Last week the Los Angeles archdiocese, the nationâ€™s largest Roman Catholic district of churches announced it had agreed to pay $60 million to settle 45 lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests. This is the second largest Catholic sex scandal payout in California, behind the Diocese of Orangeâ€™s 2004 agreement to pay $100 million to settle 90 abuse claims. It is estimated that allegations of sexual abuse has cost the U.S. Roman Catholic Church at least $1.5 billion since the time abuse scandals became public knowledge. Equal to my concern for the victims, are the answers to these questions; where does the Catholic Church get the money to pay out lawsuits and why do they have so much money in the first place?
It is hard to say how much the Catholic Church and all its districts are worth. Diocese officials citing their First Amendment right to religious freedom, often decline to disclose details about church finances. Why? Because the same governing actions that deny and bury the truth involved in the sex scandals are involved in the financial practices of the church. The Catholic Church has been known to falsify their holdings. Past investigations have found that church authorities keep records of real estate properties at the book value instead of current market value. The Stockton diocese, for example, in 1998 valued its multimillion-dollar cathedral at $28,000, the cost to build it in 1942. It is also public knowledge that despite the visible holdings of lavish cathedrals, headquarters, schools, beachfront retreats, stately mansions, golf courses, and television and radio stations, during litigations the Catholic Church over and over again claims poverty as the reason why they canâ€™t pay lawsuits or why they need to considerably reduce the settlement amounts. Dig deeper and you will find the Roman Catholic Church operates and profits from seemly separate companies ranging from fast food franchises to separate non-profit organizations. Remember the Brad Pitt movie, Meet Joe Black? This film was shot at the Aldrich Mansion on Narragansett Bay, one of the 220 corporate subsidiaries of the Roman Catholic diocese of Providence. The film took six weeks to film on a property that charges $3000 to hold a baby shower there â€“ do the math, where is all this money going? If a church can boldly ask for money from its supporters, shouldnâ€™t it be expected to go to reasonable operational expenses and charitable causes?
At this point it may surprise you to know I am a Christian who goes to one the largest and wealthiest Presbyterian churches in the nation. I give my offering of money and work towards giving more. Why? â€“ Because I believe in the church as a whole and the value of the information I receive there even if I donâ€™t always agree with it. A relationship with a church is similar to an intimate relationship with the person you choice as your partner. It is not perfect and it will upset you, yet if you choice to stay in it for a length of time it will force you to grow and learn. Having faith is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence but in order to have it you have to challenge man. Just because a man or woman identifies themselves as a member of a certain church it does not mean they have the best interest of God at hand. Faith in God is not the cause or excuse of unspeakable crimes and misfortunes, humankind and the governing actions it creates that are rooted in fear, control and an urgency to be right are. Life on earth evolves faster each passing year, nothing is black and white, to keep up you have to be willing to learn and not be discouraged when you reach something you can not understand. I think Pope Benedict XVI was hinting to this in his first letter to the Catholic Church in December of 2005.
At the time of its release, one might expect Pope Benedict XVI to address the sex scandals but he ignored his persistent peers and released an encyclical titled â€œDeus Caritas Estâ€ which translates to â€œGod is Love.â€ The complexity and at times poetic beauty of this document was lost in controversy amongst the Catholic Church. Why? Because it screams to all of them that they are missing the point,that their faith should be grounded in love over everything else. The Catholic Church is layered in governing doctrines that contradict Christianity as a whole. Considering it is the largest assembly of the Christian faith, it is no wonder why so many people are either against or are not interested in the teachings of Christianity. Personally, I believe the world would benefit tremendously if the entire Roman Catholic Church was disbanded and reassembled by young theologians who are not jaded by the politics of the organization.
The irony to all of this is the church teaches us not to make money our idol yet â€œIn God We Trustâ€ is printed on our currency. I wonder, can we grasp definitive answers without closing the door to knowledge that comes from complex exploration of the unknown?
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 Stephanie Michele
In God We Trust
Copyright © 2010 Stephanie Michele
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