mercoledì 22 settembre 2010

Pecunia non "Holy"

The head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, has been placed under investigation for money-laundering. Italian financial authorities have seized 23 million euros from an account in the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR). The Vatican responded saying that it was perplexed and astonished by the case.

Vatican is breaking legislation that obliges banks to disclose information about their operations. More than a year ago, Italian investigators have been scrutinizing Vatican transactions worth billions of euros that transgressed money laundering rules. Vatican has used the bank as a screen to hide crimes such as fraud or tax evasion.

Vatican was last involved in a major scandal in 1982, when it was linked to the fraudulent bankruptcy of Banco Ambrosiano, then Italy's largest private bank. US archbishop Paul Marcinkus headed the bank at the time when the institution was linked to organized crime and alleged terrorist activities.

Basil Venitis asserts that religions, scams, and hoaxes succeed because they exploit powerful psychological processes. These processes are the very ones that have enabled humans to survive and create art and technology, but also transform Homo Sapiens into Homo Suckers.

Venitis asserts clergy are abusing the faithful on a consistent basis. In various dioceses across the world, church leaders are going great lengths to avoid making amends with the same victims of abuse they claimed to be trying to make peace with. Facing waves of lawsuits by now-adult victims, churches react more like a big business than a sacred institution. Wealthy dioceses have claimed to be broke and taken the drastic act of filing for bankruptcy. Only when forced to open their ledgers in bankruptcy proceedings does it become clear that several of these dioceses were actually flush with assets that it could have made available to victims seeking restitution.

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens plan a legal ambush to have Pope, the Unholy Father, the Grand Inquisitor, arrested for crimes against humanity. They have asked a distinguished group of human rights lawyers headed by Geoffrey Robertson to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over the cover up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Pope does not enjoy diplomatic immunity, because the Unholy See is recognized by the United Nations only as an observer State, not a regular State.

Church's Augean stables need to be comprehensively cleaned up now. The queen's favorite painting, The Evangelists Stoning the Pope, astonishes all visitors at Hampton Court Palace near London. Venitist groups have launched Protest-the-Pope campaigns to demonstrate against the Unholy Father, selling Pope Nope T-shirts. An apology is what a schoolboy does when he kicks a football through a window. What we need is for the pope to release all the files on predator priests.

For decades, clergy have sexually abused thousands of children. These are serious crimes. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has been systematically instrumental in covering up these crimes, hiding people who committed them from public prosecution and in most cases allowing the abuse of children to go on. The conspiracy has gone all the way to the top. There are questions on Pope Benedict himself. When he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he knew about some of these cases and participated in the coverups himself. That is a conspiracy, there is no other word for it. It is organized crime.

Venitis asserts the Vatican is no a State, but a gay club! It has no permanent population, no native Vaticanians and a territory of just 0.16 square miles (0.41 square kilometers). It is a gay garden in Rome with buildings on it. The idea that the head of a religion living in this garden should be accorded all the same courtesies as a real president is a kind of travesty.

Just because lots of people think Vatican is a state doesn't make it one. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invented the state of the Vatican in 1929. The pope at the time, Pius XI, praised him as the man sent by Providence. We are quite sure that some good lawyers would be able to unstate the Vatican again. The pope could then easily be arrested for his crimes. We definitely shouldn't tolerate any attempts of the Catholic Church to escape justice.

Churches have exactly the same right to exist as a football club, a trade union, or a political party. But if you and I set up the Church of the Fairies of the Garden, then I don't think we should automatically be meeting the queen, be entitled to seats in the House of Lords or get public money for our fairy schools. If we shouldn't have these rights, than I don't think that the men in skirts should have them. For historical reasons and all the myths that surround them, churches still have an overinflated footprint in society, and we should urgently change that.

Churches already struggling to cope with myriad sex abuse scandals, have been hit by revelations of billion-euro thefts, opaque accounting, and Byzantine extravagance. While the grassroots faithful are being forced to make cutbacks, most bishops enjoy the trappings of the church huge wealth.

Senior officials within the British government, the police and the Catholic Church conspired to cover up the involvement of a Catholic priest in a 1972 bombing. Terrorist father James Chesney engineered the blast which killed nine people in the village of Claudy, near Londonderry. He was moved to the Republic of Ireland late in 1973, amid fears that his arrest would further inflame sectarian tensions at the time.

In many places, this blatant disparity, along with reports of mismanagement, misappropriation and pomposity have prompted the faithful to challenge church officials. They are accusing many bishops of just covering up the problem, as they did in the sex abuse scandal. Bishops are determined not to allow anyone to see behind the curtain into their parallel world of bulging bank accounts and hidden assets, which, in some cases, have buttressed their power for centuries. The church true assets, like cockroaches, remain in the shadows.

Church assets, accumulated over the centuries, are invested in many areas, including real estate, banks, academies, breweries, vineyards, media companies, and hospitals. Churches also derive income from stock holdings, foundations, and bequests. As a rule, all of this money flows into the accounts of the bishop's See. Only a bishop and his closest associates are familiar with this shadow budget, which tax authorities are not required to review. The public budgets of dioceses consist of far less than their total finances.

This complicated web is handled with such secrecy that not even the financial department heads of all dioceses openly discuss their finances with one another. Seemingly Byzantine structures make these finances even more difficult to fathom. Depending on the diocese, the administrators of the church's funds can be members of a church tax council, a diocesan tax panel, a financial board or an administrative board. Sometimes assets are also spun off into foundations.

Governments pay substantial sums of money for the maintenance and constant renovation of cathedrals and other church buildings. Most governments pay the salaries of religion teachers and in some countries, such as Greece, governments pay the salaries of all clergy. Substantial subsidies are paid for church conferences, church libraries, pastors who minister to police officers, inmates of prisons and psychiatric institutions, and the military. Some huge benefits towns make to their bishop, are based on century-old entitlements that politicians have never reviewed. Churches likes to point out how much they do for the poor and the weak, and to promote social cohesion, but governments foot the bill for many of these activities.

Stung by myriad charges of clergy sexual abuse, corruption, robberies, orgies, and coverup that reach the pope, patriarchs, and archbishops, churches face a crisis of empty pews and empty coffers. Churches need to address their own failures, acknowledge their own guilt, ask for forgiveness, and heal as a family. Those leaving Christianity outnumber converts by four-to-one.

In 1966, John Lennon claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Nazarene. Lennon said: Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.

Lennon uttered those wise words at the height of Beatlemania. The British Invasion happened to also coincide with the decline of Christianity, especially in England, and especially amongst the younger generations. The mass hysteria of Beatlemania was analogous to religious ecstasy. Many fans truly saw the Beatles as musical messiahs. John, Paul, George, and Ringo reported that fans would bring sick people to their concerts, in the belief that the band had a divine healing presence.

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