The Roman Catholic Church: Mega-rich Yet Begging
There is not an iota of doubt that the Roman Catholic Church is very rich. But is it pro-poor?
First, the Philippine Security Exchange (PSE) records show that the RCC is a major player in the stock market.
With billions of pesos in funds locked in shares, the RCC has investments in banking, oil, information technology, energy, food and beverages, construction, and mining.
Specifically, RCC’s archdioceses are top stockholders in companies such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philex Mining Corporation (PX), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Ayala Corporation (AC), and Phinma Corporation (PHN), among others.
For Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) alone, the Archdiocese of Manila has stock investments of almost 328 million shares valued at 30 Billion Pesos; Archdiocese of Zamboanga has 269,982 shares valued at 25.378 million pesos, and Archdiocese of Jaro has 491, 385 shares valued at 46.19 million pesos. (Aries Rufo, “Billions of pesos in Church funds locked in stocks,” Rappler, 1/11/2015).
From the same report, below are the latest available files on RCC funds locked in stocks. Table 1 declares the stocks of the Archdiocese of Manila in five companies.
The same report shows a Table 2 indicating stocks of other Archdioceses outside of Manila and their values in Philippine pesos.
Second, the RCC acts like it is cash-strapped.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) is one of the richest Catholic dioceses in the entire world. So says a report that also tackled the reconstruction and renovation of the Manila Cathedral, the ‘Mother church’ in the Philippines by a supposed cash-strapped diocese. Some few years back, then Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle appealed for help to realize one of the most expensive ventures of the Archdiocese of Manila. Repair and construction cost was initially pegged at P40 million - P50 million, ballooning to P136 million after some two years.
Donors were quick to respond to Tagle’s appeal for help, with San Miguel Corp president Ramon Ang and Metrobank chairman George Ty easily shelling out P50 million and P20 million, respectively. There were also other private donors who gave huge sums of money, as well as the “simple people” who gave loose coins for the reconstruction of the cathedral.
Given its appeal for help, many would assume the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) is cash-strapped. But in reality, it is overflowing with money, tucked in bonds, foreign currency deposits and stocks investments, maintaining its position as one of the richest Catholic dioceses in the entire world. (Aries Rufo, “Can we know how rich the Catholic Church is?” RapplerDotCom, 1/19/2015)
Third, the RCC asks for gifts from government.
Flashback to 2011, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) named a priest and several Catholic bishops who were given sports utility vehicles (SUVs) during the time of then President Gloria Arroyo. The agency charged these to its charity fund (Perseus Echeminada, “Bishops in PCSO scam identified,” Philippine Star, 6/20/2011).
The seven bishops obtained the controversial vehicles using funds released by the PCSO supposedly in exchange for their loyalty. [Note: Gloria Arroyo figured in corruption charges of rigging the elections of 2004 in her favor. In the “Hello Garci” scandal, bishops were expected by the public to condemn it, but there was none of it.] The grant sparked a Senate investigation and the bishops agreed to surrender the vehicles. According to the Commission on Audit (COA), the grant of the five vehicles amounting to P6.940 million violates the constitutional provision that “no public money or property shall be appropriated, applied or employed directly or indirectly, for the use of, benefit or support to any sect, church, denomination… except when such priest, preacher or dignitary is assigned to the Armed Forces or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.”
Days later, news have it that a fund-raising campaign was organized by lay leaders belonging to the Coalition for Family and Life to help the now “car-less” prelates get new vehicles.
Romulo Macalintal together with Lito Atienza, Macalintal led a campaign to replace the vehicles returned by Catholic bishops in the wake of the recent PCSO scandal. In less than two weeks of fundraising, donations exceeded a million pesos.
But are they the poor?
But it’s not the amount of donations that I consider miraculous. Nor is it the fact that they were collected in less than half a month. The fact that Macalintal managed to convince so many that the bishops needed money — now that’s a miracle….
All I’m saying is that if you’re really pro-poor, you should be the ones giving to the poor, not the other way around. The question is, have the bishops accumulated wealth so that they could be pro-poor? Or have they pretended to be pro-poor so that they could accumulate wealth? (Red Tani, “Blessed are the Poor, said the Billionaire Bishops,”7/27/2011/FilipinoFreethinkersDotOrg).
