Early in His ministry, Jesus spoke to a multitude in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. His teaching included an admonition concerning material riches:
In this passage, Messiah is telling people not to accumulate to themselves great riches, but rather to use their financial assets in God's service. He warns that our hearts will follow our treasure.
Apparently, the Roman Church has had a little trouble following this advice. She has been accumulating and hoarding earthly treasure for centuries, often by the most ungodly means imaginable. History abounds with tales of murder, torture and confiscation as the Roman popes sought to establish and maintain a Catholic hegemony throughout the known world.
These scandalous goings-on became increasingly egregious with the offering by Sixtus IV (1471-1484) of indulgences for the dead. This gave rise to an infinite source of revenue for the avaricious RCC hierarchy. Greatest of the indulgence peddlers was a Dominican monk named Johann Tetzel, whose preaching generated enormous income for his bishop and for Rome.
The abuses of the RCC, and particularly those of the indulgence vendors, eventually gave birth to the Protestant Reformation. One would think that the Roman popes would have learned something from the uproar and splitting away of so many former Catholic faithful, but they didn't. Instead, the RCC hierarchy concentrated on consolidating its position and on efforts to root out and eliminate 'schismatics.' By every imaginable means. The terror of the Inquisition was invoked increasingly to maintain RCC ascendancy in what was called the Christian world.
Over time, world events weakened Rome's stranglehold on the nations of the Western world and she eventually had to suppress the Inquisition, but she continued, through the labors of militant popes, her efforts to retain and add to her worldly treasures. Perhaps the most infamous modern examples of Rome's willingness to make a pact with the devil in order to keep her goods and some vestiges of her once great power were the Lateran Treaty of 1929, which secured nation-state status for the Vatican) and Rome's 1933 Concordat with Hitler's Reich (An attempt to protect RCC interests in Germany)
Rome still manages to make a buck here and there. Ex-Catholic monk Joseph McCabe reports that, when Rome canonized Thomas More, she sent a bill to English Catholics seeking payment of $65,000 to cover the costs of canonization and asking for another $20,000 to buy a gift for the Pope. Not bad.
Not too long ago, I learned of what may be the most innovative money-raising scheme yet. It appears to me to be something on the order of a modified tontine. For those who may not be familiar with the term, a tontine is an investment plan in which the participants buy shares in a common fund and receive an annuity that gets larger as the participants die off. When there is but one remaining member, he gets all the remaining money. Enlightened governments tend to discourage the creation of tontines as they may be viewed as tempting schemes by unscrupulous persons who might act to hasten the shrinking of the group.
According to a copyrighted article in the San Antonio Express-News, the folks at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio came up with a scheme that had the potential to earn millions for the church.
Under the proposed plan, the Basilica would create a foundation that would pay the premiums on individual $275,000 life insurance policies for as many as 1,000 parishioners. When one of the covered people dies, $25,000 would go to the family and a cool quarter of a million dollars would go to the Basilica through the proposed St. Therese Foundation. According to church officials, this plan could have generated as much as $250 million over the succeeding 50 or so years.
According to a superior of the Carmelite Order that operates the Basilica, earnings generated by this program would help support the church and its school and a scholarship fund.
Folks at the Texas Department of Insurance didn't seem to be as excited about the proposal as were its originators and began reviewing state statutes. A local tax attorney was quoted as saying that the proposal "doesn't pass the smell test."
One question apparently involved the issue of 'insurable interest,' which is defined as:
Looks to me like some folks in the RCC hierarchy are still looking for ways to make money off the dead. James wrote an opinion concerning such people: