Saturday, September 11, 2010

UK tax payer to foot bill for Pope visit.

In just a few days the head of the catholic church lands in the UK. The first visit from the Pope since 1982.

There are some similarities and some differences to this visit. Back in 1982 the UK was in the grips of recession and we were fighting a war in a far away country (Argentina.) However, the previous papal visit was welcomed by the British public and surveys suggest that this current visit is opposed by most. At the time of the 1982 visit the cost was estimated between £14,000,000 and £16,000,000 pounds according to Monsignor Andrew Summersgill the organiser of the planned event. Using the Bank of England's inflation calculator, an event costing £16,000,000 in 1982 would cost about £42,000,000 today. Now I'm not sure who paid for that one back then, but the cost to the UK for the current visit is estimated to be £15,000,000 + the security costs.

Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS (National Secular Society), said the benefits of the state visit did not justify its cost. Mr Sanderson is quoting as saying: "State visits are to do with improving trade relations or having some sort of diplomatic contact that will be useful in the future for improving trade - there's nothing like this in this visit.

The Catholic church has raised around £7,000,000 to cover the cost of staging the actual events. They also plan to charge up to £25 each for tickets to see the Pope. Tens of thousands of tickets for events during the visit have not been taken up because of a lack of demand from British Catholics, many of whom have been upset by the charges introduced. Senior Vatican officials have expressed dismay at the decision to charge pilgrims up to £25 to attend the major events.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: “There have been misunderstandings about the pilgrims’ pass charges. This is not a charge to attend a Papal Mass. It is to cover the cost of transport and security at the events.”

REALLY??? In that case what was the £7,000,000 donated for? Aren't the UK government covering the security costs? I hope that VAT was charged on those ticket sales as a religious organisation it is exempt from most forms of tax in the UK. It strikes me that selling a single relic from their vast stock in the Vatican none of this money raising would be an issue - in fact, I'm sure the bible claims Jesus said :

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

On this basis - maybe the Catholic church should start selling off all it's assets? What need is there for a church to hold onto valuable art work when people starve? The Pope recognises many of the issues in modern society - by liquidising some assets he might be able to do something about them. I might actually be impressed with them then. Anyway, I digress, that is a story for another article.

It strikes me that the negativity around his visit comes from a number of factors:

  • Catholics are a minority and the vast majority have no interest in his visit
  • The Catholic Church runs at a profit - the UK government does not yet we are expected to foot the majority of the bill.
  • The Catholic Church has in the past covered up acts of child cruelty and paedophilia.
  • The Catholic Church is inherently sexist
  • The Catholic Church is inherently homophobic
  • The Catholic church has recently and historically alienated Jewish and Islamic communities.
  • Preserving The Catholic Churches assets and reputation is more important than doing what is right or the teachings  of the bible.
  • The Catholic Churches approach to HIV and condoms in Africa has been less than impressive. 
  • Alleged involvement in the cover up of a priest involved with the I.R.A.

Would you want to pay for someone who heads a group that covers up paedophilia,  allows millions of Africans to die through their refusal to distribute condoms in sub-Saharan Africa despite the fact they have a large established aid network and at the same time considers homosexuality a sin and women to be inferior to men. Oh and they also used to burn people to death for not agreeing with them - I think they used to call it heresy.

In my opinion the Catholic Church is an organisation that spreads falsehoods. Not only should we not be funding it we should be actively protesting it. The Catholic Church purports to be an organisation for good. I personally believe that it is more interested in self preservation and expanding its influence politically, religiously and economically - after all it was born out of the Roman Empire and those empirical desires have never disappeared - at its height the Roman Empire had an estimated 120,000,000 members, today the Roman Catholic Church has 1,000,000,000 not bad for an empire that apparently disappeared nearly 2 millenia ago. 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Gospel of Matthew, 7:15 - King James Version).

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