RICH CHURCH, POOR CHURCH: The Catholic Church and Its Money by Malachi Martin

RICH CHURCH, POOR CHURCH: The Catholic Church and Its Money

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sensible (if wildly ambitious) program for the overhaul of Vatican finances, swathed in a reading of church history so mythical-chimerical it verges on the cockeyed. Martin's point of departure for this fantastic voyage is the recent series of (still quite murky) scandals involving the powerful, quasi-independent arm of papal money management, the IRA (Institute for Religious Agencies), and convicted criminals like Michele Sindona (who singlehandedly broke the Franklin National Bank) or Roberto Calvi (whose corpse was found hanging beneath Black-friars Bridge in London two years ago). No one knows how much the Vatican has lost in dealings with such crooks, nor how much it had to lose (Martin cites $20 billion in ""traceable"" investments, with much more beneath the surface); but few would argue with his conclusion that it's time for the Vatican, and the Church as a whole, to make a full financial disclosure. Martin's call for the end to clerical handling of the Holy See's assets likewise sounds reasonable, even though he admits that quick, radical reform might unleash all sorts of calamities, encourage terrorism, etc. But the real problem with Martin's scheme (worked out in considerable structural detail) is that it's connected to a grossly distorted concept of the Church's past (and hence future) importance. Martin claims that before Christianity no religion had even pretended to relate to ""true, historical events"" (Judaism?); that Constantinian Christianity was in many ways a brilliant success; that the Church ""created"" the Renaissance; that the papacy and Catholicism ""made capitalism and democracy both possible and inevitable""; that had it not been for the Chinese Rites controversy China and Japan would probably be Catholic today, etc. Martin the ecclesiastical economist is generally convincing; Martin the historian is an Ultramontane bull in the china shop of facts.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam