In my travels for fishing magazine articles and books, I have been to 13 countries, most in Central or South America. I have seen the desperately poor in Guatemala, the poverty in parts of Mexico, the slums of Rio de Janeiro with huts made out of packing cardboard, homeless children sleeping in the street in Bogata Columbia, crippled children with crutches fashioned out of tree branches. The poverty is appalling, and not restricted to this small part of the world.
All these countries are heavily Catholic with a population that is mostly desperately poor. They could use some help. They could use a lot of help.
And now the world – or at least Catholicism – has a new pope. This one – Francis is his chosen name - promises a return to a “poor church for the poor.” Helping the poor - that’s a nice concept, but what will we really see?
He is being cheered for asking the populace to bless him, for paying his own bill at a hotel and for carrying his own luggage. That’s nice. But do we get or will we get any real change?
By wanting to help the poor, I can think of a lot of things to do. One would be to sell off parts of the Catholic Church, including all those vestments and clothing worn by priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinal, popes and such.
I am sure that a French fashionista clothing line would love some of those fancy (read expensive) textiles and that the wealthy in New York, Milan, Monaco, and on the French Riviera would love to prance around in the latest that is both design worthy and pope approved.
I often wonder how all this started anyway? After all, the Catholic Church, according to them, is the church of Christ. As I recall, Jesus was dressed in rags or at least pretty simply in a plain cape or tunic. Were he around today, I am sure that he would be shopping at Wal-Mart or perhaps Goodwill or accepting Salvation Army donations and aid.
Then there are those cathedrals and Catholic churches, all of which cost money - money which could have been spent on hospitals, schools, clinics, and such to truly help the populace, Catholic or not.
I am sure that there are enough of the rich in the world who would be delighted to have an expensive relic of a saint, a piece of a stained glass window, statuary of Mary or Jesus, Renaissance liturgical paintings and such, priestly and popely religious relics, artifacts and such.
With these sales, the Catholic Church would have some money to spend on truly beneficial things for their believers and others. Of course, cleaning up the sex and molestation scandals would also be a help.
Reports are that the Catholic Church just spent $10 million on four molestation cases by priests of 26 known cases in the Los Angeles diocese alone. That’s a lot of pennies and individual hard earned donations and tithes by the very devout that do nothing but pay for the evil, immorality and sins of those who are supposed to be the guiding lights in our religious and moral life.
Of course, you can’t return the money spent on this edifice complex of the Catholics by tearing down the churches. That would only cost more. But perhaps a good part of them, or selective number of them in a given area could be converted to clinics, schools, work training areas, soup kitchens, shelters and such to truly help those who have such a great need in their day-to-day existence.
We will have to see what happens. Stay tuned – don’t touch that dial!