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Catholic church property empire scandal

As a Catholic coming from a country where the Catholic church leads a hand-to-mouth existence, it came as a slight suprise to me to read here that the Italian Catholic church has been involved in a scandal involving the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Vatican congregation that uses proceeds from a property empire including 2,000 Rome apartments to fund missionary efforts.

It is not actually the scandal that worries me, since these things happen. More disturbing is the fact that missionary activities are funded in this way at all. It is entirely contrary to scripture, the model for this being set out in chapter 10 of St Luke’s Gospel.


  1. After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
  2. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
  3. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
  4. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
  5. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
  6. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
  7. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
  8. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
  9. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
  10. ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’
  11. I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

It seems as if the church has come a long way from the original intention, which could go some way to explaining why it fails to make the progress that it ought to in the modern world. Missionary work should not be paid for out of dirty money such as the proceeds of arms sales, slavery or the economic rent of land.

Equally worrying is that by having a vested interest in land ownership, it is unlikely to utter the truth on the subject and unlikely to speak up for measures that will really improve the lot of the poor.

What should be done?

Quite simply, the Catholic church should divest itself of property that it holds on to in order to fund missionary activities out of rent. These should be paid for out of current collections from the faithful. There is no shortage of suitable things to spend the money from the sale on, such as the poor, and assistance to poor parishes for the repair of their buildings. But the asset base itself should be got rid of. The church should demonstrate the faith it preaches, by not holding on to property empires and living instead on the pennies of the faithful that are put on the collection plate.