Meanwhile, Lawyer Aleta Tolentino, a Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO) director, impressed that a bishop that asked Gloria Arroyo for a car as birthday gift used the name of the poor.
Tolentino reportedly said –
We are not against the Church. We are just denouncing what happened in the past—corruption of government funds, which is prohibited by the Constitution itself. Would the bishops rather that we keep mum or we lie about it? Would they want us to just keep quiet about this?” (Tina G. Santos, “Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos asked Gloria Arroyo for a car as b’day gift,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/6/2011).
Manila Standard Columnist Elizabeth Angsioco in her article, “The Church of the Poor,” wrote –
This is something that only few of us know: the Philippine Roman Catholic Church is a multi-billionaire religious and business organization. Yes, the Church is mega-rich.
We have always known that the Church, to which at least 80 per cent of Filipinos belong, is rich. Its properties like cathedrals and other big churches, expensive private Catholic colleges and universities all over the country, private hospitals, big buildings and huge tracts of land for their seminaries, etc. are there for people to see. We have always thought this as a given, normal. After all, the Church has been here longer than any of us.
No one really cared to approximate how rich the bishops really are and what the church can do if it really wanted to help poor Catholics. (http://propinoy.net/2011/05/29/the-church-of-the-poor/)
Angsioco, head of Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), goes on to enumerate the billions of stocks that the RCC has and their value in pesos. She makes a calculation what these billions can do. In the end she says the RCC is in a very good position to remove millions of families from poverty.
The Church positions itself as the vanguard of morality. Yet, while it sits on at least P17.5 billion, it continues to solicit donations from the poor instead of helping them have a better life. The Church proclaims itself as the protector of life. Yet it doesn’t use its billions to save the Catholic poor from hunger, sickness, and death.
Why don’t we see anything wrong with the bishop in all his finery standing beside the Catholic beggar? Is it really acceptable that cathedrals are in the same community of Catholic slum dwellers?
When will the Roman Catholic Church realize that as the multi-billionaire church of the millions of poor Filipino Catholics, it is its moral responsibility to substantially help its flock? (http://propinoy.net/2011/05/29/the-church-of-the-poor/)
Note that the latest report on value of BPI shares of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila is P30 billion. In 2011, it was P17.5 billion. Now, contrast their lying billions to the fact that the Philippine Government is badly in debt. Yet, they managed to ask vehicles “for the poor.”
What are the stocks for with the poor around?
One archbishop reasoned out that they have only inherited their wealth from the Spanish friars so they have to protect and nourish it! The wealth of the Spanish friars were accumulated in deceiving our Filipino forefathers, even to the extent of selling indulgences, pardoning thieves and criminals in exchange for their money!
Cannot the bishops now use their wealth taken from Filipinos of yesteryears to the poor Filipinos of the present generation? Cannot they exempt a poor Filipino from paying baptismal fees, marriage fees, and many others? It is the teaching of the Gospel to tend to the poor.
In truth, the coffers of the Roman Catholic Church are full compared to that of the government of the Philippines. It is that plain and simple. To date, the government has an outstanding foreign debt of US$77.659 billion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_debt_of_the_Philippines), an obligation of the people of the Philippines to pay. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church with its billions of investments earns interests without any obligation to pay any tax - unlike the ordinary hardworking Filipino.
Just a quick glance at the facts and figures shows clear indication of injustice and inequity.
I am reminded of a verse in Ezequiel that says -
2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
There are many Catholics sleeping in the streets and slums of Metro Manila some of whom are sleeping in the cold just beside and in front of the Catholic Quiapo Church - a breathe away from where the bishop sleeps in comfort inside! Only the walls of the church separate them.
But then they continuously ask for fees in baptism, confirmation, wedding ceremonies, masses, and other services, and donations practically selling all kinds of services and rituals, with their members as captive market, 80 percent of whom are living below the poverty line.
I PETER 4:10
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
A good steward of God uses the gifts he received to minister or to help others. But Catholic priests are not willing to obey this scriptural injunction.
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.
The way it is behaving, the Roman Catholic Church is a money making institution! It is not pro-poor; more yet, it acts as a beggar.