Ever since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries sinister rumors of the secret untaxed wealth of the Catholic Church have periodically thrown government officials and reforming laymen into paroxysms of blasphemy. Lo Bello (The Vatican Empire, 1968) is as hot under the collar as any of them. He estimates total Church assets in the U.S. to be around 80 billion dollars. The Jesuits alone are major shareholders in Lockheed, Curtiss-Wright, Douglas and Boeing Aircraft, Goodyear, Firestone, Pacific Gas and Electric and their mysterious ties with the Bank of America have never yet been unraveled. The Knights of Columbus own the grounds of Yankee Stadium; the Cistercians run fat dairy and beef enterprises and the Christian Brothers make a mint selling spirits. From its humble American beginnings in Baltimore in 1634 the Church has become proprietor of colleges, hospitals, publishing houses, cemeteries, orphanages, old age homes, rectories, nunneries, correctional asylums -- all tax exempt. In addition (Lo Bello is relentless.) the Church enjoys all sorts of indirect government subsidies under such titles as ""Urban Redevelopment"" and Lo Bello's most inflammatory charge is the allegation that under JFK and the New Frontier the percentage of government monies siphoned to Catholic organizations ""skyrocketed."" Lo Bello, who is nothing if not thorough, has managed to get his hands on quite a few financial records -- no mean feat considering the great secrecy which surrounds the collection box. (Most dioceses, he notes, believe that ""silence is not only golden but also worth its weight in gold.""). And he also provides summaries of recent legal pressures and court cases aimed at increasing the Church's accountability. After all this fire and brimstone it's a little dismaying to be told at the very end that for all its land holdings the Church ""does not have cash"" and many parishes run in the red. But since Lo Bello, a Nader type who brings old time religious zeal to his muckraking, has been telling you all along that Church exemptions are costing you and Uncle Sam untold millions, it's unlikely that his hedge will appease anyone.