Unlike Good Shepherd, Wicked Clerics Seek Money and Power

In one of his homilies, Pope Francis denounced ‘clericalism’: “Clericalism is a path taken by those who, unlike the good shepherd, concern themselves with money and power and not with people who are suffering and neglected.” As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this is quite timely.

The Roman Catholic Church, for much if not most of its history, has shown far more interest in money and power than in helping the “suffering and neglected.” When Martin Luther denounced the selling of indulgences, that was only one of the Church’s more recent ploys to raise money. The Church had been inventing and pursuing ways to raise money and exercise power for many centuries before that.

The Church had been conducting Inquisitions across Europe for centuries, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition. While people associate these Inquisitions with the burning of heretics, that was a relatively infrequent occurrence. Far more common was the use of torture and imprisonment to extort the victim, and also to force him to provide testimony against others. Once the victim was found guilty, the Inquisition generally confiscated all his assets, subject to some division of spoils with temporal leaders, who provided prisons and police.

Besides a way to exercise power over both the people and their rulers, the Inquisitions were a great way to raise money, and in fact were used to help fund the Crusades, not to mention enriching “poor” Church orders such as the Dominicans and Franciscans.

So while Pope Francis denounces the pursuit of money and power, keep in mind those were primary objectives of the Roman Catholic Church during its halcyon days. Even today, long after losing its temporal power, the Church is no slouch at pursuing money. It just refuses to talk about it, much less provide any accounting of how much of its revenue finds its way to the “suffering and neglected.” Pope Francis also denounced hypocrites.

 

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