Thoughts on Francomania

Well, OK, so Pope Francis came, he saw, he blew numerous minds. The way cable news networks were covering the guy's every step, you'da thought he was gonna get urgent new texts from J.C. himself at any moment.

Which is not to say the Papal visit was worthless. Far from it. It's always welcome to have a man with the influence of the Pope acknowledge what's getting more and more obvious—that the planet is getting hotter, and it appears that our nasty little habit of firing up millions of carbon dioxide-making machines every dadgum day just might have something to do with it.

But there is a glaring case of disingenuous disconnect here. A disconnect concerning the gigonderous wealth of the Vatican, a corporation of a sort which the Pope is, for all intents and purposes, the C.E.O. It's all fine and dandy to go tooling around in a humble little Fiat Popemobile, and it's all swell that he's talking about how we should remember those who have little or nothing, that we should be merciful towards all immigrants and refugees, and it's all very nice that he's being hailed as a true “man of the people” and so on and so forth. But let's not forget that when we are talking about the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church. We are talking about an institution that is so extraordinarily wealthy as to make the Koch Brothers look like street punks hawking crack and phony Rolexes on a downtown street corner.

Actually, it's very difficult to put a number on the financial empire of the Vatican, due to all the slack the church gets when it comes to reporting taxes, income, charitable contributions, etc. So while magazines can report on the richest corporations on the planet (for example, Wells Fargo is 6th with assets of 1.5 trillion, and the China Construction Bank tops 'em all with assets of 3 trill), the Catholic Church is never included in such unseemly and distasteful vulgarities.

We do get an idea, though, of the stash inside the Vatican's Vaults from writer/philosopher Avro Manhattan, who wrote a book in 1983 called The Vatican Billions. He claimed “the Vatican has large investments with the Rothschilds of Britain, France, and America … in the U.S. with J.P. Morgan, Chase-Manhattan and others … billions in shares of corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, GM, GE, etc. … a treasure of solid gold estimated to be several billion dollars, and a staggering collection of priceless art. When, to all that, is added all the real estate, property, and stocks from around the world, then the staggering accumulation of the wealth of the Catholic Church becomes so formidable as to defy any rational assessment.”

OK, fine. So what's the point? Well, when the avatar and founder of your churchly corporation comforts the faithful by saying things like, “It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”