Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"filthy rich Church" ???

Or is it filthy rich imagination?
More on the myth of the "filthy rich Church"
(reposted from The Catholic Position on the RH Bill)

Several weeks ago, the blog Adbokasiya published an interesting email thread / discussion regarding Elizabeth Angsioco's notorious screed on the Church's supposed wealth:

On the Church of the Poor Issue - further comments on the Church of the poor.

The thread includes the following intervention by Fr. Romeo Intengan S.J.

...just a very short initial reply for starters.
Pakipasa nga sa iba.
(1) The critics' article fails fails to distinguish between the significance of of stock holdings and bank holdings, on one hand, and annual available income from stocks and bank interest, on the other hand. Even if the Church owned, let us say, P200 B in stocks (not just the P35 B tallied by the critics, the rest of the wealth being conjecture), at a supposed rate of 10% a year from the stocks--I would say an optimistic figure--that would be P20 B. Think how much it costs to run all those thousands of parishes and schools, those dozens of hospitals, social action centers, and the like, especially at sufficient levels of quality. Then you will see that P20B is not enough, is a very modest amount, by any fair measure. Many of these, located in mission or poorer areas, are not supported by earnings and are subsidized by prosperous institutions and from the money of the Church in banks and stocks.
A large proportion of its income is used by the Church, through its institutions, to serve the poorest of the poor for free in remote areas where even the government cannot reach.
(2) It is not a fact that the Church is rich. The Church is not a monolith. There are perhaps five to ten prosperous dioceses and some twenty or thirty prosperous orders and congregations, but there are many more financially struggling ones. These critics ought to live for even just a week in any of the poorer majority of Church institutions and see what life there is like.
(3) The landholdings of Church institutions are quite moderate. The Church has hardly any farmland left, after the US colonial regime bought the friar lands, and after CARP. Do the critics begrudge the Church having churchyards and cemeteries, most of which are small and cramped? Do they want universities with cramped or no campuses? The Catholic Church does not even have the spare billions of pesos to own and run her own TV channel. Guess which religious group is rich enough to own TV networks? Not the Catholic Church. Instead of putting down what is already struggling, or damaging what is good, they should encourage the Church to raise the revenues to be able to serve the pastoral needs of the people.

One would think it more logical to encourage the State to improve the facilities of the public schools, rather than to scold to Church for having good facilities. In fact, the government recognizes the help of the Church in carrying the burden of filling the gap of public education, by helping private schools through the Fund for Assistance to Private Edcuation (FAPE).
(4) If the Church institutions sold all her stocks and gave away all the money they had in banks, the money raised for that one-time outlay would not be enough to make more than a small dent in the deficit of basic social services in this country. To claim otherwise would be to betray a ignorance of the dimensions of financing needed. It is the State alone, with its more than a trilliion pesos of annual tax income, that would have the capacity to close the gap in social services.
And after the Church sold all these, how would her institutions and works maintain themselves, considering that Filipino Catholics, on the average, contrary to the wrong impression given by the article, are not known for generous support of the Church ministries and pastors? Few Filipino Catholics practice tithing, and 3% support from their gross income would be a generous estimate, while the two richest non-Catholic churches in this country receive 15 to 20% of the gross income of her members.
(5) I agree that Church apparel could be simpler, but it would serve no good purpose to make this shoddy. Besides the sumptuous apparel of some clergy is worn only during liturgy, and on solemn occasions at that. The daily garb of the bishops is quite plain. To put together the images of bishops in sumptuous pontifical garb and a beggar in rags, as if this contrast was the normal, daily situation, is a cheap shot, good for hostile propaganda but far from reality.
(6) The Church is not "sitting on those billions." The latter phrase is another example of hostile caricature. These "billions" are invested in stocks or banks precisely to support the ministries, many of them gratuitous to the poorest of the poor, and the pastors. The Church is spending yearly the equivalent in goods and services of billions of pesos for the poor.

And please don't insult the poor. They are quite generous with what they have when they know it is for God or for God's holy purposes.

And as a matter of fact, one reason why the Catholic Church has not implemented Decree 118 of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), approved in 1991, and providing for tithing, is hesitation to burden the poor (while other religions expect their members, rich or poor, to tithe). That is why in the Philippines, the bulk of Church contributions comes from the middle class.
(7) Do you want the Church to be able to offer the high quality education and health care to all, and not just some of its members? Do you want the Church to be able to support its ministries? Then join my humble but urgent advocacy for the implementation of Decree 118 of PCP II on tithing. For as of now, contrary to what that figure-quoting but ultimately shallow article is trying to convey, the Church is not wealthy--it cannot even adequately finance the ministries it should give to its members. And this is true even if the money and property of the prosperous dioceses and orders were distributed equally among the Catholic institutions and circumscriptions.

Archie, SJ

Romeo J. Intengan, S.J.

No comments: