Is The Vatican Broke?

From time to time, news reports surface that the Vatican will run some $50 million in the red for the current year. The object is to press the "faithful" into increasing their "Peter's Pence," an annual collection from all Catholics around the world to "support" the "Holy See," the pope's home base.

To those who know somewhat of the financial resources of the world-wide Roman Catholic Institution, these figures are microscopic and the charade ludicrous. When pressed, Vatican officials admit that this deficit is only in the pope's operating budget and has nothing to do with overall finances.

Avro Manhattan, in his book "The Vatican Billions," describes in detail the 2,000-year ebb and flow of the Vatican's financial fortunes. Beginning with Constantine, who took the name "Christian" and merged it with pagan religion and politics, Manhattan describes how "The early apostolic tradition of poverty became an abstraction; at most, a text for sermons or pious homilies. . . Thenceforward a new phase was initiated. The Church Triumphant began to vest herself with the raiment of the world. The state became her protector. With this came not only power, but also wealth."

Chain Filings Forgive Sins

Manhattan details how the popes spent the next twelve hundred years trading remission of sins for vast holdings of land, money and gold. For example, Pope Gregory (590-604) "sent the nobleman Dynamius a cross containing 'filings' from St. Peter's chains, telling him to wear the cross at his throat 'which is like as if he were wearing the chains of St. Peter himself,' adding 'these chains, which have lain across and around the neck of the most Blessed Apostle Peter, shall unloose thee for ever from thy sins.' The gift, of course, was not a free one. It cost money and gold."

This brazen merchandising of "indulgences" led to the Reformation, a backlash which Manhattan says was not only theological but also economic: The Reformation's success "was due not so much to the ripeness of the times or the corruption of the Church or the zeal of the movement's leaders (many reformers, as zealous and as brave as Luther, ended at the stake), but to the fact that behind them rallied powerful lay elements desirous of getting hold of the immense wealth of the Church."

From this defeat, the popes turned their attention to the newly discovered Western Hemisphere. Here they claimed ownership and demanded sovereignty over the American continents and surrounding islands by virtue of a forged document called the "Donations of Constantine." They even drew up a document granting part of the New World to Spain and the rest to Portugal to explore and occupy.

Pope's "Evangelization" Monopoly

Manhattan points out: "The concession to the two Iberian nations was soon transformed into what it was really meant to be: namely, a monopoly for the exclusive evangelization of the continent via the two Catholic nations. The papal move was a spectacular success, for within a century the papal emblems had been planted from the most northerly tip of California down to the most southerly corner of South America. . ."

But in the new world, the pattern was the same. By convincing the rich that forgiveness of their sins depended upon material contributions to the "Church," the pope soon came to own a major part of the wealth of the emerging western nations. This brought the inevitable "anti-clerical" reaction. Manhattan gives Mexico as an example: "The explosions eventually came -- none so potent as that which occurred in Mexico during the first decade of the twentieth century. Most anti-clerical South American administrations came to power as a result of the popular reaction against the Church's stranglehold on the life and wealth of the nation. "The Church was thoroughly disestablished; her suffocating monopoly of education and politics was broken. Above all, her immense wealth was confiscated and distributed among the land-hungry peasants.

Church Engineered War

The Church reacted by engineering "a most destructive civil war which tore Mexico apart for several years, marking a whole decade (1920-30) with risings, mutinies, assassinations and massacres. Catholic Bishops, priests, monks and even nuns took active part -- witness the assassination of President Alvaro Obregon (July 17, 1928) by a Catholic sent by the Mother Superior of a Mexican Convent."

The most intriguing section of "The Vatican Billions," deals with the Vatican's switch from accumulation of wealth in land and estates to the amassing of vast fortunes in corporate stocks and bonds. Using monies accumulated over the centuries, Rome invested heavily in devalued companies during the great depression of the 1930s and reaped vast profits as these companies expanded rapidly to meet the World War II defense demands. Since true ownership of such securities is not easily tracked, only rough estimates can be made of the Vatican's holdings.

$250 Million Payoff

Yet hints do creep out such as the $250 million paid by the Vatican Bank to the creditors of the bankrupt Italian Ambrosiano Bank when authorities determined that the Vatican carried a major part of the responsibility for the $l.4 billion in bad loans which led to the bankruptcy.

Today Vatican wealth resides in three major categories: vast corporate securities, world-wide real estate in the form of parish churches, monastaries, cathedrals, and basilicas, and an immense, intangible hoard of art. Manhattan points out that "The Catholic Church is the oldest, largest and most impressive art collector of all times." He estimates that Europe contains at least a thousand churches, each with at least one painting worth a million dollars on the open market. This alone equals one billion dollars. Add to this the Sistine Chapel and Vatican galleries. And to that the priceless manuscripts in the Vatican archives.

Manhattan estimates that "the Catholic Church could, by the close of the present century, own, control and have a say, directly or indirectly, in at least one-third of all the sources of wealth of the western world." Can this "city" be any other than that described in Rev. 18? Soul winners, let's use this information about the "The Vatican Billions," to challenge the precious people caught in her deception to "come out" and "be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues.

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