Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Preferential Option for the Super-Rich


Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick Barclay after receiving their knighthoods in 2001

If you haven't read it Luke Coppen's article in the Spectator Sorry — but Pope Francis is no liberal is well worth reading, he suggests the image of Pope Francis the world has fallen in love with is a liberal media construct. There is one particularly disturbing passage in it that is highly problematic and which I fear Francis will never touch, it is the Church's relationship with the extremely wealthy.
Under Francis, the church is deeply committed to what theologians call ‘the preferential option for the poor’. But in order to opt for the poor, the church has to court the super-rich. A few generous multi-millionaires, for example, fund most of the major Catholic initiatives in England and Wales (including a significant part of Benedict XVI’s state visit in 2010). If just one of them was put off by the distorted ‘Marxist’ image of Francis, the church here would be in trouble.
I am not quite sure who these 'super-rich' are, perhaps those who own the 'Catholic media', perhaps the directors or trustees of the Tablet or the Universe, or even Luke's own paper the Catholic Herald. At one time the Church was enthrall to a small group of wealthy Catholic aristocrats, the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquis of Bute, more recently the Brenninkmeijer Trust or the Barclay brothers have come to Church's aid.

The great problem is that the rich have a voice that tends to be heard above the poor and above the voice of Christ. If you are a bishop and you have a pet project: setting up school or some kind of pastoral project or even restoring one's Cathedral, you are more likely to listen to and flatter a rich potential donor than anyone else. If that rich person is in a second marriage, or attached to the Traditional Mass or part of the 'gay lobby' or a liberal or whatever it is an easy temptation to make some 'pastoral' provision or to form one's preaching and teaching to accommodate them. In the past we called this simony and treated it as very grave sin.
The post Vatican II era, littered by numerous 'initiatives' gave a new impetus to such wealthy people.

I suspect that few Catholic journalists will ever 'follow the money' and relate it to the preaching of our bishops. One aspect of ‘the preferential option for the poor’, is that the Church looks to the needs of the vast majority rather than a narrow clique of the wealthy and powerful. Will Francis change this? Well, forgive my cynicism  but the radical change that would be necessary is probably beyond him, even  if he feels it is necessary.  Ernst & Young have just be given the contract to oversee Vatican finances, perhaps making the wealthy our friends might be the best way of dealing with them, we might even be able to influence them. The problem in E & W is, I suspect, the wealthy and the powerful have had more influence on us than we on them. Bishops enjoy being in their company and rarely make demands on them, other than signature on a cheque or photo opportunity.


Now, who is coming for dinner this weekend?


19 comments:

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you, Pare
I hadn't realised that was a fake picture. It seemed to illustrate the problem with Bishops and the 'great' and the 'good'.

Newry Liam said...

V bad taste the cardinal and Saville I am surprised at your lack of judgement

Fr Ray Blake said...

N.L.
As I say it illustrates the problem, it is not just the 'wordly' organisation that gave Saville credibility, he was given a Papal Knighthood, used as a "warm-up" entertainer before a JPII papal visit event.

Let us learn from our mistakes, not forget them and certainly not bury them.

Anita Moore said...

Wait: why would it be bad for the super-wealthy to be attached to the Traditional Mass, and why is that lumped in with the super-wealthy who are in second marriages or same-sex unions? Surely that was a typo.

Besides which, it seems that -- at least where I am -- the moneyed Catholics are opposed to the Traditional Mass, and support the uglification of churches and other liberal projects. I agree that fear of offending big donors keeps too many bishops and priests from proclaiming Gospel truths, especially the hard ones.

Sadie Vacantist said...

The situation regarding Tony Blair is worrying. This guy has started wars, enriched himself to the tune of millions and achieved little for christian values whilst in office. Yet we receive him into the Church no questions asked.

EFpastor emeritus said...

Good post.....sadly only partly true. Some bishops in E & W seem to have such a very poor self-image that they would be pleased to be photographed with a Mayor. an MP or a doctor.
Some...usually Auxiliaries ...would be truly happy to be photographed with a very poor "nonentity"


Hope you do not get into any trouble over publishing Barclay brothers' photo.....they are very protective of their privacy!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Anita,
I was thinking of one particular (non-English) Bishop whose attitude to the EF changed when it was suggested some traditional minded Catholic my support a pet project.

gemoftheocean said...

