adult) sexual abuse and rape
- HIV/AIDS and contraception
- Reproductive rights
- Spanish Civil War
- Catholic Church in Ireland
- Spanish Inquisition and other witch hunts
- Heretics and burning them at stakes