Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Vatican meltdown: toward a Catholic Church of America

I see a trend whereby American Roman Catholics, their American institutions, universities, and many businesses, are moving toward a Catholic Church of America. One could study the Church of England’s history. Yet, just as there are Roman Catholics in England still, no break will be a simple clean one. Americans stand upon their own two feet and have choices.

When our Roman Catholic Vice-President shared his support for gay marriage while appearing on the May 6, 2012 program of Meet the Press, people took note I think. Our President announced his supporting view that week. Things happen slowly, so slowly that we rarely have the time or interest to pay attention in this very accelerated time of information access. We tend to establish a day-to-day view of news. We focus upon headlines, front pages, front-ends because we just don’t have the time to follow issues as they develop and connect.

The Vatican (a country as well as the Pope’s residence) cleaned house yesterday. The Board of the Vatican Bank (or Institute for Religious Works - Istituto per le Opere di Religione  IOR) relieved its President, Gotti Tedeschi. An American, Carl Anderson, sits on the board of now four members. The story details will emerge over the coming days. Did Tedeschi leak documents along with the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, who also lost his job yesterday?

The Vatican is a sovereign nation and they will settle this sovereign issue. A book released this past week by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi entitled “His Holiness” contains some of the leaked information - unavailable in an English translation today.

And who will bailout the Vatican? And why is the Vatican Bank on a US State Department list of international banks “capable” of fraudulent practices? The Vatican’s Secretary of State and the 85 year old Pope’s second in authority Cardinal (and possible next Pope) Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone seems to be handling all this turmoil quite well. Lack of what we call transparency allows for that flexibility - a sovereign nation that is both church and state, a very real world power.

In American journalism, we rarely see connections. We read about individual issues. Do readers care or have the time to care? Should American Catholics be concerned, or do they know for that matter, that their Holy See and his nation-state flounder precariously along with the other EuroZone financially unstable nations of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland? In America, when Catholics hit the front page of attention, the story is about ideas, not politics or economics. Here in America, most journalists view the world with an American lens complete with a Church/State, albeit blurry, dividing depth of field.

There may be conspiracies afoot to some, but not to me. I’m a Catholic, yet I see this nation-state, the Vatican in a state of damage control for very good reasons. Yes, my Pope resides there. I sense economic struggle. I read about the struggle of ideas in America. I hear my Vice-President make a pronouncement counter to the Pope’s instructions and counsel. I see how my President stacks his Court with liberal minded judges. I understand why my Pope has stacked his College of Cardinals with what some call “conservative” Cardinals. I understand why American Catholic writers hesitate to write about this complexity in the mainstream media.

The relationships between religion, sovereign national authority, and financial power are close and united in the Vatican. One reads about the worries of Sharia and yet this struggle within the Vatican and the American Catholic Church worries me more. It seems more complex and powerful to me.And amid the complexity, I see a trend whereby there will be a movement among the majority of American Catholics to eventually divest their ties from the authority of the Pope and his nation-state, the Vatican. It will take time, but I felt it was manifested with Vice-President Joe Biden’s announcement, with the Vatican Bank making the State Department list of “questionables” and when JP Morgan Chase asked the Vatican Bank to depart their portfolio…and of course JP Morgan Chase is in a bit of an awkward investigation now with the Federal Government.

I see a Vatican economic meltdown in progress and a trend toward the establishment of a Catholic Church of America.

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