When you imagine the Catholic Church and the Vatican, I’m sure you don’t imagine the largest corporation in the world.
But the Catholic Church is a religion run by donations, and with the support of 1.3 billion members, that’s a lot of money. Have you ever asked yourself, where does that money go?
If you pay attention to the news, you may have seen that in 2021 the Catholic Church reported that it was low on money and in desperate need of donations despite the Catholic Church’s 170 million acre real estate empire, or their estimated $10-15 billion investment portfolio. But who knows, concealing the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests probably isn’t cheap.
While these two factors make up a large chunk of the assets the Church claims, the true financial standings are shrouded in mystery, and for good reason. God forbid the people find out how much it costs to put priests up in million dollar mansions.
The real question is, have the Catholic Church’s financial dealings always been this shady? The answer is: absolutely.
Before the Popes ran the Vatican, they served as the kings of the Papal States, a secular empire. As an empire, the Popes were able to tax the people, but there’s only so much wealth that you can take from poor peasants in order to fund the lavish lifestyles of cardinals. It was time for a new plan.
As God’s representative, the Popes of old came up with the genius idea of allowing members of the Catholic Church to pay money to not burn in hell, or as the Catholic Church called them: indulgences. Did something horrible? No problem! Just pay the Church some money and you will be welcomed at Heaven’s pearly gates.
This couldn’t go on forever, though, as people aren’t really huge fans of having their money stolen. Following a few revolutions, the Papal states would fall and the amount of exploitable population the Vatican controlled was all but gone.
Now known as the Vatican City, the leaders of the Catholic Church had to find other ways to make money. So, the Church would begin selling “Peter’s Pence,” which was basically a rebranding of indulgences. Like any good business, the Church then began investing in secular ventures to expand their portfolio, and what’s more profitable than warfare?
Come World War II, the Vatican took the side of the Nazis in one of their most rewarding business decisions to date. Instead of remaining neutral, Pope Pius XXI reportedly decided to assist Hitler in his rise to power while the Vatican turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. In exchange, a lucrative Concordat from the Nazis allowed the Church to tax millions of citizens, while millions more died in death camps.
Not only that, but the Vatican also profited off the life insurance polices of murdered Jews while their bank stored millions in stolen money from the war.
Since then, the Vatican has maintained its business by helping launder millions in donations, buying million dollar homes for its Archbishops, and of course enjoying mass amounts of penance from all corners of the globe (of which only 10% actually goes to the poor).
So, unfortunately I can’t tell you just how much the Catholic Church is worth. I also can’t tell you where your money is going. But I can tell you that at least $3 billion of that money has gone towards settlements and paying off victims of sexual abuse (although, who knows the real number, given that an unknown amount of victims’ claims were suppressed).
I would like to stress that I’m not here to bash on the Catholic religion itself. I believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they want and that such a right is incredibly important.
But know where your money is going.
If that money is secretly funding mansions for religious figures, the covering up of sex abuse scandals, or being laundered into the pockets of the elite, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your finances.
Austin Thompson is a reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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