As the world wakes up this St. Patty's day with visions of dark rivers of delicious Guinness flowing through our collective dreams, word from newly elected Pope Francis I is that under his watch, the Vatican will endeavor on a series of austerity measures. It's Frankie's goal to do more with his position in the Catholic Church to free up some funds to more effectively aid the masses of poverty-stricken humanity.
A fine start, if I may be so presumptuous as to offer a suggestion, would be for the Vatican to liquidate its vast, obscene fortune contained withing the catacombs and coffers of the Vatican Bank:
During the first days in his new role, Francis has continued with the modest and humble tone he projected during his time riding the bus to work in Argentina (at least as modest and humble as someone who believes you are going to be tortured forever unless you submit all your critical reasoning and individuality to his faith and his alone).
In addition to George Sr. and Oscar there's a third Bluth brother.
Taking the name of a saint who was all about austerity, this Pope is setting himself apart from the gangsta' lifestyle with a message of charity. The Catholic Church as an institution is one of the largest givers of charity in the world, however the motivation behind such gifts are not generosity for its own sake. Like any proselytizing group, charity is not charity by definition as it comes with the caveats of assimilation --to quote South Park, as the missionary said to the starving Ethiopians "Bible, plus accepting Jesus, equals food!" Or worse than that, as in Uganda, charity comes with the price of support for local governments making homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
After originally supporting the proponents of the hard-line anti-gay activists in Uganda like Pastor Martin Ssempa, the Vatican had to backtrack and change their stance by then saying they had never supported such a movement. As with Mother Theresa's long, brutal career, the Vatican will always value good publicity and a bump in membership over disturbing realities until the truth comes to light. And there will always be professional apologists like Bill Donahue to spin any criticism as an attack against the poor persecuted Catholic Church. But I digest...the lovely omelet I had for breakfast.
Since the Vatican takes in billions of tax-free dollars every year from parishioners around the world, it has always fascinated me how it never seems to be enough. It reminds me of what John Huston's character said to Jack Nicholson in Chinatown when prodded as to what more can he possibly want. He replies tersely "the future, Mr. Gittes, the future!" It's the same explanation we've heard for decades, for example the 1987 Fortune Magazine article wherein Cardinal Caprio remarks of the Vatican's vast treasure of artwork held in trust for future generations, "they belong to humanity..." (Say that out loud in your best Dark Knight Rises Bane voice).
It would be great to see the centralized power of the world's richest religion actually adhere to the example set by the poor, humble Jewish carpenter who coincidentally ended up nailed to a couple two by fours. At least since the Crusades, all the wealth accumulated by the Vatican has not come from conquest but from voluntary membership fees and contributions over the last couple centuries.
A scene from the Francis action-biopic Boondock Saints III.
With such a large base of customers, why not have the church live only on what avails it needs to survive -- replace dogmatic oligarchy with the grass-roots, not-for-profit image to which they've always paid lip-service. Donate all that art to actual museums the world over and smelt every last piece of gold in Rome for the humanitarian efforts of the United Nations. Then you'll have a little more credibility when you keep telling your flock to dig deep for Jesus.