Is the Catholic Church an organized crime group?

Photographer: Beni Arnold, Copyright CC BY 2.0 Link to license Link to photographer

Just a few days ago, the Holy Father spoke of the ugly things associated with nuclear weapons and received consent. Already on his return flight from Japan, he had to deal with other ugly things concerning his own church. After all new and old scandals: is the Catholic Church a criminal organization?

Money does not belong in the savings stocking. That is the opinion of Pope Francis. It is about the investments that have been made with the so-called Peter penny. This is an annual collection that is explicitly collected for the Pope. This money should be invested in order to finish the year with the highest possible return. Only then, in the opinion of Pope Francis, should this money be spent on those in need. Now internal investigations have shown that this money has been misused. A total of five Vatican staff members were suspended and banished from the premises. This includes Tommaso Di Ruzza, Director of the Financial Information Authority (AIF). 

It is about the acquisition and trading of luxury real estate on Sloane Avenue in London. A total of 200 million dollars is said to have been invested, secured by the Pope’s State Secretariat and partly financed by the Swiss bank BSI, which in turn has been closed by Swiss supervisory authorities on suspicion of money laundering, according to eports of the “Catholic Herald”, a British Catholic insider magazine.

Vatican wanted to develop luxury apartments at 60 Sloane Ave, London
(Screenshot Google Maps)

Pope Francis is happy that for the first time in history internal investigations have uncovered this abuse. The “Vatileaks” discoveries in 2012 came from outside and had caused Pope Benedict much grief: “The events of recent days about the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness in my heart. …I want to renew my trust in and encouragement of my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me fulfil my ministry.”

This hope from the pope did not come true. Recent scandals have a history. Scandals have accompanied the Catholic Church throughout its history. For years new reports about abuse scandals have been filling the media. The sexual abuse of children and persons under protection seems to have a long tradition. The financial scandals are having the same tradition. The total wealth of the Vatican is estimated at $10-15,000,000,000. Exact figures are unknown as the organisations habits and actions are traditionally kept secret. Helpful, that the organisation is globally distributed. The value of the Catholic Church in Germany solely is estimated at 200 billion Euros. The Catholic Church in Austria has an estimated wealth of around 21 billion US dollars. Even the small splinter organization Opus Dei is listed with 2.8 billion $ property.

These enormous wealth has been built up over centuries. People have voluntarily built and donated for the church and its buildings to be closer to heaven. Today, the Catholic Church receives its most money from church tax. But this money depends on the volatile economy and the number of believers in the church. Their number is steadily decreasing. This makes investments in the financial markets more important for the Catholic Church. Again and again there is criticism and doubt whether the Catholic Church actually acts accordingly to the ethical standards it has imposed on itself.

Whether the Catholic Church is a criminal organization is difficult to answer. The obligations with the states in the world are very intense. It is a well-known practice, however, that the Church draws people’s money out of their pockets by referring to a higher being. Nobody would come up with the idea today of allowing a sect equal rights. Here, it is helpful to look at the meaning of the word. The word “sect” comes from the Latin “secare”. It means: “to split off/cut off”. The Catholic Church thus despised splinter groups and secessions. It criminalized these groups by that. A principle that still works well today and state’s authorities are still following this scheme, including the exceptions for the well established churches. The question arises, how long it will take before the church itself is seen as a sect whose machinations are generally seen critical. The whole series of financial scandals of the past years contributes to this development.