Father, the Spectator article was thoughtful, but the point remains that although Francis is far less liberal on doctrinal matters, through his continued actions he STILL comes off as a near Bolshevik. Pope Francis seems like the guy who ham handedly wants to reach his hand into the pockets of anyone with an extra spare £20 pounds saying "I need this more than you do" all the while biting the hand of the guy he snatched the £20 from.

I suspect you and the article are quite correct that E&W do NOT have the luxury of ticking off a single millionaire who can write that check out for Xhundreds of thousands of pounds. PART of that problem is your demographics. AND the other part is you've simply relied for far too long on the "class system."

Demographics because you have far fewer Catholics, and then nominal ones. I suspect you might also have the problem of "well my diocese had a HUGE problem having to pay out in a pedo scandal, and now the bishop, who knew about it, and did nothing, wants us to bail him out? Fat chance, buster." [I know a LOT of people in the US who were NOT in the mood to chip in extra for "diocesan appeal" on account of that scandal - which our bishops totally botched. Oh, they'll give to their own parish, but as far as the diocese is concerned they can chase themselves -- was the attitude. It would surprise me none if similar has happened here.]

In America, however, even with all that going on, there are still enough people with money to give to charity -- although Lord Obama is not making it easy, trying his best to scare businesses to death so they go into a defensive position reserving capital until he is GONE. So even if they are inclined to charity, they've got to look out for their own businesses and employees first to keep payroll and the business afloat.

But in E&W I don't know that you've moved enough with the times to realize that the Duke of Norfolk and your "great and the good" are the only ones with cash. It seems, by your blog item that it's never even occurred to most of the powers that be to think: "Hey, that Italian guy with the Ferrari dealership -- bet he's got some cash, so what if the peers sniff at him?" Or Flannagan the local guy with the construction company -- or the surgical specialist in private practise? A bet there are thousands of those. Do they ever think of cultivating them? When you spread out your pool of people to choose from, it lessens the impact of losing any one guy.

Also. MANY people in the community in the US are civic minded and will donate to charities run by people NOT of their faith. Ever think of cultivating non-Catholics? Joan Kroc and her late husband, Ray, the founder of McDonalds, literally donated millions and millions to worthwhile charities all across the country and were instrumental in donating huge amounts of money to the San Diego St. Vincent de Paul society. Were they Catholic? Not by a long shot.

Matthew Roth said...

I find that there's nothing wrong with being backed by the rich. The trouble is when the rich's lives don't match up to Church teaching as you note, or when the money is being spent on ghastly architectural projects that only the rich would ever want to contribute to. Poor people built many of our churches, if not most of them, and in many cases there were no rich nobles, aristocrats, or businessmen to cover any of the expense. My grandmother's Irish-American parish is one example.

Brian White said...

Father, I'm shocked and deeply saddened by your comments that suggest Jimmy Savile is guilty, solely on the say so of the British media and the establishment that backs it.

