The Vatican’s decadent hypocrisy

By Kyle Young

Few have ever credited the Vatican with having a spotless past. Over the past few years the world heard Pope John Paul II apologize for several past lapses of conscience in the leadership of the Catholic Church. What must now be questioned is the worth of these apologies as the Church continues into Christianity’s third millennium. To what extent should we forgive the Church as they continue to follow actions inherently opposed to the fundamentals of their own religion?

When the Pope visited President Bush in late July, his message was a plea to forgive the debts of the impoverished Third World nations in an effort to encourage development. While most will acknowledge that debt relief is an important step in helping impoverished nations recover and institute badly needed social reforms, a question few seem to be asking is why institutions such as the Church and specifically the Vatican do not contribute their financial assets to this cause.

While visiting the Vatican, one learns many interesting things about the rich history behind its ever-impressive architecture and art collection. One of the most interesting details you might overhear is the fact that the Catholic Church has the ability to pay off the debts of the 15 poorest nations in the world, while retaining a comfortably large sum for themselves. So why don’t they?

Why does a religion based on the ideals of charity and love retain some of the most ornate, elaborate, costly and frivolous possessions in existence while billions of fellow humans around the world suffer needlessly in conditions that could be remedied by the simple redistribution of the Church’s wealth?

Gold décor and candle holders are certainly not a prerequisite for worshipping of the Catholic God. Nor for that matter are the gold chalices, collection trays or other religious paraphernalia. Did Jesus ever clad himself in large gold chains like some would be "gangsta rapper?" Did Jesus ever command the construction of large and intricate houses of worship, with a nice little gift shop for the tourists? If not, then why has the Vatican done so itself? Jesus remained humble and relatively impoverished the entire length of his recorded life. So why does the Pope not follow his example?

Perhaps the answer is the Church would be rather wary of the idea of an audit. With speculation abound of the Vatican’s involvement in the liquidation of at least half a million Croatians during the Second World War, and suspicious links between the wealth the Croatians stored in Swiss banks and an increase of capital in Rome, we might wonder that perhaps it is shame over their past actions that led the Vatican to refrain from following their own advice.

The greatest test the Church will face in the coming century will not be the increasing secularism of the Western world or the scandals of the Croatian Bishops of the Holocaust, but whether or not it has the courage to put its money where its mouth is and do its part for the Third World.

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