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Theocracy and business sense

  • Published at 12:02 am March 14th, 2019
Can you put a price on faith? REUTERS

Is the Vatican just a business like any other?

Standard Chartered Bank is putting aside $900 million that it expects to come its way as fines for yet undisclosed misdemeanours. For true-blooded enterprises this is a process that is widely followed by other businesses, including their competition, car manufacturers, and, of course, tobacco companies.

When it comes to states and nations they have special funds drawn aside to tackle extraneous circumstances. What the Vatican will do to rid itself of the increasing allegations of priests having abused children and nuns is beyond comprehension.

What has emerged from a special meeting of the bishops and cardinals is a stiff indictment that action beyond vague promises is the order of the day. One cardinal has been defrocked, the third most important post holder has been found guilty in a court, and it wouldn’t be unlikely for others to follow.

The problem is one of many years, and made known recently in a flurry of “me too” like movements which have had Roman Catholic adherents frustrated, confused, and angry. And the Pope must decide between worldly and spiritual measures to be taken.

Most, if not all, religions have the same sad experiences, though few suffering individuals have come out in public, hence the lack of action and even an ignorance of reality.

The Holy See differs from most examples since it is a worldly state, tiny as it is, that participates in worldly affairs as one. It has ambassadors and a wealth of treasure and donations that enables it to pay for its own existence.

To the best of knowledge, hardly ever publicly-disclosed and almost never asked-about, it has investments in businesses that drew murmurs when the first spectacularly unique disclosures were made.

Maybe now there will be demands for full disclosure of the way the Papacy exists in the here and now. It runs on donations, souvenir sales, and investments in business and securities -- and its accounts are never questioned.

Pope Francis has announced an all-out battle against such pernicious acts, making the victims a priority describing the disclosure as the wrath of God. Matters have come to a pass where tackling it is described as a battle.

All priests attending said they would return to take action against those responsible. Those that are unconvinced are looking for transparency and accountability from top to bottom.

The Vatican runs by its own rules, not by states but by a complicated system that few have access to and never really question. Punishment runs along the line of ex-communication, but anyone defrocked can return to a life outside of the papacy.

That is where the concern lies, given that any individual asked to live outside the church still has a personal life to return to.

Such has never been the case with the church, and the delinquents become normal sexual offenders and it hasn’t been announced how they would be prosecuted.

Those of the papal robe usually take an oath of celibacy, as do nuns.

What happens to those who violate those oaths?

Their deeds are never publicized so as not to endanger the faith itself. Otherwise, there may be chaos and a massive damage to morality if believers ask questions about who baptized their children and even led confession.

Or else, just like Pope Benedict, the perpetrators may never be seen in public again. How that will work with the increasing numbers of priests being accused is still quite unimaginable.

If any fiscal fines are imposed on them, who foots the bill is yet another altogether different factor. For now, wealth isn’t taking the front seat. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.