'The question has been decided. The evidence has spoken for itself. His guilt is no longer at issue. With blithe self-assurance, the political and cultural elite has tried and convicted Savile in absentia. And even though he is dead, his posthumous sentencing is well underway. His legacy is slowly being stripped away from the world. The organisations he sponsored during his lifetime, including the Stoke Mandeville Hospital Trust, which assists those with spinal injuries, are removing any association with his name. His money is to be paid to victims of child abuse. His gravestone has been dismantled. Slowly but surely, any trace of the man’s life is being removed from the world. At least those serving life sentences in prison may have an opportunity to change the direction of their lives and leave some positive mark behind. For Savile, the only goal appears to be to wipe him from the country’s memory completely.
Anyone concerned with liberal principles of justice and punishment should be deeply troubled by this causal defilement of a human legacy. If we take all the allegations to be true, then Savile was an awful man. But that’s the point: we shouldn’t. The point about ascribing criminal guilt to another human being is that the allegations against them are tested, that they are rigorously exposed to scrutiny. It is a longstanding tradition of English criminal law, as well as a strong tradition of human decency, that until this process has been complete, the accused is innocent. No ifs, no buts. If this process cannot be undertaken, as is the case with Savile, then Savile can never in fact be ‘guilty’ of anything in any meaningful sense. He is no longer a participant in the community that makes that judgement. As such, the humane thing to do would be to let him rest, in the knowledge that some questions about his life will never be answered.
This is not just legalism. There is a positive and fundamentally humane tenet to many justice systems across the world that recognises that people’s stories matter. Their account of themselves must be aired, in full, in front of a jury of their peers, before a judgement of guilt can be made. This process represents a fundamental respect for an individual’s worth: that no matter how strong the evidence of their guilt may be, a judgement on them cannot be passed until they have had their say. That ‘say’ may well be throwing their hands up and pleading guilty. It may mean admitting guilt to some allegations and not others. It may even be a fantastical pack of lies, designed to allow the accused to take their chances in the courtroom. Regardless of what the story is, a civilised society should recognise that a judgement of guilt, and any resultant punishment, only has any meaning if that account is heard.
But today, one of the few remaining humane tenets in our justice system is being supplanted by the all-powerful drive for victim’s justice. Today, those who make the allegations are the only ones who matter. Yes, there are many allegations and many of them may well be true. But the sad fact is that our society, as embodied in the jury, will never be able to make the call as to which are true and which are not. As such, these allegations will never become socially recognised statements of truth. In any other case, every person making a complaint about Savile would be known as a ‘complainant’ in the courtroom rather than a ‘victim’, because their account, their claim to victimhood, had not yet been scrutinised. In the Savile case, because this process simply cannot be undertaken, Savile’s guilt has to be assumed to allow for a hollow and authoritarian punishment to be meted out in the name of his ‘victims’.'

Oliver McCarthy said...

Given that the current Archbishop of Westminster is the first in a generation not to have been a personal friend of the Duke of Norfolk - who was openly vocal in his "dissent" from Humanae Vitae - there clearly is something in this.

Delia said...

I saw Tony Blair and Cherie at the lovely Ordinariate Epiphany carol service on Thursday at Warwick Street! But the choir was from Cardinal Vaughan, so maybe their son was singing.

Lynda said...

"The rich", like "the poor" are not an amorphous group. A rich person can be evil and use wealth to do evil, or he can be good and use wealth to do good, for the ultimate salvation of souls. As for the notional "poor", the notional "rich" can be used to promote a false ideology, and distract and detract from the true mission of the Church and every soul.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Brian,
Defend Saville if you will, even after death we are entitled to a "good name" but there are an awful lot of straws blowing in the wind, straws the media his for years..

viterbo said...

perhaps the pope has a secret up his sleeve, a very lucrative one. Don't you think there's an uncanny resemblance to at least one of the twins...i'm thinking triplets?

Celia said...

Nobody particularly wealthy in my parish, but 'pastoral' considerations, i.e. fear of yet more people leaving the Church, allow the divorced and remarried and the actively homosexual to receive communion. It would be useful actually to have a wealthy person attached to the EF, since that's the one 'concession' that most priests and bishops don't want to make.

I don't recall that Jesus criticised the rich for their wealth as such, rather for the attachment to material things which prevented the rich young man following him. And often, in England in penal times it was the patronage of 'the rich', which kept ordinary Catholics going. I live in Sheffield where the protection of the lords of the manor, the Dukes of Norfolk as it happens, enabled Catholics to thrive quietly well before emancipation, to the extent that an early 18th century vicar could complain about their successful proselytising.

And who do you think paid for most of those enormous 19th century urban parish churches?

Then again there's Melinda Gates...

Supertradmum said...

We should follow the money from the same-sex marriage kabal and the pro-abort and pro-contraception groups as well. Sadly, what you are saying is too true. The poor have no or little voice. Just ask me, trying to get into England as a poor mom-while the rich from France avoiding the new tax walk in just because they are preferred.

The acceptance of Blair was and still is a travesty.

We are weakened by the Church from the inside not from the outside, and pandering to special interests is part of that-same and perhaps even more so in America.

Sadie Vacantist said...

In America there is evidence that the huge inner city parishes found in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia for example, were deliberately broken up by forces traditionally hostile to the Church.

Sadie Vacantist said...

In America there is evidence that the huge inner city parishes found in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia for example, were deliberately broken up by forces traditionally hostile to the Church.