Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

An end to the Vatican Bank? Or just better mood music for the Church?

Posted by Charles II on April 7, 2013

One of our commenters, Jim, provided three links on the issue of Pope Francis. Two (here and here) have to do with Cardinal Bergoglio’s sincerity in confronting the abuses of the Argentine Dirty War. The third has to do with the source of these comments, Father Campbell-Johnston.

Meanwhile, in the centrist Catholic press, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter gives a much more complimentary view of Pope Francis. Among one of the more interesting points is this:

Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, a close friend of Bergoglio who worked under him as an auxiliary in Buenos Aires for six years…

ticked off five such challenges:

“The use of money,” meaning not just balancing the Vatican’s budget, but making sure it’s clear where institutions such as the Vatican Bank get their money and what’s done with those funds.

(On that score, [“Federico Wals, a 32-year-old layman who served as Bergoglio’s spokesperson since 2007”] predicted Francis may actually close the Vatican Bank based on his history in Buenos Aires. When Bergoglio took over in the late 1990s, Wals said, the archdiocese was a part owner of several local banks. Bergoglio quickly sold those shares and put the church’s money into private banks as a normal client.)

I think this is really the key signal as to where Bergoglio is headed. The Vatican Bank is not only the source of repeated scandal, it is the proximate means by which the Vatican can meddle in politics in other countries. I had an extended discussion off the boards with someone knowledgeable about the Vatican banking history and pointed out that there are several ways by which the Vatican can privately shift funds into countries in which it wants to meddle. Owning one’s own bank, however, provides a definite advantage, assuming that one has the assent of the U.S. and can use electronic transfers on networks that the US controls.

8 Responses to “An end to the Vatican Bank? Or just better mood music for the Church?”

  1. If closing the bank is his plan, I hope he keeps it under his mitre until it’s time to act. Don’t want to see any more reformer popes found dead with copies of The Imitation of Christ in their hands.

  2. Stormcrow said

    The Vatican Bank is not only the source of repeated scandal, it is the proximate means by which the Vatican can meddle in politics in other countries.

    That is exactly why the Vatican will never close it down.

    There is no narcotic in this world more addicting than power politics, and the Church has been mainlining it ever since shortly after Milvian Bridge.

    I really cannot think of a better summation of what happened 1700 years ago then the one FDChief wrote, on his blog last year: Decisive Battles: Milvian Bridge 312 AD:

    From the fertile chaotic broth of the first centuries of Christian belief Constantine personifies what happens when a religion takes on the temporal power of a state. Cohen (1998) lays this out in detail:

    One of the first things Constantine does, as emperor, is start persecuting other Christians. The Gnostic Christians are targeted…and other dualist Christians. Christians who don’t have the Old Testament as part of their canon are targeted. The list of enemies goes on and on. There’s a kind of internal purge of the church as one emperor ruling one empire tries to have this single church as part of the religious musculature of his vision of a renewed Rome.

    The result is a Church, and a religion, that becomes more like the state that is is supposed to have taken and the Empire less like the Christ of the gospels; there is little interest in meekness and poverty, much in strength and wealth. This little anecdote by the same author is revealing:

    [T]here’s a beautiful mosaic in Ravenna, a city in northern Italy, which I routinely show my classes. It’s of a beautiful, very handsome, well muscled, beardless man. He’s dressed in a Roman officer’s uniform. And he’s stepping on the head of a lion, and he’s holding a standard. And the standard says in Latin, “I am the way. The truth. And the life.” And usually my students can’t read Latin and I say, “Who’s this a picture of?” And they guess, “The Roman Emperor.” But it’s not. It’s a picture of Jesus.

    And there you have it; the Jewish rabbi, who died on a criminal’s cross for preaching his Father’s insistence that true power and glory came from weakness, submission, and faith has become a resplendent soldier in the armor of conquest, bearing a standard instead of his cross.

    In victory the Christ becomes the crucifier, in glory the carpenter’s son trades his lathe for a sword and leaves the company of lepers and whores for the society of dukes and commanders.

    The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone in a military gate, and the projectile cast by a war engine.

    • Charles II said

      Thanks, Stormcrow. I always learn something new from your posts,

      As it happens, I am reading The Underground Church, which talks a little about how Constantine screwed up the Church.

      But as for intervening in politics, there are other ways that the Church can do it. As I pointed out to the person I was discussing this with, there’s no better money laundering system than the collection plate.

      • Yup. As so many preachers of various denominations have found.

      • Stormcrow said

        The problem with the collection plate is that it’s hard to scale up.

        This isn’t as much a problem with our native theocrats, since most of them are Protestant and Protestantism has never had anything like the Catholic Church, crushing them back into line.

        Can you really point to anything in Protestant history like the Albigensian Crusade? Didn’t think so. The Church made an example out of the Albigensians that kept everybody else toeing the party line, right up until the Wars of Religion.

        The bosses had had enough of Nicky. They had enough. How much were they gonna take? So, they made an example of him and his brother. They buried them while they were still breathing.

        But absent that sort of organization, the Protestant sects were, and are, all over the place. There are thousands of them.

        Collectively, you don’t want to take them on; they’re liable to swarm you. See Chapter IV of The Prince for a discussion of the problem, when encountered in a classical military context.

        But individually, no single one of them needs the cashflow the Roman Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion adherents and its top-down hierarchy, has come to depend upon.

      • Charles II said

        Stormcrow asks, “Can you really point to anything in Protestant history like the Albigensian Crusade?”

        The genocide against Native Americans was very much like that. While it was not explicitly conducted as a crusade, and was driven largely by economic motives, there was a theological basis to it. The Catholics took an early lead in the mass murder, but that slowed with the Laws of Burgos. American Protestants were much more thorough, including the invention of the Black Legend, which made it seem that the Catholics were the worse.

        I’ll concede that the Catholic Church is generally more organized than the Protestant sects, but Protestants have their share of things to answer for.

  3. Stormcrow said

    When you went over my reasoning you answered the wrong question. The Albigensian Crusade was undertaken to discourage schism; it was an internal measure to suppress a faction within the Church which may have calved away a whole new orgainzation in another hundred years,

    Protestant sects, while they have issues with other sects, generally do not feel themselves compelled to bring the miscreants back into the fold, instead, they simply fission at that point.

    As far as the thrust of my argument is concerned, “things to answer for” are not significant items in themselves. What’s significant is the permitted amount of centripetal force tending to split out sects. The RC Church makes a point of keeping this as low as possible; the Protestants just don’t care.

    Result: One big monolithic Catholic Church and thousands of Protestant sects.

    So the sects can use vehicles for graft that wouldn’t yield the RC Church as much, or as predictably or efficiently, as what they have in place right now.

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