Last week, several news outlets were all buzzing about Pope Francis marking the start of his third year as leader of the Catholic Church.
When I saw this, a question popped into my head that often does when considering fundamentalists or other religious zealots. So, why would I not ask this when considering the leader of one of the largest religious groups on the planet.
For arguments’ sake, let us pretend that the Bible does actually contain the unchallenged, inerrant word of the Abrahamic god. If we look at sections like John 21, where Jesus asks Peter to be the leader of the church, we can conclude that being the Pope means caring for people; tending to the “flock” of followers.
Jesus, according to the gospel accounts, came not for the righteous but the sinners (Mark 2:17). This also meant those who were ill and destitute (Matthew 5:3, from the beatitudes). Jesus told a rich man to give up his wealth and follow him (Luke 12:33), and he even asked those that followed him, his disciples, to give up their jobs and follow him (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel of Luke, that meant receiving support from the female disciples (and yes, there were many of them).
All this is to make a point; the person who leads the Catholic faith does little to actually support the destitute, and, instead, redistributes the wealth within the empire of Catholicism. All the while using small measures to save face.
A nice effort, and it is touching, but unless he is showing up with clothes, food, offers of shelter, or anything else to support them, he may as well be showing up with a copy of the Fellowship of the Ring to read to them and a stick of deodorant to help with their hygiene. In other words, it does little to actually help those in need.
One might be inclined to say “Well, he feeds the hungry!” If you mean the event where he invited four homeless men (and one of their dogs) to the Vatican for his birthday, that is hardly feeding the homeless.
Had he shared a meal with all the homeless in Vatican City, I might be inclined to think otherwise. However, this looks like a poor attempt at good publicity. Especially when, in Rome alone there are about 3,200 homeless people, of the approximate 48,000 in Italy alone, asking four to a birthday meal is a ridiculously minute effort. But hey, at least he gave 400 of the homeless people in Vatican City sleeping bags. Because sleeping on the street is no big deal, as long as you have a sleeping bag.
Francis did set up three shower stalls (yes, a total of three) for the homeless to use. And it seemed like a great idea, as all the homeless nearby started to flock to Vatican City to live. However, the owners of local businesses, asking to remain anonymous when interviewed for news outlets so they would not upset the Pope, reported a large increase in petty crime, people sleeping in front of their shops and deterring business, and, to top it all off, excrement everywhere.Yes, because of the showers, there has been a pilgrimage of the homeless to Vatican City that has resulted in it being covered in shit. I am not sure if Jesus would be disgusted, delighted due to the Vatican’s bastardization of his message (according to the gospels, assuming they are correct) or, because of his upbringing in the peasant town of Nazareth, feel more at home.
Now, the Vatican manages roughly 7.3 billion USD, according to financial experts. So what does it do with all this money? The bank that manages the finances of the Vatican, the Institute for the Works of Religion, assures the public that it donates heavily to charities.
It is too bad that those charities are often fake and, instead, go to political causes, laundering and embezzlement. Even under the last Pope, in 2012, four cardinals were caught laundering money for the Mafia. The. Mafia.
The few charities that the Vatican is not opaque about go to missionaries that are working for the Church anyway. Still, a year ago a bishop from Germany built a 35.3 million USD housing complex, and a 2.2 million dollar mansion on his property using money donated to the Church. But do not worry for a second; he said he was regretful of his actions and apologized for such frivolous spending.
The Vatican is also sending its pastoral team to management school; taking finance classes to ensure they are keeping their finances in check. They have become so concerned about the future of their finances that the classes have actually become overbooked; even classes starting in the next season are overbooked. Perhaps this is another concern, to add to the mountain of concerns, about where all their money is being invested.
A short time ago, when a homeless man was buried in the Vatican cemetery, a right usually reserved for bishops, Francis said he wants a “poor church, for the poor”.
What is remarkable is that Francis, and the church, had no involvement or planning made in the burial (it was insisted on and payed for by a “German-speaking” family), but that the Vatican remains today to be involved in any movement to truly help the destitute; the poor.
Especially after the slight few instances where Francis has barely even scratched the surface with being generous, especially with the means that the Vatican has, it is downright disgusting for him to even make such remarks as he has about helping the poor.
Like Sarah Silverman stated, we should consider selling the Vatican to help feed the world. If for no other reason other than it would have been what Jesus would have wanted.